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METANOIA

By W. Payne Sillavan

Thank you to my mother and father,


Jaqueline and Joel Sillavan.
Your undying support and love gives me the strength to
carry on.
Thank you, for everything.

CHAPTER ONE

Silence. Silence is golden.


As the metal beneath his feet softly thudded underneath him,
Beau couldnt agree more, even though hunkering low this long
through the air system was a bit of an annoyance. The thick metal of
the air vent he was creeping through gave almost no noise; almost no
indication that someone was stalking about through the humid air. A
slight smile cracked Beaus lips, hidden behind the black visor of his
combat helmet.
Wiping steam from the T-shaped visor, Beau rubbed the circled
ends to accommodate his eyes free from the fog. Kneeling down next
to a vent to check his location, he hunched against the ventilation wall
and activated the holopad built into his left bracer. A soft green light
illuminated off the screen, bathing him in a sickly light, turning the
brown hue of his armor and helm an unpleasant color. Beau pressed a
finger to the screen and the menu projection came up. Flicking through
the files, he brought up the schematics of the Republic Embassy of
Demur building.
He was in position.
Beau powered down the holopad, and ran a quick diagnostics.
Everything checked out alright. Crouching down to the warm metal
floor, he ran the fingers of his right hand against the vent next to him,
making a soft scratch against the coarse fabric of his gloves. As he
brought his hand back up, a slender blade ejected from the bracer.
Fiddling with a dial, the blade began increase in its vibration. Satisfied

with the speed, he brought the blade to the corners of the vent. It slid
through the metal easily, cutting through as if it were paper. Quietly, he
lifted the now free cover up and placed it gingerly behind him.
Glancing quickly out the hole, he gently lowered himself down
and dropped to the ground with an almost inaudible thud. Without
wasting a moment, Beau began to make his way toward his target
location. The hallway was nicely furnished. Dim lights filled the circular
shape of the hall, softly lighting up deep crimson metal walls matched
with a thick velvety black carpet.
Low visibility and a cushion for his boots; it was as if they designed
the Embassy for assassinations, Beau noted to himself. Although, the
hallway was almost a straight shot, there was just a little bit of risk of
being spotted. A slight twang of irritation flicked through his head at
the fact.
Continuing down, keeping close to the edge of the walls, he finally
came to a sharp turn. Glancing back down the way he came. All clear.
Bracing himself against the wall, he quickly turned into the next
hallway.
And came face to face with a very surprised Demur Royal Guard.
The Guard seemed to freeze; his pale blue body was exposed in Demur
tradition, save for the black veil that covered the species face and
shoulders. Behind the visor of Beaus helm, the HUD flashed up red in
warning of the guards plasma rifle, information flaring up as the barrel
began to rise.

Before the guard could make even bring the rifle up to bear, Beau
pulled his short sword from the harness on the small of his back, the
blade unfolding with a series of clicks. Driving it quickly through the
neck of the Demur, he severed his vocal chords, ending any sound
before it passed his lips. Rich red blood spilled down, covering his exotic
skin as a pathetic, mangled gargle shuddered through the fabric of the
thin veil. The Demur dropped his rifle, which landed with a dull thud on
the plush carpet. His blue fingers reached for his wounded throat, wet
gasps sputtering from his hidden mouth. Beau brought his sword up,
driving it through the center of the aliens skull with a step of
momentum forward.
Bracing the guard against himself, he eased the dead guard to the
floor, pulling his blade from his skull, wiping it clean on the Demurs veil
before collapsing the sword. Quickly and silently, he began to drag the
body towards a nearby door. Luckily the closest door wasnt locked,
only a simple pad required to open it. He hoisted the guards corpse
inside what appeared to be an office space. Beau noticed that there
were several items on the desk and adorning the shelves. Scowling
behind his visor, he scanned the room for a place to stow the corpse.
Spotting a floor vent, he dragged his burden across the floor, the blood
invisible against the dark carpet. Beau disposed of the guard, cursing
silently to himself at the inconvenience of hiding a body. The deed
done, he slid back into the hallway, ejecting the knife on his wrist. With
a quick and cut slice he severed the control panel to the door. It would
take a mechanic to unlock it now. Even after they get the door open
later, the stench of death wouldnt be noticed till hours had passed
after the job.

Good enough, Beau thought to himself.


Moving with a bit more haste, the assassin continued down
towards the target location. The pressure of the possibility of exposure
was beginning to set in. He had gotten careless, expecting to meet no
opposition this early into the Demur morning. The pink sunlight wasnt
even visible on the horizon of the city-planet at the time of infiltration,
with plenty of time before the Embassy workers arrived. Now that the
knowledge that the building was still occupied, there was an alert
tenseness to his creeping posture.
Not wishing to have any further distraction, Beau toggled the
sensors on his HUD with a series of blinks. Picking up the eye
movement, the HUD obliged immediately, giving a faint ding of
recognition. Menus flashed, transparent enough to continue, leaving
the bounty hunter able to continue his break in of the alien government
building.
Finding the correct menu, Beau gave another series of blinks to
tune the sensors accordingly. It was thirty meters to his target location,
with four blips indicating movement on his current level. One of the
blips sat stubbornly between him and where he needed to be, leaving
Beau to sigh in irritation.
Another body to hide, more precious minutes lost.
Beau mumbled his dissatisfaction and made his way down the
hall. According the mini map, the guard was just around the next turn.

He stopped just before the turn, leaning lightly against the wall. Risking
a quick glance, Beau stuck his head out to check the guards exact
position. As luck would have it, the Demur guard had his back to Beau,
only a few feet away. Muscles tensing in anticipation for action, he
readied himself for confrontation.
Drawing his weapon in a quick, seamless motion, Beau stepped
from around the corner. Clicking to its full extension, the clinks caused
the guard to turn, the black fabric twirling. Thrusting up, the sword met
the Demur just under the jaw, exiting cleanly through the top of his
head with a gentle spray of blood.
The Demur died without as much as a whimper.
Wrenching the blade out, Beau lowered the guard, getting a grip
around its torso. Delicately dragging the guard, Beau backtracked and
stowed the body with the other inside the office.
Yeah, Beau thought looking down at the pair as he wiped blood
from his armor, this going to ruin someones day.
Leaving the office space behind, the bounty hunter abandoned
any sense of stealth, jogging down the hall. Confident with his sensors
readings, he was left to make as much noise in the empty halls. It didnt
take long to reach his destination, however the setbacks left him
agitated regardless.

A T-shaped junction split the halls, the lifts to the high security
floors to the left, conference rooms to the right. In the middle, the
perfect accident waited.
It was small, barely worth notice, countless more like it aligning
the buildings halls, proving more useful today that it ever has in Beaus
life: an air vent.
He knelt down, pulling the grate off and setting it before him.
Reaching for his belt, he pulled off a brick of military grade explosives.
Punching in a sequence of buttons on a little electronic pad on the
explosive, Beau gently placed it into the air vent. Carefully holding the
grate back in place, he began to rub adhesive on the areas where he
had cut.
Standing up, he gave the grate a slight nudge with his boot to
make sure that it was once again intact. It held firm, much to Beaus
satisfaction. Turning to walk the wall leading to the high security floors,
he reached into a one of several pouch strapped his thigh. Delicately,
he pulled out a micro camera and gently put it on the wall. With the
camera mounted, Beau activated his holopad to make miniscule
adjustments to the lens positioning, aiming it directly at the vent.
With everything in place, he once again brought up the buildings
schematics. Quickly shuffling through the floor plans of the embassy,
Beau finally came across the room he was searching for. Highlighting his
destination with a swipe of a finger, the mini map in his HUD lit up,
marking out directions.

Backtracking silently through the halls, Beau made certain to


avoid any further conflict.
After passing through several floors, he made no more hostile
contact. An emotion that could have been relief briefly swept over his
mind, only for the sake of fewer corpses at the risk of discovery. Finally
reaching his destination, Beau silently sounded out the Demur language
written across the door.
Not trusting his shaky understanding of the bubbly language, he
activated the translator system built into his HUD. An indicator in the
helmets systems flashed translating the alien language.
EMBASSY COMMUNICATIONS flashed across the screen in front of
his eyes.
Pulling his sword out with a click, Beau jammed the end into the
crevice between the wall and the door. Jerking his arm down roughly,
he felt the blade slice through the weak lock. With a great heave the
door grinded open, causing Beau to wince behind his visor at the
atrocious amount of noise. Before any guards had time to investigate
he rushed inside and quickly sealed the door. Glancing around the
room, he soaked in the surroundings of the small circular room.
Computers lined the walls, powered down at the moment. The central
communications CPU sat in the middle of the room like a black
monolith.

Wasting no time he set to work. Grabbing a chair and powering up


a computer, he slid a hand back into one of his pouches. As the
computer warmed up, he pulled out an average off-the-shelf
communicator as well as a small data disk. Once the computer had
warmed up he plugged the communicator in and inserted the disk.
As the data disk worked its digital magic, Beau leaned back in the
chair.
So far, it was a smooth hit. Beau almost smirked to himself.
A soft tone flared up from the computer announcing that the
program was complete. Ejecting the data disk and pocketing it, he
turned the communicator on and tuned it in to his helmets
communications. Before leaving, Beau planted one last explosive under
the computer he had been working at.
Making his way back into the corridor, he made note of the
guards positions one last time.
To his immense satisfaction, no Demur was remotely close.
Quickly making his escape, Beau began finding his way back to his
point of entry and met with no conflict. The maintenance hatch leading
into the outside world shone with the sparkling light of the Demur
capital, the Infinite City. Rich sound of the bustle leaked through the
metal lace work, filling Beaus helmet with the song of civilization.

Safely back into the wide piping of the main ventilation, he


booted up his holopad. Flipping through the interface he brought up his
personal communications as a dull throb began to pulse behind his
eyes.
Im ready for extraction, his deep voice grated out of helmets
speaker.
On its way, sir, a soft, feminine voice replied.
Opening the hatch, Beau was bombarded by the countless colors
of the beautiful city. Reds, yellows, greens, blues, and every color
imaginable filled his vision as he gazed out at the towering silver
skyscrapers of the city-planet of Demur.
As he was caught up in the beauty of Infinite City, a small cargo
carrier hovered up under the hatch he was leaning out of. The loading
chute mounted on top opened up, waiting for the bounty hunter to
jump down. Before dropping down, Beau pulled an EMP emitter he had
left on the security panel. He let himself fall down into the cargo ship,
beating the rebooting security system to catch him. Falling through,
Beau hit hard on top of stacked crates. Straightening up, the armored
man pushed the boxes around, locating the hatchway to the cockpit.
Knocking on it roughly with his gauntlet, metallic reverbs sluggish
striking through the thick air.

The hatch opened, showing a round, pill shaped metallic head.


Glowing yellow lights lit up behind the screens of its eyes, contrasting
the crudely painted on face of a skull.
Greetings, sir, a deep, clanging voice blurted out through
unseen speakers.
Beau crawled through into the seat next to the droid. He gave the
droid a pat on the back as he sat down. After settling in, Beau gave a
nod to the human man driving, who was sweating profusely with a gun
pressed to his head.
Nice of you to show up, Cide, Beau said.
Always a pleasure to serve, Cide replied.
Does our friend know where to go?
Cide turned his head with a soft whirl of gears, his eyes flashing
red.
Drive, meat.
The driver whimpered softly, setting the cargo ship into flight.
Thrusting forward on the wheel, the sped off into the air lanes of the
grand city, twisting and turning between other drivers.
Where did you find our friend? Beau asked the droid.

Initial scans have yielded that this is an unregistered vehicle


carrying unregistered cargo. Evaluation: smuggler, Cide replied.
Dont you know smuggling is illegal? Beau tutted sternly.
And this aint? the driver said before Cide pressed the gun
directly to his temple.
Decreasing in speed, they descended closer to ground level, the
lights of the magnificent city barely reaching below with its colored
tendrils. In almost complete darkness, away from the dazzling
civilization, Cide had the poor driver pilot them to an abandoned
warehouse sector, only a few uncaring, homeless aliens and humans
scattered throughout the darkness. Gliding through the low level
warehouses, Cide had the driver dock on a landing pad deep within the
shady complex.
Beau jumped out without hesitation, hitting the landing platform
with a thud, breaking into a brisk gait away from the cargo craft. Cide
quickly followed, the metallic clang of his landing echoing throughout
the desolate sector of warehouses.
The driver stammered from his seat, Does this mean I can-
Cides torso twisted as he turned to face the driver.
No.

In a blur of motion, Cide brought the gun level with the drivers
head. A pathetic squeal rose up from the smugglers throat before it
was quickly silenced by one quick shot as Cide pulled the trigger.
Unload a few more into him, better safe than sorry, Beau told
the droid.
The only response was a series of erratic bangs and the hollow
sound of shells landing on the ground.
What of the cargo, sir? the droid asked?
The bounty hunter stood there, considering the options. Walking
back toward the grisly scene, Beau tapped the cargo door with a
knuckle thoughtfully. There wasnt any need to be weighed down with
pointless materials; however whatever the driver had been hauling
might have been useful.
Well, lets take a look at it shall we? he said to the droid, pulling
the loading door open.
Together, the Beau and Cide hefted an unwieldy crate, straining
under the weight of the hard plastic container. Dropping it with a grunt,
Beau knelt down beside it, working his fingers around the metal clasps
holding the lid. Heaving the lid off, what was inside the crate caught
Beau off guard.

Piles of tightly packaged packets of fine, grainy red powder sat


neatly inside, the rancid aroma of the illegal Aran Mas spice lost on the
droid and Beaus shielded nose.
Pulling a pack out of the crate, Beau turned it over in his hands
before turning to the droid muttering, Seems weve crossed a drug
cartel.
So it would seem, sir, the droid said.
Burn the ship. We dont need this crap getting into the
population, Beau said, throwing the pack back into the box in disgust.
Immediately, Cide raised a claw like hand, a nuzzle extending from
the droids palm sending small spurts of flame. The droid set to work at
once, spraying flames over the illegal spice. Catching fire, the spice
burned strong, feeding the fiery frenzy engulfing the cargo vessel and
its dead driver.
As it burned, the engines sputtered, slowly losing altitude as it
spiraled through the air as if it were made of syrup. Beau leaned over,
watching over the side of the landing pad, the fire ball reaching the
distant ground level almost directly below.
Watching Cide kick the spare crate over the edge of the platform
into the inferno below, Beau made a call from his holopad. The
holographic green of the floating screens flickered as the signal was
connected and patched through.

Done having fun now? the same gentle voice answered.


You could say that, Beau said, we are in sector WH203.
Ill be there soon, transmitting rendezvous point.
Beau programmed the coordinates into his HUD as Cide clanked
up to his side, handing the gun over to his master. Together they
walked away, twisting through the gloom and darkness of the ancient
storage units, his robotic companion following a few steps back.
Through the darkness as the two walked, they passed a lone
Bleen; its humanoid form barely visible slumped in the low light. Its
naked, genderless body baring pitch black skin, the creature was almost
blending seamlessly into the shadows. Haunting, luminescent stark
white eyes stared up at the duo, its head splitting into a devilish lipless
grin. Rounded teeth, matched by dagger like canines shone through
dim light. The Bleen hissed its native language, lost on Beaus ears.
Here, Beau said stepping over the Bleens long legs, dropping
the pistol into the aliens lap.
Its long, spider like fingers wrapped around the weapon, and it
emitted what Beau assumed was a grateful hiss.
Turning his head as he walked away, Beau watched as the Bleen
stood, towering several feet over his own head, cradling the gun in its

slender hands. Beau kept watching, checking that the alien didnt
become violent and turn the small gift on its previous owners.
To his relief, the Bleen simply walked away, most likely to trade it
for food or drugs, but more importantly, putting distance between
Beau and the only evidence connecting himself to the dead driver.
Looking skyward as he walked, his eyes glazed past the looming
buildings toward the brightening sky as the Demur night drew to a
close. Shades of pink began to inch its way across the sky, almost
hidden by the monumental towers.
It wouldnt be too long before the rigged building started to fill
up.
Cide, ETA on our pickup? Beau turned to ask his droid.
Eleven minutes, eighteen seconds, in human standard time.
Beau sighed and began to idly eject and retract the slender blade
hidden in his cuff of his armor.
Shiink, shuck.
Cides head turned slightly toward the human as he fiddled with
the weapon, fixing Beau with an amber stare.
Shiink, shuck.

Beau turned to return the gaze as he walked alongside his droid,


perplexed by Cides sudden interest. It wasnt often that the droid was
distracted; perhaps there was something wrong with his armor he
hadnt noticed before?
Shiink, shuck.
The droid continued to stare, the yellow of his mechanical eyes
unwavering, almost analytical.
Maybe I should run a quick diagnostic, Beau thought.
Shiink, shuck.
Blinking his eyes to bring his HUD up, Beau quickly ran a suit and
systems check. Systems were fine, and his armor was undamaged,
confusing Beau as to why Cide was so intent on his stare.
Beau glanced at the painted face of the droid.
Shiink, shuck.
A faint flicker started up in Cides right eye optic.
Is there something wrong with your eye?
No, my optics are fine, sir, came the electrical reply.

Realization settled in Beaus mind, his mouth giving an amused


twitch behind his visor. One last time the hunter ejected the blade,
slowly retracting it with a sharp grate, provoking the droids artificial
irritation.
You should get that eye of yours checked onboard the Rabbit
Hole, Beau chimed.
Static began to seep from Cides speaker, a barely recognizable
Yes, of course, voiced itself softly underneath the static.
You seem to be enjoying the new personality chip as well, Beau
added.
Im ecstatic, the droid said flatly.
Containing his chuckle to himself, Beau gave Cide a pat on the
back as a shadow slowly crept overhead.
Above them a ring-shaped vessel drifted sluggishly toward them,
its familiar gun metal gray casing housing the one home the bounty
hunter ever truly had.
Chugging itself closer and closer, the circular ships engines began
to shake the air. The cockpit, an orbed section of the ringed body,
shone with a soft blue light emitting from the viewport. A small,
feminine silhouette waved down as the Rabbit Hole bore down, the

landing hatch opening slightly over the ground, the ramp extending to
meet the duo.
Jumping on to the ships landing platform, Beau reached down
and helped Cide up with a heave, the droids metallic joints unable to
do so on their own. Together they walked into their home, inviting blue
lights greeting them as they entered. Closing with a hiss behind them,
droid and bounty hunter walked through the comfortable hallway, past
the twelve rooms the circular ship contained. Yellow lines trimmed a
scuffed white floor, mirrored by a similar ceiling and walls. Orbs of light,
fixated evenly into the Rabbit Holes ceiling, radiated a gentle blue,
emitting a sense of ease to the core of Beaus being.
The walkway itself was part of the inner ring of the Rabbit Hole,
the counterclockwise path from the landing ramp leading through
storage, the medical and systems stations, as well as Cides room,
where the droid recharged and maintained itself.
Reaching the cockpit, they were greeted by a respectful bow by a
young Daros girl, her stark white skin bright in contrast to her long and
messy green hair. Small antlers peeked out from her head, supporting a
jeweled broach on a gold chain that rested on her forehead. As she
straightened up, a cowlick of hair on the back of her head bobbed.
With a ruffle of her black robes and a sparkle in her emerald green
eyes, she glided over to give Cide a hug, her horns clanging against his
dull silver chest, turning her head to Beau.

Mission accomplished? she asked in a breezy, fragile voice,


looking up into Beaus black visor.
Mission accomplished, Ginna, Beau replied, settling down into
the pilots seat.
Punching in a sequence of buttons, the Rabbit Hole disengaged
from its autopilot, giving Beau complete control over their ship.
Grabbing the two handed control yolk, Beau began easing the ship into
a diagonal vertical climb. The small crew sped away from the gloomy
sector, leaving behind the dark business that had just been attended.
As the Rabbit Hole climbed higher and higher, the air around
surrounding them brightened, flooding the cockpit with natural pink
light.
He began to bring the ship into a loop, heading back in the
direction of the Republic Embassy of Demur. Bobbing and weaving
through passing vehicles and ships, it wasnt too long before the small
crew had arrived back into the sector of Infinite City housing the
government building. Piloting the ship higher and higher, he flew in a
way to keep the Embassy in clear view.
Satisfied with their position, Beau leveled out and docked at a
Demur restaurant. With a gesture, the bounty hunter and his small
crew left the cockpit and descended onto the restaurants landing
platform.

Once again he activated his HUDs translator to read the name of


the restaurant, discovering it was a traditional Demur gourmet food
chain. Stomach churning at the thought of eating the native food, Beau
made a mental note to just order a beverage.
Reaching the entrance, a Demur female greeted them from
behind a counter, bowing her head endowed with a midnight blue veil.
She was a typical female Demur, her blue tinted skin exposed, her flat
chest emblazed with traditional spiraling tattoos.
How I may help? she asked in English with a thick, floating
accent.
We would like a private dining booth, please, Beau said,
handing her a few plastic chips, electronic values glowing on their tiny
screens.
Looking down in her hand, she shifted them in her palm before
depositing the chips into a small lockbox under the counter in a swift
motion. Flourishing her hand, she beckoned them to follow, leading the
way into the brightly lit dining hall. Golden lights drifted lazily overhead,
the ruby red stoned floor sparkling underfoot. The pristine walls were
bare, deep red in color, supported by smooth metal struts.
Beau scanned the crowded room idly, observing the dozens of
humans and foreign species. They passed a table of Bleen, hissing
harshly to each other, red sashes adoring their slender black chests,
their eyes empty white orbs. A lone Daros girl stood respectfully behind

the table, her green hair short, revealing more of her tender, bruised
face. Beaus insides twisted in an angry fury, but he controlled his
impulse to lash out. It was neither his business, nor worth answering to
the Demur authorities about scuffed up Bleen nobles.
Scanning over the crowd once again, Beau intentionally avoided
turning his gaze back to the beaten Daros girl. Instead the bounty
hunter focused on taking in the sight marvelous atmosphere, the
various patrons scattered throughout the glamorous establishment,
living out their dull, wealthy existence. Some even accompanied by
Daros girls, their green hair standing out amongst an already colorful
crowd. To his distaste, Beau couldnt help but notice that some wore
leashes.
Any thought of eating twisted itself out of his stomach at the
sight.
Leading the group past a few dozen tables, the Demur waitress
halted in front of the private dining booths lining the walls. She slid one
of the doors open, revealing a cozy room with a single table jutting
from the wall, the cushioned booths leaning against the close walls. A
single golden orb floated above the room, casting its dim glow that
reflected slightly on a single large window overlooking Infinite City.
Sliding into the lavishly upholstered seats, Ginnas black robes
rustled against the rich red fabric. Cide followed, clunking in beside her.
Beau thanked the red skinned alien, closing the private door behind
him. As the group settled, a holographic menu flashed up, displaying

pictures of Demur cuisine circling slowly, parading exotic foods through


the air.
Ginna stuck a small finger through her selection, a soft ping
sounding off. A gentle voice speaking in Demur acknowledged the
order, the sounds of the thick syrupy language echoing in their little
room.
Glancing out the window, Beau scanned the thousands of building
for the Embassy, finally catching sight of its domed, spiderlike structure.
His thoughts drifted off to what had transpired inside, check listing his
actions, making certain no mistakes had been made. Disregarding the
incidents with the guards, it had gone all according to plan. Lost in the
fog of his mind, the bounty hunter was unaware of his surroundings
until a he felt a weak kick to his leg.
Arent you going to order? Ginnas voice broke through his
thoughts.
Oh, yeah, was just thinking, Beau replied.
Didnt know you could think hard enough to ignore me asking
the same question repeatedly, the Daros girl replied.
Beau pushed her gently with his boot, Shut up.
Ginna smiled sweetly at him, pale pink lips stretching over her
pointed teeth that shone slightly in the dim light.

Beau waited for the beverage section of the holo to circle by,
randomly pushing his finger into a picture of a drink with an
incomprehensible name.
Do you want to anything? Ginna asked, turning her head to
Cide.
Humorous, came Cides reply.
Giggling mischievously to herself, Ginna leaned back against the
droids arm, her small brown antlers clicking against the stock still
droids scored metal arm.
After a few minutes of peaceful silence, a blue skinned Demur
male knocked on their door. Cide slid it open, allowing the alien to
enter. The Demur held a tray, which he placed on the table with a bow.
Without a word, the blue alien left them to their meal, closing the door
behind him.
With absolute privacy, Beau finally relaxed. He brought his hands
to his helmet, and with a click, raised it off his head. Blinking his brown
eyes against the sudden change of light, he ran a gloved hand over the
light brown, sweat speckled skin of his shaved head. As the spiced air
hit his crooked nose, Beau rubbed his gaunt face, helping it adjust to
the sudden change in the stiff air.
Finally showing your face? Ginna said, smirking up at him as she
reached for her food.

Beau scratched at the dark bristles of his short beard, shooting


her a look.
You expect me to drink through my helmet? he said, grabbing
for his glass.
He looked down into the cup, regretting that he didnt pay more
attention. Purple fluid frothed and fizzed, lime green blobs swimming
jerkily through the bubbles. A foul smell emitted from the drink,
gagging the bounty hunter.
Placing the glass on the table and pushing it aside, Beau looked
over at Ginnas plate.
Beau immediately wished he hadnt.
Ginna sat slurping at her food, a writhing mass of squirming, thick
worms. The worms had been soaked in thick yellow sauce that splashed
off the plate as they squirmed. As the Daros girl ate, the creatures
squealed in protest.
Without meaning to, he gave a moan of disgust.
Catching Ginnas attention with the small outburst, she looked up
from her living meal.
Hm? she mumbled through a wiggling mouthful.

Nothing, please just eat, Beau said, looking down from the
sickening sight.
Does this bother you? she said, her voiced muffled through the
mouthful of the nauseating food as she slurped them past her sharp
teeth.
She giggled as she swallowed her mouthful and reached for
Beaus drink.
So are you going to finish the deed? Ginna asked after taking a
long gulp from the purple liquid.
Beau nodded, turning his holopad on to checking the time.
I suppose it is time, yes, he said, with a glance out the window
toward the Embassy.
Scrolling through the holopads many menus, Beau brought up
the video feed of the camera he had hidden. Sliding that screen to the
side, he continued until he reached a nameless program file, only
identified by a series of randomized numbers. Activating the file, Beau
turned on his communications and zeroed in on the comm piece he had
left behind at the Embassy.
Clearing his throat, Beau spoke slowly and clearly, Prime Minister
Vonlen to Conference Theater 146 for the meeting of Bleen Genetic
Rights, please.

As he finished speaking, the data files he had uploaded translated


his words from the hidden comm piece into Demur, sending his false
call out through the Embassy.
There arent civilians in there are there? Ginna asked.
Shouldnt be. Our contractors ensured that the corridor should
be cleared out.
Leaning back into his seat, Beau watched and waited, staring
intently at the video feed of the hallway.
Minutes ticked by, until finally, the Prime Minister strode into
view, his black veil lavished with golden threads and precious red
stones.
Beau pulled out a small cylindrical detonator from his belt.
Three, two, one, he muttered, pressing the button.
Pressing the button, the video feed cut to static, in the distance, a
dull explosion could be heard, as if it were merely thunder from an
oncoming storm. Beau looked out toward the far off Embassy, a pillar
of thick smoke already beginning to stream up past the beautiful
cityscape.

Within moments of tragically cutting Demur Royal bloodline short,


Beaus comm began to go off, a nameless contact flashing into view on
the holographic screen, requesting a personal video feed.
He allowed the call through, revealing a group of five Demur, each
adorned with golden threads upon their veils, though not as
extravagant as the late Prime Ministers.
We felt the explosion from here, bounty hunter,
congratulations, the single female drawled in English.
You have changed the course of our world, leaving it in more
capable hands, another Demur replied, nodding his head in approval.
Glad to be of service, my lords and lady, I know how your people
view unsavory matters such as these, especially against the Ruling
Family, Beau said, bowing his head respectfully.
The Cabinet of Officials shall not forget your service, bounty
hunter, we are quite pleased, a voice came from past a veil.
Our business is concluded, and your payment has been
transferred, a male rasped.
Goodbye, human, the red female said.
The call cut off, leaving the trio in silence.

Do you think you did the right thing? Ginna asked.


They paid well, does it matter? Beau responded, replacing his
helmet.
You just shifted the power of an entire planet single handedly, it
might matter a bit, she said.
Like I said, they paid well. Besides, Vonlen was running this
planet into financial bankruptcy over petty personal matters, Beau
said with a shrug, perhaps the Cabinet can handle the money and
power better until they pick a new Ruling Family.
Sure, by paying you a fortune to incinerate half a floor of the
Embassy, Ginna said with a frown.
Beau grunted with a shrug, laying a couple dozen plastic money
tokens on the table as he stood to leave before replying.
People die in our business. You know that.
Ignoring the response, Ginna quickly wolfed down the last of the
Demur cuisine, pushing Cide to hurry so she could get out from the
booth. Together, the crew walked into the now noisy dining hall,
everyone in a panic over the attack so close by. Passing through by the
Bleen that had caught Beaus attention before, rage welled up inside
him. The thought of the bruised face of the Daros girl accompanying
the black skinned aliens to continue her life of abuse stirred up his

emotions. It would be so easy to silently murder her owners in passing.


Just a casual walk, quickly ejecting the blade mounted into his wrist,
severing the spinal cords of the Bleen one by one amidst the chaos.
Their snake like voices hissed and rasped in his ears.
Concentrating through the din of their maddening voices, Beau blinked
through the HUDs interface, shutting all audio into the helmet off. The
shell around his head quieted, but the voices still echoed in his ears,
growing louder and louder. Beau shook his head, burying the thoughts
and chaotic voices deep back into his subconscious. However, despite
his best efforts, the crazed thoughts of ending the Bleens miserable
existence flared up, as well as every kill Beau had made, the memories
rearing up to roar like creatures from sludge within the darkest corners
of his mind. Outside the trio was greeted by the sector in a panic. The
air was empty of all traffic save for flocks of rescue vessels speeding
toward the Embassy like moths to a flame, countless sirens wailing
through the towering buildings.
Climbing inside the Rabbit Hole, Beau quickly strode down the
rounded hallway to the cockpit, struggling to shove the sickening
thoughts away. Taking a seat back in the worn pilots chair, the systems
began to warm up at the detection of a pilot. Cide lowered down into
the copilots chair, assisting in booting the ships systems. Blue lights
flickered on, luminescent screens coming to life with yellow and red
readouts. The control panel breathed in life as the engines roared from
their sleep. With a small lurch, the landing gear lifted in on itself,
leaving the Rabbit Hole shuddering in the air.

Carefully easing the ship away from the building, Beau set the
auto pilot it a straight vertical climb. With traffic no longer flowing
through the sector, the Rabbit Hole easily reached the upper
atmosphere with no threat of catastrophic collisions as they recklessly
flew up.
As the pink sky faded into starry darkness, Beau leaned back into
his chair, easing into the white padding with a faint sigh.
Turning to Cide, he muttered, Set a hyper point for Ovroc
Station.
Cides compliance echoed hollowly after Beau as the bounty
hunter exited the cockpit, walking down the counterclockwise corridor.
The weight of the day had already settled in, the time spent awake
barely even registering five Demur hours. His own mind fighting against
him wasnt doing much good to the bounty hunter either, the voices
whispering and screaming, adding more weight to the wool blanket of
weariness draping around his shoulders.
Reaching the door to his personal quarters, he punched the code
on to an electronic pad mounted on the wall. As the door twisted open
from the middle, Beau stepped through the threshold into pale white
light.
He stood in the small room, rolling his neck, series of cracks and
pops sneaking through the thick black fabric under his armor. A small
white bed jutted out from the wall, mirrored by in-wall-shelves holding

old Earth novels. One small desk rested within the wall, able to pull out
if it was ever needed. A small closet sat in the corner, slightly ajar, the
stand for his armor hidden behind the blank door.
Sitting on the bed, Beau pulled his helmet off and began to roll his
neck. After loosening up, the bounty hunter began to remove his
armor, the hiss and crack of the micro hydraulics holding his armor
intact resonating through the air. Taking the last of his armor off, he
stood and stretched, his body covered in a tight black jumpsuit, the
dark flexible cloth straining against his muscles. Placing his hands to the
sides of his head, Beau twisted his back, a satisfying crackle coming
from his tired bones.
Loosened up and somewhat relaxed, Beau placed his brown
armor on the stand. After a quick change into comfortable plain white
attire, the bounty hunter left his quarters to continue the walk
counterclockwise to enter the ships mess hall. The makeshift room
owned a single table, the wall between the mess hall and food storage
removed to give direct access to the supple store. A long counter set up
for preparing meals had been placed in the middle, still giving clear
definition of separate spaces.
Predictably, Ginna was sitting at the table, scarfing down a pile of
gelatinous meat substitute, maintaining her incredible Daros
metabolism. The red chucky jelly jiggled as Ginna tore into it
ravenously, bits of the goop smeared on across her face.

Beau walked over to the food storage, grabbing a bottle of water


and a spare rag from under the counter. Walking over to a seat at the
table, Beau threw the rag at Ginnas face, catching her off guard. Her
startled movement flicked some of her jelly, splattering it across the
table.
Ugh, what was that for? the young Daros steamed, glaring at
Beau from behind the rag.
Didnt think you looked very lady like, he replied, propping his
feet up on the table.
Whatever, she groaned, wiping the jelly from her face and the
table.
Ginna took her plate, placing it on the cluttered counter along
with the rag, turning to resume her place at the table. Sitting across
from her captain, Ginna leaned in, resting her chin on her hands, idly
fiddling with the jewelry resting on her forehead.
So where we off too next? she asked.
Cide is prepping for a jump back to Ovroc Station, Beau said,
pulling a small pill bottle from his pocket.
At the sight of the bottle, Ginnas face dropped a little. Tipping the
bottle into his hand, he dumped a couple of tiny dark blue pills. Quickly
popping them in his mouth and washing them down, Ginna sighed.

I thought you didnt need those anymore, she said softly.


So did I, he replied, his face now stony and emotionless.
Ginna rested her head down on the table, her green hair
cascading around her small sad face. Hesitantly, Beau reached over and
stroked her wild green head, careful not to knock her horns. She looked
up at him, her pale skin reddening as tears filled her eyes.
I thought you were better, she mumbled, wiping at her emerald
eyes.
Beau remained silent, intertwining his fingers in Ginnas silky hair,
sadness creeping onto his face.
They sat together in silence, Beau comforting the young alien who
sat staring at the transparent orange bottle resting on the table.
Seconds dragged, minutes sluggishly moving like hours, the girl
trembling ever so slightly under his gentle touch. Eventually Ginna
stood, without a word walking away, stopping short of the door.
Hesitantly, the Daros turned her head, as if to say something. Instead,
she stayed her tongue, and walked out, leaving the man alone to his
thoughts.
He truly had believed he was improving on this; the doctor that
supplied him with his medicine gave every indication that soon his
illness would be gone. Beau would have to return again, to discuss his
condition with the short, balding Dr. Prosper when he had a chance.

Sighing roughly to himself he rested his head in his hands,


isolation surrounding him with a familiar chill, harsh voices growing in
his mind, growling and screaming.
We are ready for jump sir, Cides hollow voice chimed over the
Rabbit Holes intercom.
Standing slowly from his chair, Beau pocketed his medicine,
struggling to leave behind the weight of the feeling of desolation. Hand
against the bare wall, he walked to the cockpit with only the sound of
his bare-footed footsteps for company.
Reaching the cockpit, Beau dropped into the pilots seat and fired
up the jump sequence. As buttons were pressed and switches flipped, a
ball of light formed within the inner ring of the Rabbit Holes hole. Fed
by three generators even spaced, the ball of pure energy grew as more
power was engorged by the sphere.
With a final press inside the cockpit, the generators tore the
sphere to shreds, the burst ripping through space, sending the Rabbit
Hole through the carefully plotted point Cide had created. The
explosion of the sphere enveloped the ship, pocketing it inside a blazing
ball of white hot plasma.
Readouts flashed up on a screen, indicating that they would be
spending the next seven hours hurtling through the very fabric of the
universe. Beau relaxed in his seat, staring out at the rippling energy,

shades of blues and whites swirling and colliding with each other in an
atomic dance.
Sir, permission to power down for maintenance and recharge?
Cide asked, his head swiveling from the cockpits view port.
Beau glanced at the painted face of the droid, seeing the dimming
of its lights.
Of course, I can take it from here.
Cide stood rigidly, gears churning and metal grinding as the droid
clomped down to the maintenance bay.
Beau left to take a quick trip to his quarters, programming the
armor stand to hover along behind as well as grabbing his retractable
sword and a repair kit. Stopping short of walking back to the pilots
seat, the man teetered with a foot out his door before he turned and
grabbed a random book from the shelves.
Returning to the cockpit Beau dropped the book on the floor next
to his pilots seat, spreading the repair kit on the copilots chair. He
pulled his helmet off of the floating stand and began cleaning and
recalibrating the intricate circuitry. Piece by piece he toiled, his brow
crinkled in intense concentration as the voices and dark thoughts ebbed
from his mind.

His armor freshly cleaned, his sword checked over and sharpened,
Beau rested his head back in his seat, his mind finally once again at
peace. Relaxation flowed through his body as if released from a flood
gate, his arms sliding over the sides of the chair, the sword still clutched
in his hand grating against the metal floor.
Lazily extending the blade of his sword, the hunter snagged the
book he had left alone on the barren floor. Dragging it carefully across
the floor, he brought it within reach, stooping to pick it up. Dusting off
the cover, the corner of his mouth flickered, the old and bent cover
comfortable in his hands.
Perching himself in a more adequate position, he spent the next
few hours in serenity. Lost inside the pages of the book, he hardly
noticed the door of the cockpit slide open, only looking up at the rustle
of robes breaking the delicate threads of silence. Looking into her eyes
as she glided forward, he saw her eyes looked dry, redness biting
around the edges, as if she recently wept.
The Daros girl stood behind his chair, wrapping her slender arms
around the head piece, leaning against the seat.
What are you reading? she asked softly.
A story of tripod machines destroying mankind, Beau said
shutting his book, It was famous on Earth for causing panic after being
read over a radio.

Ah, one of your old world classics, Ginna replied, gingerly


reaching to see it.
Relinquishing his grip on the worn binding of the book, he allowed
Ginna to inspect the pages. She turned it over in her hands, stroking the
cover, flipping through the chapters. Quizzical eyes meandered along
the ink, taking in every foreign word. She slid down on to the floor,
resting her back against the side of the pilots chair.
Whats a radio? she asked.
Think of Cide, but less angry and plays music, Beau explained
with a smirk.
Oh, she said as her face split into a smile.
You never finished teaching me how to read your language, she
said, mulling over the book.
Well finish up soon, I promise, Beau said, you can still read a
bit of that though, cant you?
A little bit, but not very much, Ginna muttered, her
concentration focused on translating English as she brushed her untidy
bangs from her eyes.
Leaving Ginna to examine his book, Beau returned his attention to
the Rabbit Holes dashboard, his gaze scanning over the readings. The

flashing red numbers caught his eye; the countdown to Ovroc Station
was mere minutes until reaching zero.
Standing with a grunt, Beau sent the stand to return to his closet.
Ginna looked up at the sudden movement, her round eyes flicking to
the armor floating by.
Are we almost there? she asked.
About four minutes.
Want me to go turn on Cide?
Beau considered it before shaking his head.
I dont think well need him, it wont hurt to leave him here.
Alright, she said, standing from the floor, here you go.
Extending an arm she presented the book back, but Beau shook
his head.
Ive read that thing a hundred times, go head and keep it for
now, he said with a small smile.
Ginna looked down at the book in her hands before suddenly
flinging herself around his waist.

Please feel better, she said, her voice muffled.


Beau winced as her small horns dug under his ribcage, but hugged
her back, ignoring the pain.
Ill be fine, he said, the embrace ending, now go ahead and get
ready, well be at the Ovroc soon.
Letting go of the man, Ginna stepped back, her flowing black
robes scuttling the floor, her voice cracking slightly as she said, Ill
meet you at the airlock when youre ready.
She turned with an elegant twist, green hair fluttering through the
air as the alien girl whisked herself away.
Rubbing his ribcage, Beau trekked back to his quarters, changing
into a clean jumpsuit. Assembling himself bit by bit, he was armored
once again in the mud colored plastoid shell. Grabbing his sword, he
gave a flick of the wrist, the newly sharpened blade unfolding. The
sound of the weapon cutting through the air was music to his ears,
sending the blade back to its retracted state sheathed at the small of
his back. Ejecting the wrist mounted blade, he gave it a quick
inspection, the unique metal gleaming in the pale light. With a quick
thrust of his arm, Beau sliced at the door frame, cutting it neatly as
sparks spat from the wounded framework.
The thin knife collapsed back into its housing with a shunk as Beau
ran his free hand over the door frame, feeling the countless other

gouges from previous tests. He marveled at the fact he had only treated
the knife twice for repairs, the incredibly rare alloy mined for military
use on the Kana home world. It was forged for the military, until Beau
nicked it on a petty assassination for some angry home bound wife.
Kana birdbrains never were the type for romance anyway, Beau
mused to himself.
Beau braced himself against the wall as the Rabbit Hole shook,
dropping out of the hyper jump, the engines dying down to leave the
ship drifting through the void. Firing up the holopad on his bracer, Beau
programmed the autopilot remotely, sending the ship directly for Ovroc
Station. Through a view port, the station was clearly visible, the massive
spherical structure housing countless life forms, orbiting the gas giant
planet of Rin, the swirling purple clouds mixing with vibrant violet and
vicious blues.
The station itself shone brightly, light reflecting from the systems
distant star dazzling the metal surface. Hundreds of thousands of
yellow lights sparkled on across Ovroc, behind which life bustled and
thrived, crime and diplomacy, love and violence all thriving off one
another in the humble artificial world.
As the Rabbit Hole drew closer, the ship was hailed by Ovroc, a
docking agent patching through to Beaus personal comm system.
Welcome to Ovroc Station, name of vessel and serial
numbering, a bored voice droned.

H-class Earth freighter, designation Rabbit Hole, number 388sr,


Beau replied.
Standby while we process your information.
Half a minute later, the drone of the dock managers voice flared
back up.
You are cleared for docking; your docking port is number
3850CH, and enjoy your stay.
Before Beau could finish thanking the man, the communication
line was cut.
Rude, he muttered to himself, programming the flight to the
dock.
Engines roaring back to life, the Rabbit Hole began powering its
way toward Ovroc. As the ship drew close enough, it slowed its speed,
descending toward its designated dock. Through the viewport, all that
could be seen was the white metal surface of the station, minuscule
glances through its yellow windows offering a show of the life
happening inside, lost to Beau through the speed of the descent.
Finally, almost coming to a complete stop, the Rabbit Hole eased
itself closer still to Ovroc, so close Beau could have reached out to
touch. They passed hundreds of ships, all of various makes and designs,
however Beau noticed that they became more worn and dodgy the

lower they dropped. After a few minutes, the Rabbit Hole reached
3850CH, magnetic clamps extending from the ships air lock, securing
itself in place as the two airlocks connected.
Beau entered his ships airlock to join Ginna, standing by her side
as a soothing female voice chimed through the airlock.
Please wait while the pressure is reset, the voice said cheerfully.
Air vented in and out with a hiss, bringing the pressure up to
Ovroc Stations. After a few silent seconds save for the workings of the
air, the airlock finally opened to reveal a short hall way, the white floor
and walls scuffed by hundreds of past footsteps. A thin layer of dirt
lined the bottom section of the rounded walls, light shining down from
yellow lights, some even flickering.
Beau sighed, irritated over the fact that they had been sent to
such a grungy docking port. Together the two walked down the dirty
hallway, turning the corner before almost running head long into
another pilot.
The man staggered back, avoiding the collision, his thin form
clothed in a somewhat loose, blue jumpsuit trimmed with light gray
padding. His upper chest was armored in a dark gray piece of metal, the
armor thick on his right shoulder. A long energy rifle was strapped
across his back, gloved hands clutching at the dark brown strap across
his chest. His face was masked in a plain form fitting metal, glowing
white eyespots shimmering at the two from under a blue hood.

Oh, Im so sorry, he stammered, his voice tinny through his


masks speaker.
Its fine, Beau said, turning away to continue on his way into the
noisy lobby of the docking terminals.
Ginna smiled sweetly and waved at the stranger before rushing to
fall back in stride with her captain. She looked back as they left, the
hooded man hesitating before walking on his way behind them. His
white eye spots changed to a soft green color as he fidgeted with the
rifles strap. The shining green eyes looked up, catching the dark green
of her own as he waved his farewell to her before losing their line of
sight through the crowd.
Beau took Ginnas hand to keep her from being swept away by
the waves of aliens, pushing his way to a terminal. With her free hand,
Ginna cupped the golden jewelry hanging between her short antlers
from any bold pickpockets.
The terminals stood sin four lines of ten, almost unreachable by
the colorful crowds surrounding them. As they were bumped from side
to side, Beau was able to grab an unused terminal as soon as the
previous user had slithered away.
The screen lit up in acknowledgement that it detected the bounty
hunter. A long list of languages flared up, leaving Beau to sift through
strange symbols as he searched for English. Familiar letters finally
scrolled by, a new menu bringing itself after selecting the human

language. A small plugged wire ejected from a slot, requesting for the
docking information and fee. Beau plugged his holopad into the
terminal and made the payment after entering the required
information.
Their business done in the stifling lobby, Beau led Ginna further
into the space station.
Where are we going? she said, raising her voice over the din of
noise.
To get some drinks and resupply, he replied, his voice not quite
cutting through the thunderous chatter.
Ginna pointed at her ear and shook her head, a puzzled look on
her face. He made a drinking motion with his hand to convey the
message, understanding dawning on her delicate features.
Can we eat too? she asked loudly.
Beau nodded, not bothering speaking until they had entered a
calmer atmosphere. Exiting the enormous lobby, they entered one of
the several hundred plazas aboard Ovroc, the door sealing behind
them, cutting them off from the chaos of the lobby. Colorful lights
advertising goods lit up the plaza, the neon colors lighting the area
more effectively than the dingy yellow lights which barely functioned
high above them.

Meandering along the walkways, the bustle was much easier to


navigate, the claustrophobic vise of living creatures no longer as
pressing. Picking out a bar suitable to human taste that didnt seem too
sketchy, they walked under the orange neon sign advertising the
coldest booze on Ovroc. Only a handful of patrons were inside, a few
human scattered about, and oddly enough a dirty looking Gaff, his pale
blue skin clothed in ratty brownish garments, the white, tiger like
stripes on his flat face smeared with dirt, a mangy beard limp hanging
of the aliens face. The Gaffs black hair hung greasily around his face,
curling a bit under the glassy orange eyes above his long needle like
nose.
Walking up to the counter, Beau sat in an old beaten stool that
wobbled, despite the fact it was mounted to the floor. Ginna took a
seat next to him, her chin just barely coming over the top. The
bartender greeted them, a plump man with a thick mustache hiding
half of his face.
Whatll you get? he asked in a rough voice but warm tone.
Just whatever is fresh, Beau replied, looking down at Ginna,
you wanted food right?
Ginna nodded, simply saying, Meat.
The bartender glanced quickly at the Daros girl, smirking slightly
before asking, Any kind of meat in specifically?

Ginna shrugged at the man, leaving the bartender to shrug as


well. The man knew he was about to make a quick dollar of Daros
appetite, so who was he to argue.
Ill see what I can get for you and the little lady then, he said,
stepping into the bars kitchen.
Out of the corner of his eye, Beau noticed a flicker of movement.
Instinct kicking in, his head subtly tilted to catch it. Everything seemed
normal, however a prickle of uncertainty burrowed into his mind. He
noticed the Gaff was missing from his table. Beau frowned, uneasy
about the alien, the species notorious as infamous pickpockets and
cons.
Door banging open, the bartender came back from the kitchen
holding a plate and a glass of alcohol. He set the plate in front of Ginna,
her eyes widening in hunger at the generous pile of meat slabs sizzling
with heat. Within the blink of an eye, she was shoveling down the food,
her pointed teeth digging viciously into the greasy slices.
The bartender placed the mug on the counter for Beau, and
walked off to tend to some other customers.
Reaching to take his helmet off, Beau felt a sharp tap on his
shoulder, sending muscles to a rigid state, years of fighting triggering
every reflex in his mind for a fight. Whipping his head around, he came
face to face with the Gaff, the aliens grin showing all of his long,
disgustingly yellow teeth.

You look like a man who can handle himself, my friend, the Gaff
said, his voice surprisingly smooth and articulate.
What do you want? Beau asked.
Oh, I just have a proposition for capable folk, if you know what I
mean, the Gaff answered.
Beau sighed, not quite eager for another job so soon.
Who do you want dead? he said, agitation creeping into his
throat.
You have me all wrong friend, I represent certain, shall we say,
persons of great power, if you catch my drift, no need for anyone to
die, the alien said, grinning widely.
Thatd be a nice change of pace, dont you think? Ginna asked
Beau, pausing from ravaging her food.
The Gaffs face dropped, his sickening smile falling into a scowl.
I dont think I was asking you, slave, the Gaff growled.
Before the alien could react, Beau had him by the throat, lifting
the scrawny Gaff into the air and slamming him down on to the
counter.

What did you say to her? Beau whispered, voice crackling, his
helmet inches from the Gaffs face.
The bar had fallen into silence, all eyes on them, though none
bothered to intervene.
Shock was plastered on the aliens face, his bright orange eyes
shifting left and right nervously, unable to look into at Beaus face to
properly assess how much trouble he had gotten into.
N-now look here friend, she is just a little who- he stammered,
sweat beginning to form on his greasy forehead.
Before he could finish his sentence, Beau ejected the hidden
knife, the blade stopping just short of slicing through the Gaffs eye.
WHOA, whoa whoa, Im sorry, friend! Im sorry! he exclaimed,
writhing in Beaus grip.
I dont think hes very eager to be friends at this point, someone
in the crowd shouted with a hint of amusement.
Look, how about this, Im sorry, Ill cover your tab, you hear me
out, please, Im sorry, Ill buy you a drink, he sputtered, smiling weakly.
Look at her when you say it, Beau said, his voice barely audible,
the blade edging closer to the glassy eye of the alien.

Hey girl, Im sorry, really, sorry, Im trash, scum, so how about


letting me go, eh? he said desperately, his face turning as much as it
could to look at Ginna.
She smiled, looping her hands through Beaus arm, gently pulling
the edge of the blade from the Gaffs eye.
I think Ill accept his apology for now, she said.
Great! Great, see there we can be friends, right? Now how about
letting me up so we can get to business, yes? the Gaff said, trying a
weak grin.
Beau eased off, pulling the alien to his feet.
See now there we g-OOF! his words ended abruptly as Beaus
fist smashed it his blue face, knocking the Gaff to the ground.
Ugh, I deserve that, yes, I deserve that, he groaned, picking
himself up while spitting out a mouthful of blood and rotten teeth.
Richard, put them on my tab, and, oof, Ill be back tomorrow,
the Gaff moaned to the bartender.
Richard, the bartender, turned and pulled out a new, more
expensive clear bottle of liquor, setting the bottle down in front of
Beau. Tugging his helmet off, Beau set it down on the counter as
Richard poured his drink.

How about some for the little lady? Richard asked smiling,
swirling the alcohol in the bottle.
Can I? Ginna asked, excitement leaking into her eyes.
Hesitating momentarily, Beau ran a hand over his head and
answered, I suppose one wouldnt hurt.
Ginna grinned widely as a smaller glass was poured for her.
Raising it to her lips, she took an apprehensive sip.
Hows it taste? Beau said, drinking from his own glass.
Ginna crinkled her nose, smacking her lips in disgust.
It tastes funny, she said, her eyes fluttering delicately.
Taking another sip, Beau noticed something off with the flavor,
something under laying the burn of alcohol. As Ginna slumped forward
slightly with a soft thump, Beau realized what the odd taste was.
Panic welled in his chest as his vision began to blur. Grappling
with his sword, Beau felt numbness shoot through his limbs.
You bastard, Beau tried to scream, but he was sure all he
managed was a meek, slurred mumble.

Before his vision faded to darkness, he could have sworn to see


the bloody smile of the Gaff.
Through the black fog of unconsciousness, Beau dreamt of
memories, as if looking through a white veil. His subconscious thoughts
lingered on his young friend, how he had met the Daros girl Ginna.
In his dozing haze, he relived how he crept through the elegant
floating mansion four years ago. No matter how much time passed, he
would always remember of the infamous drug lord Cas Gatten, his
estate decorated in lavish silks and priceless art. His elite team of
guards incapacitated, thrown over the edge into the clouds, or their
broken bodies stowed out of sight, Beau remembered how he had at
last reached Gattens private bedroom, only to find the drug lords
favorite slave girl chewing through his neck.
Standing there, Beau had watched in mild shock at the starved,
shaking naked body of the Daros, who had to be no more than ten
years old. Her face and hands were covered in the mans blood, the
bruises of his abuse still a deep purple. The sound of her ravenous
snarls filled the room as she devoured her tormenter. The glass cage
that had housed her in his room had been smashed apart from the
inside, and Beau had noticed a few cuts along her forehead around her
horns. He had approached after sometime, the Daros jumping with a
start and backing away, angry and hateful tears streaming from her big
green eyes. He had knelt down, taking the poor girls hand, having had
noticed how the deep purple bruises crept from her face downward,
covering her hips and shoulders.

Beau recalled how much she had reminded him of what he


remembered of his own youth, seeing himself in the slave girl. An
uncharacteristic empathetic wave of emotion he had not felt before on
any job washed over him as he draped one of the impossibly expensive
curtains around her, leading her away from the gnawed corpse.
Whats your name? he had asked.
She didnt answer, only wept softly against the hard armor of his
side.
Beau had freed all the other slaves; however the Daros he had
found in Gattens room stayed by his side, having tentatively followed
Beau aboard his ship, clutching his gloved hand. After two days of
silence, she had finally uttered a broken sound, looking into his black
visor.
Ginna, she had at last relinquished, Im Ginna.
How had fought through the torment of her life she had
displayed such resemblance to his own youth that it struck him. From
what little he could recall, he had spent months on a small colony.
Waking up day after day, alone and starving on the failed space colony
by the name of Ageous 277. Somehow surviving on scraps of spoiled
meat and water leaking from pipes, Beau had come very close to death
and losing his sanity, let alone his life.

His only escape had been a Human military cruiser, which


miraculously came across his derelict home. He had been revived,
medicated, and underwent psychiatric treatment. With nowhere to go,
Beau had stayed and trained over many years as a soldier, receiving his
medication directly from the onboard Medical Chief, until his eventual
fallout and desertion.
As the hazy memories faded from his mind, his vision slowly
returned, a harsh red light burning his eyes. Slowly, sight returned to
him, as well as sensation in his arms and legs. What feeling he felt
brought a black anger from the pit of his stomach.
Restraint.
Beau was unable to move, realizing he had been strapped to a
chair, along with other unconscious figures. Panic welled up now,
overcoming the anger as he scanned the room for Ginna. There she
was, to his left, right next to him. His heart pounding, he saw how she
was restrained as well, so small in the chair. He could have glazed over
her had he not noticed the shining green of her hair.
With knowing Ginna was unharmed, Beau focused on his
surroundings.
A large round table sat in the middle of the room, its only feature.
A ragtag group of beings sat at around it, held down in the same
manner as he. A portly human male with a kind face wearing small
glasses and heavy beard almost engulfed by a massive black duster, as

well as a Bleen nursing a rifle in the crook of its arm with a long red
scarf wrapped around the lower half of its face. Much to Beaus
surprise, the man they bumped into at the docking bay was at the table
as well. Across from him was a human female, her wavy red hair hiding
her features. Along with the captives were two Kana soldiers standing
in rigid attention, both in full silvery armor, their feathered faces
hidden behind cone shaped helmets with luminescent orange
faceplates.
One nudged the other, and pointed directly at Beau.
Hold still, a voice said close to his ear.
A sharp pain shot through his neck as a needle pierced the fabric
protecting his neck. With the needle now pulled out, Beau twisted his
head to see another human female, bald and heavily altered from with
drastic surgeries, standing over him. She looked almost like a bird, her
brown skin stretching over beak that didnt look right on her face.
Artificial feathers rose in a tuft from her forehead, a dazzling array of
blues and white.
Placing the needle in one of the pockets of her light blue lab coat,
what might have been a smile stretched uncomfortably across her face.
You shouldnt be awake yet young man, she tutted, her voice
flitting to in a way that matched her appearance. He wondered if the
infliction was an alteration as well, or simply just practice.

He was too dumbfounded to respond.


Walking up to her place at the table, she took a seat as one of the
Kanas hit a sequence of buttons on a holo pad resting on the table. The
pad flared up, projecting the face of an elegant looking Kana, his deep
auburn beak poking out through stout red feathers. Sharp yellow eyes
glared at the group, judging each with a haughty air of distaste.
Slowly, the other captives became conscious, moaning softly.
Becoming more aware, several took stock of their situation, beginning
to shout and writhe against their bonds, struck with confusion.
SILENCE, the holographic Kana commanded, his voice crisp and
fluttery.
Every eye turned toward the floating image, hate boiling in their
eyes. Beau could feel the emotions radiating from each one; he could
imagine the air almost vibrating with the hostile emotions.
Welcome, and thank you for your presence. You have been
honored with the privilege to provide service to the might of the Kana
military, the alien said in crisp English, I am General Thabus, leader of
the Kana Military Science Division.
Thank you, for our PRESENCE?! the red headed woman shrieked
shrilly. Her eyes were blazing with rage; however that didnt mask their
pleasant shade of brown.

Thabus regarded her with steely, unfeeling eyes before


continuing.
You few have been selected careful- General Thabus began,
before the round man interrupted.
YOU BASTARD ILL FU- the human female began screaming,
before a sharp crack cut of her crude words.
Blood sprayed across Beaus visor, but the gristle didnt block the
sight of the now headless human body slumping across the table. From
the corner of his vision, he saw the pseudo-human female pointing an
electronic pad of sorts at the dead hunter. Every head turned and
stared in stunned silence at the oozing stump, glistening wetly as a final
spurt of blood gushed onto the table. Ginnas terrified eyes felt like a
stab to his gut.
Interruptions, as you can now see, have zero tolerance, the
Kana general spat through his beak.
A horrific smirk rose from lunatic as she set the remote down.
As I was saying, you have carefully selected to serve our great
Empire in a most dire matter. The great Kana Empire is vast and
influential enough for to tap into the comings and goings of those even
outside our territory. Our reach is almost limitless, when there is
something we desire. When you docked we scanned all dossiers for

potential candidates, he said, his voice cold, and we liked what we


saw in you guns-for-hire.
Thabus glanced around the room, inspecting each face. The
Kanas ice cold gaze fell on the squat human, the yellow eyes squinting.
Human, state your name.
Name is Pen, the man said, his thick beard rustling as he spoke,
a strained smile playing across his lips.
Ah yes, youve been employed to our service before, Thabus
said, nodding to himself.
Sadly, Pen muttered.
Luckily, neither the General nor the woman playing executioner
heard him.
As I was saying, Thabus said, you were selected to carry out a
mission we lack resources to invest in. With our forces spread thin due
to our current war, we must rely on filthy mercenaries. You may now
speak freely.
The captive bounty hunters shifted in their restraints
uncomfortably before any dared speak.

I think a good starting point would be why the hell you abducted
us and blew someones head off, Beau finally said.
This mission is extremely sensitive. We had to be sure that we
had complete control over our tools, next! the mutant doctor replied,
dismissing any further words from Beau.
Ill kill you first, Beau seethed to himself.
What is job, exactly? the Bleen hissed quietly, voice grating
from behind its scarf.
A weapons research station under our funding, Kaskurst, has
been missing for two standard months, we believed it had been found
and destroyed by those who oppose the Kana Empire. However, a
group of scouts fortunately discovered its current location over the
uninhabited planet Lashada. We lost contact with the scout team
shortly after communications had been established onboard the
station.
So you want us to find the station? Beau asked.
That is secondary, the General said, on the station is a vital
asset to our war effort, a scientist by the name of Dr. Hanson along
with his research. You are to locate and return the doctor, if he is
indisposed, retrieve his work.

Why do you need a whole team of filthy mercenaries to


recover one scientist? Pen asked with a raised eyebrow.
Circumstances require a group of capable beings with no ties to
our military, the Kana general replied.
Wh-hat circumstances? the hooded man asked.
Hesitating slightly, the Generals hard yellow eyes flitted with
uncertainty before answering.
We believe there may hostile military forces onboard the
station, General Thabus said, his voice losing a bit of its edge.
With a slight scoff, the bearded mercenary shook his head.
I think we can handle a few bugs, Pen said grinning.
Our Desen subordinates should rightfully be mocked, however
the insects have somehow overpowered our scouts, so caution is
advised in the situation, the General said.
Pay? the Bleen asked.
The Kana Military is willing to pay five hundred thousand chips.
Each.

The Bleens ghostly white eyes widened hungrily, as if almost


forgetting how it was tied down to the chair. The rest of the group sat
in shock at the reward. Beau himself had only been paid half of that for
the assassination of Prime Minister Vonlen. Ginna looked up at Beau,
her eyes filled with avarice.
Beau, think about all the food, she said in an excited whisper.
Shush, he said testily, I dont know about this, it sounds
sketchy. And have you noticed youre strapped to a chair?
Oh come on, killing the Prime Minister was sketchy, this just
squashing some bugs to get a scientist. As for being tied, I think I can
look past it for that kind of money, she retorted, shifting more
comfortably.
Beau shook his head at her, astounded her stomach was
overpowering her sense of reason.
This is insane, he muttered to himself.
What did you put in our necks, Beau said, staring at the woman
coldly from behind his visor.
Ah, the Doctor Hanley will explain, General Thabus said simply.
Doctor Hanley, the altered human, smiled sweetly.

Smiling really didnt flatter that face.


To ensure your compliance, you have been implanted with a high
grade explosive gel that will detonate remotely if you do not follow our
orders.
Her unhuman twittering voice was preceded by an angry silence.
When you are ready, speak to my soldiers and they will prepare a
transport to the station, General Thabus said, breaking the silence.
Why cant we take our own ships? Beau asked.
The Desen are not our only enemies. We cant risk other
malicious forces to track your ships to the station or if you were to be
foolish enough to try to run. You will take a shuttle we have prepared
personally. It is trouble enough that those insects are infesting the
station, Thabus replied before continuing, An entire station going
missing is not something we wish to become public. I will leave you to
your preparations.
His floating head scanned the faces and helmets of the room
before shutting off with a blip. With transmission ended, the two alien
soldiers eased out of attention, the silver metal of their airtight armor
creaking slightly.
Besides usual Kana hospitality, this feels wrong, dont you
think? Pen said to the group.

I agree, his explanation wasnt very solid, Beau said.


Silence, a Kana solider cawed rigidly.
The aliens clanked around the table, silently handing each bounty
hunter a data pad, bow legs awkwardly maneuvering around the chairs.
After receiving his, Beau flicked through the red text, reading up where
the dock with the transport was located, contract information, along
with Kana propaganda. Like a cruel joke, at the end of the entries a line
requiring his signature with a final stanza lit up.
Reading through the last paragraph carefully, Beaus anger raised
its ugly head.
Failure to comply will result in execution with collateral of Ovroc
destruction? he said, temper flaring.
The Kana both nodded curtly, Hanley raising the remote, shaking
it playfully.
So you mean we either accept your job or you destroy the space
station? Pen asked dumbfounded.
Cannot risk Intel loss, one of the soldiers squawked in broken
English, must insure your compliance.
Th-hats insane! exclaimed the hooded hunter, his glowing white
eyes seemingly to damp in radiance.

An attack like that would be an act of war! Pen moaned as his


face turned ashen.
Nothing the Empire cannot handle, said one of the Kanas.
Orders, said the other, hanging his head.
Was that regret?
The Bleen stood, holding the data pad. It walked casually over,
giving the plastic device back to its owners.
Signed and ready, it said.
Acknowledged, please remain, one of the Kana said.
If supplies needed, we escort one at time, the other said.
Beau glared at the soldiers from behind his visor, seething in rage.
As controlling and harsh as the avian species were, promising the
destruction of millions of innocents was a new low for the Kana
military.
They must be desperate, Beau thought to himself as he signed the
pad, roughly sliding it across the table.
Pen sighed, signing his and placing it on the table as the other
nervously fidgeted before doing the same.

All signed, no supplies needed? a Kana asked, collecting the


data pads.
I have what I need, Pen said, echoed quickly by the anxious
mercenaries.
Im ready, Beau said, seething.
Good, meet at dock in thirty standard minutes, the Kanas
twittered almost in unison.
They moved to leave out the door before one stopped, turning to
the group, saying, Warship monitoring Ovroc. We know if you do not
obey.
With the Kanas gone, the group stood from their seats. The Bleen
quickly stalked out, ignoring the others, almost plowing down Ginna in
its haste to leave.
Well, this s-sucks, the hooded man sighed.
Oh, Im sure weve been in worse, comes with the job, Pen said
as he began polishing his glasses.
Th-this is my first job, the man stuttered.
The plump man seemed taken aback, confusion lacing his face.

How did you get lucky enough to get roped into this if youve had
no experience? Didnt the bird brain say we got picked from our
docking info?
I-Im docked under m-my fathers ship, he said.
Why did you get picked? Beau asked.
I-I guess they think I-Im him, his voice trailed off.
Where is your father then? Ginna asked.
He died on a job, the boy said.
Pen sighed walking over to the poor kid, the long duster scrapping
softly across the floor.
Whats your name son? he asked, placing a hand on his
shoulder.
Quint, he replied softly.
Well Quint, it looks like we are all stuck in a rotten situation,
Pen said, pulling one of two pistols from his belt, we are hunters, and
we arent going to let some beak faced freaks control us. Are we?
Pen handed the pistol over to Quint. He stared at the gun in his
hand before nodding.

Thats the spirit! Nobody messes with hunters, right? Pen


exclaimed, turning his head to Beau.
Uh, right, he said.
Beau knew full well that Pen was only trying to lift the boys spirit,
but the notion seemed useless. Quint and Pen walked outside together,
brothers in the hunt, creating a bond in the face of the awful
circumstance.
You were reassuring, Ginna said.
He took up his fathers place, either he lives up to it or dies,
Beau said simply.
Brow furrowed, Ginna nudged Beaus side roughly as they walked
quickly to the Kana docking bay.
Be nice, he is just a kid, she said.
You know what kind of life this is, Beau said, if he doesnt
adjust to it he will die.
Im just a kid! she nearly shouted.
Stunned, Beau said nothing. He knew how young she was, and he
felt a heavy, guilty pull at the pit of his stomach.

It still wouldnt hurt to try to support him; were all hostages to


those beak faced freaks, she sighed.
I suppose, Beau grumbled, regaining his voice, if there is even a
warship out there. Never know; it could just be an empty threat.
You know its not an empty threat, Ginna said angrily.
Pressing the power button on his holopad Beau hailed Cide,
waking the droid from his artificial slumber. The droids static filled
voice garbled forth, an edge to each word.
Recharge is still incomplete, sir, but how can I be of assistance?
Cides voice grated.
I need to run a scan of Ovroc and the space around it for any
Kana vessels, and I need you to guard the ship for an indefinite amount
of time.
Affirmative, please stand-by, the droid replied.
Sounds grumpy, Ginna said, do you ever regret putting that
personality chip in him?
Sometimes, Beau mumbled.
Reporting, Cides voice interrupted, four civilian-class Kana
vessels are docked with the station.

Is that all? Beau said, hope welling up in his chest that the
warship was an idle bluff.
Negative, scans show a solitary military-class Kana cruiser
orbiting the station. Further scanning revealed weapons are primed and
aimed at Ovroc life supports, as well as other major station facilities.
Elaborate? What have you gotten us into this time?
Long story, just stay put and guard the ship, our bird brain
friends want us to do an errand for them, Beau said.
It isnt about that little toy in your arm? Cide asked.
No, I think they still believe that the only sample was destroyed
when I blew up the mining facility, Beau replied.
You always have had a touch for subtly, sir, Cide said, his
sarcasm evident even through his tinny voice.
Its my specialty. Well be back.
Yes sir. Signing off, his droid replied.
Feeling deflated, Beau let out a sigh, turning his head to his young
Daros companion. Running a hand through her hair, anxiety replaced
his crushed hope.
What? Ginna asked, peeking out from under his hand.

You shouldnt be here with me, he said.


I dont have any choice. Theyll blow our heads off otherwise.
Besides, I think I can handle a few overgrown bugs, she said, flexing
her rail thin arms.
Frowning behind the veil of his helmet, Beau placed a hand on her
slim shoulder and gave it a gentle squeeze.
They wont know what hit them, he said.
Tilting her head up to meet his eyes behind the circular eyespots,
she gave Beau a toothy grin as they left the seclusion of the blank
walled building. Walking through the thin crowd, they hastily set off for
the docking levels.
Do you think there will be anytime to get food?
Are you kidding? You just ate, Beau said.
So? Ginna mumbled in reply.
Im sure there will be food on the transport.
There better be, for all the trouble they are causing, she said
with a grimace.

They walked quickly, pushing through the crowded walkways of


the space station. After every food stand, Ginna pouted pointedly at
Beau.
Youre not fooling anyone with that, Beau said.
I can try, she replied, wrapping her arms around Beaus,
reaching up with one hand to flick next to his visors eyespot.
Beau didnt bother with a retort; instead he led the young Daros
along, keeping her safe from the assorted beings surrounding them.
With brisk, urgent strides, the armored man trudged with his young
friend, the crowds thinning as the depths of the station consumed
them.
Just short of the Kanas deadline, they arrived at the designated
dock, joining the other hunters. Pen and Quint stood together idly
chatting, offering friendly nods and waves upon Beaus arrival. The
Bleen however kept its distance from the ragtag humans, even
ostracizing itself away from the Kana soldiers guarding the dock doors.
It stood rigidly, lanky arms crossed as they cradled its gun, the Bleens
haunting eyes staring into space.
Noticing Beaus arrival, the two soldiers beckoned the group with
a shrill caw, their beaks clicking under their helms. Their flat orange
face plates flashed, yellow reading visible from the outside as the
soldiers prepped the bay door to open.

All inside, one clucked, pointing inside with his rifle.


The stalky Bleen complied quickest, striding into past the Kanas
with its long legs. Beau and his fellow hunters followed suit with less
enthusiasm, shuffling into the pressurizing chamber connecting the
transport to Ovroc Station. Clanking inside after the hunters, the Kanas
chirped and clicked in their own language, sealing the thick steel doors
with an airy hiss.
Standing awkwardly shoulder to shoulder, the familiar artificial
voice blipped through the speaker overhead.
Please wait while the pressure is reset, the voice cooed gently.
The message repeated twice more after that, first in a pleasant
clicking and twittering, and second in a surprisingly smooth hiss, the
voice accommodating for the none human beings as the pressure
adjusted. As the last hissing syllable leaked through air, it seemed to
echo in Beaus ears. Shaking his head, the echo in his ears became
grated, descending into a scathing screech.
Beau stood still as a statue, struggling to regain composure as the
auditory hallucination rampaged through his mind. A cold sweat broke
out across his brow as he stared straight forward, glaring into the back
of the Bleens head. Before his eyes, the Bleens head turned roughly to
face Beau, the vertebrae in its neck snapping, white bone jutting
through its black skin. Its mouth opened, revealing the once round
teeth to now be dagger-like and jagged, dripping with saliva. Blood

poured from the wounds on its neck as one of the creatures arms
reach backward, claw like hand inches from Beaus face.
This is taking forever, a soft voice sighed.
Snapping back into reality, Beau twisted his head to the voice.
Ginna leaned against him, looking up into the emotionless face plate.
Beau shivered under his armor, nodding in reply. Glancing back up, he
returned his view to the Bleen, standing perfectly unharmed.
It is taking a while for the pressure adjustments, isnt? came a
reply, but Beau couldnt pin the voice through the fading fog of his
mind.
As reality settled and his sanity returned, the devilish voices in his
mind subsided, leaving the hardened man sweating in shock. With a
sudden motion, Beau brought his hands up to his helm, desperately
pulling it off.
Whoa, are you ok? Ginna asked, startled by his sudden flurry of
movement.
Tugging the brown helmet off, Beau ran his gloved hand over his
head.
Yeah, just needed some fresh air, Beau replied, keeping his
voice level.

Looks like you need it, youre sweating like a Daros in a buffet,
Pen said with a chuckle.
The Kanas behind them chirped slightly in amusement at the jest,
even Quint raising a hand to his blank face plate with a snicker. Ginna
stuck her pointed tongue out rudely at the older man, who only
chuckled even more. Smiling slightly, Beau leaned against the cold
white wall, unwinding from the chilling hallucination.
Returning her attention to Beau, Ginna leaned against the brown
chest plate, looking up into his dark eyes.
Are you ok? Ginna asked, her features brimming with concern.
Im fine, just felt cooped up in there is all, he replied, might
feel better if I had a drink or something.
Oh shut up, I said I was sorry, the Daros girl pouted.
Beau smiled down at his young friend, nudging her with his knee.
Before Ginna could retaliate, the doors to the transport slide open with
a grind, revealing a rectangular seating section and small store room.
The doors where leading through were open, showing a cockpit just
through the store room.
Pen whistled softly, saying, Small little bugger isnt it, wonder
why it took so long to get it properly pressurized?

Shrugging, a Kana replied, Small ship, hard detection, does not


know.
Going through, the Kanas clanked into the cockpit as the hunters
settled into their individual seats. Through the right side viewports the
jump ring could be seen, jutting oddly from the side of the ship. Settling
himself haphazardly into one of the black cushioned seats, Beau tossed
his helmet next to him and watched as the others found their own
seats. Pen and Quint sat close to Beau and Ginna, while the Bleen
wandered off near the front, immediately plopping down and closing its
eyes.
Lounging in their seats, Beau noted the clear resignation in the air,
everyone having found acceptance in the restricting contract.
Somehow, the calmness his peers held soothed Beaus nerves. Latching
onto the feeling of reassurance, Beau relaxed in his seat, leaning his
bald head against the cold pane of glass that protected from the void.
As the Kana soldiers detached the transport, one of the Kanas
walked into the lobby and addressed the hunters.
We take three hours, you rest, he chirped, his suggestion
sounding more like a command.
Without waiting for a response, the avian alien turned back
toward the cockpit.

Sitting in relative silence, Beau half listened to Pen and Quints


quiet chatter and Ginnas faint humming. Glancing over at the
motionless Bleen, Beau recollected the hallucination. Idly,
thoughtlessly, his hand strayed to the pouch on his belt that held his
medicine, the blue pills just waiting for him to swallow.
Realizing what he was doing, he retracted his hand, pushing the
need back.
Are you sure everything is fine? Ginna asked, noticing what he
had reached for.
Yes, he replied, trying to put as much reassurance as he could in
his voice.
You know what those things do to you Ginna countered.
I can handle it, Beau replied sternly.
Alright, she replied quietly, reaching over Beaus lap to grab his
helmet.
She fiddled with it before putting on, her horns holding the
helmet just above her chin as it wobbled on her small head. Pen took
notice, chuckling heartily.
You look rather intimidating, young lady, Pen said with a smile.

I think I wear it better than Beau, her response came, her voice
muffled.
Ah, so your name is Beau? Finally got your name, eh? Pen said.
Introductions must have slipped my mind, Beau said with a
shrug of indifference.
Yes, he does struggle with basic manners, Ginna said, her tone
smug.
Beau flicked the helmet, bouncing it off her face, brilliant blue
light glared off the metal as the jump threw the ship through space.
As if youre any better with manners, Beau said.
Punching his arm lightly, Ginna peeked out from under the
helmet.
Im Ginna, glad to meet you, she said, her thin lips pulling into a
sweet smile.
The pleasure is all mine, Pen said, bowing his head, now if only
we could get our Bleen friend to be more sociable.
Collectively they turned toward the snoozing Bleen, watching
briefly as it slept in a vertical fetal position, rifle gingerly held in its
arms.

N-not to sound like a b-bigot, but dont they all kind of look the
same? Quint asked.
You are basically right, they are all almost the same, Beau said.
How is that p-possible? Quint inquired.
Well, you see, Pen started, a few centuries ago, the entirety of
the Bleen race was almost wiped out by a catastrophic plague. Millions
of their species died every day, their world turning into graveyard. To
preserve their race, what few remained created a super Bleen, if you
will. A specimen what held the best traits, and cloned them on a
massive scale. At this point, I believe there were only around a hundred
of the so called first generation Bleen. They went extinct, leaving the
clones to reproduce. The only problem was they couldnt, the Bleen
children that came from the clones had horrific genetic mutations.
Because of this, reproductive organs were removed from the Bleen
genome, as well as any waste organs. The only solution to create more
Bleen was to continue the cloning process as best as they could.
Oh, Quint muttered, glancing at the Bleen from under his hood
with his electronic eyes.
Ah, I wouldnt worry about it kid, Beau said, no use feeling
sorry for what cant be undone.
I suppose, the young man replied, a hint of pity in his voice.

Excuse him, he likes to think he is dark and jaded sometimes,


Ginna told Quint.
I dont think that, Beau said, pinching the bridge of his crooked
nose.
Which is why youre so broody all the time, right? Ginna teased,
no doubt smiling behind the visor.
Chuckling, Pen returned to Quint and their chatting, leaving Beau
and Ginna to themselves.
The fact there was any light-heartedness struck Beau. Closing his
eyes, he willed himself into a state of ease. Beaus mind relaxed, a faint
ring echoed in his ears. An abyss lay before Beaus closed eyes, with
nothing but the ringing, growing in volume, replacing his memories as
he was folded into darkness.
As the terrible sound rose into a crescendo, a flickering red light lit
up deep into the blackness. Beau felt himself drawn toward it, feeling
as if he were floating toward the light. Drawing closer, he began to
realize it was a fire, the dancing reds and yellows growing. A small pang
of fear ebbed through Beau, the desire to turn and flee almost
overpowering, an instinct he had not felt in years.
What had once been a fire in the distance was now an inferno, a
monstrous wildfire consuming the peace darkness. Every instinct in
Beaus body screamed, a deep animalistic terror rose in his chest as he

came with in mere inches of the licking flames. The ringing in his ears
had become almost unbearable, sounding more like an inhuman
scream.
Beau was transfixed, unable to move, however he felt no fear.
The scream was familiar, almost comforting, his subconscious
bewildered at the thought that there was no need for panic.
Feeling beads of sweat form and run down into his eyes, his vision
began to blur. Within the hellfire Beau thought he could see a figure,
taller than any being he had seen. Struggling to blink the sweat out of
his eyes, he watched as the figure came closer. The screaming in his
head was maddening, splintering his mind, the pitch of the cries rising
as the being with in the inferno strode closer to stand before him.
The towering figure stood there, the flames licking its charred
flesh. Before Beaus eyes, the burning creature reached out and
wrapped its burning fingers around his neck. Pulling Beau into the fire,
it brought its head level.
Its face looked almost human, although it was difficult to tell
through its melted skin. As it strangled Beau, its mouth opened, tearing
the skin all the way past its neck, reveling jagged teeth jutting from the
torn flesh.
Beaus mind was blank, emotionless as the creature throttled his
body. Through the winding blur of motion as he was tossed from side to

side, he began to recall something, just at the edge of his memory,


something that had been lost for years. A dark familiarity.
WAKE UP!
Eyes flying open, Beaus body jerked, accidentally head butting
the one who woke him.
He felt his head smash into cold metal which gave way somewhat,
his hands reflexively grabbing the small arms gripping his shoulders.
OW! Ginnas voice yelped.
Shaking his head of sleep and daze, Beau quickly realized what
happened.
Nuh are you ok? he asked.
Yeah, Ginna replied, pulling the helmet off, guess its a good
thing I had this.
Handing back the helmet, Beau noticed a small splotch of blood
on the left eye spot of his T-shaped visor.
Reaching to his forehead, he ran a hand across, feeling a slight
twang of discomfort.

Oh no, are you ok? Ginna asked, immediately investigating his


cut.
Are you kidding? Its nothing, Beau said, sliding his helmet back
on.
Quite the show you two gave us, Pens cheerful voice called out.
Waving his hand dismissively, Beau asked, What is going on, are
we at Kaskurst?
Just about, well be dropping out of the jump in about two
minutes, Chek just came out and told us, Ginna said.
Chek? Beau inquired.
The taller bird brain, Ginna smirked, the other is Keek I think.
Been making friends with our gracious hosts? Beau asked
sarcastically.
They arent that bad, just following orders, Ginna said, they
came out and talked for a bit. Really, they arent any happier about this
than we are.
What do you mean?

Well, they didnt exactly volunteer for this mission, I think they
had the same option as we did. Do or die, Pen said a few seats away.
Ah, so military failures doing grunt work, Beau said to quietly
more to himself than anyone else.
Outside the view ports, the blue glow sputtered out, giving way to
the starry void as they dropped out of the jump. Beau turned in his
seat, looking out to the view of the station and the planet Lashada, the
gorgeous pink oceans dotted with tiny islands. The disc shaped station
itself was silhouetted against the glow of the planet, thick stabilizing
towers jutting from the bottom.
As the shuttle rocketed closer, Beau grasped the size of the Kana
station, noting how insignificant it was compared to Ovroc. The shuttle
slowed its approach, turning to meet the docking bay. As the view port
turned away from the station, Beau realized how dead Kaskurst looked,
noticing how there were no lights that could be seen shining from
viewports.
Standing from his seat, he strode to the other side of the shuttle
to try to catch another glance of the station before the shuttle made
contact.
He felt his stomach shift uneasily as he noticed how undamaged
the station was, that the metal hull was left uncrated by enemy fire.
The pristine hull set Beau off guard, confusion clenching his mind.

That bird said the station was attacked, right? Beau asked.
Yes, by the Desen, why? Ginna said.
The station looks fine, Beau said, his voice hardening.
The other hunters save for the Bleen, still asleep in its chair,
turned almost in unison to peer out their viewports.
Youre right Quint muttered.
Something is wrong, Ginna said, unease seeping through her
voice, I dont see any Desen raider skiffs or anything in docking.
Lied to, came an agitated hiss.
Heads turned to the Bleen, now awake, its dead white eyes wide.
The shuttle shook as it connected to the station, shaking its
occupants roughly. Clanking back in their silver armor the two Kana
soldiers walked in to join the hunters, now holding laser rifles. Looking
around, they were met with enraged and wary stares, visibly taken
aback at the sudden hostility.
What the hell is going on? Ginna demanded angrily.
What mean? the shorter soldier, Keek, chirped hesitantly.

This station was attacked, so where is the damage? Where are


the fires? Why is this shuttle the only ship in docking? Ginna said,
seething as she brought herself up face to face with Keek.
The bird offered little reply, only confused twitters mixed with
broken English whats, bewildered at the intensity from the small
horned girl.
We just do what General say, Chek replied, the uncertainty
evident in his voice.
We here to redeem us, Keek added.
Ginna backed down from Keek, instead turning his attention to
Chek.
And what did your jackass General say? Ginna asked angrily.
Accompany and retrieve, Chek replied, deliver and serve
Emperors will. Regain honor.
Thats helpful, Pen sighed.
Hess no care, money money, the Bleen spat.
Ah we got a name now, Pen mumbled, receiving a blank stare
from the black skinned alien.

Hess the Bleen got up and strode to the back of the shuttle
toward the airlock, shortly followed by Beau.
Youre seriously ok with an employer lying to us like this? Ginna
asked.
It has a point, Beau said, this money is just too good. Besides,
how bad can it be?
Ginna sighed, deflating at her friends acceptance of the
circumstance.
I still dont like this, Ginna said softly.
The Kanas eased past the Daros girl giving her a glance as they
passed, activating the sequence for pressure synchronization. Beau
placed his gloved hand on her shoulder, giving a soft affectionate
squeeze.
Do you want to stay on the shuttle? Youre not exactly equipped
for combat, Beau said.
I know how to take care of myself, you know that, Ginna said,
her round eyes downcast.
Yeah, I do, Beau said reassuringly over the hiss of air as the air
repressurized.

Here we go, Beau heard Pen say softly.


Im coming with you, Ginna said as the airlock disengaged.
Bringing up their rifles, Chek and Keek readied themselves on
either side of the door, twisting through the threshold into the pitch
black docking tunnel as the heavy steel doors slid open. The hunters
readied their weapons, guns prepped as Beau drew his sword with
sharp metallic click.
Clear, the soft chirp of Keeks voice came.
Carefully walking through, the group turned on their personal
lights, Pen and the Bleen activating gun mounted flashlights, whereas
the eyes of Quints mechanical mask lit up even brighter with a pure
white light, casting long beams. Shoulder mounted lights popped up
from the silver armor of the Kanas along with the faint glow of their full
helm visors, leaving Beau to activate the light mounted to the side of
his helmet.
This is great, how am I going to see? Ginna muttered.
Quint chimed in, Oh, I-I have something you can use.
Pulling a small black tube from a pouch on his jumpsuit, Quint
handed the device to Ginna.
Um, how do I use it? Ginna asked flatly.

Shake and s-snap it, Quint replied.


Gripping it with both hands, Ginna shook it and brought it down
over her knee. The tube lit up like a star, swallowing Ginna in light.
Oh, thanks, Ginna said sheepishly.
No problem, Quint said with a hint of playful satisfaction in his
voice.
Advancing down the tunnel as a group, their beams of light
observed the pale gray interior of the rounded walls and white washed
floor. Dead lighting rods lined the curved ceiling, bolted down in frames
that reflected brightly. The only sound to be heard was the footsteps
and scuffs of boots, with the lack of all other sound unsettling in their
minds.
Kaskurst was dead.
Reaching the end of the docking tunnel, Chek and Keek took
formation once again, twisting out into the corridor.
Moments after the militarized movement, alarmed cries came
from the pair of Kana. Beau rushed out, sword ready at his side as he
stormed up.
As he entered the corridor, he could hear a faint spatter under his
foot. Looking down, he saw he had stepped into a dark pool of blood,

half dried into the white floor. Bringing his head back up, Beaus
stomach dropped at the sight of blood smeared along the hallway,
panels of the wall themselves smashed and broken. Several lights that
had once been securely in place now hung, or were shattered, gory
dents pockmarking the frames and circular walls. A pair of doors stood
parallel of each other, one soaked in the grime of blood, the other open
like a gaping black maw.
Dear lord, Pens voice came from behind Beau.
Hess sniffed the air, a sneer slashing across its face.
Old and new death, it said.
Whats going on? Ginna said from further back.
Turning back into the tunnel, Beau walked up to her and knelt
down.
Its bad, it looks like something just tore everyone apart, Beau
said bluntly.
You really think thats going to bother me? Ginna said with a
twist of her mouth.
Im just preparing you, Beau said.
Ginna walked past her friend, peeking around the corner.

Oh, she said softly.


Quint turned to look around the corner as well, inhaling sharply at
the sight.
Y-youve got to be k-kidding me, he stammered, his voice
shaking horribly.
Is there anything on this ship that could have done this? Pen
asked the soldiers.
Shaking their heads in unison, the Kanas muttered their caws.
We not know, Chek said.
Striding out into the blood bath, Beau knelt down to investigate.
This definitely wasnt a Desen attack, Beau said quietly.
N-no really, w-we couldnt tell! Quint said, his voice rising in
panic.
Settle down kid, Beau said sternly, turning his masked face
towards Quints own.
S-SHUT UP! WERE IN OVER OUR HEADS! Quint yelled.

Settle down, Quint, Pen said in a placid tone, reaching out for
the young hunter.
NO! THIS ISNT OK! THIS ISNT RIGHT!
Before the boy could continue to scream and yell, Beau had come
up behind him and spun him around. If the kid was shocked, Beau
couldnt tell as he brought the knuckle plate of his gauntlet smashing
across Quints masked face. Sparks flew from his fist as metal hit metal,
Quints head tossing back, throwing the hood off the metal casing
around his head, revealing wiry black hair. The impact almost lifted the
scrawny hunter of the floor, sending Quint back pedaling against the
wall, his rifle spinning away.
Ginna stood speechless, jaw slightly a gape. Pen was just as
shocked, his kind face twisting and deepening into a deep ruddy color.
How dare you- he started, his mustache bristling.
This is not a situation for panic, Beau said coldly, we dont
know what the hell did this and we need to keep our heads. Glancing
at the soldiers, he added, You seem to forget the circumstances we
are here to begin with.
Chek had his rifle raised and ready, aimed directly at the pair.
Keek stood behind his comrade, one armored talon outstretched in an
attempt to lower his friends weapon.

General ordered kill resistance, Chek said almost sheepishly,


allowing Keek to push the aim of his weapon toward the plain metal
flooring.
You see, we need to stay quiet and stay calm, and play by the
rules, Beau said.
Bending over, he reached out a hand for Quint, who tentatively
accepted the hand up from the gore smeared ground. Running the gray
glove of his hand over where he had been struck, the boy didnt raise
his head, his gaze downcast. Ginna picked up his rifle, handing it to him
carefully.
Here, she said softly, giving Beau a glare.
Thanks, Quint said flatly.
If you want, you can stick with me, Ginna said, shaking the
glowing tube in her hand.
Quint was silent, but nodded as primed his rifle once again,
moving on past Hess who had watched the squabble in complete
silence.
As the group moved to investigate the open door way, Beau felt a
hand on his arm holding him back. Turning on his, Beau came face to
face with Pens bristling crimson face.

Was that absolutely necessary, he hissed hotly, keeping his


voice low as the rest of the group filed through the doorway.
Of course it was, Beau said flatly.
Pen regarded the taller man before responding.
Do not do that again, do you understand?
I dont see why you care so much, Beau said, youre awfully
defensive of a kid youve known for such a short while.
Someone like you wouldnt understand how to treat other
another living being I suppose, Pen said bitterly.
Someone like me, Beau repeated, odd coming from someone
in the same job description.
Pen stared up into the unfeeling eyes of the mask, the silence
between them heavy and thick before Beau continued to speak.
You show interesting characteristics for someone of our line of
business.
When youve been doing this for as long as I have, you learn
violence isnt the only answer, Pen replied.
I dont see what you mean, Beau huffed.

Not everyone deserves the bounty on their head, Beau, Pen


said, his eyes clouding as he spoke, escaped slaves, women who deny
crime lords their beauty, desperate and hungry thieves. Not every being
we hunt deserves the punishment we deliver. Thats why Im a
Liberator as well as a bounty hunter.
Beau sneered behind his mask at the sound of the phrase
Liberator, charismatic beings throughout the galaxy that aided others
with bounties on their heads to one form of safety or another. More
than once a bounty had disappeared to a distant and forgotten world,
or forged a new identity for themselves with the aid of a saboteur.
Where are you going with this? Beau asked impatiently,
glancing at the door the rest had gone through.
Listen to me Beau, Pen said softly.
Keek stuck his head out from the doorway, beckoning them
inside. Beau walked away from the short man, leaving Pen to take great
strides to keep pace.
Stepping in front of the armored bounty hunter, Pen placed a
hand on Beaus chest, stopping him from going any further.
The universe is a cruel and uncaring place, Pen said, but that
doesnt mean we must be as well.

Anyone who kills for a living would be a fool to think such a


thing, Beau said coldly.
A fool I may be, Pen said softly, stepping aside as Beau pushed
past.
The room was small, probably a check in for docking ships. A small
computer sat on a desk that dominated the room, everyone crowded
around Quint working away on the computer, it looking at whatever
was on the screen.
What have you got? Pen asked, his usual tone returning.
W-we still dont know, but the system is saying t-the station is oon lock d-down, Quint replied, keeping his attention focused on the
screen.
Do you know why there was a lockdown? Beau asked.
Quint shook his head, That in-information cant be accessed from
this te-terminal.
What about a map of the station?
Quint typed away, the sounds of the ticking and tacking
overpowering the faint, ominous creaks and groans of Kaskurst Station.
Among the sighing of the station, whispers breathed in Beaus ears,
resisting the urge to swallow down the pills, resolving on his own will.

After about a minute of agonizing silence, Quint looked up from the


screen.
I-I found a basic layout of K-Kaskurst. The s-station has three
layers, t-the top reserved f-for command, middle for r-research, and llower for m-maintenance and housing, he said.
Beau nodded, turning the screen away from the huddled mass
towards himself. The interior of Kaskurst looked like an old Human
wagon wheel, the long corridor leading to the center branching into
each other via small hallways. Simplistic in design, the only problem
were on primary lockdown, leaving no access through the short
corridors.
Are you sure this is all you can get? Beau asked.
The boy did his best, besides, I doubt youre going to get much
from a docking terminal, Pen muttered.
Beau shot the bearded hunter a sharp glance behind his visor
before addressing the Kanas.
Where can we get more information?
We go up- Chek began speaking before being cut off by a
distant sound.
A shrill scream that sounded unnatural and bleeding of fear.

Ginnas face dropped slightly behind Quints shoulder has the


group tensed and gripped at their weapons. Sticking their heads out
into the doorway, Beau and Pen stepped out, sword and dual pistols
raised. The shriek bounced all around them, echoing on the bloodied
walls.
Resonating around them, the scream fell into a decrescendo,
leaving only Beaus boot falls on the gory white floor to be heard. The
Kana soldiers popped out next, Chek and Keek looking down the scopes
of their energy rifles. Their metallic talon foot falls drowning out the
last wavering of the unknown shriek.
What was that? Pen whispered.
Kana, Keek replied, his voice rasping past his hidden beak.
Beau didnt need to see through the orange flat visors of the
military pair to know they were disturbed.
Ginna burst out next with the long barrel of Quints rifle trailing
after her.
What was that? she asked, echoing the question.
Probably a very unlucky bastard, Beau told her.
Hess strode out to the rest of its companions, sniffing at the air.

Not here, it said.


What? Pen asked.
The Bleen shook its head, repeating, Not here. No life.
Assured by Hesss sharp sense of smell, the group eased down
their guard, but kept their weapons ready.
Can we get that layout downloaded? Beau asked Quint
hurriedly.
Quint nodded wordlessly and rushed back into the docking office,
reemerging after half and agonizing minute. Passing out data sticks,
Quint handed the digitized station layout to those who had the
equipment to handle it. Plugging the stick into a port of his wrist
mounted holopad; Beau brought a small map in the corner of his HUD,
just as he had on Demur.
Quint himself stood awkwardly, fidgeting with the gray pads of his
blue jumpsuit as Beau and the Kanas uploaded the data.
What we do now? Hiss hissed impatiently.
As much as I hate to say it, we should probably go investigate,
Pen said.
Cant wait, Ginna muttered.

Beau placed a comforting hand on her small shoulder. She looked


up to the unfeeling black eyes of his helmet, reflecting the uncertainty
of her own.
You said we can get a full assessment of Kaskurst on the upper
floor, right? Beau asked the avian-built soldiers.
In CC, yes, Chek chirped.
Then thats what we will do first, figure out what we can about
what happened, Beau said.
Sounds good enough to me, Pen said.
Hess nodded in agreement, clutching its rifle close as it continued
to sniff the dead air.
We go then, Chek said, turning on his clawed heel.
Walking away as one, following their maps or those who did, Beau
was once again held back. As opposed to rough hand of Pen however,
the armored hunter looked down into the face of his young friend. Her
slender hand gripped his forearm softly as she brought him closer.
I need you to do me a favor, she said.

Keek noticed the absence of the human and Daros, and called for
a halt as they all watched as Beau and Ginna settled their affair from a
polite distance.
Even from here, Beau could hear the impatient hiss of Hess and
the shuffling of the others.
Beau knelt down on one knee to look her in the eye.
Is something wrong? he asked, worry leaking into his gruff
voice.
Ginna raised an eyebrow and gestured with her hand at the dark,
stained hall.
Besides that I mean? Beau clarified.
Yes, but its kind of a weird favor to ask, she said.
You know Id do anything for you, Beau replied.
She smiled at him, a hint of her pointed teeth behind her lips.
I need you to cut my robes up, she said.
But you love these things!
Id rather be able to run if I need to, she said.

Beau nodded in agreement, ejecting the thin knife from his


gauntlet.
Besides, she added, I can always make you buy me new robes.
Beau smiled; his affection for Ginna hidden behind the T shape of
his visor as he cut the fabric half way up her bony thighs, as well as
slicing the sleeves from her black robes quickly. Her slim arms suddenly
exposed to the chill of the arm, Ginna almost immediately wrapped her
white arms around her chest.
I didnt realize it was this cold, she griped.
Youll warm up once we get moving, Beau said as he stood up.
One more thing, Ginna said, taking the ornate golden chain and
jewel hang from her horns.
She cradled it delicately in her palm, running a thumb over the
green gem.
Will you keep this safe? she asked as she handed the jewelry
over.
Of course, Beau responded, slipping it into a pouch of his belt.

Ginna smiled up once again to his expressionless visor, but Beau


felt the warmth of her grin all the same. Turning on his heel, Beau made
certain that Ginna stayed in front of him as they caught up to the team.
It would destroy his heart if anything happened to the Daros girl,
Beau realized, and as the whispers continued softly, at the edge of his
consciousness, he had no doubt that losing Ginna would no doubt
break his mind as well.
The thought struck Beau; that he had such a capacity for caring,
despite his past and his way of life.
Maybe Pen was right, Beau thought to himself.
Maybe
His musing was interrupted by another shriek, the company of
hunters flinching as the cry ripped through the stale air. However, this
sound was different from the first. Something about this cry made
Beaus blood run cold, his spine shivering involuntarily.
It was hungry, hungry unlike anything he had ever heard in his
extensive career, on hundreds of worlds in hundreds of environments.
Nothing had chilled him in such a way, and Beau didnt need to see the
faces of his companions that they had been affected in the same way.
Regardless of the sudden wave of shared fear, they reacted
instantly, years of training and experience gripping the terror and

overwhelming the emotion. Weapons snapped to the ready a split


second after the sound had begun reverbing against the rounded gray
walls.
The clear experience and readiness of the group didnt soothe
Beaus mind, his mind focusing on one fact.
This ungodly howl had come from somewhere very close.
As they advanced, Beau noticed how sporadic the gore was along
the walls. Racking his brain, Beau concluded it looked as if an animal
had torn the crew of Kaskurst to shreds. The absence of bodies
resonated eerily in Beaus core; however there was plenty of evidence
besides the blood that bodies had been made.
Through the beam of light mounted on the side of his helmet as
well as the lights of the others, Beau had caught several glimpses of
organic matter and strips of flesh, some with ruined feathers sticking to
it, some of it looking somewhat human. The worst were the stray limb
or two, which was clearly torn from their owners rather than sliced
away.
Beau knew Ginna could see it, and wished wholly that she didnt
have to be exposed to this. However she neither flinched or wretched
at the carnage, in fact Ginna barely acknowledged its existence. Beau
felt part of him glow in pride at her resilience. He had only observed
such sheer perseverance of calm of her age in such situations only in

himself. Ginnas ability to match his own in this matter eased his
concerns; however his guard stayed raised and ready.
Where the hell do you think all the bodies are? Beau voiced
aloud.
Ive noticed that too, Pen said as glanced around.
Not here, why matter? the Bleen hissed coldly.
Several moments passed after the black skinned aliens
indifference before anyone else broke the silence.
How close are we to anyway up to the third level? Pen asked
softly.
Three hundred meters, Chek chirped in reply.
Checking his own readout, Beau confirmed to himself that the
Kanas response was accurate. Twisting and turning through the dark
side corridors, the tension was eased a fraction as they came upon
some light fixtures dimly glowing, while others flickered sparsely.
As few and far between as the functioning lights were, they were
still as small blessing. Against an unknown, highly dangerous enemy, it
was a blessing Beau was more than willing to accept.

Through the soft white light that they had, Beau caught the sight
of a blue glow, fading in and out slowly down a corridor of to the side. It
was only about four meters down to the opening, but Beau couldnt
make out the source. An alert flared up on the mini map at the corner
of his HUD interface as the blue light passed by the opening.
I just saw something, he announced.
What was? Keek asked, turning his head toward the human.
Beau shrugged before replying, pointing down the hall he had
seen the anomaly.
Had movement detection as well, he added.
Keek nodded as he and Chek began trooping briskly down the hall
Beau indicated, the hunters following close behind. Reaching the end of
the hallways opening they spilled into a shorter, much more angular
hall. Large yellow letters were plastered over the wall, his visual
translator identifying it obviously as Kana, reading out the words
SECTION 36 JANITORAL STATION.
Further investigating the scene, the hunters found the angular
corridor made a box around a single sealed room. Four hallways exited
away from the janitors station, leaving them with three options as to
which way to enter.
Looks like whatever you saw was gone, Ginna said.

S-should we l-look for it? W-we need to g-get up to level ththree, Quint added, looking down nervously at a pile of bloody mush.
Waste time, spat Hess, nothing here.
Beau was about to respond when a muffled scuffling came from
behind the sealed metal door of the janitors station.
In unison, all heads snapped their attention toward the door.
They remained in silence for a few seconds, before once again,
the scuffling came once again.
Looks like it wasnt such a waste of time after all, Beau mused
aloud.
He was unanswered as Pen hit the door controls, the heavy door
sliding open with a grate as he shined a light inside. Beau came up
beside the squat hunter, his sword gleaming faintly in the dim light.
Hello? Pen called inside the room.
Well check, cover the hall, Beau said softly to the others.
The janitors station itself was fairly large enough, a single room
with enough room for the group twice over, even with the lines of floor
to ceiling shelves of cleaning supplies and equipment. Pens voice rang

out through the room, drawing a reaction from whatever had been in
the room.
Somewhere near the back, Beau could see movement, the glare
of his light missing whoever had been hiding inside. Heavy clawed feet
could be heard tramping forward, the sound similar to the Kanas
accompanying the hunters.
We are here to help, Pen said as he heard the Kana stranger
coming up to meet them.
At the sound of Pens voice, the clack of talons rang out more
urgently, haste in the strides. Twisting from behind the shelves came
the stranger, the sight making Beaus eyes widen in momentary shock.
Lunging toward Beau and Pen was clearly not Kana, however it
looked horrifyingly similar. All the feathers and beak had molted away,
leaving behind small, prickly tuffs of brown down, the pink flesh
glistening sickly under the beams of light striking it. The creatures arms
had elongated, at least twice as long as a normal Kanas, the clawed
hands sharper and thicker.
In a split second Beau had observed and calculated his strike.
Mind racing as he slashed diagonally downward in front of Pen,
the monstrous face split, cleaving the flesh past the neck of this twisted
Kana abomination; revealing jagged, uneven rows of teeth lining down
the split.

Striking Beaus attack full on, the Kana monster took the full brunt
of force to the chest, tar like blood oozing from the wound. The sudden
halt of momentum and throw the monster of guard, leaving it shrieking
in rage, the shrill sound matching the last horrific cry they had heard.
In a seamless motion, still riding through the movement of his
first attack, Beau twisted on his heel of his boot. Swinging full circle
Beau cut a second wound through the monstrositys jaw, severing the
unnatural body part from its face.
The severity of the damage done had taken its toll on the
monster; however the thing still lashed out with its dagger-like fingers.
Not anticipating the creature to still have any fight left after such an
attack, Beau was caught off guard as the claw smashed against the side
of his head with the force of sledgehammer, rattling his brain.
Before Beau could recover, a sharp crack broke the air, and the
creature fell over, a massive hole punched through what remained of
its head.
Falling with a wet slap, the remains lay still on the white floor
twitching slightly. Another crack split the air, ripping a second
devastating hole through its chest.
Through the blur of his vision and cracks of his visor, Beau saw
Pen standing above; arm extended holding a still smoking gun. Static
took over his visual feed, blocking the bearded bounty hunter as Beau
picked himself up.

With a hiss of air, he removed his helmet and regarded his


partner.
Impressive, Beau grunted as he looked over the damage.
I tend to be, Pen said with an unsteady grin.
WHAT IS THAT?! Ginnas disgruntled cry came from the
doorway.
Come take a look or poke it if you want, Beau said with a slight
smirk.
Ill pass, she said, coming up to stand behind Beau.
This thing almost took your head off, and youre making jokes?
Pen asked incredulously.
Beau shrugged as he hooked his ruined helmet to his belt.
Shaking his head, Pen held one of his guns out toward Beau,
saying, I think youll have a better chance with this at least. That butter
knife didnt do you much good.
Taking the gun felt unnatural, unfamiliar, and awkwardly heavy,
but Beau was never one to complain.
Quint walked in hesitantly, eyeing the dead Kana mutant.

Is that as Z-Kana? he asked.


Your guess is as good as mine, kid, Beau said.
White eyespots turned to look at the naked face, before saying
coldly, I-it might be better, just l-let me look at i-it.
Be my guest, Beau said stepping towards the hall.
Chek and Keek stood, waiting for the hunters to remerge from the
janitor station.
Hurt? asked Keek.
Im fine, but we have a dead freak on our hands,
Freak? responded Chek.
Beau hesitated before answering.
Well I dont re-
I-It is a-a Kana, Quint said entering the hall, cutting off Beau.
Kana? Chek asked, his shock not obscured by his orange face
plate.

Together Keek and Chek pushed past to see for themselves,


chirping and twittering to each other.
Are you sure its one of them? Beau asked.
Yes, o-of course, I w-was my fathers m-medic before he d-died,
Quint muttered through his stuttering.
So that makes you an expert on mutants? Beau said with a
raised brow.
Beau could feel the daggers in Quints masked gaze.
Im e-equipped with a bionic s-scanner, idiot, any g-good medic iis.
I take people apart, not patch them back up.
Quint gave no retort, sulking away toward the corner where he
aimed his rifle down the hall.
Chek reemerged, holding himself rather uncomfortably stiff, with
Keek following after his comrade a few moments later.
Come, we go to the bridge.

As a group, they nodded in agreement. Beau stayed back just long


enough to bring up the rear once more, keeping a hand on his sword as
he held the pistol uncomfortably in his other.
From the corner of his naked eye, Beau could have sworn he saw
a faint blue light.

CHAPTER TWO

Kaskurst was desolate as far as Beau could gather. Despite the


abundance of the aftermath of gruesome death, few remains were
found scattered throughout the station. On the occasional passing a
piece of an incomplete corpse lay in its own filth, mauled and torn
beyond all recognition. It was all just a pulp of flesh and broken bone.
Every step on the gray metal plating of the floor was almost agony to
Beaus naked ears, tense at the thought of another mutant Kana attack.
After the arduous, torturous trek through the nightmarish
corridors, the group was finally struck with the fortune of reaching the
lift to the bridge level with no conflict. Chek, leading the team, added
haste to his bird like gait to reach the access panel. The sharp clack of
his plated talons clicking against the buttons was like thunder in the
dead silence, accentuated by the unshakable feeling of being watched
in their moment of pause.
Knowing the fact that he was the bringing up the back of the party
with an unfamiliar weapon didnt do much to settle Beaus thoughts.
The lift coming, Chek announced.
Building in volume, the coarse hum of the lift descending down
finally settled, and the doors slid open obligingly for the avian solider.
Piling in, they realized that the elevator was not very accommodating,
leaving them barely any room to even shuffle their feet in agitated
tension.
Standing in the dim red emergency lighting, Beau shifted in the
slight squeeze between Ginna and Pen as the stale, stuffy air seemed to
stick to the dark skin of his naked face. Beau wished for the comforts of
his climate controlled helmet.

Hows that gun holding up for you? Pen asked idly.


Hasnt fallen to pieces yet, so good I suppose, Beau replied,
holding the uncomfortable hunk of metal in his hands.
Ever used one before? asked the older man looking up.
Yes.
Beau served in the military for Earth! He was on one of the
colonization escorts, Ginna chimed in for him.
Ah, so youre a soldier then, eh?
I was, Beau said, shifting the pistol to the grip of his other hand.
Pen looked inquisitively at his contract-bound partner, and then
shifted his gaze down to Beaus hands.
Youre awfully fidgety with that, are you sure youre comfortable
using it?
Beau scowled, Im just rusty, Im used to strictly close quarters.
Tutting to himself, Pen left him to fiddle with the weapon. What
bothered Beau was while he had vivid combat memories where he had
in fact fired multiple firearms, the concept of using a gun felt so bizarre
to him.
Furrowing his brow, he recalled a particularly intense fight on an
icy planet, protecting a newly established colony from a small legion of
looters and bandits. As much as he tried to focus on the military gray
armor, the weight of his rifle, the sound of war, the stranger it felt. It
was as if the longer he concentrated on his past memories the hazier

they became. He had never reflected on his time as a military escort,


the memories just were there for him, as if from nowhere.
He had been a soldier, hadnt he?
Beau shook his head. Now wasnt the time for soul searching and
a new found self-doubt. Before he could reflect any further, the doors
of the elevator slid open.
The sight made Beau physically stumble as cries of disgust rang
out around him. Before them was a simple hall that led to one pair of
heavy metal sliding doors decorated with the unfortunate remains of
half a dozen beings. Blood was plastered across the tubular walls, and
the corpses lay in their own filth and gore. Their orange uniforms were
in tatters, turned a disgusting brown from the soaking. Ribbons of flesh
still could be seen glistening wetly through the ruined fabric with bits of
hair, feathers and meat strung all about. It didnt help that here the
lights functioned perfectly on the command deck, illumining all the
gristle and grime. If he had ever wanted to know in explicit detail what
Kana and humans anatomy looked like on the inside, he knew now.
Involuntarily, Beau felt the pistol drop limply to his side.
Oh god, I think Im going t-to be sick, moaned Quinn.
Blame couldnt be placed on the young man. The view of the
bodies was much more intimate than the small shreds they could
ignore.
Could the mutated Kana have done this? Pen said, his eyes
wide.

Beau stared at the mess before responding, We need to get onto


the command deck.
Pushing himself out, Beau tried not to look at the bodies and the
block out the sounds of his boots splatting in the remains. Through the
initial shock, he hadnt noticed that the thick metal of the doors had
deep gouges and dents covering the surface.
Id say it was probably some freaks, Beau said to quite no one in
particular.
Brining his gun back up to bear, he started striding out straight to
the ruined doors. He hit the access panel as the others reluctantly
followed after him.
Im glad I have shorter clothing now, he heard Ginna mutter.
He could have smiled if it wasnt for the situation.
Grinding open, the doors screeched in protest in their frames, the
warped paneling not quite fitting back how it once was. The proper
command deck was dark, the light from the hallway not doing much to
shed light on the inside. It was enough though to see the room was
circular with two levels, with the entrance on the upper level. All the
consoles were powered down, and through the dimness Beau could see
the shape of slumped bodies still resting in their seats.
At least these were intact.
Hess strode past him, its eyes shining in faint light. The Bleen
gazed around the room, its face blank and devoid of emotion.
They are dead, it hissed bluntly.

Who is dead? Its not like out there is it? Pen asked.
Ho-hold on, I think I turn on t-the lights.
Before Beau could even turn to see what Quint was going to fiddle
with, the lights came on.
Got th-them, oh, Quint said.
With the faint gray deck now lit up, the room revealed the
hunched forms were indeed the command crew, their pistols next to
them and holes through their heads. Kana as well as humans sat in the
seats, all having come to their end together.
Did they Did they kill themselves? Ginna breathed.
It looks like it, Beau told her softly.
Why would they do that? What, why she trailed off.
Maybe they were afraid, Pen said placing a hand on her
shoulder, Im sure when we access the command terminals well know
what happened here.
Pen moved over to a terminal, and lifted the Kana corpse up away
from it. He lay it down on the floor laying face up, crossing the arms
over the orange uniform. Gingerly, Pen closed the misty red eyes of the
avian, cupping a hand briefly to the brown feathered Kanas face.
Standing up from the body, the stout man fidgeted around with
the machine, before turning.
Can you help me with this, Quint?
Y-yes, Ill be r-right there.

As Quint moved over to the terminal with Pen, the rest of the
group spread out to inspect the deck.
Beau turned his back to his companions work to face Ginna, who
had pressed herself against his side after the revelation of the crews
fate.
Are you ok? he asked, his concern no longer hidden by a mask.
I dont know, she said, its one thing to see someone who
deserves it killed, Im used to that. But someone that did that to
themselves, I just
Kneeling down, Beau looked the young Daros directly in the eye.
Fear and desperation can be horrible things, Ginna, and they can
make someone do horrible things, Beau said slowly, struggling with his
words, Its an escape from that those emotions, and is a last resort.
They felt trapped, and I understand why. Whatever happened here is a
terrible disaster, and they were afraid.
The words felt strange, and came out oddly even to him. He
glanced over his shoulder, taking in the bodies around him and the
bloody wounds through their skulls.
It felt uncomfortable to be a killer for hire explaining selftermination.
Ginna nodded sluggishly, processing what he was saying, before
continuing.
But why?
I dont know, Beau said, after a moment of hesitation.

You dont ever feel that way do you?


The question struck Beau. Did he catch her sneaking a glance at
the pouch that held his medicine?
No, of course not, Beau said.
Good, Ginna said, I need you.
Not knowing how to respond, Beau simply smiled and embraced
her. Her slender arms wrapped around him in return, holding him
tightly.
Over her shoulder, he could see directly into the hallway.
Every dead eye was fixed pointedly at him, almost as if in
accusation. Shaking his head and screwing his eyes shut, Beau eased
himself away from Ginna.
Everything will be ok, he said.
She simply nodded, and went to go stand with Pen and Quint.
Beau looked down the hallway again, with no vacant, empty eyes
staring back into his this time. Making sure that Ginna had her back
turned he slipped two small blue pills into his mouth, swallowing them
dry.
As accustomed to seeing death as he was, Beau could understand
Ginnas shock. Throughout his career as a bounty hunter, he had never
had a target take their own life to avoid capture. Every hit had ended
with either binding rings or a body bag with a payoff. That was just how
it was, that was what they were used to.

Pen maybe had a point, Beau thought, Ive always thought of my


work as justified, but maybe Im wrong. These people didnt deserve
this. How many people have I killed that didnt deserve it?
He had only ever killed bounties and in self-defense, he should
regard corpses with something of cold indifference. Nevertheless, the
death of these strangers was completely changing the way he viewed
life. Sighing to himself, he began his own wandering around, taking in
the details of the deck.
Walking around, his boots clacked sharply on the smooth flooring,
absorbing his surroundings. The upper level lined was terminals that
monitored the ship and all its functions, the screens dead, save for the
one that Quint activated. Lining the deck was a ringed short stair case
leading to the lower level, which held the captains chair. On either side
of the chair were two narrow pits which housed critical system
terminals, and in front of the captains seat was the piloting station.
Beau walked down to examine the pilots systems, the two seats to
control the mechanisms occupied by two human females. Ignoring the
bodies, he inspected the broad console, seeing it was completely
operational.
We got what we need!
Pens call cut off Beaus brief exploration, and the group
converged back around the terminal that Quint had been working on.
Beau noticed coming back up that all the crew members had been
removed from their chairs, their bodies laid out on the floor in a row
and their eyes closed peacefully. On the brilliant white screen were
several windows of information, showing piles of data of the stations of
data. There was a full schematic of Kaskurst on the screen as well,

showing the condition of all the areas and hundreds of rooms. Several
were flashing a fiery red, mainly on the levels of the mid-level. The
other levels were bad off as well, but it was nothing compared to the
sector labeled as L2S2. Beau could see from the layout that each of the
three levels of the station had three sub sections to it.
O-ok, from what I could find I think I know w-what happened,
Quint began uncertainly, there was some kind of in-incident on the
research level, on sub section t-two. Information past t-that was
restricted, so I dont know what happened, just th-the origin point.
From the data, everything h-here seems to have st-started about a
week ago.
About a week ago? Beau asked, But the people out in the hall
dont seem to have died more than a half hour.
They are fresh, Hess said in agreement.
Its amazing that anyone could have held out that long. Im sad
to say but that may have been who we heard yelling out after we
boarded, Pen said soberly.
Etched plainly on the mans face was regret.
So there could be more survivors, Beau said pointedly towards
the older hunter.
Survivors not priority, Keek chirped in.
Find doctor, Chek said.
The doctors last known location is in the m-mid sector, on the
second s-sub level, if he is still alive.

Quint turned to look at the flashing crimson of the screen, and


Beau could feel his doubt at the doctor surviving anything that could
have happened here. He couldnt blame him; he felt that same doubt
himself.
So how should we start? Ginna asked.
Well, considering the Hanson is probably dead, Id say we go to
his lab and just get his research, Pen announced.
Yes, but his research exp-pands up to about ten other labs
besides his own, Quint said.
Can we upload this data to our own systems? Beau asked.
Yes, I-Ill link you up now.
Beginning to work on the terminal, Quint started working to send
out the files to Beaus system as well as the Kana soldiers.
While Quint worked, Pen cleared his throat before saying, As
much as I hate to say it, we should probably split into groups to cover
more ground.
There has literally never been an example of when that has
worked out well, snorted Beau.
With more of us searching, the faster well find what we need,
Pen argued, and Id rather do that and get of here quickly than mosey
around together.
Stupid, Hess muttered.
Pen frowned but shrugged off the insult as he wiped down the
lens of his spectacles.

Alright, the d-data has been sent, Quint announced.


Beau looked down at the screen implanted to his gauntlet and
booted up the info. The holograph that popped up showed him all the
likely labs, and his gut twisted when he saw how spread out they were.
Maybe Pen has a point; it would take too long to travel as group.
Theres a lot of ground to cover.
Stupid, Hess repeated.
Beau shot the Bleen a look, but didnt reply. From the corner of
his eye, he could see Pen smirking through his beard.
What do you think? Beau asked the Kanas.
I could help you.
Alarm shot through Beau as his pistol flew up to level, the group
turning to the unfamiliar voice as their weapons rose up.
A human female stood behind them, wearing the standard orange
uniform of the Kana Empire. She had her hands raised, showing she was
unarmed. Her uniform was torn so much that not much of her white
skin was left unrevealed, but all that mattered to Beau was that it was
threadbare enough for him to tell she held no concealed weapons.
Under the red splattered rips he could see tightly bound and stained
bandaging that was in need of a change.
The woman made eye contact with him, and smiled coyly at him.
Are you going to shoot me?
Slowly, the hunters let their weapons droop back towards the
ground; however Keek kept his rifle raised several seconds longer. The

human dropped her hands and edged closer, not attempting to cover
herself as she held her gaze on Beau.
Who are you? Beau asked.
Smiling, she tossed her unwashed brown hair over her shoulder
out of her petite face.
Asha, and you? she said cocking her hip.
Beau, came the answer dully.
I like that.
Again, Beau found himself longing for the encased solidarity of his
helmet. He didnt like the way this woman stared at him, the way she
seemed to absorbed and ingest every detail of his bare face. Ginna
snorted beside him, and he glanced down for a moment to see the
Daros glaring daggers at the scantily clad human.
Pen stepped forward, removing his coat.
Here, Asha, take this, you must be cold, he said.
Asha smiled even wider, accepting the coat and draping it over
her slim figure.
Thank you so much, youre so kind, she oozed.
Pen, he said, beaming slightly, the bristles not hiding the
redness in his cheeks.
Brushing off the earnest man, the woman didnt break the line of
sight, her eyes not leaving Beaus. Her hazel eyes ran him up the wrong
way, the hungry attention he was receiving setting him on edge. Not

knowing how to act, he simply fidgeted with his gun and cracked his
knuckles against his wrist plates.
At last, her intentness evaporated, and she regarded the rest of
the small crowd with toothy smile.
I didnt think anyone was coming, I thought the Kana Empire
wrote us all of as dead.
H-how are you even still a-alive? Quint asked, dumbstruck.
By being quicker than the rest and finding the right tools, Asha
replied, her smile not faltering.
Simple enough.
You said you could help? Beau asked, looking down
preemptively to avoid direct contact.
Yes, I know were the doctor youre talking about should be.
Excellent! Pen exclaimed, Well be able to wrap this up quickly
then!
I cant take all of you at once though, she cut in.
Why? Chek and Keek asked simultaneously. Beau could not that
Keek held what seemed like resentment in his trilling voice.
Large groups attract the infected, Asha said flatly.
What exactly caused the mutations? Beau inquired.
The woman shrugged before responding, Im not sure, I was part
of the maintenance division. Anything past patching up electrical
networks and leaky pipes is beyond me.

Youre telling me an engineer lasted this long? Beau asked


doubtfully.
You betcha, Asha said with a wink, So whos coming and who is
staying behind?
We-were going NOW? Quint stammered.
Do you have anything better to do in this grindhouse? she
snorted back.
Quint didnt directly respond, facing down and pulling his hood
tighter around his head mumbling something about analyzing the
network.
So, who am I taking?
Keek stepped forward immediately, announcing, I go.
Pen nodded and stepped forward as well, as did Hess and Beau.
Quint looked to Pen and Asha before moving, but Pen put his arm out
to stop him.
Stay here, Quint, keep working on the terminals. We could use
someone giving us updates on the station.
The artificial glowing white lights of Quints mask bored into Pen.
I can h-handle it.
Young stay, the Bleen agreed, looking between the young man
and Ginna.
What! Ginna exclaimed.

Hess is right, its safe here. The two of you need to stay here.
Whatever is out there wasnt able to get in, and I dont want you in the
middle of this, Beau told her.
She bit her lip, looking downcast and defeated, but conceded with
a quick nod.
Im te-technically an adult, I-I can handle it, Quint repeated.
Just listen to the thing kid and let us take care of this, Asha said
dismissively, gesturing vaguely toward Hess.
I am she.
Everyone turned to look at the Bleen, whose vacant stare was
drilling through the woman.
Excuse me? Asha said repugnantly.
I. Am. She. Hess repeated once more, her hissing voice growing
in anger.
A callous snort was the only reaction from the woman.
Your kind has no gender.
Hess was baring her rounded teeth over the scarlet scarf, her long
fingers curling and uncurling. Exchanging nervous glances, the other
hunters watched her seethe, while Pen made vague attempts to speak
and Ginna looked numb with rage towards Asha. Dropping her rifle
limply, Hess started walking straight up to the woman; the Bleen leaned
down until the black skin of her face was centimeters from the stark
white of the humans. The tall alien was radiating enmity against the
waves of apathy from Asha.

I am she. Anatomy not matter. I. Am. She.


Scowling, Asha was about to speak before the hands of the Bleen
engulfed her mouth and throat.
We do not need you. We can find target without.
Every slithering word Hess spoke was seeped in threating
promise. Struggling against the vice like grip, she tried slapping against
the aliens arms and grabbing at Hesss scarf, head shaking feebly with
acknowledgement. Watering at the eyes, Beau could see her skin was
beginning to turn a ripe red. Hess let her suffer for a few moments
longer before relinquishing her hold, leaving the human sputter on the
ground.
Picking her rifle back up from the ground, Hess cradled it before
saying I go.
Im going too, Beau said.
Ginna tensed next to him; however she didnt say anything in
objection.
The two Kana troopers squawked to each other briefly back and
forth, before Keek announced he would be joining the group and Chek
would stay to watch over Quint and Ginna.
Pen seemed torn, gazing at the terminal, seeming to be weighing
some conflict up in his mind.
I will stay here, he declared.

Quint seemed to brighten up after the older man opted to stay,


the air of sulkiness easing off of him. Putting a hand on his shoulder,
Pen smiled down at him through beard, his eyes crinkling warmly.
So are we ready? Asha asked, still rubbing her throat.
Those venturing out nodded together, while Ginna turned on her
heel and sat herself in an empty seat.
Alright, lets get going, the human said, turning on her heel.
Keek followed closely behind Asha, leaving Hess to slowly
meander after, clearly taking her time to irritate the woman. Beau took
a few moments to look at the Daros, who now had her back to him.
Feeling heavy in the chest, he approached the girl, readying himself to
justify the situation.
Before he could even attempt utter a word, Ginna spoke.
I know why I cant go.
A gap of reticence strung out before Beau replied.
I cant risk you getting hurt.
I know you cant, she said, turning to face him. There were tears
in her eyes.
Every tear that fell from her cheek felt like a shot to Beaus gut.
This is more than anyone should be able to handle, she
continued, things arent supposed to be this horrible.
Wrapping his arm around her, Beau was at loss for words as her
arms tightened around his neck. He knew how desperate this whole

scenario seemed. Monsters such as these were a thing of make believe,


and death as wretched as this should be forbidden. He couldnt imagine
what Ginna must be feeling, the scars being reopened. Who did she see
when she saw the bodies, the crew? What reflections of Gattens
enslavement did she relive when she saw the blood?
Promise me you wont get hurt, Ginna demanded softly, her
voice cracking still.
Cmon, lets go! Asha voice shouted from the hallway.
Even through his armor, Beau could feel Ginna stiffen.
Dont trust her, she whispered.
Squeezing her briefly, he whispered back, Ill keep an eye out.
Breaking the embrace, he stood, cupping Ginnas face in his hand
for a fraction of moment, smiling down at her tear stained face.
Weakly, she smiled back, gripping his wrist quickly before letting him
walk away. Unhooking his broken helmet from his belt, he wordless
handed it to Ginna. As he did, she didnt say a word. She cradled the
helmet in her lap, tremors racking her body as he walked away.
Passing Pen, he stopped, and looking him dead in the eye.
Protect her.
Nothing will get through those doors, my friend, Pen assured
him.
Beau didnt respond, simply shaking his head in affirmation.
Leaving the command deck, he paused at the threshold for one last
look at Ginna. She had her knees drawn up into her chair, hiding her

face. Even from here though, from across the room, Beau could see her
subtly shaking.
Hearting tearing itself from his chest, he sealed the door behind
him, trying to tame both the need to keep Ginna away from harm and
to stay by her side. He had to trust Pen to guard her. The man lasted
this long as a bounty hunter, and it was a relentless life. Factoring in
that the man also seemed compassionate, and that he fought against
wrongful bounties, Beau felt in his gut his trust was well placed.
It had to be.
Meeting the others in the elevator, he was greeted by Ashas
crooked grin.
Took you long enough, she said.
I took as long as I needed, Beau said curtly.
Still smiling, Asha worked the elevator console, sealing the small
lift with a sharp clunk.
Were exactly is the doctor? Beau asked.
He should be somewhere hidden away on the third sublevel of
sector two. The only problem is that we cant get to L2S3 from the
elevator. Lockdown has pretty much sealed it off since its vital research
and stuff. Well have to get there through the sector above it.
How can we? Keek inquired.
Well, I dont have access codes to disable any of the lockdown
procedures. So well have to go through the piping and the inside of the
walls.

That sounds like a terrible idea, Beau said bluntly.


Its what you got, so you might as well get used to it, Asha said
with a playful wink.
Skin crawling slightly under his armor, he ignored the flirtation
and checked his pistol. Still adjusting the grip, Beaus hands began to
fret about the weapon. Everything was weighing down on him, the
pressure of the situation, Ginnas safety, Ashas attention, and the
hallucinations occurring so much more frequently. He felt exhausted
emotionally and mentally.
It unsettled him, how the intrusions were becoming more regular.
Before, he was lucky to have one every other day. Never before had
they taken form back to back.
Maybe I do need to talk to the Dr. Prosper again, the medication
might be failing, Beau thought to himself.
Whatcha thinking about?
Asha slid across the wall smoothly, leaning against the wall with
her head cocked. A toothy grin split her face, her eyes searching over
him.
I just want a bigger gun, he muttered back, subduing the chill
through his spine at her intrusive proximity.
Oh, thats all? I can fix that.
Moving away, much to Beaus relief, she went to redirect the lift.
Where going? Hess hissed in agitation.

Just taking a quick detour, Asha said in a sing song voice, Beau
made me realize we probably need better gear before we go into think
of it, you know?
We have enough, Keek said blankly, hefting his rifle.
You have enough, but all I have is this jacket and Beaus gun is
garbage, she replied.
Irritation slinking from her mouth, Hess spoke her agreement
begrudgingly. Beau was silently thankful for a chance to find more
firepower. A hunters life lay with their equipment, and while the
notion of Pen giving away some of his gear was a huge sentiment, Beau
thought he would feel more comfortable with something with a
stronger wallop.
Facing no objections from Keek, they stepped out at L1S2, directly
under the command deck. Here, they were only greeted by cold
darkness. Activating their lights, the group edged out carefully, Keek
taking point and Hess taking the rear. As expected the paneling here
was splattered heavily in remains.
Moving with stealth, they stepped gingerly over the occasion
mangled body, ignoring the twisted grimaces of agonizing terror. Beau
recalled how he had often valued silence. Now it just seemed to be
tearing him apart. Dodging around the locked down doors, Asha
brought them to hall which bore windows peering inside the rooms, the
hall outlined in yellow. Official looking Kana writing was plastered
across the walls, slightly obscured by drying blood.
Keek nodded approvingly, Security zone. Good.

Peering into the dark room with his light, Beau could faintly make
out the shapes of weapons lockers and other storage containers. Asha
stood by the terminal to enter, fiddling with the buttons. Seconds
dragging by, Hess seemed to lose patience, smashing the window in
with the butt of her rifle.
You idiot, you could have set off an alarm! Asha steamed from
the panel.
Stepping through the shattered pane, the Bleen snorted.
There is no power here. Not take an engineer to see this.
Beau could feel the boiling loathing streaming from the woman, it
electrified the air. At the same time, however, Beau smiled inwardly at
the Bleens jab.
Stepping over inside the security block, he could see already the
area had just about been cleared out. Whether by guards during the
initial events that kicked off the Kaskurst disaster, or by survivors, what
hadnt been taken was a bit lack luster.
Lining the walls, the doors to the lockers hung open, the contents
cleared out. Crates around the room lay upended, whatever that was
once stored inside long looted. A row of benches stretched across the
room, feet from the empty lockers, a few discarded items resting on
the wooden surface. A pair of black helmet was close to Beau, one with
lens of the visor slightly cracked. As for the other armor piece, which
was similar to Keeks aside from color, had been crushed inward
completely. Picking it up, he gave it a quick inspection. Thankfully, it
was designed for humans. Taking a moment to assess the damage, he
ran a finger over the defect of the optic plate. The visor itself was

circular, with a short tail poking from the bottom, giving the optics a
rotated Q shape. Painted in white bracketed letter on either side of
the piece were the letters KES, emblazed over the burnt orange Kana
Empire flag. The paint of the insignia and helmet itself was chipped,
whoever had owned it put it through a lot of abuse.
Turning it over in his hand, the name Avidan was printed on the
back along with the designation number. Trying it on, Beau found that
it fit relatively well, though it smelled of its previous wearer.
To his luck, it at least only smelled faintly of fruit candies.
Pressing the power switch on the inner lip of the helmet, the lens
flared up a bright orange. Running across diagonally, the fissure did
little to obscure his vision besides the white, writhing static and glitches
that outlined it. Deciding it was better than nothing, Beau was just glad
to be incased again, shelled off from the world.
Despite the nightmare that was surrounding him he felt a weight
lift from his chest as he realized that Asha could no longer look directly
at him.
Synching the foreign equipment to his wrist pad, Beau took a look
around the room, now brightly lit through the orange tint of the visor.
Hess had found a somewhat battered ballistic vest and was adjusting it
to her chest while Keek was inspecting the few untouched crates. Asha
stood by their point of entry, not really exploring, instead she leaned
against the wall as if she were growing bored.
A knock on the wall from Keeks direction startled Beau, bringing
his gun up to bear in an instant.

The motion was needless, as the Kana was merely calling for
attention. Putting a clawed finger up to where mouth would be, he
gestured toward the crate set beside him.
Creeping over toward the trooper, Beau spoke softly.
Whats in there?
Something living.
Peeping down at the crate, he couldnt imagine what could
possibly be in the crate. At least it seemed too small for one of the
freak Kana; there barely seemed enough space for a human.
Be ready, Keek warned.
Placing a hand on the lid, the Kana slipped a talon under the clasp
as Beau aimed his weapon toward whatever was hiding inside. Quickly,
Keek flipped the clasp and threw the lid open, to reveal an incredibly
grimy and bruised human male. His head popped up instantaneously,
his blue eyes bugging out of his skull under his matted blond hair.
Scrambling frantically and shouting, the man burst from the crate.
Beau caught him easily, pressing a gloved hand to his mouth.
We wont hurt you, but dont scream, Beau said.
Struggling pathetically against the hunters hold, the man didnt
seem to hear him through his wild desperation.
Look, I dont want to hit you to shut you up, Ive done that once
today already, Beau hissed sternly.
Eyes bulging less, the man gave up, going limp in Beaus arms.

Thank you, the hunter said, easing his hold away from him.
He really didnt want to strike this man; he seemed to almost be a
skeleton. Hitting him would probably snap him in half. Not like Quint
who could take a punch. Briefly, Beaus stomach twisted into a guilty
knot. He was beginning to wish he hadnt punched the young man.
Now he could see Quint was being perfectly rational.
Shaking, the ragged man looked between Beau and the others,
before breaking into cracking sobs.
Thank god thank god thank god, he repeated.
Kneeling down, Beau put a hand on the mans back.
Its ok; its going to be ok.
How did you find us? Its been weeks, we didnt think the Empire
would come for us.
Weeks? The fact didnt settle easy with Beau. This man was
starved and filthy. His glance hidden behind his helmet, Beau took a
look at Asha, who seemed decently well fed. How could it be that this
man was so rough but she seemed almost healthy, thriving even?
What happened? Hess asked.
Twisting his eyes to the Bleen, the light behind the strangers eyes
seemed to go out.
The light, the light, the light, the light, the light, he began to
blabber over and over.

Beau tried to calm him down, but he was too far gone. Despite his
apparent atrophy, he leapt away and sprinted bare foot over the
broken glass.
Wait! Beau called out.
Turning angry to Asha, Beau laid into her.
Why didnt you stop him? he spat.
Hes obviously crazy, I dont know what he would have done to
me, she said defensively.
What light, do you think? Hess cut in.
Well find out when we go get that guy! Beau sighed in
exasperation.
Hess shook her head, No, he gone. Scent growing far.
Beau hit the side of his helmet in frustration.
Look! Keek cawed out faintly.
The Kana was pointing out the window, toward a murky blue light,
diminishing in luminance.
Every organ in Beaus body went cold.
Do you think its going after him? Asha wondered out loud.
Before any of the rest of the party could make a reply, a staccato
yelp called out from the gloom.
Lets go, Keek said, breaking into a run and leaping out the
window.

Rushing after the soldier, they went out to the strangers rescue,
their lights bounding around the ruined halls. Keek sprinted swiftly, his
natural speed out matched the humans and Bleen. In the distance, the
dim light fizzled out, and as it did one last scream tore the shrouding
darkness.
Silently catching up to the bend where the light disappeared,
Beau and the others pressed themselves to the wall. Peeking around
Keek, Beau could see that just a few meters away that whatever was
creating the light was just around the next corner, the ghostly blue light
stronger than it had ever been. The light was unmoving, and Beau knew
they were too late.
Turning to his companions, he shook his head and drew a finger
over his neck.
They nodded, acknowledging the strangers death.
Swinging his rifle curtly, the Kana soldier gestured for them to
investigate.
Weapons primed and raised, Beau, Hess, and Keek crept forward,
Asha trailing awkwardly unarmed behind them. Heart hammering
against his ribs, they drew closer to the turn, and he began to think that
his racing heart would betray him to whatever wait just feet away.
As they prepared to finally reveal themselves, the hunter could
hear the delicate sound of liquid flowing.
Twisting into hallway, Beau could feel Asha stumble and cry out at
what welcomed them. Lying motionless on the floor was the man, his

eyes dull and glazed. Nestled over him was humanoid figure that was
nothing like the freaks that they knew inhabited Kaskurst now.
The creature was muscular and hunched; its skin a gentle blue.
Great hands held onto the arms of the man, holding him in an
unyielding grip as the man gasped for air. Metal tubing sprung from its
chest, just below the shiny metallic, curved neck. A long, silver,
rectangular head rested on its broad shoulders, a single line of blazing
blue light streaking across the center of its artificial face. Where a
mouth would have been was instead what looked to be sliding hatch,
from which a thick, vicious looking needle protruded. Under this
perfunctory mouth the tubes connected, pumping a black fluid out
through the point. The proboscis was thrust directly into the strangers
skull, the point of entry slightly leaking out the viscous dark goo.
Taking notice of the newcomers, the blockheaded monster rose,
standing almost as tall as Hess.
Fire!
Keek didnt need to order a call for action. Beau was already
pulling the trigger as the thing stood. Catching the side of its head, the
bullet didnt seem to make a dent and his next two shots missed
entirely. Keeks rounds made much more of a difference, tearing
through the chest and abdomen. Pulling the trigger a fourth time, Beau
shot just below the machinery of the neck, black ooze sputtering from
the wound rather than blood as Hesss powerful energy rifle punched a
hole through the arm with a ringing pwep.
Stumbling backwards, the abomination fell while more and more
bullets were shot through it. The body convulsed in tatters, blood and

slime mixing together on the floor. A hollow groan emitted from


somewhere in its throat, and the defining cobalt line blinked out.
Standing over the body, the hunters stared at each other in
disbelief.
What is that? Beau finally managed.
Keek shook his head, impulsively reloading his weapon.
Hey, this guy is still alive!
Ashas announcement caught him by surprise, and extraordinarily
she wasnt wrong. He lay there, spitting and moaning on the ground,
shuddering violently. Beau noticed that froth was beginning to form at
the mouth.
Is he ok? Asha asked nervously.
No of course not, step away from him, Beau snapped, quickly
reloading his own pistol.
Before them as they frantically prepped their weapons the mans
body began to change rapidly. Leaping from the ground, his legs and
arms stretched, his fingers turning to chitin like claws. Teeth ripped
through his jaw, the skin of his cheeks disappearing in a mess of
lacerations as the cartilage of the nose seemed to dissolve. Guttural
moans seeped from the new born monsters widening maw.
Keek didnt even try to cry out an order. All three guns began to
unload everything they had. As bullet after bullet struck the freaks
body, Beau saw that it truly was alive, that this was no unholy rebirth.

The man had simply transformed, evolved into some savage,


ravenous beast.
Twitching, the life gushed from the freak, the body even more
ruined then the one that gave it form. Beau removed his helmet,
running a hand down his brown skin to wipe away the cold sweat, the
fabric of his glove scratching over the bristles around his mouth.
I cant believe this, he muttered.
So thats where those things have been coming from, Asha
breathed.
We have to go back and tell the others.
No time, Keek told Beau, we must carry out mission. I have
communication to Chek.
Then tell them!
Nodding, Keek went silent as he used his systems com to speak
with the other Kana.
Thrusting the helmet back over his head, Beau saw a small icon he
hadnt noticed yet in the upper corner of his visor. Directing his eyes to
it and blinking it open, he discovered it was his own communication
line. There were only a few connections, most of them marked out as
unavailable. To his relief though, he had an open line up to the bridge.
Activating it, he called out hopefully, Ginna? Pen? Can you hear
me?
Several seconds of static passed before a response clicked next to
his ear.

Beau?
A smile split his face at the sound of the familiar voice.
Ginna, Im here.
Whats happening, are you ok? her voice still sound hoarse.
Im fine, were all fine. Somethings come up though and I need
to talk to Pen.
Oh, she said, not sounding at all pleased to give up talking to
Beau.
Ill contact you again in a bit, I promise. I just need to get
information to him.
Ok, Ill go get him.
Several seconds passed as Beau stood there, watching the others.
Hess held herself motionless, white eyes looking ahead unblinking.
Asha stood by blockheaded creature, passing a foot over its mechanical
workings. Across from him, Keek was seemingly still in conversation
with Chek.
Beau, is that you? Pens voice finally cut in his ear.
Yes, its me; I found a security helmet with a working comms
system.
Excellent!
Well, thats the good news. We have a problem.
Paraphrasing what had transpired, Beau quickly explained the
situation, explaining that this new danger seemed to be creating the

monsters that wondered the halls. The other man remained silent, not
interrupting the brief story.
Lord, that is a problem, Pen said softly as Beau concluded.
At least we know whats happened here.
True, so we may be able to find out how to end this. But dont
forget we need to find Dr. Hanson to make it off Kaskurst.
Glancing over at Keek, Beau said, We can do both. Hanson is
supposed to be one of the lead researchers right? Im sure he knows
how to stop this.
Be careful, Beau, there is obviously more going on here than we
know.
I know, he sighed, the Empire lied. This has nothing to do with
Desen. It doesnt take a genius to see this is what the job is really about.
We just dont know the details.
Pen hummed in agreement.
Just make it back in one piece, Beau. Ginna is falling to pieces.
Biting his lip, he tried to tame the heartache of this insight.
Dont worry. Ill tear through every freak and blockhead that
stands in my way.
Huffing to himself, Pen replied, Good. Do us proud up here. Well
be waiting. Ill tell Ginna goodbye for you.
Thank you.
Its no trouble at all, Pen said.

Beau could hear the smile over the call as it cut out.
Shutting the transmission links down he switched the audio to the
external speaker of his helmet.
Crackling tersely the noise brought Ashas head whipping around
to him.
Are we ready to go now? I dont want to hang around here much
longer.
Im ready,
We go now, Keek affirmed, his report in concluded.
Leaving the misshapen carcasses the group worked their way back
toward the security of the elevator. Adrenaline from the encounter still
kicking, the trek felt like a blur. Along the way every eye was peeled for
the slightest hint of blue light, ears strained for the smallest pin drop of
sound. Through the bespattered halls they went with a restrained
bound, lithely dodging through the passage ways.
Meeting no further encounters, Asha ushered the group into the
lift, assuring them she knew exactly where the doctor should be. For
the misery this job was worth, the doctor better have the decency to
still be alive.
Deep down though, Beau felt that the likelihood of Dr. Hanson
still being extant was almost none.
Despite his doubts, the hunter knew he couldnt give up, that the
contract had to be carried out. He couldnt let Ginna die because of

this. Checking over his weapon he vowed that if anyone left this station
alive, it would be her.
Coming to a halt, the large steel doors wound themselves open,
unveiling the wreckage of L2S2. Unlike the other levels of Kaskurst he
had trudged through, this place was pierced with a harmony of sirens
and klaxons and filled with glaring, flashing green light. Deep gashes
embellished the panels of the walls and flooring, the now expected
strips of carrion littering the area. Undeterred by the waves of light and
sound, Beau mentally braced himself as he clamored out with the
others.
Streaks lined his sounding, vaguely resembling black tears in the
harsh green lights.
Asha tore a strip of dirty fabric from her leg and wrapped it
around her mouth.
The hazard flashers are green! she shouted over the sirens,
theres a biological breach here, dont breath in anything nasty!
With the personal atmospheres of their helmets, Beau and Keek
had nothing to worry about. Hess, being Bleen, was unlikely to contract
any disease because of her genetic protection against viral and bacterial
infections. Really, the only member at risk was Asha, and the filthy
makeshift mask didnt look to be prime protection. Blood and sweat
and grit wasnt going to be filtering out anything dangerous.
Under the cover of the cacophony sneaking was unnecessary.
Asha led them forward, then left then right and right again and left.
Firm, protective shuttered doors blocked of many of the branching
paths, the woman leading them around the barricades. Periodically,

Beau saw that some of this had been destroyed, the metal twisted
around as if it had burst from a terrible pressure.
Their footfalls were lost to the chaotic, unending storm of sound,
which a double edged sword of fortune. Nothing could possibly hear
them, but on the other hand they would hear nothing in return.
Keeping this in mind, Beau occasionally gambled a glimpse back
through the hurried dash. Nothing was following; however a rip of gun
fire brought his attention back on a swivel.
About a dozen transfigured Kana and human loitered in the
distance, oblivious to the oncoming attack. Several fell to the hail of
bullets, collapsing onto and confusing their savage partners. Meters
away, the ravenous eyes finally connected with the charging group,
raising their claws and leaping forward.
To his astonishment, two held makeshift weapons, bladed of
scrap crudely bound with cloth. The primitive weapons never met a
mark however, the wielders succumbing to the superior armaments.
Converging together, the group of survivors and monsters melded,
even in numbers now.
Being at the front, Asha was confronted first, nimbly sliding under
a swipe and popping up behind the freaks. From the back, Keek
dispatched the mutant Asha avoided with three precise shots before
taking another down with incredible accuracy. The next two freaks,
human in form, fell upon Beau and Hess roaring with rage. Too close to
properly aim her long rifle, Hess smacked the creature the butt of her
gun, sending it flying back before sending a burning round of energy
through its head.

What had once been a woman was hurtling the last couple feet,
unnaturally arms outstretched. Ducking under its reach, Beau swung a
fist up catching it under the jaw. Knocked off balance, the freak
floundered as Beau slammed it against the wall and put the gun to its
head.
The impact of the bullet passing through and the dull jouncing on
the wall was almost satisfyingly audible.
Wasting no team, Asha continued on, now carrying the dual
makeshift swords. Guiding them into a room close by to the scuffle, she
sealed the door, cutting off the unceasing sound.
Above them, the lights shone dimly, with a single light was
pulsating a gentle viridian glow. The room itself seemed mundane,
three desks with filing cabinets lining the walls.
Ok, do either of you have a layout of Kaskurst? Asha started,
addressing Beau and Keek as she pulled away her mask.
Keek simply nodded, so Beau tapped the pad on his wrist to bring
up the 3D holograph of their location. Scanning over it, the woman
trailed her finger through the digital haze, before continuing.
Aha! Were right were we should to be! she exclaimed.
Dropping her hand away from the glowing schematic, she brushed
her hand on Beaus.
Snatching his arm away from the unwelcome touch, Beau scowled
at her from behind his orange visor.
What do you mean? Were still on the wrong level.

Behind this desk, she said happily as she walked to the middle
desk, is an access hatch for maintenance.
Kicking it open, she put her hands on her hips, sending a crocked
smile Beaus direction. Ignoring the attention, Beau strode over to
inspect the hatchway himself.
Standing behind Asha he could see it was reasonably sized, giving
more than enough room, even with the armor he wore.
After you, he said.
Winking meaningfully, she jumped down calling back, I figured
youd like me to go first.
Realizing that she expected him to follow immediately, he held
back. Instead Hess was the one to climb down next. Giving him a look,
the Bleen gave a knowing, curt nod that spoke to him far more than her
words could.
A surge of gratefulness filled his chest as quietly he thanked Hess
for taking his place behind the flirtatious woman. Crouching onto his
hands and knees, Beau crawled awkwardly along the tunnel, keeping
Hess in sight. Abaft he heard Keek drop down as well as the covering to
the passage snapping shut.
The crawl was mercifully short, lasting barely more than a minute
at a downward slope before he could Hess climb out in front of him.
Standing up and pulling himself out, Beau saw that the room was
almost identical to the last. Here, however, there was no light and
sirens couldnt be heard out in the hall. Asha stood across the room
panting; a freshly dead freak sprawled across the floor. Yanking her

weapons from the neck of the corpse, she flipped her greasy hair and
huffed.
About time you showed up, I had to kill this thing by myself.
Youre capable, Beau grunted bringing himself up to a full
stance.
Well, obviously, she returned with a cocky smirk.
Where now? Hess asked as she assisted Keek from the hole.
Somewhere around here I hope, Asha said, most likely in one
of his labs. I heard he was one of the top dogs, and ran a lot of projects.
But there was also something really hush hush he was doing personally,
and I dont know where that would be if hes hiding out there.
Specific, Keek twittered.
Shrugging the woman peeked out into the hall as she drew Pens
borrowed coat around her tightly.
Thats all I got, she said simply, alright, its is clear. Heres the
deal, were going to half to split up. With so many places this guy could
be at were going to be wandering around for a while.
As before, Hess hissed softly to herself.
Stupid.
Itll be fine; weve seen what these things are capable of. As long
as we have weapons, they dont stand a chance. We all know what
were doing here, Asha argued.
No one bothered interrupting her so she continued.

Beau and I can go as one team, and you and soldier boy can go
look around together.
Coming to his rescue again, Hess narrowed her eyes, Beau go
with Keek. I go with you.
That wont work, the woman countered, Beau and Keek are
the only ones with maps. We can group them together.
She has a point, Beau said.
Asha grinned broadly.
Alright, lets go! she said cheerfully.
Venturing into the hallway, the group split. Keek and Hess went to
the left while Beau and Asha took the right. Spatial awareness tingling,
he looked back to see Keek staring down the hall back at him, just
before a corner. Waving to the Kana with reassurance, he turned his
back and continued on his way.
Being alone with Asha was uncomfortable; trailing behind her she
seemed to be putting more sway into her hips as she walked.
Dismissing it, Beau cleared his throat.
Im going to report in, ok?
Mhmm, she replied.
Tuning into the comms, Beau channeled himself up to the bridge.
Hey, its Beau, how are things going up there?
A response came much more quickly this time, Pens voice coming
to his ear almost instantly.

Were doing fine. Ginnas asleep and Quint is working on learning


more about the station. Hes not making much progress though, a lot of
data has been purged it seems. How are you?
Were looking for Dr. Hanson now. We split into two groups to
cover more ground.
Ah, so now splitting up is a good idea? Pen said with a terse
laugh.
Yeah, well, it happens, Beau said smirking despite himself.
Who are you with then?
Asha and I are searching through some labs to see if Hanson
found a mouse hole.
Getting some one on one time, eh?
You could say that.
You dont sound too thrilled.
I dont have interest that area, Beau said bluntly.
That area? Not into women? Fan of the man?
The question made Beau huff in good humor before replying, No,
not men either. Romance and physical intimacy isnt my thing.
Nothing wrong with that, my friend, Pen said.
Hey, were at one of the labs, Asha called back softly to him.
Were at one of the locations, Ill report in again later. Take of
Ginna, and keep safe.
No worries, Beau, no worries, Pen told him before
communications ceased.

Exiting the hall he followed Asha into the shadows of laboratory,


his visor translating the Kana inscription on the wall as Testing Lab S290. Inside the testing chamber contained several workstations lined
out in three rows, every surface littered with paper work and heavy
metal bins were stacked hap hazard against the wall. On the opposite
wall was another dark door way leading away to another room.
Looks like were all alone huh? Asha said suddenly.
What?
You know, just the two of us? the woman raised a knowing
eyebrow.
Sorry, not gonna happen, Beau said gruffly.
Huffing overdramatically, Asha turned and looked about before
facing him again.
You take a look around in here, Ill check out the one over there,
ok?
Beau grunted his agreement, moving to inspect the crates with
taps of his boot. He could hear the swish and flutter of paper as Asha
walked to the next room, her movements disturbing the abandoned
documents. All containers were either empty or filled with files and
documents. He hadnt figured the doctor would be tucked away inside
one, but the unfortunate man from before had managed it.
Sighing, Beau paced about the room inspecting every corner.
Exhausting all crevices, he bent down to examine some of the papers,
shuffling them through his hand. Most of it was just jumbles of
equations and ineligible notes scrabbled down, however from what he

could tell that the team that worked in this lab was studying
dimensional warping to make space hopping even quicker.
Finding a passage that was too much messy, Beau read it to
himself while he waited for Ashas return.
With the help of the enigmatic Vincent Blamblaze, the effort to
slip through dimensions as a form a travel has truly come to fruition.
Though the ways of which he jumps between plains of existence is
unknown even to him, saying its standard equipment, they dont tell
me how it works, merely studying the energy fields and the
mechanisms themselves is incredulous. Dr. Hanson sees the progress
were making here, but seems uneasy of Vincent and his foreign
technology. Id like to not that Vincent has shown no hostility, and
seems more than happy to assist in our studies of the nature of
warping.
Raffling through the notes, he found a picture of Vincent, who
appeared to be a human in skin tight teal and green jump suit, his sharp
shoulder pads and helmet insectoid in aesthetics. The shiny, bulbous
eyes on the armor reminded him of an earthen praying mantis.
Before he could study the notes any longer, a rustle of paper
caught his ear. However it didnt come from the other room as if it
were Asha reentering, but behind him. Hand lunging for his pistol, he
couldnt grab it before a great force rammed him from the back.
Knocked into the air his body was flipped upside down leaving him too
shocked to cry out. A massive, oily looking mass suspended by
countless legs had crept up behind him before attack, the central mass
covered and bioluminescent eyes and needle toothed maws.

Colliding with a workstation, Beau was left helpless as the thing


skittered over as it picked him up. As he was raised from the ground the
rough legs that held him squirmed and wrapped around his body.
Slamming him against the wall the creature moves so swiftly it left trails
of paper dancing in a flutter after its wake.
Continuing to coil around his body, the tentacles sealed
themselves against the speakers and respirator, muting any shouts he
could have made outside his helmet. Binding him more and more, the
glowing eyes and legs drew into the central body and expanded into a
pillar of black flesh that reached from ceiling to floor. Quivering directly
in his field of view, the skin grew taut as a face began to take shape.
It was in the shape of human female, her feature elegant and
defined, however the effect of the beauty was lost as it seemed to be
pressing from beneath the skin.
Through dark membranes, the face broke into a twisted smile, the
covered eye sockets peering past Beaus visor and straight into his eyes.
As the panic and pain almost reached a breaking point, the face
seemed to drop expression and recoil back into itself. Dropping him
unceremoniously, the pillar folded into itself until it was worm like,
darting away across the floor.
Groaning on the ground he brought himself up on shaking legs.
Close by he could detect footsteps drawing near, and this time Beau
made sure his gun was in hand this time.
Keek stuck his head in from the hall, the shiny silver and orange
plate of his faux face a welcome sight. The Kana noticed Beau was
holding himself differently and cawed out.

Are you well?


Something attacked me; I dont know what it was, some kind of
shape shifter, he said steadying himself against the wall.
Keek didnt seem to react to that, instead he looked around the
room intently before asking, Where Asha?
I dont know, I dont even know if she is alive, that thing was
just Beau trailed off.
From the other doorway the woman stepped out, untouched and
apparently unaware of what had just happened.
Where were you? Beau asked aghast.
Um, I was just in there? I was only gone for about fifteen
minutes. Why, did you miss me?
Disbelief washed over him.
Asha regarded the Kana trooper, her smirk dropping.
Arent you supposed to be looking too? Howd you even find
us?
Locator sync on Beau, the Kana said tapping the side of his
head.
You really didnt hear anything? Beau cut in toward Asha.
No? Its been quiet until I heard you two started talking. Why did
you come back anyway? she asked returning her attention to Keek.
We found him.
What? Beau and Asha said in unison.

Bobbing his head, Keek merely beckoned them to follow.


Excitement and relief wrestled with Beaus confusion and
uncertainty. Asha hadnt heard anything, claiming that everything was
normal. So why was his body aching? Weariness was seeping into his
limbs, but the physical pain was beyond that as if he had been beaten.
At the same time though, the nagging in his brain reassured him that
no, Asha was right.
Maybe he had slipped into a vivid hallucination without knowing
it, simply blurring the aches of weariness with the sensation of being
attacked.
Tracking behind Keek, Beau sorted through his thoughts as they
walked the maze of corridors. It all seemed too real; the woman had to
be lying. Ginnas words sounded through his head.
Dont trust her.
He didnt. Nothing about the engineer added up, from her healthy
looking body to her gravitation toward him. Her forward nature that
was focused solely on him didnt sit well. If he didnt know any better
Beau suspected she was trying to goad him with her attractive figure.
Distrust building up, Beau decided to keep his asexuality under
wraps, not wanting her to think up a new strategy for whatever her
true motives might be.
Minutes ticked by before Keek gestured them to stop. Metal
boxes were stacked in front of the door, a few pieces of scrap leaning
against it and mixed around the pile. Shifting through it Keek edged
through into a dimly lit room, the soft yellow light coming from a fort

constructed of tables and paneling. Outside of the small structure was


Hess in a slight crouch, cleaning her rifle by the sparse light.
From the makeshift hut shadows flicked and the sound of glass
softly tinked through the stagnant air. Keek began to sort work on
disguising the entrance once more after waving the two humans into
the room. Ducking down onto a knee Beau peeped in as Asha squat
next to him. Inside the small shanty was a tiny man, who if standing
probably would barely reach Beaus chest. Looking to be in his sixties,
he was stock and unshaven. Shoulder length grungy hair hanging about
his stained uniform baring the white shoulder pads of a station official.
Empty bottles and wrappers littered the corner and the ground
was covered with spare orange clothing. Dr. Hanson seemed dazed, the
tan skin around his eyes crinkling in a friendly manner. With both hands
he was gripping a bottle tightly, his head slightly rocking to and fro.
Beau could understand the need for detachment from the horror but
getting plastered lying in a pile of clothing didnt feel like the best
course of action.
Looking closer he could see it wasnt even for drinking, it was
rubbing alcohol.
Hello! the doctor said with his voice just on the fringe of being
slurred.
Dr. Hanson?
Ha, wish I wasnt, the man replied before taking a shallow swig.

From the corner of his eye he caught Ashas face stuck in a


grimace. It hadnt occurred to him before, but wallowing in his own
odors and filth must smell disgusting.
No thanks, Beau grunted.
Sitting down on the floor he waited as Hanson took another sip.
Ugh, the doctor smacked his lips, I know why youre here.
Youre a bunch of bounty hunters.
Hazily his gaze rotated to the Kana soldier.
Here to put a bullet through my head for a pretty penny.
The contract is to retrieve you alive, Beau told him.
Hess flicked her eyes, No kill.
Hows that contract working out for you? Did they pump you up
with nitroglycerin infused bio serum and have dish out names? he
laughed huskily to himself.
I helped develop that you know. Had me test it on Desen war
prisoners, they did. And now this disaster happens. They dont want me
alive, not after this, he waved his hand around the air dismissively.
Were taking you alive, Beau repeated.
After all this, he would drag the doctor kicking and screaming
from the ship himself.
Taking another drink from his bottle Dr. Hanson shook his head.
If by the time you somehow get off this station youll want me as
dead as I deserve to be.

Just tell us what happened already! Asha cut in with brazen


irritation.
Do I know you? Hanson slurred, his blurry eyes struggling to
focus on the woman.
Maintenance division, Asha said in a huff.
Lowering the rubbing alcohol to the ground Dr. Hanson nodded
drunkenly.
Before we lost Kaskurst, as Im sure you already know, I was one
of the Heads of the Scientific Advancement Division. I over saw many of
the weapons developments and worked on a special project
commissioned by General Thabus to aid in reclaiming rebel Desen
colony worlds.
Thabus wanted us to find a way to wipe out base in a matter of
hours, with little military intervention. Of course, I had to throw the
possibility of a biological weapon. At first the general opposed,
countering that anything that would disease the world would render it
useless for to the Empire.
I argued though, I kept pressing for it, what biological weapon
could we use that could effectively cripple an entire uprising? A
mutagen! Have the Desen tear each other apart from the inside. The
Board loved it. Infectious mega cancers, age accelerants, brain
deconstruction. I proposed a more radical idea, complete DNA
reconstruction. My idea was almost dismissed, but I wasnt going to the
momentum I gained already. I knew of the Hagolen, the slippery shape
shifters rumored to have spread across the galaxy. Using their unique

DNA, we could construct an infectious blood plasma that could rewrite


the foundations of our cellular construction.
Dr. Hanson paused to nurse his bottle again, letting the party
absorb his story.
It took three years to find them, three years of pulling out all the
stops to keep the funding running. But I got them, eight of them. This
project was to define my career and rocket me up to the top. After we
had our specimens, the Board praised the team, and I was appointed a
station to carry out the research. My entire team was promoted along
with me, but they began their own work while I continued the work on
what was deemed the HG-00 Project.
Progress was incredible; my own team was making tremendous
headway as we tested and experimented. We managed to isolate the
genome and configure the shape changing qualities of the creatures. I
did the impossible. I reversed and rewrote evolution. The serum we
created erases any mental capacity past our most primal, predatory
instincts and promotes instantaneous mutation. Everything in the brain
capable of profound thought was broken, leaving on the desire to feed
and kill. The test subjects became our design. Psychologically and
physically intimidating characteristics were shaped from the DNA we
took from the Hagolen. With their building blocks my vision to end the
Desen rebellion was becoming a reality and I became a God.
Development was at full steam and I couldnt have been more
proud. It was all going just so smoothly until we hit the snag of applying
what weve made practically.

It couldnt survive outside a body for more than a few minutes,


and the only success we saw came from direct injection. Of course we
couldnt go and personally stick a needle in the arm of every enemy to
our Empire; we had to find a different approach.
Weeks of lab work were wasted on application practices until
one of the ideas came forward that we dont have to apply it ourselves.
It was genius. We created a way to reconstruct life, so why couldnt we
build life from scratch. Using the Hagolen DNA, anything was possible.
Three Hagolen became the first Applicators, forced into the form we
designed ourselves. The only problem was keeping them in this form.
However, predictably, we ran into quite a few problems. The
Hagolen resisted us but we managed to create what would the first
batch of Applicators after a time. Unfortunately, before we could start
running trail runs on our Applicators, several of the Hagolen broke free.
Apparently the devils observed us just as much as we studied them!
From what I was told, more than two of our Hagolen specimens
mimicked several of the lab scientists; tricking everyone into thinking
theyd been imprisoned.
It was a catastrophe. About twenty eight years ago and I still
remember it well; I had been in my office enjoy a nice glass of brandy
when the containment sirens sounded. We lost a lot of good minds that
day. And on top of that the Hagolens that escaped destroyed the
Applicator batch, and the three palettes we made we engineered from
the Hagolen! We were down to one in containment, and I was sure that
all of my precious sponsorships would be lost.
As luck would have it though, one of the shape changers got left
behind! The two had run into a scuff with security and the guards set

off some explosives, presumably killing one but injuring the other well
enough for re-containment.
Our only option after the fiasco was to fuse them with mental
inhibitors. Perfecting Applicators after that was exuberant though, the
pinnacle of science! We made an entirely new life form! Perfect for
what we built it for. It was relentless and unfeeling, the ultimate
weapon against the Desen. Did you know they cant see the color blue?
We felt so clever to give the Applicators that camouflage.
I sent word to General Thabus and the Board about our triumph;
I was ready to take my place in the elite. So close I was to drinking in
the fame and glory within our Empire, giving them the tools they
needed to destroy opposition by barely raising a finger.
Dr. Ellas, rest her soul, called for a party the night we sent our
research and data to the board and they order the entire station into
warp. Not a day after I got my accommodation letter, the entire station
goes to hell. Stuck in the slipstream, we couldnt evacuate. By the time
we dropped out the jump, all the evac shuttles malfunctioned. It was a
killing frenzy. HG-00 isnt the apex of my career, but the nadir and
because of me everyone is dead.
Voice grating from the long winded story, the doctor trailed off
having come to his conclusion.
That was a hell of an exposition, Asha snorted, so youre telling
me you have no idea what let them out? How many of these
Applicators did you make?
Hanson rocked back and forth before quietly answering.

Onboard are a hundred Applicators.


You can count one less, so ninety nine, Beau said.
Good, good, the doctor smiled lopsidedly, we have to kill them
all. We cant let this spread.
You shouldnt have made it in the first place, Asha said icily.
Dr. Hanson didnt give an answer, the jab visibly adding lines of
shame to his unwashed face.
This violates treaties, Keek said softly, making such weapons
does wrong to Demur and human empires. You act selfishly, you and
Board.
I know that, Ive always know that, Hanson spat.
You are pawn. Thabus does not want to suppress. He wants to
conquer, the Kana continued, you admit betrayal of Board and self
against the other Empires.
You dont think I dont know that! I see what Ive truly done and I
know I can never be forgiven for what I helped create!
I dont think the politics matter right now, lets just get him out
of here so we can get paid and be done with this, Beau interjected.
Quiet, Hess hissed, pointing to the barricade.
Blue light shone through the spaces, growing brighter.
No, Dr. Hanson breathed.
Flopping onto his side he knocked bottles over with a noisy clatter
as he extinguished the light, plunging the group into tense darkness.

Powering his helmet down the glow given off by his visor blinked out,
as did the orange of Keeks helmet. In the shadows of the room the
sound of weapons being raised and primed clicked dimly as they all
stood as still as statues.
Through the crates, Beau could see that the Applicator stood
directly in front of it, the light shining straight through the cracks. Dust
danced eerily in the shafts of light as sounds of shifting echoed out in
the hall.
Beau braced himself as he aimed straightforward.
It was only a matter of time, Hanson whispered, theyre made
to sniff out gatherings of non-mutated beings.
Is that the only way in and out? Asha asked in a panicked hush.
Quiet, Hess repeated through her scarf.
To his horror, Beau heard movement from Asha direction, her soft
shoes padding softly.
What are you doing? Beau hissed.
Im looking for a maintenance hatch, theres got to be one in
here somewhere. There has to be.
Desperation and fear was filling her whispers.
Calm down and stay still, look, its leaving.
As it was the light of the Applicator was fading. Danger past, the
hunters lowered their guns. Reactivating his helmet, his HUD lit up the
room, the crack on the screen flaring out static once more. Looking

around to his partners he saw Asha still nudging around, about to bump
into one of the workstations.
Asha! he called out as loudly as he dared.
Even as he breathed out his warning she knocked against it.
Stumbling and tripping Asha fell, the swords flew from her hands into
the darkness hitting the floor with a gut-wrenching clatter.
A high, pulsating electronic tone sounded beyond the barrier.
It knows were here! Dr. Hanson cried.
Shadows flicked and fluttered as the light of the monster
returned, the sounds of the barricade being battered aside. Clearly
Hanson had engineered the senses of the Applicators all too well.
Bursting through the door frame the blockhead repeated its tone,
the blue bar of luminesce that split its flat face illuminating the room.
Keek, being the closest, was immediately thrown to the floor. Shocked
from the impact, Keeks gun went off, sending bullets straight into the
ceiling and walls.
Still not used to firing a pistol, Beau shot a few round wildly
before a few found their mark. To the side Hess used her rifle more
effectively, tearing through the flesh of the creature with two high
powered rounds. Critically wounded the blockhead toppled right on top
of the Kana soldier. Feeling Keek under it, the Applicator ejected the
needle from its head and smashed straight through the Kanas visor.
Taking careful aim Beau fired a bullet straight into the Applicators
back. It seemed to have little effect as black sludge began to pump from
its mouth. The pwep of Hesss rifle ripped across the room, hitting the

monster dead center of the face. Thrown back the needle pulled out of
Keeks helmet, droplets of blood and ooze splattered over his face
plate.
Sparks and smoke bloomed from the remnants of the blockheads
neck, the torn blue skin growing slack as the organic body died. Beau
rushed over to Keeks shaking form, taking the silver helmet from the
fallen Kana before removing his own.
Under the armor, he saw the Kanas face for the first time.
Beautiful, long feathers covered Keeks features, his eyes and
beak a matching shade of auburn. Dark droplets formed between his
eyes, which were unfocused and streamed with the blockheads serum.
Not receiving a large dose, Keek wasnt undergoing mutation yet, but it
would only be a matter of minutes regardless.
Beau, he crowed feebly, please.
Staring down at the Kana, his heart stopped. He had killed before,
how could this be any different? But no, it was different. Keek didnt
deserve this. This was wrong, it was so wrong. He had never killed
anyone he didnt think that earned their fate. Beau remembered the
CC crew that opted to commit suicide than to submit to death or
transformation.
Beau dropped to his knees and gingerly cradled the Kanas head;
his eyes staring into the soldiers. In his hand, the pistol had never
heavier.
Beau, Keek begged.
Im so sorry.

Clenching his eyes shut he put the muzzle to Keeks head and
pulled the trigger.
Nothing happened. No gunshot.
Lids flying open, Beau looked down to the gun he held in his hand.
No.
Click.
No!
Click.
Throwing the worthless weapon aside Beau snatched up the gun
from Keeks side. Pulling the cartridge from its slot he saw that it was
empty, and the Kana carried no more on his person. Tears were
beginning to form in Beaus eyes.
Hess, give me your gun!
Slowly, the Bleen shook her head, her eyes seeming even
hollower.
No more charge, she said with her voice grating.
Gaze falling back to Keek, he locked eyes with him once more.
They had nothing. Every round had been used and there was probably
no time to find the scrap metal swords that had been swallowed by the
shadows.
Froth was already beginning to form at the corners of Keeks
beak, the pupils of his eyes widening as his breathing began to hasten.

Desperation gripped at the fibers that held together Beaus being, and
he could feel them unravel as his only option became more apparent.
Keek, Im sorry, he managed to say through his shaking voice.
The soldier said nothing; merely grabbing mans gloved hand with
his clad talons.
Do it.
Time seemed to screech to a halt. No sound or sensation passed
through him as he let go of the writing Kanas hand. His muscles moved
autonomously, mind blank as his heavy boot lifted from the ground.
Crack!
NO!
Crack!
Throat tearing, his scream continued as hot tears cascaded down
his cheeks.
Crack!
Im sorry.
Crack!
Im so sorry.
Splat!
Forgive me.
Splat!

Voice failing him Beau collapsed on all fours, shaking with sobs.
He couldnt take this anymore. Burned into his mind was where Keeks
head had once been. Pulling himself up from the ground he wiped the
streaks from his face he shoved the black helmet back over his head.
Composing himself, he withdrew in his emotions pit into a mental pit.
No one said a word, shock and sadness mixed over his companions
faces.
We cant stay here, Beau said as his voice cracked.
Turning on his heel he left the lab, his feet kicking against the
ruins of the barricade and eyes avoiding the dead Kana. In the hall he
stood watch, keeping a hand on the sword sheath to his lower back.
Shortly after Hess walked out, pausing to take a look at Beau. He
ignored her as Dr. Hanson stumbled out.
Im sorry tha-
Dont talk to me.
Snapping his mouth shut, Dr. Hanson put a hand to his face and
nodded sullenly.
Where Asha? Hess asked.
Shes looking crawling around looking for those chunks of metal
she dropped, the doctor replied quietly.
As he spoke, the woman emerged, carrying the dingy swords
before handing one to Hess, Here, youll probably need this.
Taking it wordlessly the Bleen draped the strap of her long rifle
over her shoulder as she took the new weapon.

Im reporting in, Beau announced. Not waiting for any


acknowledgement, he established a link and mindlessly followed after
Asha as she led them back to the maintenance passage.
Hello Beau! How goes the search? Pen answered after the
communications clicked on.
We found him, Beau said gruffly.
The older man read Beau in a heartbeat, Whats wrong?
Keek is dead. I killed him. Were coming back now.
What happen-
Well talk when we return. I cant talk about it right now.
Alright, well be ready for you, Pen said kindly.
Cutting the call, Beau realized that while he said he couldnt think
about what happened, the events were consuming his mind. For the
first time in his life he had killed someone completely innocent in the
situation. Beau rarely dealt death to those without a price, but when he
had they had still been a criminal. Thugs, muggers, pirates from his
service years, even the drug traffic he ordered Cide to shoot had been
guilty of doing something that would have earned them a bounty. Even
his bomb placement that day had been in a remote section of the
Embassy on Demur was chosen for its remoteness.
Never before had he truly thought about the fragility of life, how
easily and thoughtlessly he played the grim reaper. For the first time
Beau analyzed himself from a different perspective, not of how he saw
himself but how others would view his actions.

Selfish, violent, cold: these were the words that came to him.
It didnt settle well with him.
Ill get it open, Asha said, breaking into his thoughts.
Having been on auto-pilot, Beau had been ignorant of his
surroundings until this point. They were back in the small office space
adorned with three desks, the point of entry to L2S3. Asha was already
throwing the hatchway open.
One foot in, she paused before saying, Well have to be ready.
Theres bound to be a lot or spooky stuff between us and the elevator.
Just go, Hess said impatiently.
A sullen curtain had been laid over all of them, and disturbing it
would reveal the screaming confusion, pain, and sorrow they all felt.
Filing into the red lit metro under the floor, they crawled, mentally
bracing themselves to once again face the turmoil in the level above.
Over head the trods and thumps of footsteps sounded; the shambling
creatures unaware of the oncoming death Beau was silently promising
them.
Aching to lash out, Beau stretched himself up out of the tunnel
after his partners. Suppressing his reflections, the desire to kill every
blockhead and freak replaced the torment.
This is the floor of the outbreak, Hanson said, almost to himself.
Gathering around the door they readied themselves, the sound of
sirens faintly breaking past the metal. Pressing the console, the door

slid open to the calamity of light and sound. Drawing his sword from his
back, the blade unfolded with the familiar set of clicks.
No longer hindered by the strange feel of a pistol his arm felt
light, even complete. Two Kana mutants were staggering away, their
backs turned and unaware that they were to die.
Two clean swings were all it took. Sturdy as they were, they were
just as vulnerable to brain damage as any other life.
As the heads rolled away an angry roar called out behind him and
a third former Kana was bounding toward him. Hess caught it
awkwardly, jabbing it between the eyes, using the monsters
momentum to deliver the damage.
Ahead what used to be a human male holding a length of piping
meandered, before catching sight and took to charging. Clumsily it
swung its weapon as Beau ducked under and drove the tip of his blade
under its jaw and out through the top of its head.
Losing himself to the adrenaline he pressed on only dimly aware
of the others behind him. An additional two freaks turned into the
corridor and took notice of the bounty hunter. Rushing to meet them
Beau sprinted forward, thrusting through the mouth of the first mutant
as it lunged at him. Having no time to dislodge the sword, Beau struck
the forehead of the next with an open palm as the knife hidden in his
gauntlet shattered its skull.
Yanking his sword free, the commotion of the group fighting rose
over the noise of alarms. The sounds of uproarious cries of their
monster brethren drawing about four more Kana and human mutants,

bile gushing from their mouths. Beau fought them almost eagerly,
unstoppable in his element.
Launching up he kicked one with his boot, sending it reeling back
as he cut open another from neck to groin, slimy gray organs spilling to
the floor. Ejecting his knife he twisted his arm around, slicing through
the neck of the third freak as his sword stabbed the fourth forward into
the face.
The mutant he had kicked away, a Kana, writhed on the ground,
its massive mouth screaming, the needle like teeth damp with saliva.
Beau crushed its neck a swift stomp. Unhinged the hunter stood
amongst the decimated wretched life that stood had before him. Facing
no more opposition he saw the way was clear. Only meters away the
elevator was in reach.
Reaching his goal, Beau finally looked back. Hess had somehow
lost her sword, and was now sporting a shallow cut in her arm and a
few tears in her red scarf. Asha was half carrying, half dragging Dr.
Hanson who had deep gashes through his legs. They werent being
pursed though; all the freaks in the immediate area lay dead on the
floor.
Guilt filled Beaus chest at the sight of their injuries.
I should have protected them, he thought.
Shambling into the lift with him, Hess activated the panel began
to close. Through the crack of the door, Beau could see the figure of
Keek walk towards him across the hall. Shaking his head, the apparition
vanished as the metal doors clunked together.

Before he could speak, Hanson whistled at him.


That was incredible to see, Ive never seen anyone fight like
that.
Doesnt matter, are you all alright?
We fine, Hess assured him.
Regardless, he felt guilt over the knowledge that none of them
would be injured quite as badly if he hadnt rushed looking for a fight.
As they slowly ascended to the safety of the bridge Beau thought about
the Daros girl waiting for him. He wouldnt make the same mistake
regarding her.
Peeling her scarf off Hess tore it with her strong fingers, binding
her arm and Dr. Hansons legs. Nimbly she bound the cloth to the limbs,
knotting them tightly.
By the time the Bleen finished her work, the doors slid open to
the walk way to the command deck. Now this time the bodies that lay
wrecked on the floor were missing, streaks of drying blood leading to
the closed doors of the deck.
As the circular room opened up, Beau caught sight of Ginna within
a second. The girls face split, her pointed teeth grinning happily at the
sight of her friend. Leaping from her chair, the broken helmet she had
been keeping in her lap fell with a racket. Running to meet him, her
hands flung out in greeting from her black robes.
Meeting him with a tight hug she cried out, Im so glad youre
alright!

Im fine, Beau said, everything is going to be fine.


Even as he told Ginna this, he had to press the thought of Keek
from his mind.
Welcome back! Pen called from below deck.
Striding up the white steps, the squat man approached the group
as the bristles of his beard moved upward. Pen reached out his hand,
gripping Beaus in a firm handshake. His hands seemed scrubbed clean,
and from the corner of his eye he saw the destroyed corpses from the
hall had joined their crew, laid out as serenely as possible.
Got the doctor back I see! Ill have to admit I didnt think you
were alive my friend!
Dr. Hanson nodded his head weakly.
Theres been no trouble here has there?
None at all! Weve just been twiddling our thumbs and holding
down the fort.
Where are Chek and Quint?
Theyre working on learning more about the stations condition.
So far theyve found out theres a lot of decompression and internal
damage, thats why so much is locked down. There was also a log
detailing how all the escape shuttles had been damaged before the
event and it was ruled as sabotage.
As he spoke, Quint and Chek filed up the steps as well. For the
first time, Quint was without his metal mask. The boy had dark brown
skin, his wiry black hair cut short. Just leaving his late teens, Quint still
had childish features, his face unmarked by facial hair. His most

outstanding feature were his artificial eyes, the eyes of the glowing
spots that Beau had seen affixed in his mask.
Chek had removed his helmet as well, the tawny brown feathers
sticking out in tufts around his brown eyes. It was hard to look at the
Kana for too long, for in his face he only saw Keek.
What happened? Chek asked.
Seconds ticked by before Beau answered.
I had to kill him.
P-Pen said you fought s-something infecting people. Did-
Yes, one got to him.
Chek bowed his head, closing his dark eyes.
He fought well for Kana.
Beau held his tongue, not wanting to break the mourning of the
soldier to his comrade. In time, he would divulge the truth that the
Kana Empire betrayed the treaties in their conquering greed.
Here Pen, you can have this back.
Asha had stepped from behind the doctor and was removing the
large coat from her body, handing it out to Pen. Behind the woman, the
doctor seemed to be looking at her properly for the first time in direct,
bright light.
Wait, Dr. Ellas?
Asha froze, the hand gripping the jacket limply dropping it. All
eyes were on the woman as all emotion drained from her face. Hazel

eyes wide, her mouth slowly shut firmly. In Beaus mind, it clicked.
Hanson had mentioned that name Ellas before as a doctor that had
died.
Oops.
Her flesh peeled away and fangs burst from her mouth. Arms split
into tentacles that gleamed with razor edge and lashed out, cutting
across the doctors face and knocking Pen to the ground. Through the
shifting of her skin her eyes darted about, landing on Beau before
attacking him. Ginna was still clutched to his chest; aware of this Beau
gripped her closely to him and twisted his back to the oncoming strikes.
Despite his quick reaction sharp tendrils still smacked against his
chest. To his absolute horror, one cut straight down the middle of
Ginnas left forearm and lodged itself in his chest plate.
Screaming in pain Ginna lurched back as the section past her
middle finger down to her elbow broke away. Throwing an arm out to
protect her from further harm Beau put himself between the monster
Asha had become and the wounded Daros.
A lethal tentacle struck straight out, cutting through the black
fabric of the under covering his neck. Blood and a clear fluid that he
figured to be the explosive gel that had been injected splattered down
the front of his brown armor. He felt no pain though as the shock of
Ginnas injury washed out every other emotion.
As Asha prepared to strike once more the crack of gun shots filled
the air, Pen, Quint and Chek opening fire on the twisted form that the
woman had become. Red spurts shot from the bullet holes and Asha

screamed, turning tell and dashing out of the Command Deck. Tearing
the paneling from the walls, she disappeared.
Seal the door! Pen cried out.
Chek rushed over the console with his rifle still raised as he
punched the codes in. The doors slamming to a close, Beau tended to
Ginna feeling his insides plummet into his boots. She was shaking,
clutching the remains of her arm to her chest, tears silently streaming
down her face. Her pale skin was fading out into a bleached white.
Quint, help me! Beau called out.
Pulling a canister from a pouch strapped to his leg the young man
dropped to his knees next to the two. Gingerly taking her arm he broke
the lid of the canister and dumped the entirety of its contents onto her
arm. Slathering the viscous white gel over the blood meat of her arm,
his lips trembled as he whispered to himself. Beau couldnt hear what
Quint was muttering to himself, and he didnt care. He held her head in
his lap, gently stroking her messy green hair an attempt to ease her.
He had failed Ginna.
For the past four years he protected the young Daros from harm,
keeping her safe and happy, doing all he could to have her suffer no
more pain or abuse. Now her she lay covered in her own blood.
Finished lathering Ginnas arm Quint stood away.
I used a numbing s-sealant bio gel. She w-wont bleed anymore
but t-the gel will de-degrade in a few hours. I d-dont have the proper
supplies t-to really patch her arm.

Thank you, Ginna said softly.


Ginna, Im sorry, Beau said hollowly, I wasnt quick enough.
If you hadnt protected me that skank would have probably killed
me. Dont be sorry, she said with a weak smirk.
If I get medical supplies, can you help her? Beau asked Quint.
Quint nodded, L-like I said, I was m-my fathers medic when he
was a-alive.
Easing Ginnas head down to the ground, Beau announced, Im
going to the medical bay.
Dont be ridiculous! Youre injured, look at your neck! Ill go,
Pen told him.
Beau shook his head.
Im saving Ginna, he said firmly.
Then let me come with you, Pen argued.
Not wanting anyone else to get hurt, Beau wanted to venture out
alone, but Kaskurst would most likely swallow him whole, he needed
backup.
Conceding, Beau agreed.
Ill be back soon, he told Ginna.
Clinching her mutilated arm against herself she simply said, I
know.

A painful smile played across her lips as tears of agony dripped


from her eyes. Picking up Pens fallen coat, Beau draped it on her
shoulders before running out to the elevator with Pen. Chek held out
his rifle as he passed with an urging Take it.
Joining his partner, he held the rifle uncomfortably as he once
again felt hindered by a fire arm.
Do you know where we need to go? the bearded man asked as
the lift doors closed.
Powering on holo pad Beau brought up the map of the station.
The medical deck was located close by on L1S3, the floor just under
where they encountered an Applicator for the first time. Descending
down Pen addressed Beau gently.
Shell be just fine; Quint is a fine young man. He definitely knows
his stuff. He told me about bounties his father brought in he had to fix
up so they could be brought in alive. Why, the boy even kept a man
alive without a heart for an hour!
Beau didnt say anything; however knowing she was in capable
hands did help.
You know, Ive been thinking about what you said. The universe
is harsh. Maybe we should do our best to make it a better place.
Behind his glasses Pens eyes smiled.
Im glad you think that, my friend.
The reminder of the brief trip down was spent in silence as Beau
begged the elevator to go quicker. Excruciatingly the doors finally

opened to darkness once more, with no freaks or blockheads waiting


on the other side.
Hastily the two men crept through the circular passage way with
their guns at the ready. No sounds save for their own footsteps echoed
through the gore stained halls. Feeling it was safe to speak, Pen uttered
out a hushed whisper.
What was Asha, how could that have happened?
She must be a Hagolen, thats what made the blockheads.
I dont understand.
Forgetting that he hadnt shared the doctors story, Beau
whispered the tale as Pen huffed beside him.
My god, the Kana Empire is going against the Grand Board of
Empires, Pen said through his heavy breathing.
Making something like this, thats what it looks like. This should
be it right here, he replied coming to a halt.
Entering the room, it looked as any standard medical deck would,
the walls lined with ten patient beds separated by orange curtains. Two
doors branched off on the opposite wall, the map telling him that one
was for surgeries and the other was the supply room.
Pen heaved and struggled with his breath as he leaned against the
door frame.
Are you ok? Beau asked.
Hoo, yes, Im just getting old, he said straightening up.

Together the pair of bounty hunters began to search the supply


room. Contained in labeled glass jars and vials were many medicinal
goods, several past Beaus comprehension as they past human care.
Scanning over the shelves they looted up into their arms and pouches
various antibiotics and cleaning gels as well as bandages and an
artificial limb cast that Pen collected. The adjustable cast was a
blessing, being exactly what Ginna needed.
Gathering up all the medicine, they moved to leave as a
resounding series of echoes and bangs bounced around the curved
halls. An eerie Doppler effect carried past them, fading into the
distance. With the erratic sounds decreasing in volume, a new voice
emerged from the darkness. Beginning to fill the halls was a raging,
fiendish roar mixed with the pitched tones of several Applicators,
drawing closer with each fleeting moment.
We need to get out of here now, Beau said trying to keep his
voice even.
Youll have no arguments from me! Pen replied, his voice
gasping again already as they broke into a run.
Behind them the commotion increased and drew ever closer, the
furious screams biting at their heels. He had to give credit to Pen,
because as out of shape he was the man was keeping to Beaus pace.
However the exhaustion and redness in his face was evident, the sweat
glistening in the dim light given by their flashlights. Gradually Pens
footfalls began to falter, his boots scuffing as his feet began to drag
under the exertion. Fearing that his friend would succumb to the effort
Beau eased his pace to aid the stumbling man.

Wrapping an arm around Pen, Beau attempted to half support,


half carry the man. Just as they regaining their stride the heaviness of
Pens legs overtook him, his legs catching up underneath him. Falling
hard, Pen cried out as he hit the ground, the glass of the vials he carried
shattering into his chest and abdomen.
Down the hall, spilling from the corridors was a mass of freaks,
the blue lights of the blockheads illuminating their enraged, grotesque
faces. Pulling shards of glass from his body, Pen drew his pistol.
Go!
Beau hesitated before grabbing Pen from under the arms to drag
him.
No! Beau, you have to get back to the others, Ill do what I can to
keep them away as long as possible!
Pen took the metallic cast and thrust it in Beaus hands.
Firing a few rounds into the charging crowd Pen continued to call
out for Beau to run.
Save Ginna!
With the sound of her name, Beau turned to run, his gut turning
to stone as he left Pen behind. Running full pelt through the halls he
put a great deal of distance between himself and the fallen bounty
hunter. Shots rang out, but the sound of the freaks was enough to tell
Beau there was no amount of bullets that could bring down the horde.
Turning the corner, a great explosion ripped through the hall
almost knocking Beau to his feet. As the light of the blast flared down

so did the cries of the mutants. True to his word, Pen did everything he
could to keep the beasts from reaching him.
Numbness gripping his mind Beau continued to run, all pretense
of stealth abandoned. The two hunters had covered a great deal of
ground back to the lift, and it was only a matter of few minutes before
he reached the now familiar doors. Miserable disbelief uncoiled in the
pit as he leaned against the wall, pressing the buttons on the panel
absent mindedly.
Pen was dead.
The man who had been so warm, kind, and willing to help others
was gone, claimed by the horror of the space station. Everywhere
around him was pain and death. Pens philosophy of life returned to
Beau and he couldnt help to think of whom he had put these numbing,
hopeless emotions upon through his career of sanctioned murder.
Exhaustion and despair enveloped him and he slid down the wall,
resting his head between his knees. Reeling his emotions inward he
tried to calm the building sorrow bellowing within his chest. Never
before had someone been in his life for such a short time and made
such an impact.
Abruptly the lift screeched to a halt, the ascent ending
prematurely, half way between the bridge and the level below.
Standing up cautiously he took a step as three spikes thrust through the
center of the floor, splaying out at the tip to find a grip. With
tremendous force the elevator was yanked downward throwing Beau
off balance. Disappearing from the floor, great claws began to jut
through the sealed crack of the door and threw them open.

Still on the ground Beau scrambled on the ground, kicking the


supplies for Ginna and the other out of harms way. Standing in the
frame was a hulking form of black flesh wearing the remains of Ashas
uniform, fingers like daggers sprouting from the thin numerous arms
growing from its back. Glowing eyes stared with delightful menace
down at Beau, the face literally splitting in half as it smiled.
In the split second he registered what was happening what had
once been Asha gripped him by the neck and threw him out into the
hall.
Ive finally got you alone.
Grabbing him by the leg she tossed him again into the ceiling, the
white paneling buckling under the impact.
I couldnt draw you away with temptation.
The body briefly became the shapely human figure it once bore as
the Hagolen picked him up once more and smashing his head against
the one of the light fixtures that lined the passage. Glass shattered
around him as the visor split along the crack, the optics ruined with
static, leaving the only source of light from Cheks borrowed rifle.
Failing, the HUD powered down as Asha let him fall to the ground.
I couldnt kill you in the labs, she spat as her body erupted with
countless shining eyes.
So Ill kill you now.
Her arms seemed to join together, ending in a jagged, bony point.
Black flesh enveloped his body, pressing him down as he struggled

desperately. Unable to move or escape the knife like edge her limbs
had become hovered over his body.
Jagged thin teeth broke into a smile before she spoke again, But
Ill make you suffer as I have suffered half breed.
Beau had no time to process what she called him as she drove the
point straight through his right hand piercing even through his knuckle
plate. Biting back a scream, Beau remained defiant, determined not to
give in to the Hagolens whims. Yanking down through his fingers the
monster tried to entice a cry of pain from the man, battling against
Beaus composure.
Scream.
Flesh engulfed his torn hand and snapped the wrist to a ninety
degree angle, effectively destroying his will power. Crying out he
writhed in pain to Ashas pleasure.
More.
The black mass of skin crept up to his shoulder and began to pull.
Bea groaned in agony as he felt the bone and tendons snap and break
under his skin. Throwing the limp limb aside Asha poised her razor
point over Beaus neck and slit his throat.
Black seeped into his vison as he faintly felt the Hagolen pull
away, at last easing her hold.
Die slowly, as we have before you, she hissed.
As darkness overtook his vision his mind faded.

Then he awoke, dimly aware of a red feathered face over his. His
helmet had been removed and was lying next to his head. Confusion
muffled his rattled mind, if he didnt know better the being above him
was
Keek?
Senses returning gradually, he realized that it was in fact the Kana
soldier whose blood still stained his boot.
How is this possible? I-I killed you, he stammered.
The Kanas eyes twinkled in the faint light.
I am not Keek. I never was, Beau.
Propping himself onto his right arm Beau looked incredulously at
the Kana. His mind clicked, and he looked down in astonishment that
his arm was still connected to his body. And to his arm, so was
connected the upper half of the Kana he had believed to be Keek.
I dont-what, he sputtered.
Keek was never here, Beau, you did not kill me. I had to behave
as such to fool Ohin, who you have met. I am Oviness, and in a sense, I
am your mother.
Beau shook his head.
I never had a mother, I dont understand.
The feathers melted into the Kanas face, morphing into a kind,
womanly face closely resembling his own.

Thats because you were created from me, twenty eight years
ago on this station.
Thunderstruck, Beau almost laughed.
Thats ridiculous, I was abandoned at Ageous 277, and then I
joined-
The Earth Colonial Military, the Hagolen finished for him.
How did you know?
I will tell you everything.
Smiling softly, the Oviness spoke, A very long time ago I was
captured by Dr. Hanson, on the world Lashada, of which we orbit. I was
taken from my pack and young to be tortured and experimented on,
my flesh taken and forcibly regrown. From my DNA they grew what
they called Applicators to spread the disease they engineered. The
others they captured were as distraught as I, heartbroken over the lives
we would inevitably take. Dont let Ohin impress upon you wrongly, we
are not ruthless killers. She is only bitter against me and the many years
of imprisonment.
Secretly we devised a plan of escape, turning into beings we
knew would trigger reactions from those who tormented us. Of us,
Ohin and I broke free with another, but the fourth had not chosen a
suitable disguise and remained unfree. We killed the Applicator pallets,
as well as the few experiments made from our flesh. But I could not do
this, to take an innocent life. From me they made you, a helpless child,
and I could neither leave nor destroy you.

So I took you, my little boy. It was a hardship escaping from the


many guards, and Ohin and I lost track of the Hagolen that escaped
with us. For all I know, Ohin may have killed him, her rage was so great.
The guards eventually set the halls on fire, detonating explosives
planted in the walls. Ohin was injured greatly by this, and I could not
save her and escape. I chose you over her, and I believe this is why she
hates you so.
From the wreckage that pinned her she grabbed for you, drawing
you into the flames as she attempted to consume you to ease my
burden. But I crushed her and left her for dead, saving you from the life
that awaited the Applicators.
I took you to the abandoned colony you call Ageous 277, and
there I raised you for sixteen years. There I taught you all I knew about
sparring and battle, feeding you what little I could find. It was a difficult
life for you, and it broke my heart. Dr. Hanson is not as gifted at
creating life as he would like to think. While he built you physically to
be a predator, he does not understand the deep complexity of a mind.
He left you wired wrong, and you often spoke of hallucinations and
depression. I had to get you help.
We left the colony, and I gave you all the help I could. But I knew
this was no life for you, living away from your kind in a ruin. So I let you
go. I wiped your memory, so you could never leave your kind, you
deserved a human life. I implanted a life of desperation and poverty
into you, and gave you the memories of military service to
accommodate your ferocious combat abilities and peak physical form.
It wasnt easy letting you go, you were my dear son. So I trailed
after you, watching you from a far. Youve done well for yourself, and

Im so proud of all youve accomplished. I remember the day you took


young Ginna in, how happy you were to have the companionship.
However she didnt ease the suffering in your mind the way I had
hoped being in your world would.
I took doing what I could to still help you indirectly.
As she said this, Ovinesss form folded in on itself and became an
elderly old man, his head devoid of hair.
Dr. Prosper, Beau whispered as she shifted back to the human
form she had previously.
I gave you medicine that I had developed with other doctors to
be compatible with your unique DNA. As time passed though you
became more unstable, and I was left with little options. Through my
work to create the medicine you needed I contacted Dr. Hanson,
returning in disguise to help your mind. After many months of working
with him he opened up to me. Vain and boastful as he was, it was
through him I learned that his HG-00 project was almost complete,
though he swore me into secrecy.
I knew no good could come from this, so I infiltrated the Kana
Empire, learning the true nature of the commissioning of the project. I
wasnt alone; a soldier Keek had learned the truth as well. Thabus
discovered his insubordinate actions, and had him executed in Kana
tradition.
Using his identity I went unnoticed, his data expunged from the
Kana history. In secret I worked to bring myself closer to an impending
mission that was planned around the HG-00 project. I was able to join
on with Chek, who had been found attempting to break into an armory.

Being a nameless soldier I was just as expendable, and was given the
assignment. It was then that I found you, bound to a chair as you were
sentenced to a suicide mission. Chek and I were not allowed to act as
you were injected, as we had been as well. Of course I was able to
reject it, but I did not wish to put Chek in danger. So I watched over you
once again here, painfully keeping myself from you even though I knew
you wouldnt remember who I was. When Asha appeared, I was
suspicious. I could not remember but she resembled one of the doctors
that conducted the HG-00 tests.
I realized I was correct in my judgment when I found you having
been attacked, but I could not reveal my nature to Ohin. Her hatred for
you was still strong, and I feared what she would do to you if I truly
intervened. When we fought the Applicator, I had to play dead to
continue the charade, and Im so sorry for the pain it caused you. I
stayed behind, keeping an eye at a distance. After you discovered Ohin
for what she truly was, she took to riling up as many infected beings as
she could, gathering a mob about her to draw towards you.
Great deals of them were killed by Pen, and now that she
believes you dead, I doubt she will attempt to gather any more. Most
likely she is looking for a true escape, for while she may be free of the
labs she is still a prisoner to the station.
The whole story seemed outlandish to Beau, but it somehow
made sense to him. He was alive and there was a woman growing from
where he once had an arm so he felt there was little room to argue.
Instead he asked, How am I alive?

Her lips turned up slightly though the smile didnt reach her sad
eyes.
I was too late, and I found you dying. To save you, I fused myself
to your body, combining to the DNA taken from me to birth you. I took
the explosive gel from your neck and mended you. As you slept I
became integrated into your nervous system, and through this I
rewired your damaged neurological structure. Any damage Dr. Hanson
did to you I repaired. Healing a mind is not an easy thing to do, but I
believe I have studied the human brain enough to understand how to
mend you. I also undid your memory wipe, Beau.
Do you remember?
Beau looked at her in puzzlement as she looked hopefully at him.
Then he realized he did remember. He remembered being a young boy,
using pipes to fence with Oviness, learning to fight against the various
species she impersonated. He remembered sleeping against her as she
became large hairy creatures that radiated warmth. As memories filled
his mind, tears did the same to his eyes.
Why did you take this from me?
Oviness smiled sadly, Im so sorry Beau. I believed it to be for the
best.
How long was I asleep? he asked as he wiped his eyes.
Its been maybe an hour since I found you, she replied.
We have to get back up to the deck. Ginna needs me.

Shrinking down, the woman became an incredible replica of his


arm armor and all and the limb Ohin tore from his body was nowhere
to be seen. Looking down Beau saw his armor was splattered with his
own blood, a black dried stain against his brown armor. Legs shaking,
he hobbled back into the elevator and picked up cast and medicine.
I do have a question, Beau asked awkwardly toward his arm as
he replaced his helmet.
Yes? a pair of lips that appeared on the back of his hand asked,
forming against the knuckle plate.
Where is my real arm?
I ate it, she said simply, to perfectly recreate forms we must
consume them. I didnt want to give you anything inaccurate. However
there was one thing I couldnt absorb, but I see its use so Ill keep it
inside me.
Uh, what is it?
From the side of his forearm flicked out the metal knife he had
stolen from the Kana base, the blade glinting in the light.
Its a very unique substance; I wouldnt think we should let it go
to waste, she said as she sucked it back into her body.
Grateful that he hadnt lost the precious tool, another question
pressed in his mind.
Im grateful for what youve done; I wouldnt be alive without
you. But do I still have control of my right arm? Or am I forcibly
controlling you?

The mouth on his knuckle plate smiled, We are one now, our
nerves and blood mix. You can control me as I can do the same to you.
However I relinquish control to you so you may function normally as a
human.
But Im not human, not completely.
You are what you choose to be, Beau, Oviness told him as the
doors slid open.
He was human, a human who killed for profit, and then benefited
from the deaths of strangers whom he deemed worthy to die. Bounty
hunting was sanctioned in all the Empires, but did that matter? Beau
was a murderer, a ruthless killer that had been engineered in a lab to
end lives. He remembered the faux Keek, how he had only been a
persona, and didnt actually die. The action had crippled Beau. What
made that different from the dozens of others he had dealt death?
Because Keek had been innocent, there was no price on his head.
Beau felt a twisting conflict, the emotions of crushing the imitation
Kanas skull in still fresh mixing with the relief he hadnt murdered
someone innocent. The line of thought was clouding his mind, and
Beau decided to suppress it, focusing on the task ask at hand as his
mind returned to Ginna.
Worry clung to Beau like a haze as he realized just how long he
had been gone. It had to be almost two hours between searching for
the supplies and revival. Quint had said the gel would stop the bleeding
and pain but that it wouldnt last for too long.
Stepping onto the deck he saw Ginna lying on the ground, her
head resting against Hess. The red scarf was wrapped around the

Daross neck, the deep red a stark contrast to her deathly white skin.
Hess was speaking softly to Ginna who was gripping to the broken
brown helmet. Beau could hear the Bleen speaking, You strong. You
will live.
Quint and Chek stood to meet him as he returned the rifle to the
soldier and handed the cast and medicine to the young man.
Looking past Beau, he could see Quint frown, his dark brows
furrowing in sadness, Pen didnt make it did h-he?
No, Beau said softly, he stayed back to make sure the meds
made it back.
Hanging his head, Quint bit his lip and drew his good over his
black hair. Taking the supplies he began to tend to the injured, starting
with Ginna first. Carefully he peeled the congealed white ooze from the
Daross arm, revealing the torn meat underneath. She didnt seem to
notice, her green eyes hazy. Sealing the metal tube to her the remains
of the limb, Quint stood away.
That s-should do it. The cast will preserve t-the wound until we ccan get her to p-proper care. Its t-too late to reattach the severed bit,
so sh-shell need a prosthetic.
Thank you, Quint, Beau said.
Preparing to aid the others wounds the young black man turned
from Beau.
Im sorry, too, he added.

Swiveling his head around Quints brows rose inquisitively over his
shining eyes, For what?
For when I punched you, that was wrong of me.
Oh, um, th-thats ok, he said awkwardly.
No, its not ok. I acted poorly and irrationally.
Quint shrugged and nodded uncertainly, Thank you.
As he medicated the others Beau knelt down to Ginna, taking her
hand.
Thank you for watching over her, Beau told the Bleen.
Hess smiled eerily, her lipless mouth curling to show all her teeth.
Ginna strong, she said.
Yes, she really is, he said before looking down at the girl, how
are you feeling?
Like garbage, she groaned.
Well get you out of here, Beau promised.
Placing a hand on the cast that protected her arm, he felt a surge
of guilt over her injury.
How did you know we couldnt trust Asha? he asked.
I just didnt like the way she looked at you, Ginna said, her voice
blurry, I knew she was going to make you uncomfortable.
Cupping her face he squeezed her hand and told her to rest. She
made no argument, and closed her eyes and nestled herself under

Pens old coat. Rising away from Ginna he left her in Hesss care.
Walking to Chek he attracted his attention.
We have to destroy Kaskurst, Beau told the Kana.
Chek blinked at him before slowly shaking his head in agreement,
Empire is wrong, I will not help conquer allies.
Letting Quint finish his work on Dr. Hanson and Hess, he called the
two men over to join him. Quickly Beau explained that the station dealt
with and told them of the explosives that were worked into the halls.
Can we detonate them from here? Beau asked Hanson.
Well, yes, but we would have little time to make a get-away. And
the destruction would only be mostly internal and we have no way of
telling how functional the system remains.
Quint spoke up, I s-saw something about emergency c-counter
measures while I hacked int-to the captains computer b-base. I think I
could se-set up a timer.
Good, can you get started on that? Beau asked.
Quint smiled and set to work immediately at a terminal, ticking
away at the keyboard.
Theres one more thing, because youll all figure this see sooner
or later, Beau announced hesitantly, Oviness?
Holding out his right arm the Hagolen took shape, forming his arm
into a snake like figure adorned with three red eyes. Dr. Hanson cried
out in fear, and Chek raised his rifle in alarm. Quint stifled a yell, and
Ginna woke groggily from the out bursts, her face filling with

bewilderment. Hess was the only one to not react, simply looking on
with blank curiosity.
Let me explain!
Chek kept the barrel of his gun level with his head as Beau told
the story with the aid of Oviness, revealing Asha as Ohin and telling of
how he was attacked and saved. Oviness divulged Beaus origin and of
how he became reunited with the Hagolen.
I dont believe it, Dr. Hanson said in awe, youre the only pure
surviving Applicator, the last of my trails.
No, I am human, Beau said, enunciating his words sharply.
This explains so much, your natural ability to fight, your
gravitation toward hunting. That is how you were made, that is your
purpose.
That changes nothing, he is human, the serpent growing from
his arm said, Do not forget who you speak to, beings who have been
imprisoned do not take kindly to their captors.
These words silenced the doctor, but the excitement and wonder
didnt leave his features.
How do w-we know youre really B-Beau? I suppose I c-could
scan you, Quint said uneasily.
He smells of Beau, Hess hissed out.
Eyes turned to regard the Bleen, who stated again, He smells of
Beau, no change.

Quint and Chek still seemed unconvinced, and Ginnas face was
lined with fear. Her evident confusion and distrust sent a jab through
Beaus chest, but an idea clicked in his head. Pulling the dark helmet
from his head he met her gaze.
Striding to the girl he pulled from his belt the pendant that Ginna
left in his care, replacing the emerald jewelry between her horns. As he
adorned it to its rightful place, Ginnas face eased.
It is you, she whispered, relief flooding her voice.
They smiled at each other as Oviness interjected, If I may, I can
remove the gel from your neck.
Ginnas grin faltered, but as her eyes slid down from the Oviness
to the point where she joined Beaus body, she consented. Mouth
opening, two slim fangs slid from the Hagolens jaw. Puncturing Ginnas
neck, she pumped the deadly slurry out from her veins and spat it on to
the floor.
As the teeth pulled from her throat, the wound bled only slightly
and quickly began to clot. Stretching out, Oviness offered the same to
Hess and the others, who agreed an air of ambivalence. Free from the
Kanas sludge that festered within them Quint and Chek became more
accepting of the new addition.
Alright, were r-ready, Quint declared.
Ok, lets go, Beau said as he picked Ginna up.
W-we have twenty minutes before whatever ac-active explosives
go off, Quint told them as they all rushed toward the elevator.
Crowding inside the lift was programmed to take them back to the level

where their shuttle was docked. Descended downward they stood in


anticipative silence, anxious for the countdown against their escape.
Sprinting through as the doors sluggishly opened Beau did his best
to not jostle Ginna. Passing by the janitorial station where the group
first encountered a mutant freak, he beat down the memory of Pen
saving his life.
Reaching the docking bay the group ran down to where their
shuttle should be to only find it
Gone, its gone! Quint exclaimed.
Ohin must have taken it, Oviness said.
Looking to one another despair befell the party. The situation was
hopeless; they were stranded on a nightmare space station doomed for
detonation. Racking his mind desperately Beau struggled for a solution.
Quint, did you see where the escape pods are?
Yes, th-theyre on this level b-but their all disabled!
Take us to them, lets go!
Franticly the searched for the pod bays, as Quint called out how
much time remained. Ten minutes. Five minutes. Three minutes. Finally
they found them inside a docking port lined with launch tubes. The
pods themselves were roughly the size of their old shuttle, the semicylindrical craft spouting stubby wings.
Did the logs say what was wrong with these? Beau asked the
young man.

T-they said there was n-no navigation systems an-and propulsion


is almost nonfunctional, he replied, his voice filled with doubt and
hopelessness.
Better than nothing, Hess said with determination.
Boarding the vessel, Beau strapped Ginna down securely as Chek
jumped into the single pilots seat. Sealing itself with a hiss the door
closed, the emergency power saved for the escape systems powering
up. Through the view screen orange lights lit up the short run way as
the shuttle moved forward into the launching tube.
One m-minute, Quint called out with fear.
Even as he called the countdown, the airlock opened and sucked
the pod into space. Chek fruitlessly fiddled with the controls before he
gave up, the spurts of energy from the engines doing little to alter the
flight. Floating away from Kaskurst Beau peered out to the station, the
graveyard that floated above the pink oceanic planet. As he watched
soundless fiery explosions ripped through the hull of the station,
blossoming out in puffs of brilliant light.
Hanson had been correct about most of the detonative network
malfunctioning, as the station was from decimated. Regardless, nothing
could survive the fireballs or the sudden exposure to space. Terrifying
as they were, the freaks and Applicators that had made Kaskurst their
home were still living being, susceptible to deadly void.
Sinking to his seat, Beau couldnt help but smile. He was alive,
Ginna was alive. Theyd done escaped.
We made it! Quint hollered.

Chek bobbed his head but spoke uncertainly, We are good. But
prepare for crash land.
Strapping themselves in they all watched as the hellish space
station was torn apart, the chunks flying away toward the planet below.
Onboard the gravitational management systems must have been
destroyed, Kaskurst began to plummet down as well as it was sucked
down by gravity.
Can we glide this into the water, near an island?
Yes, Chek assured him.
Leaning back into his seat, Beau let out a sigh. Sitting next to
Ginna, he eased the broken helmet from her hand. Taking the looted
armor he replaced it with his familiar piece and tried booting up the
HUD.
What are you doing? Ginna asked hoarsely.
Im going to try to contact Cide, Beau answered her.
He knew it was futile, the helmet too damaged to function
properly to operate. Despite this, Beau continued to tamper with the
equipment, willing the system to activate.
Maybe we c-can use pods systems? Quint suggested.
Chek flicked a switch, lighting up the communication board. As he
did so, a clatter filled the air as it received a signal.
What is that? Beau asked the Kana.
Desen code, the soldier replied.

Does that mean there is a Desen colony on Lashada?


The Kana nodded unevenly, his switched loyalty to the Empire
being challenged. Beau figured it wasnt easy needing to seek the help
of those he stood against so shortly ago.
Well have to find them, maybe they can help us, Beau said,
carefully watching Chek.
Once again Chek nodded, more determined in the motion. He
truly had left the Kana Empire behind. Setting course, Quint and Chek
zeroed in on the signal. Finding its source, they adjusted their trajectory
with the weak bouts from the engine. All they could do now was leave
their fate to the forces of gravity and hope. Reaching over Ginna took
his hand in hers. The look in her eyes told him everything wordlessly.
Whatever happened, whatever waited for them down below, they
were together. And that was all that mattered.

CHAPTER THREE

Falling through space was a short lived, jarring adventure.


Plummeting through the atmosphere flames licked at the metal and
tempered glass as the pod pushed through entry. As the shuttle quaked
Ginna clutched to his hand, his real hand, while she shivered against
the dull pain of her arm. Beau did all he could to comfort her, and to his
deepest gratitude, so did Hess who had wrapped the scarf around the
Daross neck once more.
Breaking into the atmosphere Chek struggled to keep the course
steady as they plunged toward the fluff of white clouds that pleasantly

sailed above the rosy oceans. Islands large and small dotted the
oceanscape, the frothing waves swirling beneath far below. During the
rocky descent Beau strained to recall what he could of the world.
He knew Lashada primarily uninhabited, no official colonies
settled amongst the many islands. It a relatively hostile environment,
between the unforgiving winds and perilous jungle islands, few even
considered even pass by the planet. The planet was on the fringes of
the Kana Empire, bordering the Demur Empire space and the Earth
Colonial Front. Because of its relatively remote location it received little
traffic, used as smugglers check point or for game hunters tracking the
enormous gliding reptiles that were native to the planet.
Even out the view ports, he could make out the creatures, twice
as big as the shuttle, drifting on the fierce winds across the expanse of
water. Limbs like tree trunks spread against the wind as the sagging,
scaly skin carried the reptiles from island to island.
Eight kilometers t-to the source of t-the signal, Quint called out.
As their altitude decreased so did Cheks ability to steer against
the turbulence. Quint grabbed the pilots yolk with the Kana and
together they fought to keep on track.
Can you pin point where the Desen signal is coming from? Beau
asked.
Quint tacked away at the console and shook his head, No, b-but
itll be on an-any landmass big enough f-for a colony.
Looking through the front screen were at least a dozen islands
and of those two of them looked to be likely candidates. Scanning the

horizon he spotted far off into the distance Kaskurst crashing toward
the planet surface, breaking apart into fiery pieces. Watching the
station with fascination, he noticed that under the scene was a blatant
irregularity in the tree line of one of the islands.
Extending a finger he pointed this out asking, The trees seem to
be less dense there, do you think the Desen might be there?
Peering at it Quint shrugged.
Desen c-colonies are primarily underground and the t-tunnels
spread for m-miles, Quint stated as he replaced his mask with a snap,
if there is a c-clearing in the trees, itll pr-probably be for a small space
p-port, but there would b-be no way to get t-there from the surface.
Hoping it to be true, Beau leaned back into his seat as Chek
announced for the group to brace themselves. Gliding in at about a
hundred meters from the surface they were fortunate to be making a
water landing close to a shoreline. Even more fortunate was the fact
that the shore would be the island Beau had singled out.
Gripping to their seats they prepared themselves for the impact
against the pink water, Ginna holding tightly to Beaus hand. With a
forceful crash they skimmed the waves, bounding back into the air
before coming back down, skipping like this twice more. Hitting a
button Quint deployed floatation buoys from the pod, keeping the craft
from being consumed by the ocean.
Waves and wind set them drifting to white sanded shore, the
beach lined with massive, broad flora. Green leaves form an opaque
wall of leaves, hardly any sunlight shining through the few gaps. Using

the sporadic bursts from the engines Chek was able to beach the
escape pod and began to match the pressure.
Lifting Ginna up tenderly from her seat, Beau held the small
Daros as the others prepared to venture out. Leaning her head into his
chest plate, Ginnas horns scratched nosily against his plate as Quint
and Chek zeroed in on the Desen signal. Shortly after Beau replaced the
black helmet he looted, and the pressurization was complete. Chek put
a talon on the latch, looking out over the party.
Desen are here, and we will find, he said, stay close, do not
separate.
With that, the Kana pushed the hatch of the vessel open, the wind
ripping it from his hand. Collectively the stumbled as the gale sucked at
them, however they kept their footing. Jumping out with the grounding
support of Oviness, Beau splashed down into knee deep brine. Behind
him he could hear the floundering sloshes as the others leaped from
the hatch after him.
Leaning against the wind they sloped toward the small beach,
sand clinging to their wet legs. The shore was only a few meters long,
and the way the waves lashed against the shore indicated that it was
high tide. Pushing through the human sized leaves of the plant life they
took shelter, the wind almost dead off at once along with most of the
shining rays of sunlight. Leaning against a wide trunk, Beau became
aware of just how exhausted he really was. His legs and left arm felt like
stone, the adrenaline rushes, fighting and running taking a toll on his
body.

How far to where ever the signal is broadcasting? he asked


wearily.
Well, it should b-be about a t-two kilometers, Quint said heavily
as he caught is breath.
Beau was surprised the scraggly boy wasnt blown away.
Quint and Chek led the way, using their rifles to push vines as
thick as an arm and the gigantic leaves. Sweat was beginning to leak
from Ginnas face, and though he could not feel it in his climate
controlled armor the air in the jungle must be stifling. Unwrapping the
scarf he wiped her forehead, concerned anxiety burrowing away at his
mind as she only stirred slightly at the movements.
The cast had saved her for the moment, but it couldnt change the
amount of blood she had lost or the shock she endured. Her
metabolism as well worked against her; Beau figured that if the injury
hadnt put her in his arms, faintness from hunger would have. Realizing
she was hungry regardless of her injury, he hastened his steps.
It was slow going through the foliage, the plant life almost like a
wall, forcing them to squeeze through at a sluggish pace. Overhead,
shining emerald beetles as large as Ginna crawled, sucking the fluids
from the great trees that covered the island, the buzz of their wings
ever present. Occasionally the thunderous rustle of the gliding lizards
landing to snack on the bugs echoed above, their entrance through the
canopy opening the jungle floor to the fierce gusts.
Those things wont have any interest in us, will they? Beau
called ahead as the most recent reptile had its fill.

Unlikely. Groba are main food. Aguons will not bother, Chek
answered.
Impressed with the Kanas knowledge of ecology, Beau promised
himself to brush up on the exotic life that filled the galaxy.
Time moved almost as languidly as their speed and impatience
and anxiety festered on the fringes of Beaus mind.
Do you know if we are any closer? he asked.
Chek raised a hand to halt, the orange plate of his helmet facing
up. Tilting his head skyward, Beau searched for what the Kana possibly
could have spotted. After several seconds of staring he almost gave up
as six long, segmented forms unfurled from the trees up above.
Dropping down to the ground Beau recognized them as Desen,
the species against which the Kana waged war. The insectoid aliens
hailed from the planet Beesh, the twin planet of Kana. Beau knew little
of the politics, however he knew the conflict began when the Desen
wished to break away and become independent. Fiercely proud, the
Kana didnt take well to any loss to their Empire and began at once to
suppress the Desen separatists.
Lengthy chitin covered bodies swayed, the three sets of legs on
each end of their carapace. Large mandibles clicked and clattered under
bulbous, unblinking compound eyes. In their hands they carried energy
rifles as well as a small, round device each. Waving their antenna
through the air, the Desen spoke to one another through their
clattering. Beau knew along with the clattering the insectoids were
filling the air with pheromones to dictate their tone.

Unable to detect the subtle scents as a human, let alone through


his helmet, he kept an eye on Hess whose sense of smell far out
matched his own. To his relief, her body language was relaxed and she
was regarding the Desen with blank eyed interest.
Chattering ceasing, the Desen used a pair of legs to keep their aim
and the other two pairs to rub three clawed hands over the surface of
the metallic orbs they carried.
Working their fingers over the surface, a ringing, lifeless voice
emitted from the silvery shell.
Greetings, warm bloods. We saw the destruction of the Kana
Space station, and observed you as you crashed. Are you responsible?
Yes, we destroyed Kaskurst, Beau told them.
Antennae and chittering continued the sentient bugs deliberated
once more. One gestured toward Chek, the glossy brown shell creaking
with the movement.
You are Kana and were the armor of your Empire. Yet you walk
with those who deal blows to our enemy. Why?
Chek looked about the Desen, the visor of his helmet hiding any
conflict the soldier felt. After a few moments, the Kana gripped at his
chest, pulling away his rank markings and the symbol of his Empire.
I serve no Empire, he cawed his voice as hard as steel as he
threw the magnetic clips to the dirt.
The Desen exchanged with each other excitedly.

You have destroyed a Kana Imperial station, we give trust to you.


Come with us, we see you have injured.
Beckoning the hunters the Desen crawled along the ground,
weaving with ease through the brush. It seemed the Desen hadnt
ventured far from the gateway to their colony. The time spent from the
meeting to the hidden entrance was pithy. Shifting the large leaves
from the ground the Desen guards revealed a hole big enough for a
man leading at an incline deep into the earth.
Slithering through, the devices they carried called out for the
group to follow. Hunching down they slid down the earthen shaft one
by one, Beau going last. The burrowed path was steep and Beau slid
smoothly on the loose, dark soil, the muted light overhead becoming a
pinpoint of light. Slipping lower into the darkness a yellow artificial light
began to glow below and as Beau came closer he saw the silhouettes of
the others waiting for him.
Landing on his feet metal plating rang out as his boots met the
ground. Iron supports surrounded them, bound and sticking with
organic excretions. The insectoid guards were conversing with other
Desen in front of a pair great porthole. Motioning toward Chek the
aliens safeguarding the true entrance seem agitated, their antenna
waving franticly and mandibles moving erratically.
Having come to some kind of compromise, the porthole was
opened and they were quickly ushered through. Trailing in after them
the addition Desen raised their weapons and kept them level, intently
watching the Kana.

The years of war against their oppressors would not be forgotten


even against a deserter it seemed.
Inside was a massive limestone cavern reaching high up to the air,
Desen patrolling the walls and skittering about roughly carved streets.
All around were makeshift rooms and low structures made from the
natural shapes of rock, steel, and the brittle mixture Beau saw gluing
the supports together earlier. Amber lights decorated the corners of
the hewn streets. Passing by Desen greeted their escort and eyed the
fleshy convoy, their feeling to the new comers unreadable.
Incapable of expressions the aliens were impossible to read
without a distinct understanding of their bizarre communications.
Along the path were racks of Groba, the beetles stripped of their shells,
the gunky strips hanging raw. Glittering underneath the racks were the
hollow exoskeletons, decorated and crafted with excellent
craftsmanship.
Beau hoped that the disgusting looking chunks dangling werent
the only sources of food. The sight erased any appetite from his
stomach and he doubted even Ginna would eat it. Coming to the end of
the path they were ushered into a small domed structure made of the
organic spittle.
Stepping inside it was revealed that the room stretched
downward, branching off away with many tunnels. Ushered down the
Desen led them down one of the channels, the light diming as they
reach a modest chamber.

A simple table decorated the room and behind it waited a


partially coiled Desen, much larger than the rest. Exchanging with each
other the giant Desen took an orb into its hand.
Welcome, enemies of Kana, to our home. This one is known as
KeloBeesh. The Hive tells me you brought death to the space station
that threatened our world. For this you have our thanks, and our
permission to stay, though we have little to offer.
Taking leadership Beau introduced the companions by name
before speaking out, Thank you for your hospitality, but we cant stay
here.
I am afraid you have no choice. A plague has claimed more than
half of our Hive, and our space port is lost.
Beaus hope deflated and he could feel Quint sink into a despaired
hunch next to him.
This plague, does it change your kind? Hanson asked.
Beau suspected they already knew the answer.
Yes, the sickness was created by the Kana, a disease that turns
the Hive onto itself. When the station appeared in our orbit our spies
intercepted several transmissions, S.O.Ss and communications
onboard. Distracted as we were by the sudden arrival, we failed to
notice several craft landed planet side, delivering beasts of flesh and
metal. Many of the Hive fell to the disease they spread and we were
forced to seal off the infected.
It cant be here too, Hanson whispered in disbelief.

After the outbreak, we deciphered on of the transmissions from


the station, and learned the true nature of the disease. A doctor of the
crew sent these creatures to us, and warped to carry a second strain to
the Kana Empire. This human had created second strain that does not
create beasts, but warps beings to Kana. We have not been able to
warn brother Hives and or the Queen, and for this we fail.
This doctor who did this, did you find out what was their name?
Hanson asked.
A human named Dr. Hanley, the Desen replied.
Beau shook his head, the pieces of the twisted scientist at their
recruitment falling into place. Her human form with bird like features
and her sadistic joy for killing seemed to match the story. Unleashing
the Applicators to this fringe planet was as meaningless as blowing the
head off the female bounty hunter who had meant to join them. Even if
there was a Desen colony here, the Empire had nothing to gain by
wiping it out. Dr. Hanley had spread HG-00 just to cause chaos.
Hansons face fell.
Hanley, he whispered to himself, I never would have suspected
Nora capable of something like this.
Is t-there anyway we could get to t-the spaceport?
KeloBeesh regarded Quint, No, young human. There is no way
but through the disease. All ships have been dismantled by the beasts
and we are too far from any other Hives. We have no allies to call upon.
Those we have made contact with do not wish to become involved

least they evoke the wrath of the Kana Empire. There is no escape from
Lashada.
What if we had a ship to contact? Beau asked.
Then we will allow you to our communications, if you aid us in
our departure as well.
As the Desen spoke to them, a second crawled in wiggling its
antenna in excitement.
KinBeesh tells me a second shuttle has landed in the space port.
Is this an ally?
Shock ripped through Beau. The only shuttle it could that it could
be is the one Ohin stole. Why hadnt she warped away from the planet?
No, there is no one onboard that we call a friend, Beau said.
Tilting its rounded head, KeloBeesh communicated, Then we
shall be weary. You must rest now, warm bloods, and we will devise
this plan. I see you have wounded. You may leave her in our care.
A Desen skittered forward extending its three pairs of arms, and
reluctantly Beau handed the barely conscious Daros over. She barely
stirred as she was taken, her lids half closed and mouth a thin open slit.
In her hands she still held the ruined helmet.
Take good care of her, he said.
We will give her our best care, human, KeloBeesh said, you
will be shown to your quarters. Feel free to explore our home, but we
must insist you do not leave the Hive.

Walking from the Desens hole in the wall they were led back to
the surface into the subterranean city. Ahead Beau could see the Desen
who had taken Ginna, tenderly carrying her into a shack. Making a
mental note, Beau told himself he would check on her after making
contact with Cide.
A block from Ginnas shack they came to a stop in front of one of
the small domed buildings made of stone and Desen excretions.
Here is will you may stay, the Desen said, please remember to
stay within Hive boundaries, and do not venture too closely to
quarantine zone.
With that the alien scuttled away to carry out its other duties.
Stepping inside, Beau had to duck his head slightly to avoid the low
ceiling, but it was nothing compared to the stance Hess had to take.
Along the walls were divots filled with foliage from the jungle above,
pillowing the rough surface of the cavern floor.
Hess crouched onto one of the piles of bedding and collapsed,
falling into sleep quickly. Chek sat in the spot next to her and removed
his helmet as Dr. Hanson settled down across from the two aliens.
Quint lingered in the doorway before settling down in his own corner
away from the others.
While he felt drained of energy Beau felt restless and jittery.
Leaving the three he announced, Im going to find the communications
and see if I can make contact with my ship.
Wandering through the bizarre settlement Beau searched around
for an insectoid that didnt seem too busy. Many of the alien bugs
watched him curiously, and while they had been welcoming he felt

slightly unnerved being unable to read their faces. Looking into the
great black eyes Beau realized such emotions were hypocritical, as his
own face was hidden by the mask of armor. Removing the cracked
helmet, his skin was met with cool air and the smell of damp clinging to
his nose.
Continuing his search he walked amongst the Desen, watching
them go about their daily life. Clinging to the walls of the cave dozens
worked in the flickering shadows above, grabbing globs of gunk from
their mouth as they built more structures. He realized that many of
them probably hadnt lived in this part of the colony, and the surge in
population obviously called for more dwellings.
Beau wondered just how many of the Desen were refugees in
their own home.
After several minutes the hunter came to an opening in the cave
wall, the entrance sealed with the plating and the goo the Desen
created. Four guards rested on the ground, their rifles aimed at the wall
rather than any passerby. From the sounds that clanged faintly on the
opposite side, Beau could guess why.
As he approached the guards took notice, waving their antenna in
greeting. To his luck, one of them held a small orb.
Hello, human. We must ask you to stay away from this place.
Im sorry, Im just looking for the communications, Beau told
them.
I will take you. Just know you any transmissions will be
monitored.

Leaving its post the Desen lead Beau away, guiding through the
winding roads. Block after block passed him by as he followed the alien
down through the colony. Finally the Desen showed him into a dingy
hut filled with hardware jumbled together. A lone Desen worked away
along the consoles, its many hands jumping around keyboards and
knobs.
Turning to meet its guests, the Desen shook and clattered to
Beaus escort.
KaBeesh will help you with communications, it told him as it
left the shack.
Unable to properly communicate with the each other, Beau
hesitated before speaking.
I need to reach a ship docked at Ovroc Station, he said.
Head rocking back in forth the Desen fidgeted before scurrying
off. Returning quickly, the alien held in its hands a holoboard, writing
on the transparent screen with its fingers. Finishing its work, KaBeesh
raised the board to Beau, the practiced, digital scrawl.
We have no allies at Ovroc who will help. We have tried.
I do, and if I can reach him he can help.
Chittering in excitement KaBeesh led Beau to one of the mix
matched terminals. Turning dials and clicking at the buttons the Desen
sent a signal out through the cosmos.
A connection was made shortly after, a bored voice crackling
through static.

Look, weve told you a dozen times, we cant send any ships out.
Were in Kana Empire space and we just cant risk-
Im not involved in the war, Im trying to reach a ship docked at
one of your ports, Beau interrupted.
Oh! Youre human! Uh, sure, what dock do you need to be
routed to?
Give me dock 3850CH.
Alright, Ill patch you to them.
As the link click off it flared back to static before a familiar, tinny
voice picked up through the white noise.
Input code, Cide demanded.
3MM2P7, Beau recited.
Confirmed: Hello Beau, the droid said.
Cide were stranded on Lashada and need a pick up. Is the
warship still watching the station?
No sir, the cruiser warped away after your departure.
Good, Beau said feeling elated, how soon can you depart.
I can leave as soon as I receive your coordinates, sir.
Leaning around KaBeesh tacked away at the buttons, sending
their location to the droid.
Sent it your way, Cide, hope to see you soon, Beau said.
I will arrive shortly, Cide replied.

Crackling to silence the fuzz of noise cut off.


Beau couldnt believe it; they were actually going to get out of
here. He didnt let himself get too excited however, because he knew to
reach freedom he had to plunge once more into a nightmare. If the
quarantined half was anything like Kaskurst he had his work cut out for
him, and he couldnt even imagine what infected Desen had become.
Thanking KaBeesh he left to go in search of Ginna to tell her the
good news. Weaving around the Desen he was beginning to recognize
the layout underground city and it took almost no time to find his way
to the Daros.
Knocking on the wall Beau stepped past the metal threshold to
come across a steep drop. The small room was well lit, and the slope
was rocky with plenty of hand holds. Forgoing the climb down he
jumped to the lower level two meters below, landing heavily on floor.
Electric lighting filled the chamber as well as two Desen who were
tending to Ginna.
She lay awake as she was tended to, the many hands of the
insects treating her injuries. The statis cast had been removed and lay
on a small table at the bedside, the insides stained with blood. Beside it
was Beaus brown helmet, the shattered T-shaped visor glittering in the
light. Ginna looked like she wasnt in pain, and her left arm was covered
in glistening bio gel. Across her legs was the long coat that had
belonged to Pen, the sight of it caused a lump to form in his throat that
he quickly disciplined.
Catching his eye, the Daros smiled and waved him over to her
bedside. Seeing her welcoming a guest one of the Desen turned.

Hello, human, you are her caretaker correct?


Yes, I am, Beau said with a grin.
She has spoken a great deal of you, you may approach. Our
procedures our done, the orb the alien said as a new cast was clicked
in place around Ginnas arm. Taking notice of the dried blood caked to
his chest plate, the Desen asked, Are you injured?
No, Im fine. Im just here to check on her, Beau assured them.
She will need much rest, and we will continue checking on her
status. We will take our leave.
Crawling up the wall the pair of Desen left them as Beau sat on
the edge of Ginnas bed.
How are you feeling?
Waving the smooth silver cast in the air she grinned.
I feel great, just tired. I dont even feel any pain anymore.
Have you eaten?
Yeah, the Desen gave me food. Theyve been taking good care of
me.
Beau felt warmth surge through his body as Ginna spoke. She was
safe.
Ginna, Im sor-
Oh, shut up. Youve done nothing wrong. You saved me, again,
the Daros said with an affectionate smirk, its not your fault what
happened with Asha or Ohin or whatever.

How did you know though? As soon as you saw her you didnt
trust her.
I didnt know, I dont think there is anyway any of us could
except for Oviness. I just didnt like the way she looked at you, she
seemed like the type to make you uncomfortable.
Beau couldnt find any words to express his gratitude to the young
Daros, so instead he reached over and gave her hand a squeeze.
Cide is coming, Beau finally said, well be getting out of here in
a few hours. The only problem is the space port is over run.
I kind of remember hearing that, but I thought I was dreaming,
Ginna said.
She bit her lip before speaking.
Youre not going to leave me again are you?
No, Beau assured her, were all going. Ill carry you if I have to.
Good. Im ready to be back home, she said as she leaned back.
Resting her head down on the pillow Ginna closed her green eyes
before murmuring, Im sort of tired.
Ill let you rest; were going to need it.
Are we taking any Desen with us? We cant just leave them
here.
Beau considered it, before saying, Yes, we can help evacuate
those we can. Ohin brought the shuttle down for some reason, so we
might be able to use that too.

Thats good, Ginna said drowsily.


Within moments she was asleep, any medicine that had been
administered finally pulling her into slumber. Standing away from her
bedside he replaced his helmet and ventured back out. Deciding his
next step he began to make his way back to the hut where he and the
others were housed.
As he stepped back inside his paltry accommodations he was
greeted by Chek and Hanson. Hess still slept, and didnt appear to have
moved an inch while the two males were talking quietly with each
other.
We got a ride, Beau told them.
Er, thats fantastic, Hanson said nervously.
Whats the problem?
Dr. Hanson looked nervously between the Kana and Beau,
fidgeting in his pile of leaves.
I just, I know it is ridiculous but, what are your plans for me?
Chek has no interest in serving the Empire and doesnt care about the
bounty. Quint doesnt even want to be here as a bounty hunter. So I
have to wonder what of you and Hess?
He and the doctor stared at each other, Hanson radiating anxiety
against the circular visor that veiled Beaus face. He hadnt really
thought about it, to be honest. His goal had been to get the doctor to
prevent he and Ginna from losing their heads and earning their
freedom. Beau considered what to do about the doctor from a moment
before responding.

I never wanted the job, and I never really thought about the
money. Im not playing Thabuss game.
Relief visibly flooded the doctors face. While it was true Beau had
no interest in completing this bounty and finishing whatever plan the
Kana Empire had composed, he still felt conflicted about his decision.
Hanson had created something horrifically evil and devastating, but
who would he hand him over to for profit but the Kana? For the time
being, he would just keep tabs on the doctors activities.
Taking shape, Oviness extend out, returning to her serpentine
form. Extending out she came face to face with the human doctor.
I do not agree, she said causing Hanson to look up in alarm.
You have aided the Kana Empire in committing treaty breaches
against several Empires who they have allied with. You WILL be held
responsible for your actions, or I will throw you into the quarantine and
let you survive your own handiwork.
Gaping, the doctor stared at Hagolen with eyes as wide as
saucers.
Oviness, lets worry about getting off Lashada before we do
anything with him. We can turn him in over to the Earthen Colonies if
we have too, Beau said, not wanting to lose the doctor they worked so
hard to find.
She seemed to find this acceptable, slithering through the air back
to Beau as she stared Hanson down with steely eyes.
This will not work, a voice hissed.

Across the room Hess stirred, rising from her sleep.


If we dont deliver, Kana will hunt us, she said, empathizing us.
She was right, of course Beau realized as Quint voiced his
agreement aloud. If they simply turned in Hanson to the Earth Colonies
then they would be putting a price on their own heads.
Well think of something, Beau said.
I already have an idea, Oviness announced.
Im sure you do, Hanson said scornfully.
Oviness glared at him, Watch your tongue human.
She went on to explain her plan, to deliver a disguised warhead.
The Hagolens plan called for a martyr, a sacrifice to end the ruthless
Kana Empire. Beaus heart sank as her scheme conceived.
There must be another way, Beau said softly.
Time isnt on our side. The Kana expect the shuttle to return with
the doctor and any hunters. We dont have the time or resources for
anything else.
Deep in his chest Beau knew she was right, Lets go let
KeloBeesh know then.
Theres still the matter of Ohin, though, Hanson said suddenly.
What about her? Beau asked.
Why did she land her? You dont think she might be waiting here,
knowing we will try to escape? Shell need a new start so she might be
trying to get her hands on me.

No, Chek said.


No? What do you mean no? How could you possible know what
that monster is cooking up? the doctor said, throwing his hands into
the air.
From one of the few pouches attached to the silvery armor, the
avian pulled a thin, square chip. By its make and design Beau
recognized it as a ships navigation card.
This is why. She cant leave, Chek announced, I took this. To
insure no desertion.
Impressed with his accidental foresight, Beau gave the Kana a pat
on the back, So shes forced to stay here. I dont doubt Ohin is tearing
the spaceport apart looking for a new nav card.
Well, shell have a time finding one. Kana and Desen technology
is incompatible. Any nav cards she finds wont work with the shuttle,
Hanson said.
Ohin must be pissed, well have to be careful going through the
colony, Beau added.
KeloBeesh should be informed of our plan so he can arrange for
some Desen to be evacuated. We can also use Desen soldiers on the
return trip to the Kana. Do you know where the rendezvous is? she
asked the Kana.
Shaking his head, Chek said, It is programmed. We go either to
Kana or Imperial Station.

Both have its benefits. If we can strike Kana then the Empire will
realize it isnt as powerful as it thinks, but if we can attack the Imperial
Station, Oviness said trailing off.
We could end the Kana Empire, Beau finished for her.
Nodding her head, the Hagolen urged, Take us to KeloBeesh,
maybe we can end this pointless war and stop this disease before it
spreads to any other planets.
Chek stood and joined Beau as he walked from the low sleeping
quarters. Hanson and Hess opted to stay behind and rest. He couldnt
blame them, Hanson had been living on edge for a week and Hess must
be exhausted after the events on Kaskurst. As they reached the leader
Desens dwelling, they were met by another guard.
What is your business, warm bloods? the guard asked, the rifle
it held aiming directly toward Chek.
We need to speak to KeloBeesh about evacuation plans, Beau
told the guard.
Antenna perking up, they were ushered let inside immediately.
Walking the same path as before Chek and Beau met once again with
the enormous alien.
Hello again, warm bloods. How may I help you?
Ive established contact with my ship, and it is on its way here,
Beau told the Desen.
This is grand news human, KeloBeesh said.

We also can use the shuttle, and we will help with any
evacuation that we can. Any civilians that can go right now can use my
ship for transportation to another Hive. My ship will be here in a matter
of standard hours.
The chitin plates on the Desen rattled in excitement, This is
grand news! I will set preparations at once. If we can reach other Hives
that can assist we can purge the sickness. Soon we may rebuild another
Hive free of this disease!
There is more we need to tell you, Beau said evenly.
Of course, human, what is it?
Do you know what a Hagolen is?
KeloBeesh stared down at Beau, the antenna waving about in the
air.
I know little of the race. I only know of their unique qualities.
Beau explained to the Desen about the special set of
circumstances that had befallen him, and told them of the plan to strike
against the Kana Empire.
That is most interesting, human. Can you show me though?
From his right arm a miniature Desen erupted forth, waving its
legs in the air. If Desens were capable of facial expressions, Beau would
have paid hard credits to see what KeloBeesh would have looked like.
Clattering his mandibles the Desen reeled back in shock. Recovering
from the sudden outburst from Beaus body, KeloBeesh leaned in
closer, inspecting the form Oviness had chosen.

Perfect. You even smell of us, the Desen said.


Beau felt it prudent to withhold that Hagolen transformation is
more accurate after devouring the original it copies.
This plan sounds most effective. Are you sure you can do this
though? turning to Chek, the Desen added, Are you capable of doing
this to your own kind?
Chek stood resolutely, I will not serve warlords. Kana lost true
spirit. We fight now to conquer allies, to destroy. I will not stand for
them.
You do us a great service, Kana warrior. You have the thanks of
the Queen and the brother Hives.
Shifting uncertainly, Chek nodded, his stance becoming more solid
as he reassured himself with his new found allegiance. With the
revelation that he had never been a soldier himself, Beau couldnt
imagine what Chek must be going through. To find that those you
trusted and served to guide you had ulterior motives to undermine
those that supported them must be devastating. Beau also couldnt
imagine replacing that loyalty to those who he had fought against.
I will begin mobilizing those who may leave at once and prepare
warriors. When you are ready, we will take you into the quarantine,
KeloBeesh said as his fingers worked the orb. Thank you, for aiding us.
Not many would in your position. Especially you, Kana.
It is our pleasure, Beau said, saving Chek from speaking. The
Kana still looked uncertain, eyes avoiding meeting the Desen.

KeloBeesh took his leave, scurrying away to begin his


preparations as Beau and Chek trailed after him. Giving the alien a
sidelong glance he saw that his companion still seemed at unease.
How are you holding up?
I not understand the phrase, Chek said blankly.
Are you ok, Beau simplified.
Hesitating, Chek clicked his beak anxiously, I do not know. All my
life, I served Empire. Now I know they are not worthy of service. I stand
by those I thought enemies. I have killed many of their kind. It does me
ill for such kindness, when I deserve none.
Never having considered this, Beau wondered just how many
Desen that Chek had killed. It would be foolish to think that the
insectoids didnt think share the same thought. In Cheks presence the
Desen seemed agitated, ready to strike. For good reason he realized.
Kana were renowned for their efficient and ruthless tactics. To the
Desen, Chek was a harbinger of death and despair, just as much as the
Applicators were.
This just made their inherent tolerance and kindness that much
more outstanding.
Perhaps they are willing to put aside their differences for the
good of their people. They may think the same of you, but they see that
aggression isnt the answer.
I do not know of that, Chek twittered doubtfully.

Just think about that. They could have killed you, all of us, and
we wouldnt have seen it coming. But here we are, in their home. Small
steps are all it takes. Maybe if the Kana learn acceptance, the war will
end?
I do not see an end to war, the Kana said.
There was almost sadness in his voice.
These words are strange from a bounty hunter, Chek added.
Im starting to think Ive made the wrong career choices, Beau
said defensively.
Chek didnt respond, but he didnt mind. The avian seemed lost in
thought and Beau still felt strange talking on the principles of life and
killing. Walking through the door of their quarters Chek set himself back
down, replacing his helmet. Laying himself down in his own green pile
across from Quint, Beau finally let himself rest.
His limbs felt like lead and concrete, exhaustion finally overtaking
him. Mind drifting he realized the last he had slept was on the shuttle
to Kaskurst. The trip almost felt like a life time ago and life felt so much
simpler. Before it was kill or be killed and profit from it. Now he wasnt
so sure. Dreamily floating through his foggy thoughts, he was shaken
back to reality with by a soft grip.
Blinking sleepily he looked into gemstone green eyes.
Ginna?
About time youre awake! the Daros said happily.
What are you doing here? Shouldnt you be resting?

I have been. Youve been asleep for a couple of hours! Cide is in


orbit now waiting for us to get to the spaceport!
Looking around the cramped room Beau saw that the group was
on their feet, weapons in hand.
How do you know Cide is already here? he asked.
She smiled and plopped something with significant weight into his
lap. Rubbing the sleep from his eyes, he saw it was his helmet, restored
almost to as it was before it was damaged.
You fixed it?
Cocking an eyebrow, Ginna said playfully, What kind of question
is that?
Oh, right, Beau muttered. Guiltily he remembered the girl only
had use of one hand.
Standing up he returned the familiar armor upon his head.
Systems starting up, his HUD lit up before his eyes. It was good to be
back in his shell. Taking the black helmet from the station he attached it
to his belt. Ginna rose next to him, her legs wobbly. Taking her arm
Beau gave her support to walk.
Were ready to go, Hanson called out to entrance.
Filing out they were greeted by a group of no fewer than twenty
Desen, and four of whom were armed with lethal looking rifles. The
soldiers carried two guns each using their many limbs to double their
firepower. In the middle of the crowd was KeloBeesh, standing out
monstrously with his gigantic form.

Scuttling forward the Desen spread its arms, May these


accompany you?
Yes, of course, Beau said, Im sorry we cant take more.
We are only but a few hundred of this Hive. Those you take will
return. You do us well, KeloBeesh said. Now, please, follow. This one
hopes you are well prepared.
Leading them towards the outskirts of the underground city, the
Desen took the company towards the sealed tunnel to the quarantine.
However, to his surprise, KeloBeesh came to a halt several meters
away from the entrance.
Gripping a large stone, he and three other Desen pushed it aside
revealing a short but wide vent. By the looks of it crawling through
would be a tight squeeze but possible to navigate through. Peeling the
grate aside, KeloBeesh opened the vent as the echoed growls from
within rebounded into the main cave.
Here you may enter. Beau, the weapons you will need for your
plan are located in the armory close to the port. Please, keep my
people safe, the Desen said to the hunters.
Youre not coming? Dr. Hanson asked.
No, my Hive needs me here. We will wait for the full evacuation.
Beckoning them into the vent KeloBeesh continued, Our faith is sound
with you. Thank you, hunters.
Bidding their farewells they crawled into the hole, shortly
followed by the soldier and civilian Desen. Edging over the rough stone

Beau looked behind him to Ginna. She was trooping on, her pale face
flushed but determined.
Stay close to me when we get on the other side, he said quietly
to her.
Gazing up she nodded her acknowledgement. Ahead Hess and
Chek had reached the opposite opening and held the grate open for the
large group. On the opposite side of the barricade the colony was in
shambles. Rubbish and scraps littered the dark tunnel, crunching
underfoot. Exposed wires still sparked around their destroyed lighting,
sending flashes through the blackness. The carved stone walls were
splattered much as the halls of Kaskurst had been.
Gripping his arm Ginna shook unsteadily, relying on her friend for
support.
Here, Ill carry you, Beau said hunching down.
Thank you, the Daros replied, climbing on his back.
Reassuring his grip on her with his left arm, Oviness extended to
grab his sword for him. Clicking the blade out, the Hagolen kept the
form of a human arm save for its snake like quality.
Activating his communications system on his wrist pad, he hailed
the droid waiting for them.
Were on our way now. Be ready for some passengers.
Yes, sir, Cide replied.
Lights flashed on from the group, lighting the grisly burrow.
Taking point two Desen warriors began to lead them forward, followed

by the hunters and civilians and finally tailed by the remaining two
soldiers.
The sound of mandibles chattering nervously surrounded them,
the uneasy thick in the air. Once again Beau tried to imagine what HG00 did to Desen. As kind as they were, the species was rather
intimidating looking, and the Applicators could only make them more
horrific.
Creeping through the winding passage the terror that had befallen
the Hive became more and more evident. Chunks of dried meat
covered in chitin littered the rock flooring, blood dried to a black crust.
Death clung to this place, and the not so distant calls of freaks promised
more.
Holding their arms out, the soldiers halted the group. Aiming their
lights around the two waved their antenna in the air as if searching.
Clacking to each other the pair moved forward cautiously.
Dropping from the ceiling three massive forms fell to the guides,
their cries splitting the air and their innumerable glinting through shiny
plaque and grit.
Busy tearing the Desen leads to shreds Beau was able to get a
good look at the monsters. A massive maw cleaved down to the midriff
of the insectoid freaks with unseeing pale eyes set above the jagged
teeth. Their many limbs were twice as long as the average Desens, the
shell textured and colored almost exactly like the cave walls. Most
disturbingly were the enhanced mandibles was still posed on the upper
jaw, pulling the uninfected Desen into their gullets.

Having not much time to truly process the sight Beau acted
quickly. Lunging out, Oviness thrust forward clutching the bounty
hunters sword. Engulfing one of the mutated Desen whole she ravaged
the freak, the blade finding its way in between the plating. Those who
carried weapons opened fire, unloading round after round into the
remaining creatures. Falling to the hailing attacks the morphed bodies
crumpled, their tattered, gunky flesh mixing with the warriors who just
met their end.
Retreating back to his side Oviness reformed into his arm as the
hunters took the lead. Joining them at the front the surviving Desen
soldiers kept their dual rifles aimed high and even, chattering
incoherently. Stepping over the ruined bodies they pushed onward,
vigilant and on edge.
Is that what they looked like on Kaskurst? Ginna whispered.
Pretty much, Beau replied softly.
Unable to fully see her expression, he heard her mutter Gross,
to herself. Ahead the tunnel branched away to the right, the left
passage echoing much more loudly than the other. Leading them to the
right the soldiers glanced warily at the left hand side, antenna
drooping.
Whats down that way? Beau asked.
Fumbling with its equipment one of the Desen soldiers whirled
one of the linguistic orbs between its hands saying, The Hive.
Being so close to what had once been home must be painful
knowing what a hell hole it had become. Moving along the uneven path

each Desen looked down the way to home, to all they had once known.
Beau had no such connections, his home where ever he saw fit.
Sometimes it was his ship, other times renting out a small room on a
backwater world. Whatever worked was how he had lived, it fit his
lifestyle.
Turning his head slightly he looked sidelong at Ginna. It had fit
him, but what about her? Maybe it was time for a change. She
deserved a real home, not quarters on a space ship.
Lost in thought he almost tripped as the ground stared sloping
upwards. Catching his footing he looked up and saw the faintest of a
pinpoint of natural light. Flickering ahead were feral shadows, blotting
out the sunlight as freaks wandered the outside and inner lip of the
tunnel.
Guns aimed and ready the small crowd advanced upward
carefully. Beside him, Quint had his bead set straight, his glowing eyes
flicking every which way.
Holding up alright kid?
Ye-yeah, I t-think so, the young man said.
Unsure of how to precede further, Beau decided now wasnt the
time to reassure of speak. Thunking ahead good sized rock tumbled
down the incline, followed by a slithering mass. To his surprise Quint
was the first to shoot, the nervous, timid boy being the first to react to
danger. A crack shot through the air and hit the Desen freak dead on,
slowing it but not killing it. After a few short moments it lay dead,
riddled with holes from the groups cache of weapons. Quints bullet

gave them the opportunity they needed to take it down within a matter
of seconds.
Beau couldnt help but feel impressed by Quints shot.
Peeling away from the walls and ceiling more dormant monsters
reared up to be met by a storm of bullets. Fighting now was much
different, the hunters much more prepared for conflict. Before they
were sent in with what they had on hand but now they had the backing
of a platoons worth of ammunition.
One by one the freaks that dared charge them fell lifeless to the
ground, those not killed by gunfire sliced and lacerated by Beaus
sword. Oviness reached far out, dodging and weaving up to twenty
meters away ahead as she half dragged Beau forward. The opening to
the space port was as big as his fist now by comparison, lighting the
tunnel enough for there to be no more need for flashlights.
Slowing their pace the last of the mutated insects fell limply to
dust as blood and bile oozed from its mouth, its corpse pumped full of
lead. Reaching the tunnel entrance they stayed in the shadows, the
civilian Desen clicking fearfully to each other.
Outside was a great clearing, the patched, even ground bathed in
the fading rays of red sunlight. It lay in a great bowl of metal workings
and Desen spit, shielding ships taking off and landing from the vicious
torrents of wind. Scraps from ship hulls and the frameworks of
dismantled craft lay chaotically in the space port, the twisted metal
jutting from the dirt. Within the starship grave yard sat one remaining
intact ship, nestled at the far end of the port.

Even from here, Beau could see it was in fact the shuttle they had
taken to Kaskurst. Scattered about the ship were dozens of corpses,
Desen freaks that had no doubt met the bloodthirsty Ohin. Walking
through the bodies a few dozen living monsters milled about, several
clinging to the surface of the ship. At the distance, Beau wasnt too sure
but it looked as if they were trying to peel the plating away.
He couldnt let the shuttle become like the shells around him.
Sir, I am closing in on your position now, Cides voice said in his
ear.
On the horizon, just over the edge of the rugged wall, Beau could
just barely make out the familiar circle of his ship. Hitching Ginna up
higher on his back Beau marched forward staying mindful of the sharp
strips of metal.
Unfortunately not many were as mindful as he. Behind him one of
the Desen civilians became tangled in wiring, the cords still attached to
a framework of a large ship. Through its struggles to break free the
Desen pulled the metal beams it was connected to crashing down,
crushing the insectoid with several others.
Rebounding throughout the domed structure, the sound of metal
on metal tore through air accompanied by the sickening crunch of the
unlucky Desen being squashed. At once the creatures detached from
the ship and began scurrying toward the company at break neck speed.
We didnt even make it out ten steps, Ginna moaned.
Bounding toward them the freak Desens bodies split to reveal
their gaping mouths filled with gore stained fangs. From behind back in

the darkness of the passageway rang the enraged screams of more


monsters, attracted by the tremendous crash.
Theyll be coming from both sides! Beau shouted.
Moving to the rear the soldiers placed themselves firmly between
the civilians and the tunnel. Hess and Quint began to shoot at the
advancing Desen as Chek provided supporting fire. Unable to really get
into the thick of the combat Beau held his ground as the Hagolen burst
forth with a burning fury, laying waste to the freaks. She split in two,
Beaus sword in one appendage and the hidden knife jutting from the
other. Twining about the gun shot she ravaged the battlefield, leaving
only tattered chunks of gore behind her attacks.
From the back spurts of gunfire filled the air as the soldiers fired
into the opening, bringing down unseen terrors rushing toward the
port. Oviness and the hunters had almost finished taking down the
freaks that blocked their path to the shuttle as puddles of blood began
pooling about the wreckage.
Overhead the roar of engines rattled the air as Cide brought the
Rabbit Hole lower, the ship swaying slightly against the winds. The ships
powerful thrusters kept it mostly even as the space craft descended
down into the bowl of the space port.
Now clear, the path ahead was free of any immediate threats.
Calling out Beau shouted for the Desens to make a run for the ship. Just
as the Rabbit Hole came level to the ground, extending the boarding
ramp, an explosive of writhing bodies erupted from the mouth of the
tunnel. Countless monsters insect freaks poured out over taking the
soldiers and the few civilian aliens that stood close by. Reacting on

instinct those that saw their brethren torn to pieces turned tail and
bounded toward Beaus ship, their many legs carrying them over the
carnage of mutants and shrapnel.
With the area clear of friendly targets Beau ordered into his mic,
Cide open fire!
In moments red bolts flashed past from the ship, lighting the port
with their burning energy. Hitting the swarm of insectoids they were
burst into flaming pieces, the charred giblets of flesh flying through the
air. Blast after blast ripped the ground apart, decimating all life from
the tunnel entrance in a storm of plasma. Smoldering craters dotted
the ground about the mouth of the cave, which itself had doubled in
size from the torrent of explosions. Blackened chunks of bodies smoked
everywhere and not a trace of movement could be seen.
How many made it on board? Beau asked Cide over his helmets
comm link.
Eight survivors are on board, sir, the droid replied.
Eight. Out of the near twenty that accompanied them, only eight
made it out alive, including the warriors that were to aid them in the
scheme to strike against the Kana. But they had delivered a handful of
refugees, and from them soon this whole colony would be saved.
Reaching the Rabbit Hole, Cide met them at the landing ramp.
Gently letting go of Ginna, the Daros jumped down from his back.
Ginna, go with Cide, we have to go back into the Hive, Beau told
her?

What? Were done, we can leave! she exclaimed distress


flooding her voice.
Ginna, you have to understand. If we just leave and dont turn
the doctor over to the Kana, their entire Empire will hunt us down.
Then let me come with you, Ginna said, you said you wouldnt
leave me again.
Youll see me again soon, I promise. But I need to know youre
safe. Go with Cide, please, Beau begged.
Tears threatened to leak from her eyes as her brow furrowed in
sadness and anger. Despite this, she nodded and turned her back on
him saying softly, Dont die this time, ok?
Following her gaze Beau saw she was looking at the crusted blood
that stained his armor, the blood that spilled from his own throat.
I wont, he said.
Her green eyes stared into his as if he werent hidden by his
helmet. With that, she broke her gaze and walked past Cide into the
interior of the ship, finally safe from any more harm. Turning to the
youngest hunter, Beau regarded Quint.
Go with them, he told the boy.
A-are you s-sure?
Yes. If Ginna needs help with her arm, Cide wont be able to do
anything. I need you to take care of her. Please.
Ok, Quint said, Ill do w-whatever I c-can.

Hopping aboard, Quint filed past the droid, looking back briefly at
the hunters. As he disappeared around the bend, Cide stepped down
the ramp.
What are you orders?
Take the Desen to the nearest Hive and wait for me there. When
you reach the Hive send me the coordinates and well do what we can
to help the colony after we finish this.
I didnt realize we had become a refugee service, the droid said
as his personality chip kicked in.
Not in the mood for the droids sass Beau replied sharply, Just
take the Desen, Cide. Or Ill leave you deactivated for a week.
Harsh, sir, the droid replied, I will take them and we will wait.
Keep Ginna safe, Beau told Cide as the droid ascended the
walkway.
Yes sir, Ill make she doesnt suffer so much as a scrapped knee.
Closing with a hiss of air the ramp sealed itself. Moments later the
Rabbit Hole began to lift away, racing toward the stars within seconds.
Breathing a sigh, Beau turned to the few that remained with him, the
last of the party.
Ok, lets get started, he said, Hess and Hanson prep the shuttle
for launch. Chek, Oviness and I will go find the armory and well be back
as soon as possible.

We will be ready, Hess said as she twisted on her heel toward


the ship. Hanson hurried off behind her, not quite able to match her
long stride.
As the pair left them, Beau looked over to Chek, whose armor
shone with the last rays of sunlight.
Ready?
The orange face plate turned face Beaus own mask with a nod,
and together the readied themselves and ventured back to the tunnel.
Underfoot the cooked meat of the Desen crackled, the sound more
than slightly unsettling. Once again, little bulbs flashed out from the
Kanas shoulder pads as he clicked the mounted light of his rifle on.
Beau pressed a finger to the side of his helmet and turned on his own
single beam.
All about them carcasses lay, the unseeing glazed eyes gazing at
them. There was no telling how many more of these waited down in
the Hive below, and Beau only hoped they made some kind of dent in
its populace. The Applicators could only infect so many while the freaks
they created murdered anything else. Beau still didnt like the odds.
While dozens and dozens died by the hands of the hunters and Cide
obliterated that much more, there was a whole Hive festering under
them.
From his arm Oviness reached out and split into three limbs. The
mid appendage glowed with a blue luminesce while the other two bore
his weapons. Lighting the whole area around them for a few meters
Oviness waved to and fro searching for Desen waiting to ambush them.

Only twice she struck out with lightning speed, spearing a freak waiting
to drop onto its prey.
Finally they met the branching paths and listened carefully down
the passage way that led to the infected Hive. Faintly the sounds of
distant cries echoed to them, and to his surprise they seemed
diminished. Maybe they had made a difference. As he thought this
Beau remembered Ohin was somewhere in the Hive, no doubt on a
warpath. Oviness had shown she was more than capable of handling
the mutants even when attached to Beaus torso, dismantling bodies
effortlessly even with the hindrance of being connected to another life
form. The prospect of a fully independent Hagolen was terrifying, the
destruction Ohin could unleash unmatched by anything anyone could
do single handedly.
Stepping tentatively down the path they kept their guard up.
Creeping silently along they met no conflict, the only sound to be heard
was the soft scuff of their feet and the far off wrenching cries.
Glistening wetly in the beams of light, dead freaks lay in heaps of
carnage. No bullet wounds or energy burns could be seen, the damage
done dealt by what looked to be bite marks and flesh torn forcefully
from the body. Ohin was definitely the perpetrator of the gruesome
acts, leaving hardly any of the Desen with more than half their body.
The alien blood was just beginning to dry, the thick sludge of gore
sticking to the bottom of their boots with sickening splats. Beau
remembered the crew members on Kaskurst, just outside the
command deck. It sunk in that Ohin had been killing pointlessly just as
much as the monsters the crew had helped create.
Ohin came this way, keep an eye out for her, Beau told Chek.

Yes, the Kana replied as he stepped through the mess.


Before them the signs of death multiplied until there wasnt an
inch of stone unstained by blood and alien innards.
This is insane, how can one being possibly do this, Beau
muttered as his light revealed the disgusting sight.
Hagolen are not one being, but the sum of all creatures, Oviness
said, We are creatures of perfection, as science has often called us.
Hanson was fortunate to detain us without losing his life. He may have
been the only being to ever devise a means to subdue and contain us.
How did he do it? Beau asked.
A gravity field stronger than a hundred times of this planet, she
replied, He forced us down to into submission, unable to move or
resist. Any other lifeform would have been crushed under their own
weight.
Oh, Beau said blankly unsure how to respond.
This is why Ohin is so resentful and destructive. It was torturous,
and she grew to be filled with hate and rage. I was too, for a time. But I
realized that harboring such emotions had no gain, and only worked
against me.
What made you realize that?
A pair of eyes formed on Beaus hand, forming out of the armor to
look straight up at him.
You did, Oviness said.
At a loss for words as ever, he flushed under his armor.

Ahead, Chek said breaking the moment.


Before them inky blackness waited in a wide opening, the bloody
swath carrying on into the darkness. Stepping into the main cavern of
the Hive, they shined their lights about, the beams not even reaching
the ceiling. Here the buildings were of better make, more concrete in
their form in neat rows. The construction was much more elaborate,
the architecture carved with swirling stones and stilt like supports.
Holes covered the surface of the structures, the porthole entrances
designed for the Desen filled with shadows.
All about the calls of the freaks rang against the cavern walls,
making pinpointing their location impossible. Relaying on his HUD,
Beau trusted the movement tracker in the corner, only showing himself
and Chek within the vicinity. It appeared any signs of life in the area had
been drawn to and wiped away by Ohin, leaving the way clear for the
pair.
Fine cobbled streets inlaid with Desen excretion stretched out in
front of them, a steep contrast to the rough carved roads of the
uninfected half of the colony. Walking slowly through the buildings
Oviness wove in and out of the buildings searching for the armory as
Beau and Chek stood guard while she searched.
Shadows flickered at the edge of his vision while he waited for the
Hagolens exploration, raising his nerves on end. He knew Oviness
rewired his brain against his hallucinations, leaving Beau to assume that
the apparent movement was a mutant, or worse Ohin. However when
his head twisted to bear light to the shadows, he saw nothing.
His nerves were starting to get to him.

Emerging from her most recent excursion Oviness urged them


further down the underground city. Passing block after block the small
group searched surrounded all the while by unsettling scenes of death.
Being at the epicenter of the HG-00 outbreak was eerie, the once
flourishing colonys only inhabitants now turned to primal beasts that
howled and moaned. To be at the center of a place that once held
thousands and thousands of lives that were now snuffed out sent an
odd jab through Beaus mind. Dwelling idly on these thoughts Beau
caught a glimpse that sent a spark of adrenaline through his veins.
Through one of the Desen portholes, a faint blue light glimmered
from the interior.
Oviness, Beau whispered quietly through his helmets speaker.
Slithering back to his side the Hagolen opened her mouth and
then she too caught the telltale glow of the Applicator.
Lets go, she said determinedly.
Tugging him forward she lead Beau and Chek to the building that
held the blockhead. Creeping up the side of the wall Oviness extended
into a spider like form, brimming with fangs and spindly legs. Launching
through the window she pounced on the Applicator, the sounds of their
struggle echoing through the enormous cavern.
A body was thrown through the circular opening, the glowing aura
about its head blinking out as the metallic head smashed against the
pavement. Beau stumbled back to avoid the plummeting body as it
crashed into the ground, blood and little bits of machinery hitting
against his armor.

Scuttling out Oviness dropped to the ground on her many legs,


morphing back into Beaus arm.
Apparently this was an administration building. I saw a layout of
the main colony, so that is convenient. We got lucky to be in the central
Hive, there are about six other districts that are connected to the main
city. The armory is near the center of this district, she said as her
shape solidified, I also saw just how large the colony is. The main
cavern is about twice as large as the poorer district, with a population
of about four times as much. I think we shouldnt engage any more
infected least we alert the horde.
No arguments from me. Lead the way, Beau said as he walked
around the broken blue body.
Weaving around they dodged any encounters with Desen freaks
before their paths crossed. Using nocturnally adapted eyes Oviness
warned them when to divert their route into alleys and crevices. Their
course was going rather smoothly given the fact they were in the midst
of a doomed city.
Closing in on the center of the Hive Beau saw that a massive
column rose from the floor up into the shadows above, the light of
Applicators emanating like orbs over its surface.
Its not part of that pillar is it?
No, the armory is about three blocks away now, Oviness told
him.
Telling him this, a blip appeared on Beaus HUD, alerting him of
movement close by.

Hold on, something just moved up ahead, Beau warned.


Alright well find another way around, Oviness told him.
Moving silently across the street they detoured around the
unknown enemy, dimming their lights as to not attract its attention.
Even as they reached the safety of the enclosed avenue the little blip
on his radar seemed to stalk them. Straining his ears Beau tried to catch
the scuttle of a Desen or whatever form Ohin could have taken, but he
heard nothing.
Instead, the blip passed right over them, stopping just in front of
the exit to the alley that they had taken refuge in. Holding his hand out
Beau held Chek from advancing any further.
Wait, he whispered.
Turning the brightness of the light attached to his helm, Beau
pointed the soft beam of light down toward what was waiting to
ambush.
Glimmering with moistness, an enormous, skinless creature sat,
reflective eyes glittering in the light. As the light struck its face, the wide
mouth spread as if grinning, long dagger like teeth dripping with saliva
as bile seeped over its rotten looking gums. A whip like tongue coiled
about inside its jaw as it unleashed an ear splitting roar, the sound so
great that his helmet kicked in audio dampeners to prevent his
eardrums from bursting.
If nothing were aware of them now, that had definitely changed.
As the monster extended an arm with saber like claws, Beau
realized that this gigantic monster was an Aguon, one of the native

gliding lizards that inhabited Lashada. Somehow an Applicator had


managed to inject its poison into the beast, turning it into the
nightmare before them. All of the scales on its skin had molted away,
leaving the wet raw meat revealed. Whatever Hanson had done to
cause mutations for a psychological attack effect, he had done it all too
well. The thing before him instilled a hard coal like lump of terror in his
throat a he wheeled back away from its grasp.
Oviness reacted much more gracefully than Beau, pinning the
folds of skin that the Aguon used for gliding to the wall. To their
astonishment, the beast reeled its arm back, simply tearing the flesh
away. Blood poured from the wound, splashing in downpour onto the
gray slabs of stone. Chek regained his composure and let out a rattle of
gunfire to little affect, the beast barely reacting to the bullets.
Lashing out, the mutated creatures tongue wrapped around
Oviness and began dragging her toward its cavernous maw. Beau dug in
his heels as too appendages speared out from the Hagolens body,
embedding themselves into the wall. It was a vicious tug of war, a war
that Beau and Oviness were starting to lose. Slipping under the
tremendous pull, the bounty hunter began sliding forward as Ovinesss
body was reeled in.
Retracting her holding the shape shifter allowed herself to be
pulled in. Jaws snapping close, the Aguon freak swallowed her whole,
still attached to Beau. Struggling against the muscles pulling him closer,
he heaved his right arm fruitlessly to pull Oviness out.
When his hopelessness and panic began to consume him, the
Aguons head burst apart, showering him and Chek in a fountain of gray
matter and shards of bone. In the center of where its head had once

been stood Oviness, a great tumor like mass of hard bone that had
expanded from within the monster. Rivets of ooze seeped from her
surface as Oviness shrank back down to form Beaus arm, the organic
armor to mimic his growing from her skin.
Sorry about that, I didnt think to do that at first, she said
simply.
Wiping the much from his visor Beau was dumbstruck.
How about a little warning next time, this is disgusting, he said
his voice shaking.
Beside him Chek struggled to wipe the bits of brain and blood
from his orange face plate, the armor clad talons doing nothing to
remove it from the surface. Assisting his friend, Beau swiped the gunk
away for the Kana as best he could; he started cleaning off most of the
mess except for a few slight smears on the visor. Muttering to himself
in his native chirping, Chek angrily pulled a wire brush from a pouch
and quickly scrubbed out the barrel of his gun.
Never again, he finally said in English.
Toeing around the immense carcass Beau and Chek followed
Ovinesss lead once more. As they passed the animals body, he noticed
as leather belt adorned with broken chains dangling loosely. That
answered the question of how the Aguon became infected, it simply
couldnt have gotten away. With the newfound drive to kill and devour
the beast must have used its strength to break free from the home of
its former owner.

He couldnt begin to fathom what kind of Desen would keep one


of the lizards as pet, given that the creatures eat bugs to begin with.
On course once more they crossed the final few blocks blissfully
without any more hellish encounters. Oviness inspected the buildings
as they passed; softly exclaiming as they finally came across the elusive
armory. Clambering through the Desen doorway they found themselves
inside a lobby composed of metal paneling. Past a desk were two
sealed hatchways, apparently the means to travel up and down the
structure instead of an elevator.
The armory should be a few levels below us now, she said.
No power, Chek said, looking across the lobby to hatchway that
leads downward.
Doesnt matter, she said as Beaus arm changed to paper thin
threads that hung limply to his side. Striding across the room he held
his arm out as the ribbons slid into the cracks of the hatch, prying it
open soundlessly.
Inside was a ridged vertical tunnel that reached upward and
dropped nauseatingly downward. Climbing in Beau lowered himself
feeling for the footholds that were hidden in the dark. To aid him,
Oviness began to illuminate once more, the gentle blue light filling the
metal tube.
After about a minute of descending, Oviness told him to stop.
Breaching the covering for him the Hagolen snaked ahead as Beau
eased himself inside. He had entered another lobby room; however this
one seemed much more secure. Unseeing cameras dotted the corners,
and a security checkpoint was planted right before the hatch.

Walking through the gateway of detectors Beau met Oviness at


the opposite side of the room. Already she was at work opening the
next access way. Slipping through the creases the ribbons of flesh
wormed their way about the inner mechanics broke the electronic seal.
Most of the racks inside had been ransacked, the weapons taken during
the infection. Between the racks were more hatchways, however these
were unsecured save for two on the back wall.
Shimming across the ground Oviness broke into both weapons
vaults, Beau searching one while the Hagolen investigated the vaults
twin. Inside the munitions locker were shelves of small canisters,
slightly bigger than his hand. Desen writing was etched into the side,
the foreign language as good as chicken scratch to the human.
Shrugging, Beau clipped three to his belt; he was certain any grenade
like objects would find some use in the damned Hive.
Sticking her head in Oviness said quietly, Found what we need.
The Kana wont know what hit them.
She seemed pleased, and as Beau walked back into the main
room of the weapons vault he was greeted by the alien holding a
warhead. The dark metal of the missile almost blended in with the dark
flesh that held it in a twisting hold. It seemed light weight and was
about half as big as he was.
Biting a lip behind his visor Beau asked, Is this really the only
way?
The serpentine head turned to the human, the voice sympathetic,
Doing this could end their war, and save an entire civilization, Beau.

This will stop the spread and any further production of HG-00. We have
to do this.
Struggling with an answer, Beau opened his mouth to speak as a
single gunshot rang out from above.
That cant be good, he said instead, rushing back to the shaft.
Gingerly carrying the missile Oviness glided across the ground
behind him, keeping it from any hard impacts. Pulling himself back up
one handed the hunter painstakingly raced skyward, practicing the
same caution least they experience a premature detonation. Coming
level with the ground floor lobby he peaked over the edge of the hatch.
Crouched behind the desk with his gun at the ready was Chek, his
back pressed to the rooms long, lone desk. The Kana didnt notice
Beaus return and jumped when the man spoke.
Whats going on?
Recovering from the startle Chek crawled, his armor emitting
somewhat audible clanks.
Someone outside, the alien said, his twittering voice dark.
Dragging himself out he stayed low as he helped Oviness wedge
the warhead through the hole. Settling next to the two males, she
regarded Chek, Is it a mutant? An Applicator?
Shaking his head Chek only said, Human.
This struck Beau as odd, as humans werent allied with the Desen
Empire as they were with the Kana and Demur. Humans choosing to

live amongst the insectoid aliens were unheard of, let alone a human
living in the main Hive.
Did you see who it was? Beau asked.
Again the Kana shook his head, No, they shot at me. I found
cover.
As bizarre as it was a human could be at the Hive, one that was
willing to shoot at strangers was bad news. Beau couldnt imagine it
could be a resident. The only solution he could come to was a looter,
one of the passing hunters looking for Aguon trophies to mount on a
wall that stumbled upon the city.
Ok so some idiot wants to kill us. Its three to one, we can just
rush them and take care of it, Beau whispered.
Carefully placing the black tube down Oviness said softly, I agree,
at most they will probably only expect two opponents.
Lets get this over with, Beau said, beginning to feel anxious,
Were not helping ourselves just sitting here.
Oviness formed a small eye and peeped over the top of the desk.
I cant directly see them, but there is definitely someone on the
outside, she said as she became a perfect replica of Beaus arm to
surprise the would be ambusher.
Ready, Chek muttered as he brought his rifle to bear.
Together they jumped the desk, flashing their lights on and bolted
to attack the stranger. At the sound of their footsteps the figure twisted

into the circular door frame. As their light hit them Beau almost face
planted in shock.
Pen.
The kind face of the man crinkled warmly, the bushy beard hiding
his smile. A smile that had welcomed Beau at all times. A smile he had
come to trust in the short amount of time he had known it. He saw
again the genuine grin of someone who was accepting all that he was.
I thought I killed you, Pen said.
Pens hand whipped out, the fingers becoming sword like as they
wrapped around his body and slammed him to the ground. Oviness
reacted instantly, lashing out from his arm coiling around the limb that
pinned Beau done. Adopting the same sword like qualities she severed
the arm, freeing the human from its deadly grip.
With a rough scream the stump yanked away, reforming slowly
into a new hand as it recoiled. Holding the bleeding wound to his side,
Pen glared at the bounty hunter and his morphed arm as the skin of his
face shifted. Shards of teeth grew from the false Pens mouth,
decimating the charm of his visage.
How dare you? Ohin roared, the last of the dead mans form
fading away.
Striking out again she moved to attack Beau, but her offensive
maneuver was intercepted by Oviness. Intertwining with together the
forms of the Hagolen tore at each other. Chek stood uncertainly, his
gun at the ready but hesitant.
Shoot! Beau shouted.

Oviness? Chek said desperately.


The Kana was unable to open fire in fear of wounding their ally,
the writhing forms too similar in their vicious struggle.
Oviness change color! Beau exclaimed.
Amidst the chaos of limbs tearing each other apart and the sprays
of blood, one of the masses changed a stark white. Almost at once the
tangled body of Ohin matched, making it impossible once again to
differentiate between the two. Again and again the colors changed,
from white to blue to green to black, the hues flashing quickly in haste.
As the secondary battle of color waged so did the war of the physical
and Beau was beginning to feel the toll as his symbiont was starting to
wan. Pain shot through his arm, back, neck and brain as each wound
was dealt to Oviness.
Fiercely thinking Beau tried to ignore the agony seeping across his
body. Inspiration struck him as a clanking rattle came from his belt as
his body shook with Ovinesss pain.
As if feeling his intentions, the Hagolen shrank back from the
onslaught, twisting out from the violent fight. Forming excruciatingly
back into his arm, the shape was warped and oozed dark blood to the
floor as Ohin took on the form of Pen once more.
Seeing his chance Chek aimed his gun, but Beau held out his good
arm to stay his fire.
Youre not so strong anymore more now, are you, Pens voice
jeered at the wounded limb, You never should have taken this
abomination when you escaped. It made you weak. But you deserve

this. Even after what they did to us, you betrayed our kind for this lab
rat.
What was once Pens face split in half with a wicked grin, devoid
of the kindness that graced its surface.
Now just die.
Leaping forward Ohin stretched her jaws wide, not dissimilar to
the freak Aguon they encountered. With lightening reflexes Beau
grabbed one of the strange canisters that hung from his belt, tossing it
down the monster Pens throat. Seeing what Beau had done, Chek
squawked and ducked once again behind the desk.
Gagging, Ohins momentum carried her forward straight to Beau.
Kicking out his boot caught her in the chest and sent her reeling back.
Falling on her back, Beau met the eyes of Hagolen parading as Pen
as her form solidified perfectly as the man. In that moment, the Desen
grenade exploded, sending Pens body into a fireball as it was wiped
away, the blast sending Beau flying back. Launched through the air he
slammed into the desk, the blow knocking the air from him. If he hadnt
been wearing armor he had no doubt his spine would have been
broken.
Slumping against the ground Beau steadied himself with his left
hand. Sinking in what he had just witness wounded him more than Ohin
had than tearing off his arm.
He had witnessed how Pen had actually died, his sacrifice to
ensure that Ginnas life would be saved. If the bounty saboteur hadnt
caused an explosion, he and Beau would have been over run, and the

Daros would have probably wilted to her injuries. Shaken Beau fought
to control himself, his eyes stuck to where Ohin posing has Pen had
died.
Her death brought retribution to Pen, but this did nothing to quail
the dull weight in his chest. Pen, the only other human that treated him
as a man and not a contract killer, who had planted the seed of
sympathy for life, was well and truly gone. As a bounty hunter the most
interaction he had with other beings were for contracts or deals or a
profit to be brought in. Despite the dire and forced situation, Beau had
felt a connection with Pen and the others, a comradery that he had
never felt before, regardless of any differences they had.
Looking down at his blackened armor he shook his head. Now
wasnt the time for such thoughts after watching a phantom faade of a
man burst, he should be feeling triumphant. But there was only a
hollow sadness that clung to his mind. Bringing himself up to a knee, his
last thought on the matter was that maybe it was simply an
appreciation for being treated more than what he was.
Hopping up from the desk Chek stood over Beau, extending a
taloned hand. Taking it the man allowed himself to be hoisted to his
feet.
Ok? the Kana asked.
Beaus back still stung from the collision and he had no doubt it
was probably bruised, and his had still swam from the connected pain
of Oviness.
Ill manage, he grunted.

At his side, the arm was coming more to shape, the blood ceasing
from the open sores that covered Ovinesss body. Beau had put
together himself that Hagolen had incredible regenerative properties,
but despite the knowledge he still felt apprehensive.
Oviness? he prompted.
Give me a few minutes, Ill be able to piece myself back
together, she said thickly.
The way her words slurred didnt sit well with the man, only
deepening his concern.
We must go, Chek said, peering out the dark city.
Right, Beau said.
Oviness and Ohin didnt have the most subtle battle. While the
dead shape changer cleared out most of the mutant population in the
area, the sounds of their fight no doubt carried through the cavern. The
grenade probably didnt help the situation either.
Help me with this, he told Chek as he moved to lift the warhead.
Chek cautiously grabbed hold of one end as Beau took the other.
Still too injured to assist, Oviness hung like a flabby wad of meat from
the humans torso. Unable to match each others gaits, the two
awkwardly back tracked their steps.
Feeling outrageously vulnerable, they twisted their heads looking
out for any signs of an oncoming attack from a Desen monster.
Staggering against their own steps they finally passed the lumpy body
of the mutated lizard.

Do you remember where to go from here? Beau asked.


No.
Perfect. Oviness, which way do we go from here?
Shifting lethargically, an eye oozed to the surface of her skin.
Blinking and swiveling about, she said, Left, left, forward, right, left,
and forward if you want an accurate reversal.
Following her directions the armored pair trekked through the
derelict city, the screeches of the freaks sounding closer and more
agitated. Mending herself Oviness became more defined, the armor she
mimicked becoming solid rather than spongy. Over the tired huffs of
carrying the missile, Beau let out a sigh of relief for her recovery.
Echoing around them, the roars closing in snuffed out the fleeting
alleviation. They had clearly been drawn to the skirmish. The time for
stealth was over.
Leg it, Beau said firmly.
Inelegantly they hitched the missile more firmly in their grip and
set themselves at a more frantic pace. The passing blocks were hard to
recognize, the buildings all seemingly identical to every other save from
their artistic patterns. At last through their panicked jog Beau spotted
in the bouncing beam of his light the glint of metal a few buildings
away.
Passing by the smashed body of the blockhead they were almost
in the clear as the reverberating drone of the freaks called too close for
comfort. Risking a look back down the cobbled road Beau saw the
biggest horde of the monsters he had ever seen, a shadowy mass in the

distance. Blue lights spotted the mob bearing light to the horror that
pursued them.
Just run! he shouted.
Returned to her normal self, Oviness bore the burden of the
warhead, though not as strongly as before while Beau and Chek dashed
flat out. Scratching footfalls were filling the air, the volume bellowing
up in a crescendo as the massive crowd began closing the gap.
Winding through the streets the dangerous retracing of their
steps began to feel like a countdown. Again Beau looked back to see
the throng of bodies was even closer, the hungry primal beings hot on
their heels.
It was a blessing when the open tunnel was in view, only a few
blocks away.
Beau, prepare the too grenades! Oviness shouted of the
cacophony of screams.
Fumbling with his free hand he tugged the small tubes from his
belt. Keeping his fingers close to the safety switch on the top he poised
his arm ready to toss the explosives to the back.
Dont use them yet, just have them ready! the Hagolen said.
Their feet met unpaved stone, their boots scuffing on the rocky
floor. As they crossed into the tunnel, an appendage shot Ovinesss
body, puncturing a pair of hole in the stone ceiling. Taking the grenades
from Beau she jammed them in the gaps and activated them.

Not needing to be urged to run, Beau and Chek dashed away. A


tendril of pure muscle the Hagolen supported herself by the humans
side, burdening the missile in thin air. After running over ten meters the
explosives burst, and the shockwave sending tremors through the
caves. Behind them the satisfying rumble of the entrance collapsing
made Beau turn his head back. Ovinesss plan had worked, sealing the
opening to the tunnel.
Scrambling claws gashed against the barrier on the other side in
vain. Not even the light of the Applicators shone through the cracks the
cave in was so opaque.
Back to shuttle, Chek said with heavy voice.
Pivoting they trekked back to the space port, eager to leave
Lashada behind for good. Night had fallen on the surface, the trickle of
light from above extinguished. To illuminate their way Oviness became
bioluminescent as she did before. Seeing once again the shattered lives
of the freaks laying in the dust brought a new vigor to their steps.
Beau was done. He was tired of the panic and the adrenaline
rushing through his veins, he was tired of the weight of his armor and
the constant movement. Weariness was taking ahold of his body, the
aches and soreness throbbing across his body. Cleansing the exhaustion
from his being the rumble of rocks echoed through the tunnels
followed by the renewed screams of freaks.
Maybe the barricade hadnt been strong enough.
Somewhere in the darkness the swarm was careening towards
them. Struggling through with his tired legs Beau scrambled up the
sloped tunnel after Chek. In the inky blackness it was almost impossible

to tell when they would break to even ground, but thankfully his foot
found the dirt of the space ports landing.
Dodging between the shrapnel that stuck from the earth Beau
and Chek launched themselves toward the shuttle. Like thunder the
horde spilled out of the mouth of the passage in a cascade of bodies as
they reached the vessel. From the air lock Hanson held out a hand,
pulling the two onboard.
Alright, I got them, take off! the doctor called to the cockpit.
Engines roared and flared as the shuttle lifted from the ground.
Sputtering they rose in the air before falling back the few feet they had
risen.
Whats the problem? Hanson wailed.
Landing gear stuck to ground, Hess called as she rushed from
the pilots seat.
Where are you going? Beau asked as the Bleen passed.
Grabbing her rifle she stepped into the airlock before anyone
could stop her. Her white eyes stared at them as the seal slammed shut
as she said softly, End war.
WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Beau roared.
Running to one of the view ports the human struggled to see what
the black skinned alien was doing. From the flares of the engines he
saw her aiming her rifle at the underside of the shuttle. An enormous
beam of energy blasted from her muzzle, and the shuttle launched
itself into the air as the landing gear had been severed.

Chek rushed to the cockpit to regain control of the craft as it


spiraled upwards in the air, the thrust tossing them higher and higher.
Still looking through the window Beau saw the wave of freaks and
blockheads reach where the shuttle had rested. Straining his eyes, he
barely saw the shadow of Hess bounding away, her scarlet scarf visible
in the fires of plasma that propelled the ship. Disappearing down one of
the abandoned tunnels that surrounded the port, the Bleen swiftly
escaped the horde, losing herself to the network of caves and passages.
Sinking in to his seat he wished for Hesss safety. He wouldnt let
the chance she gave them go to waste.
On the ground below the throng of monsters seemed lost.
Unable to attack what had grabbed their attention the mob spread
apart as the shuttle lifted beyond reach. Wind rocked the small craft as
it broke over the edge of the space port; however with a functional
craft Chek proved to be a capable pilot against the gale.
Tearing through the dark sky they raced to orbit as Chek
announced he was preparing to jump to the coordinates provided on
the nav card. Off in the distance, on a faraway island a massive
silhouette was aflame, the remnants of Kaskurst burning the expanses
it had landed on. Beau wondered if any crew members were still hiding
aboard the space station when their group had escaped.
Breaking the atmosphere the ship shook as it fought through the
orbit of Lashada. The blue field of energy wrapped around the shuttle,
blocking out the pink waters of the planet as they jolted forward.
The job was done. Well and truly behind him the horrors of
Kaskurst and the effects of HG-00 where long gone. Though he knew his

mind had been healed of the illness he carried before the contract,
Beau knew that the events he lived through would haunt him for the
rest of his life.
All that was left now was to settle with Kana, and execute an
attack to wound the wicked and tyrannical Empire.
Placing the missile delicately to the seats next to Beau, Oviness
unwound herself from it, taking the human shape she used when
reuniting with Beau.
Hess was very brave, she said.
Is, Beau replied, saturating the word with emphasis.
Is, then, Oviness corrected herself.
Leaning out of the cockpit Chek told the resting trio, We going to
Kana Imperial Fleet. We dock with the Kurkane, capitol ship of Grand
Board.
This is good, well be able to do the most damage to the Kana
Empire there, Oviness told the avian.
Bobbing his head Chek ducked back into the pilots seat.
Turning her head to regard Beau, the dark eyes that matched his
own scanned over the visor. Removing his helmet, Beau returned
Ovinesss gaze.
Are you alright?
Im just ready to end this, Beau said sighing.

I know, and soon it will be over. Youve been strong, my son.


Stronger than any human Ive seen, the Hagolen said with a smile.
Beau couldnt help himself with a small grin at his mothers
acknowledgment calling him son.
You should rest. It doesnt seem like you got any real sleep at the
colony, Oviness told him.
No, I feel too wired, Beau said leaning his head on his hand.
Its in your biology, Hanson said a few seats away.
Glaring at the doctor the Hagolen gave him a poisonous look,
however the man continued anyway.
Youre meant to be constantly filled with the urge to hunt and to
be ready to fight. Im sure youve noticed this kind of restlessness
before?
Beau had, all his life he had struggled with feeling wound up, but
he opted not to reply to the other man. Instead, he shared with Oviness
in staring down the doctor.
When I made you, I- he continued.
Shut up, Beau growled.
There must have been a dangerous glint in Beaus eye, because
Hanson ceased speaking abruptly at the sight of him. The doctor was in
no position, had no right, to be speaking of Beaus creation.
Easing into his seat Beau fought down his racing thoughts and the
fidgets in his arm and legs. While he felt like a block of lead he had

trouble finding sleep. After only a couple of minutes it felt like he was
once again being shook awake before he had truly fallen unconscious.
Shaking his right arm, Dr. Hanson stood above him.
Were here, he said grimly.
Through the porthole Beau could see a fleet of rod shaped war
ships, their cannons jutting from the side. In the center of the mass of
cruisers was a station similar to Ovroc, though significantly smaller. In
fact it seemed almost as big as Kaskurst had been, though different in
design. Adorning its surface were the regal markings of the Kana
Empire.
So thats Kurkane? he asked looking out to the gigantic orb.
Yes, Chek said, stepping out.
The Kana took a look at the doctor and grabbed his rifle saying,
Docking is activated. We be onboard soon, he twittered.
Standing from his chair Beau didnt remove his had from Hanson,
leaving a firm grip on his shoulder as he replaced his brown helmet. The
trio stood by the air lock as the small shuttle flew through the more
significant warships, weaving in and out as it rocketed closer to the
center of the Kana Imperial Fleet.
Orbiting a gas giant, the fleet glimmered from the star the planet
gravitated to. The brazen orange of the gas planet made the shining
gold of Kurkane pop, the hull seeming to glow. Kana Broad members
held themselves as high status, looking down on any inferiors, and their
taste in star cruisers showed that perfectly.

There was no reason for such needless, gaudy decoration other


than to declare ones power. Satisfied Beau thought about just how
wounded the Kana Empires ego be after the hunters plan came to a
resolve.
Soaring toward the golden sphere he pulled the sword from his
back with his left hand, the snaps of the blade extending cracking
through the air. Holding it to his side Chek joined him by the air lock as
they were brought to their final destination.
Are you ready for this? the doctor asked.
As ready as I can be, Beau replied as the air lock slid open to the
pressure chamber.
Stark white and bland, the room was barely big enough hold
them. Air hissed around as they waited, which was gratefully short in
length. After only a few minutes the opposite air lock opened to a lush
and pompous looking corridor.
Like the outside, the hallway was golden, deep red marble molded
to the floor. They were greeted by a Kana dressed in violet robes, their
rank blazed upon the chest. Speaking to each other Chek and the
stranger had a short discussion before the robed avian motioned for
them to follow. Nodding to Beau, Chek stepped out to trail after the
Kana.
Raising his sword to Hansons throat he guided the doctor out into
the hall. Fancily dressed Kana filled the walkway, giving icy stares to the
doctor. Grinning nervously, the stout human returned the looks, though
more kindly. While they walked the halls, Beau couldnt help but notice
how similar the station was to the Demur Embassy he had infiltrated.

The Kana and Demur certainly had avarice in their taste, everything
looking much more expensive than it should.
Being led deeper into the core of the station Beau began to feel
anxious and uneasy for the attack on the Board. Through his helmet he
felt the eyes of the Kana nobles sizing him up, scrutinizing his charred
and scarred appearance. Unable to speak of their plan and his
apprehension he was forced to hold his silence as he walked to the nest
of his enemy.
Ticking by the minutes seemed to be like hours under the
predatory scornful eyes. From the way they looked at Beau he could
only assume that Kana nobles held the same regard to bounty hunters
as General Thabus did. If he swiped his sword out he could cut the
disdain it filled the air so thickly.
Finally Beau stood before a wooden door, carved with masterful
depictions of the Kana history and military might. Pressing the heavy
door open the Kana guide swiped a hand to usher them inside, and
closed the beautiful piece of work behind them. The room they now
stood was three stories high and circular, high podiums lining the
circumference that radiated a pleasant yellow glow. On the pillars were
intricate chairs crafted in the same way as the elegant door, and upon
them Kana sat looking as if they were witnessing something foul. Only
one seat was vacant, the spot that rose highest than the others that he
could only assume belonged to the absent Kana Emperor.
Beau looked from face to face, his boiling anger hidden away from
their spiteful eyes. The Grand Imperial Board of the Kana gazed down
at him, unaware that the man before them planned their demise. Those

that had put him, Ginna, and the hunters through hell, those that
plotted to conquer their fellow Empires in greed.
Beau felt no pity for the death he would deliver today. There
would be no thoughts of regret from these actions. For the first time,
Beau would be killing justly, no longer killing for criminals for his own
gain. Today he would make a true difference.
I see you have returned with our lost doctor, bounty hunter, a
gravelly voice spoke out.
To Beaus right sat General Thabus glaring down at the trio. Next
to his seat like an eager pet was Hanley, somehow even more birdlike
than before despite her human nature.
I suppose I can safely assume youre the sole survivor? Thabus
droned.
Yes, Beau lied.
Very well, the general replied.
With that the Kana unholstered his pistol and shot Hanson in the
neck. Collapsing to the ground the doctor fell soundlessly, not even
uttering a single yelp. Shocked, Beau caught the body. Bracing it he
eased Hanson to the ground, his right hand over the heart.
You may leave now hunter, and be grateful that we give you that
much.
Dont suppose Im getting my payment then, huh?
No, Thabus laughed, Your dismissal is reward enough.

Why even send us in if you were going to do this? Beau


demanded, shaking the limp body.
A final test was needed to prove the effectiveness of the project,
and I must say I am quite pleased, Thabus said simply.
You bastard, Beau growled.
The general didnt even blink, Youre trying my patience human. I
dont care about what I lied to you about. Matters of money, the
circumstances of the contract, what does it matter? As you humans say
water under the bridge. I dont care.
Looking to the soldier at his side, Thabus spoke to Chek, Private
Chek, you are hereby reinstated into the Grand Imperial Military, and
you may expect your next-
No, Chek cawed.
Ripping the silver helmet from his head, the Kana threw it to the
ground.
You betray our allies. You ignore treaties. You create great evil. I
see what Empire is: evil, greedy. This is not Kana way. I will not serve
such Empire.
The Board murmured amongst themselves, some of them even
squawking out laughter.
You rebuke the Empire? You would abandon the oath to serve
under the Grand Kana Empire? Thabus jeered with his eyes and tone
mocking.

Yes, Chek said defiantly, matching the intensity of the generals


glare.
So be it.
A gun shot rang out and Chek fell over dead, blood oozing from
between his eyes. Even in death his open gaze wore the fearless
determination in the face of certain destruction.
Beau reached a hand out reactively as his companion was shot
down. From the podium, Hanley laughed hardest of all as the Board
howled with squawking laughter. His gut twisted with hatred.
How dare you, Beau muttered.
Are you still here? I thought you were told to leave, Thabus said,
a hint of amusement still in his voice.
Im not going anywhere, Beau said evenly.
Am I really going to have to waste another bullet today? the
general said.
The Kana war lord was almost a completely different being than
the he was before. Drunk with power Thabus reveled in the pleasure of
having complete control of the situation. Cawing with laughter, the
Board only seemed to spur the generals hubris. Clearly the alien was in
his element, surrounded by peers as equally wicked as he.
Carelessly pointing his handgun Thabus lazily pulled the trigger in
Beaus direction. The round struck him in the right shoulder, only
making the bounty hunter flinch.

Should I spend another? Id really rather not. There is more


worthwhile scum to kill and you hardly seem worth it.
Doesnt matter how many times you shoot me, it wont change
the fact youre about to pay for all that youve done, Beau growled.
This sent the Board into another fit, the mocking laughter filling
the Imperial chamber. Beau was beginning to loathe the flock of Kana
with each passing second. There would truly be no regret in what he
was about to unleash upon the Kana Board.
Pulling his hand away from Hanson, the armor that covered his
arm slipped away, melting into the doctors body as it writhed and split
on the ground. As he stood away, all that remained of his right arm was
a vague dark shape of a human arm, jelly like in consistency. Abruptly
the chorus of mirth and guffaws cut short, alarmed caws replacing the
hilarity that echoed about the room.
Oviness rose as a pillar of squirming flesh, reaching in herself to
reveal the warhead. At the sight of the missile the Kana Board flew into
absolute pandemonium. From the corner of his eye, Beau caught the
sight of Hanley scrambling behind Thabuss chair.
Flicking his arm, the black flesh Oviness had left behind shot
through the air, the incredible knife jutting from the palm. Fingers
wrapped around her head as the blade drove home and the deranged
doctor fell to floor in a heap.
Thabus didnt even react, his eyes wide in terror as his pistol
tumbled from his hand.

Voice ranging out against the panic, the Hagolen announced,


Your wickedness will be undone!
The kind motherly face formed amidst the flesh facing Beau.
Run, and never forget my love for you.
I never will.
Turning on his heel the bounty hunter fled for his life. Bursting
through the door he rang down the lavish halls, tears now biting at his
eyes as he mentally counted down.
Thirty.
Silver guards were bounding forward, their rifles at ready as they
reacted to the horrified screams of their leaders. Lashing his arm, he
used his bizarre new appendage to bat the Kana away, the black slime
smearing across their visors. Blinded, Beau knocked past them in his
mad dash.
Twenty.
Eyes that once beamed with such distaste now held confusion and
astonishment at the noodle like arm that flopped oddly at his side.
Making no moves to stop Beau, he ran past them as he wondered if
they were as guilty as the Board. Their blood would be on his hands,
guilty or not, and that was a fact he could not change.
Ten.
Alarms were blazing now, much too late. There would be no
evacuation, there would be no escape. Beau questioned why they even
activated the sirens at all. Twisting through the hallways, he realized he

couldnt outrun the stations fate, and he was trapped here just as
much as the doomed inhabitants of Kurkane.
Boom!
Shaking tremendously the space station shook as the explosion
threw Beau forward. Almost immediately he began flying back, the air
being purged from the station as the war head cleaved Kurkane in two.
Tumbling head over heels the human fought for a hand hold on the
sheer golden paneling. His new arm was flapping uncontrollably in the
wild vortex as the gushing winds vented into space.
Catching hold of the frame of a door he held for dear life as robed
and silver bodies whipped past, the void sucking them away. His grip
was beginning to fail, the fabric of his glove losing traction on the
smooth frame.
Slipping away Beau joined the Kana in the whirlwind. Flying back
to the epicenter of the detonation he smacked into the elegant walls
rushed to meet certain death. Ahead the void yawned before him and
Beau entered it twirling through space.
From what he could see the war head had cleanly separated
Kurkane in two pieces as well as any warships that happened to be
within its radius. Motionless bodies drifted past, the last moments of
their life still etched on their face. The only movement Beau saw was
the soldiers who had a limited air supply with their suits, and one by
one they became still. Over the gas planet the cruisers began jumping
away from the catastrophe, most likely scrambling back to their home
world in fear of another attack.

Across his HUD, the system alerted him of the lack of atmosphere
and a countdown began as his helmet sealed itself. At most, Beau only
had a minute and a half of air. Trying to control his breathing he tried
not to think about Ginna or Oviness, only focusing that the Kana Empire
had been mangled. Any further prospect HG-00 production was dead,
the vicious war with the Desen shifted, and the Board of Empires saved
from their traitorous partner.
Theyd done it.
Oviness had done it. He thought of the true farewell he shared
with the Hagolen on the shuttle, how she explained that she would
leave all of herself attached to Beau that she could. Removing herself
was fatal to her, leaving behind the vital genetic makeup that allowed
Hagolen to shape shift and function as they do. She had only detached
with enough to carry out her plan and deliver the critical blow to the
Kana Board. His breathing threatened to become ragged as his mother
intruded to his mind. The memories that had been restored to him
flashed through his mind and he couldnt help but cling to them. All the
years he had lost with the being that had nurtured and saved him stung
his heart.
But at least he remembered now.
Running down to zero the countdown urgently warned him to find
a proper source of oxygen. Closing his eyes he quietly accepted his fate,
leaving his mind on thoughts of his mother and Ginna.
He only wished that he could at least give the Daros a proper
farewell. As the timer beeped at zero Beau braced himself for a lonely

asphyxiation in the sea of floating dead Kana. He figured he had at least


thirty extra seconds of life before he passed out.
Light filled his closed lids as he passively waited for death. Pushing
through the mess was the shuttle, zeroing in on the human. Twisting to
expose the air lock to Beau it opened itself, and with what strength he
had the bounty hunter whipped out the stringy arm and grabbed hold.
Feebly he yanked himself in as his lungs began to ache.
Yanking himself inside the airlock sealed behind him and the
chamber gushed with oxygen. Ripping his helmet off Beau sucked in
oxygen into his burning chest. Gasping he staggered upright to kneel as
the door to the interior snapped open.
Standing in the frame was the true Hanson, moving to pull the
hunter to his feet.
Are you alright? I cant believe I found you in time; could barely
get a signal on your locator through all that.
Im fine, Beau rasped.
Easing the stumbling man into a seat, Hanson bit his lip.
Im sorry, Beau. I truly am.
Beau didnt answer. There were no words that he could say.
Oviness was incredibly br-
Please, Beau muttered, Dont.
Again, the doctor bit his lip as he nodded his head.

We received a transmission from your droid. Ill get us set up to


go, he offered.
No response came from the younger man. Giving up on
conversation Hanson turned to return to the cockpit. However Beau
caught him by the back of his tattered orange uniform.
If what you created ever has another outbreak, you stop it. Ill
personally drag you to cure the filth you manufactured. Or I will kill you.
Do you understand?
Gulping the doctor acknowledged the hunters ultimatum. With
pepper in his step Hanson scurried back to input the coordinates.
Leaning his bare head against the cold glass of the viewport, Beau
stared out into the destruction of Kurkane. As his view was filled with
the brilliant blue energy of the warp activation, the man offered three
final words.
Thank you, mother.

EPILOGUE

Flexing his arm, Beau marveled at how it had come to form. Pitch
black flesh stretched at his command, warping and changing as he
willed. With a mere thought, armor plating rose and sunk into the skin,
matching perfectly with what he already wore.
Thats so cool, Ginna said over her plate of food.
Itll be useful, thats for sure, Beau replied.

Useful for what? I thought you were going to retire from bounty
hunting?
Looking over the table to the Daros, Beau smiled.
I think its time to reconsider. Maybe my skills are better put in
to righting wrongful bounties instead.
Like Pen?
Yup, he nodded.
What about the Demur? The Cabinet lied to you about there
being civilians, Ginna said slowly.
Theyll be dealt with, trust me, Beau told her.
He was responsible. He would right his wrongs, though he would
never truly forgive himself for the two dozen Demur Embassy workers
that were caught in the blast. Along with the Demur Empire, the Kana
still posed a threat. There were reports that many of their forces had
withdrawn to recuperate from losing their entire Board.
Pen, Hess, Chek, and Oviness will not have died in vain, and Beau
had every intention to honor their sacrifice. The universe had been
cruel, and so shall he to those that make the universe such a place.
Brilliant artificial lights of every color dazzled the white room they
sat in, the glass dome surrounding them overlooking a sprawling Desen
Hive city. Similar stalks rose from the city lit up by the colorful lights of
the colony, the residences reserved for non Desen guests. Apparently
this was one of the bigger Hives, having even other sentient species
mingling the insectoids.

The evacuation of Lashada had been a complete success, and the


island on which it occupied was razed from space once all the
insectoids escaped. In thanks the Desen Queen bestowed upon them
the highest of honors, welcoming them to any Hive at any time. Quint
left quietly after the ceremonies, shaking Beaus hand and hugging the
Daros farewell.
After that j-job, I dont th-think bounty hunting is for me, the
boy had said.
What will you do? Ginna had asked.
Help people. I al-always wanted to be a r-real medic, Quint told
her sheepishly.
Good luck, Quint. Thank you for looking after Ginna.
After their goodbyes, the boy slipped his mask over his dark face,
speaking of hopes to meet again.
They were heroes.
With a clunk Ginna dropped her cast arm on the table, sighing, I
think Im actually full. This medicine is really putting a damper on my
appetite.
Good thing, maybe I can afford to keep you now, Beau said.
Shut up, Ginna said with a laugh.
Reaching over to take the plate from her, the human dug into her
left overs hungrily. At least she wasnt devouring live worms this time.
On the ground below, the Hive celebrated the arrival of their brothers
and sisters, strange and exciting parades filling the streets.

Together Beau and Ginna looked at joyous festivities, the


jubilation filling the entire colony. Smiling to each other, they watched
the Desen paraded the streets.
In the dark upper reaches of the Hives cavern, the spectacle was
a sight to see.
Do you miss her? the Daros asked suddenly.
Yes. But I have my memories with her, and Ill always treasure
them.
Standing Ginna rose from the table and walked to his side.
Leaning against him, she said, Im glad you made it back, daddy.
Wrapping his arm around her he replied, Me too.
Outside the cave was filled with glittering light as fireworks were
set off, erasing any shadows with exotic colors of fiery sparks. Bangs
and cracks shot happily through the air as the pair watched the show
quietly together as father and daughter.
Beau was finally at peace.

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