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MisterFour of the Iconian Knights

MisterFour was recently asked why he never included himself in his stories.
This was his answer...

Mr.4 woke up aboard the IK Capitol Ship Hecate and lay there, thinking about his Warhammer and the conflict ahead. His dreams had been disjointed and full of blue deserts and moons of molten brass...weeping suns like Dali paintings... He shook his head and made his coffee, knowing that if space were an ocean, then the Hecate was going into treacherous, blood-filled waters. The outpost station known as Trindicate had been sending reports of sporadic conflicts with Mercenary Bandits, and then communications had been completely lost.

The Mess hall was largely vacant, all personnel manning stations or performing last minute maintenance on their ships. Every pilot possessed an instinct, a sense for when there was going to be couldn't see it straight ahead, only in corners or behind closed doors, shuffling and pacing like a minotaur, bellowing it's rage in Minoan labyrinths of stone and blood.

Mr.4 looked at his simple bowl of oatmeal. He felt calm, as if he was on the uppermost floor of some Earth city structure, gazing down upon tenemant apartments far below, as if he were the CEO of some mega corporation, a millionaire, and not an Archon Knight about to go into conflict. Then there was the klaxon wail of impending battle. A few eye blinks and he was striding to the main flight corridor, followed by Squiggy the Vorpal Bunny.

"Sir, we have reports of fighting just outside of Trindicate Station...interceptors report several wings patrolling the area, and the wreckage of the Metropolis Capitol Ship...all hands lost..." Disturbing, he thought. That means the Mercenary Bandit group known as the Skell had finally made their move, after years of heightening agression, all because of a dispute over ripstar fields. He knew it would come to this.

"Squiggy, I want you to stay near the Ghostrider's. I have been informed I have to go solo."

"Sir, that's impossible! Who will be your wingman?"

Mr.4's answer was cut short by Overlord Bloodstar.

"Gentlemen, it is war out there...the Skell have finally crossed the line between honor and brutality...Trindicate station is in ruins..." There was the sudden sound as the pilots started speaking at once, horrified...

"We count the dead in the thousands, with casualties on both sides...the Skell have even fired on Medical Freighters, despite treaties a hundred years old..." More cries of outrage echoed in the hold.

"Knights, this is a punitive mission, now. Make those bandits pay in blood..."

A voice of triumph, everyone felt the rush, the adrenaline.

"All of you shall form a part of a pincer maneuver, we shall trap them between the teeth of our firepower, the Hecate on one side, with all of the combined wings of our ships, and Mr.4 on the other." Everyone murmured their approval. RabidChicken patted Four on the shoulder, and more than a few congratulated him. The flashes of cameras everywhere, and Four posed a little.

"Hey, what can I say." He said to a nearby ensign.

"Knights, show no mercy..."

There was the sudden rush as the men and women of the Iconian Knights boarded thier ships, the Hold was a cacophony of hydraulics, warning sounds, ship systems powering up and vidscreens lighting up, showing battle reports.

Mr.4 signed several autographs and then made his way to his Warhammer, refitted with the words
"[censored]" on each side. A couple of reporters shouted questions to him.

"Hey Four! Are you nervous about the conflict?"

"Hell no, I got the funk. I'm psycerifico. They're all doomed. I think I'll fight with my eyes closed. Tell you what, remove my lats, technicians...I wanna make this interesting."

While the techs went to work another reporter asked, "Four, what do you plan on doing after this battle?"

"Oh, I finally finished some medical research I have been working on. I have synthesized a chemical compound that will allow humans to live forever. So I cured Death, good job, huh?"

"Any other advice, Four?"

"Yeah, humility is for people who aren't the greatest frikkin' pilots in all of Fringe space, like me. I totally rock the house. Oh by the way-" Four reached into his back pocket and threw a manual into the throng of reporters.

"I was bored so I managed to construct the Unified Field Theory. I also disproved Quantum mechanics. Turns out it's all based on ether. Oh yeah, the Earth is hollow and it was the man on the grassy knoll. While I was at it, also turns out that with a few simple quadrilineal algebraic equations I was able to prove that Stephen Hawking was totally way off. So somebody publish this. God I am beautiful."

Four put on his helmet and closed the hatch of his Warhammer, the afterburners filling the ship with a vibrational hum, the HUD flashing to life in an electric rush of polygons.

Four maneuvered his starfighter out of the Hold and into space, the cold and endless night all around him...he was complete, here, at home. The first wing of Skell interceptors came ahead of a Capitol Ship, the Gargoyle, bristling with weaponry, steel and black in the vacuum reaches.

"Aww, man, I gotta fight all that. This sucks. I need a toothpick. Waitaminute, how about some theme music."

Four made a few quick adjustments, the interceptors closing in, sharks in the sea of stars that was space.

The Peter Gunn theme filled the cockpit.

The first 52 Interceptors were pretty difficult, even by Mr.4's standards. At last, as he was swerving hard, completely out of plasmas, his shields torn to so much galactic dust and light, his fingers constantly hitting the S and D keys because he kept forgetting he had no lats, his ship was utterly annihilated with a lucky nuclear weapon. As the white light engulfed his craft, he realized that it was a bad idea to use a trackball instead of a mouse...

Floating outward from the explosion, he tore off his flight suit to reveal a blue costume, red cape and a red S on his chest. He flew forward, the interceptors firing streams of missiles, and he used the Force to send them back, destroying the remaining starcraft. Then red heat rays shot from his eyes and cut the Capitol Ship Gargoyle completely in two. The explosion was spectacular, done by Industrial Light and Magic, it took one thousand hours to do, was done by one hundred Korean children in sweat shops working for a bowl of rice a day, and still put the entire production way over budget.

Hurtling towards the earth at time-rending speeds, Four flew around it until time stopped and went backwards, so he was able to prevent the destruction of the Trindiate station as well as World War II.

Finally, sitting in a lawn chair at the Playboy mansion, surrounded by adoring Playmates, Four congratulated Hugh Hefner on a good fiscal year, as well as a perfect vodka martini.

MisterFour: There, I wrote about myself! Happy??


“Ode to No One”
Griffin Moone of the Void Alliance

Scooby Doo and Havik sat quietly at a long, pressed wood table, in uncomfortable plastic chairs. Havik thought perhaps they'd been designed to straighten the kinks that tend to develop in zero gravity out of one's back. Scooby knew they weren't designed with hangovers in mind.

In front of each a silver tray, too battered and scratched to reflect much more than dim colorizations of the pilots, held a conglomeration that neither would have described as food, prepared as if edibility were an afterthought. It simmered, and seemed to congeal before them under the harsh, bare lights above. Havik poised his fork above a brownish slab of solidity, looking like a hallucinogenic steak, wondering if prodding it may stir it back to life. Scooby, after letting his hand slip from underneath his chin and his head drop for the fifth time, stared through half closed eyes at the coffee cup, fifteen miles away, at the other end of his tray. Suddenly the relative quiet of the cafeteria was shattered by a blood curdling-scream. A figure, tall and thin, rushed between the tables in a ducking run. He charged towards them, rolling around other patrons, his eyes running madly over the room. Havik saw Zajj a second before he leapt onto their table, grabbed a knife from off Scooby's tray, waved it above his head and screamed "Die!!!!!!!!!" He then charged out of the room, knocking down two unknown pilots as they swaggered in.

"I dare ask, who was that boy?" Scooby seemed a fraction more alive than a moment before.

"I'd love to tell ya, Scoob," Havik said, "but no one has quite figured out how to pronounce his name."


Werewolf closed up the access panel on the side of a glimmering Orion, one with its original paint job from Galspan intact. He smiled a wide grin at its owner, leaned back and said, "There you are, Jake, all setup for ya."

The pilot, a bit nervous and excited, pumped Werewolf's hand at a rate that under slightly less-optimal gravity conditions might have induced flight.

"Thank you so much mister Werewolf, sir," he gushed, "I don't know what I would have done without your help."

"No problem," Werewolf yanked his hand away, "Helpin' new pilots is what I do best." A few minutes later, his face still frozen in that smirk, Werewolf was standing behind a thick piece of plasiteel, guarding against the vacuum that was soon to occupy the hanger. Hannibal was standing next to him, complaining.

"Man, I don't get it," he tapped on the glass at the Orion as it began to slowly lift off, "all these new pilots show up, can't fly there way out of a paper bag, all calling themselves 'Jake Logan'. Why? Because some space cowboy decides to announce to the galaxy that he single-handedly won the Galspan-Bora war. Suddenly, everyone wants to fly, and use his friggin' name. And you're out there helpin' 'em. Telling 'em how to fly, what to put on there ship. All our best tricks, man."

He gazed down at the open containers that once held components that could easily be attached to both Bora and Galspan fighters.

"Look at that," Hannibal continued, pointing at the boxes. "You gave him all the newest reserve systems, top-of-line missile defense systems, and, oh my god, you gave him the brand new booster from PPS. I don't even have one of-"

He stopped in mid-breath, suddenly realizing a box was missing, one that should have been with the rest. Slowly, his face turned upwards into a grin as well.

"You didn't give him lats. You evil, evil bastard."

Werewolf turned and walked out of the room, and almost seemed to whistle.


"Commander on the deck!" a yoeman called out as Decon passed through the sliding door.

"What the hell is it?" he barked, annoyed at having his breakfast interrupted. He'd been in command of a convoy for the past three days, as it traveled from spaceport to spaceport, making the long journey to Iconian territory in the Fringe.

"Sir, a warhammer is playing havoc with the front line escorts," a junior officer said after dropping his salute, pointing to a screen.

"Whose?" Decon stepped forward and bent to read the screen. He disliked being irritated, particularly before his coffee, but if asked in private, he would admit that the yelling part wasn't so bad.

"Sir, it's one of ours sir," the officer almost dropped dead from the gaze he received. He hastened to continue, "The ship is designated as MisterFour's, sir." Fifteen levels, almost straight down from where Decon stood, a loud buzz awoke MisterFour from his sleeping bunk. Spilling sheets to the floor, he turned over and reached to flip the comm. switch.

Three minutes later, he passed through the same door Decon had, but with less fanfare. He was still holding one of his boots, not sure whether or not flight boots were necessary without a ship to fly.

"Is that your hammer?" Decon pointed to a screen, a video feed from one of the capital ships near the commotion.

Four blinked through the daze of sleep and immediately recognized the battle scars on his warship.

"Yeah, but..."

"Then who the hell is flying it?"

"I... I..." Misterfour shook his head to clear it of sleep; still the only thought that seemed to circle his mind was the fact that he'd let his cat out the night before, and it hadn't returned.


Rah Rah Rasputin tumbled through restless sleep. The nightmare had returned. He was alone in his warhammer, facing a thousand ships. They were armed with missiles, guided torpedoes, rockets filled with plasma. Some of them were so tricked out they seemed to hold infinite amounts of armaments, some flew at incredible speeds, and some, he knew, had almost supernatural accuracy.

"I can't hack it!" he screamed in the silence of his dream, as the ships, one by one, began to engage him.

His radar screen flashed from target to target, designating each as a pilot he knew. He'd flown with them before, had read their bulletin posts, flash messages, and almost thought he'd call them friends. The call signs, all familiar, the clan designations; some even matching his own.

The dream usually ended here. But this time it continued for a few more moments. And in those moments he realized that every pilot in the Fringe besides himself, was Scadian Wraith.


"What do you mean, they won't show it?!" he was furious. How could they do this to him? He was once the famed Nasty Butler. He was practically a god! Was he not the king of puns, the prince of the solaris torpedo?

The TNS reporter shrugged as she packed her things. Although the interview was thrown together at the last moment, she thought perhaps she could have pulled it off. But after finishing and sending the shots over a tachyon communication line to the main office, she'd received a curt denial almost immediately.

Had the original pilot for the interview shown, this would never have happened. But Razor's Kiss was notorious for his lack of scheduling, and the reporter was told he could be anywhere in the New Dawn sector.

"Hey, I've flown forever. I could probably fly circles around Razor. I got wit, I got spunk, and besides," he leaned in closely as if he were telling her a secret, only privy to her, "I don't have a philosophy that bases happiness around a Mexican entree."

"The station decides what it will and won't show. I thought you did great, but it's not my decision," and she meant it. He was witty, spunky, and even kind of cute, for a dirty space pilot. But how could she explain to him that the real reason the station refused to air the story? Hell, even she thought it was a tad silly. I mean, she thought, could the public buy a story about a feared pilot in the Fringe who actually called himself Yellow Snowman? How ludicrous is that?


Griffin Moone stumbled back to his table with SuperFurryAnimal and Twilight Jack. Of course, Jack was in disguise, even this far out in The Fringe. One of his music videos played silently on the television behind that bar.

SuperFurry was sipping at a Nitrolite-n-Vodka, his eyes moving slowly over the thinning crowd. Despite a minor duel he'd fought with Moone over a girl, the two remained friends. Mostly, he thought, because they were both bitter enough over women to have something to talk about on the nights they both struck out.

Jack was musing over a gin and tonic, quickly forming the sounds of the bar into a sort of rhythm; he added a beat, in his mind, using clinking bottles and silverware. Laughter became melody, murmured voices, a good bass line. He thought of a few hypnotic lyrics; within four minutes, he'd composed his song.

Griffin, who couldn't tell you what he was drinking had his life depended on it, closed one eye, then the other, trying to decide if the focus could somehow be stopped on a solid object. Finally he noticed that his glass was empty. With one hand on the glass for support, he spun his chair, and half stepped, half fell to the bar.

Upon his landing he smiled largely at the bartender, pointed down at the glass, nodded and when he was at least partially sure the man had seen him, turned to lean his back on the wooden surface. The corner of his eye caught the figure standing next to him, looking up at the television, waiting patiently for her drink. It took him a moment, but he recognized Valkyrie Princess.

"Hi there," he nodded to her, with a boozy grin.

"Oh, hi," she turned slightly to speak, then looked towards the door. Moone was about to continue the conversation when movement behind him caught his attention. She looked over and her face brightened.

Griffin turned to see what was so special, and Razor's Kiss cold cocked him across the jaw.


That's it. That's all. No more. Good day.


VA Misterfour

I sometime look upon the fading old suns that are the stars, stars that cast forth light even though they may be long dead when they reach our eyes, and I see them as old, tired friends. It is now, older and not wiser, that I look upon the vault of sapphire that is my sky, my roof, my cyanic prison, and wonder at the children bored by the stories of a tired old man and his Warhammer. The reporters and writers come. They want tales of glory. Stories of noble times, fables of the Voice War, legends of what it was to be the hunted, by both the now departed Devil's Fist or the Fringe Pirates, and I can only squint into the sun filled sky and try to make it all sound like it was not. I think they are polite to an old man. I tell them how God mocks me, how I can no longer fly, and all of the stars are lost to me, I only have this giant sun and it's blue paradise that promises so much, and leaves so little in it's wake, by night. Night is my friend. I can see space, then, the nebulas, the voice of galaxies and the rhymes of all those silver jewels, a vacuum hymn with the poetry of distant universes. But I am not mad at reporters, just like I am not mad at God. Old as I am, I have come to see the Deity as an old gambling partner, who wins often and drinks beer with me. He takes my money but at least I am not bored, and we can laugh at each other's jokes. I tell the reporters not what my head remembers, but what my heart recalls. I tell them of legends, of the academy, when I was but 17, in halls of shining admantium and faux consoles with HUD's gleaming like rubies. I paint it all with a varnish of nostalgia, I make it all sound so promising...and not frozen and black, with faces contorted from rad exposure, like the the ones we pulled out of Skarsik 10. Shall I tell you about it?

Wait, let me finish my first thought. I am old. My mind wanders. I do not mind that Old Gambler taking my life. I only wish he would leave me my memories and mental processes until I finally take that final jaunt. The long goodbye. My head lies. It is sad, I guess, and it filters all my memories to where even the worse bits are shiny and full of gold and glittering amaranthine stardust. I one time heard a reporter for TNN talk wistfully of living out of a Mako, selling all the money you have might have spent on food and instead putting it on a heavy laser or essential components, looking at a console like it was a rosary and praying to the Great Space God for one good run, one big pay off that will set you right. By the time I was 23 all of my old partners were dead. I look at old holos and wish... I listened to the reporter and looked upon a face who only remembers silver days of shining electrum dawns...of ships like Christmas ornaments against the promising jewels that are those long lost stars...those long lost stars that eclipse above me and tell me of wine and days of gossamer light. I drink sometimes and rage at them. I want to strangle them for all the dreams they promised me. I told the reporter...yes, it was just like that, but let me tell you... Here.

Look at this. It's a museum piece, now. See? The rivets upon it's aft? I took hits when I was in Phobos space...those laser burns criss crossing it's belly are from a run in near Madorian space. I was there, when Comerca fought Argentum at the Vault...or was it Phobos? Oh, the engines. I had those rebuilt fifteen times. Blood Pirates took my engines from me. I had named it the Reponse. Why, you ask? Those rails are old, old as my pilot's suit. I should put my helmet in this museum. I should just sit there, on a small wooden stool, motionless, sipping my water and my scotch and not move, so young pilots can ignore me, like they do in the classroom...I laugh. Yes, this ship is mine. I donated it, one day, when I realized that space was not mine anymore, and than I was now consigned to this big grave called earth until I am ready for a smaller one. Here, let's sit inside. I can do that, you know. Rank has it's privileges. I see guards approach like mirthless vampires and I wave my IK Overlord Tags at them like it was a crucifix blessed by some pious archbishop and they flee, thanking me. The Hero. Shoo! Off with you! Ha ha. They leave.

I knew two people aboard Skarsik 10. Reponse and another man, who is revered, so I will give him another name. What is yours? Then that shall be his name. Milazzo. Italian. What is Italian? Never mind... I was 25. Skarsik 10 was the premier Rogue Trader vessel, Miles upon miles of admantium/derridium, of novacannon, Quasartz class missiles and flex shields. It was a Capitol Ship. Remember those? Of course, the micronization that technological advancement brings. Nothing is big, anymore. Well damn it, big ships have balls. Big iron balls. Not like those dainty Flinters I see so much of, shivering in space like chihuahas, quaking like greyhounds. Capitol Ships made you feel like Man could fold space up and put it in his pocket. I bought this Hammer there. They made it for me. How? How did I afford it? I killed a man. I was paid for killing him.


I found him in an asteroid field, chasing old radio communications. I opened with a laser shot...I was in an don't know what that is? It was a Galspan ship, pup, smaller than this, like a Flinter...ha ha. I had disguised my flight signals. It was illegal, Star Patrol would arrest you for that, but you could do it with a screwdriver. Now you need a Ph.D and a micro particle accelerator. Ha ha! He was is a peg...a know that? Good. He was a god. Like Hermes or Balder. I have never seen such a display. We fought for a long time, three minutes...oh! You think it's longer, like in those action vids! Your naivette make's me feel young, Milazzo. I tried to circle him, to overwhelm him at close range, and he slipped free, his lasers were burst of prismatic light, and if energy had been frozen solid and then burst into slender spikes of destruction. There is a feeling in your bowels like frozen water when your shields are expect the Rail shot at any moment. He was good. Better than me. He should have lived. But God took his life instead. He killed the artist and left the charlatan alive. The bastard. He was a sliver of titanium in space, his engines thundering like neon green and silver burning conflagrations, propelling him at speeds that only pilots know and civilians can only dream of. He paced me, keeping up a constant hail, and I fired back, carefully, my mind on my blast torpedoes. I imagine him in his cockpit, watching me flip and arc, a bullfrog flopping across the desert that was the vacuum. He picked his shots carefully whilst I fired erratically, I had hit him once, his shields a flash of lightning, a shade appearing and then whishping away, and he transferred energy and hit me back, like a hammers shatters the crystalline shell of some shiny princess's bauble, my shields torn away. I may have hit him once, he was moving in for the kill, he had me, I was dead, my limbs frozen as if my limbs were filled with formaldehyde-
-and he latted into an asteroid.

The Old Jokester put it there, millions of years ago. He impacted upon it, rolling, a steel peregrine above a cyanic sea, he still moved erratically, a poet with a pilot's instinct. But I had blast torpedoes and he did not. They floated upon him, like Furies, and he weaved and afterburned like a seraphim and they caught him.

I was paid enough to buy a Warhammer and ended up aboard Skarsik 10.

Reponse avoided pilots. She had skin like soap, pure and fresh...she didn't look fashionable or synthetic like girls look these days...artificial...generic.

She had skin like milk and I loved her hair. It was a golden red, like fire, like a solar flare arcing from some star, miles across space and back again. I met her and she told me of where she grew up. In New York. Her father, I knew from rumor, was a commander. On this ship. He was out on a mission of sorts.

I do not know why she loved me. My persistance? I still had fire in my blood. Emotion flames the veins and makes your heart a fist of radium when you are young, clenched and foreboding, like a Titan. Like Capitol Ships. It gives you big iron balls...ha ha! Skarsik 10 was close to Madorian space, before the truce, before the Vault Incursion. She was lonely, I suppose. A rich girl. brought out by a rich father and here, in space, tutored by private doctorates and given the finest in nanotechnological enhancement. She could drive a nail into a sheet of bedrock with her little finger. We talked about Weeger and Bach, about the Skashere and politics. I played her father's piano. It was a glossy white, constructed from clone wood. I took her out once in this ship. She sat where you do now. She had never been this far into space. I was a fool...the Madorians could have attacked us, after all, and she was a civilian. But the suns look different, out this far into the void. You are naked to trust them. You stand before them, innocent and wide eyed, and they bask you in electrum rays and silver luminescence and reward you. Her features were laughing, I had made her laugh. That night, it had been a month...I had been with her for a month. I had to be stationed at the Vault, light years away. But we still had the night. We drank deep of each other, young man.

Then, she was naked, and she was talking on the comm. Then she was on the floor, crying, crying. Her father had died. They had found debris and identified it. She told me his name, and she quaked and I felt helpless and I heard the Old Gambler laugh, the bastard. She shook, helpless, and I could do nothing while my love suffered, while I suffered.

A week later the Vault was attacked, and we rode the corona of the Carpathian's Tach field into Phobos space.

My wing was killed quickly. They were refitted, armed and heavily shielded. I had come upon three. I remember long lines of swarms coming upon me. My shields battered by killing physics. A missile klaxon creates a sensation of morbid fear that no pilot shakes off. You are eating, and then the accursed Barghestian howl is heard and your stomach becomes a block of ice. Your spoon becomes dense matter, and your balls freeze. It is the sound of Death. I killed the one with quad torps. Pure luck. The other destroyed my power array with a volley of swarms and lasers. In my mind he is there, and I am flipping and turning, I am latting, my blood jackhammering. My torps catch his side and then I rail him. He becomes a steel corpse in space, bleeding torrents of fire...

The other raced about me. He was good, too. He kept his distance, hitting me twice for my once. He could have left me floundering, my shields gone, my grid array in tatters, my afterburner reserve long depleted. But he was a lion, the Madorian, a matador and I the bull. He waited patiently for his kill, heedless, and then my console went up in a coruscation of sparks and metal, almost took my left hand off, my blood hit the windshield, and like rampalago a line of light crossed upon him, like a bolt of scarlet and yellow, my railshot, and he died, no fire, no spark of explosion, just the sudden drifting, dead, the pilot inside spaced.

Skarsik 10 was destroyed shortly thereafter. Several Madorain Carrier/Interceptors set upon it, along with a few wings. They fought well, I am sure, but the carcass of the once proud Capitol Ship was found floating in the nearby asteroid field that I well recognized. I was permitted to go in my space suit and sift through the ruins. I insisted. I found her, in her room, in the griseous blackness. The light cut lines across the room, across the piano, floating weightless, the black blood spattered weightless across my suit. She was dead, all of her joy and life gone. She was frozen. It was a nightmare, a nightmare. She was like glass, like ice, delicate as her beauty, and stupidly I tried to hold her and weep pathetically and she broke to pieces and there was nothing left. She was a celebrated artist, I later heard. The only daughter of a fighter-ace and officer. He had been one of the greatest Pegasus pilots of all time, they told me. His name?

Milazzo, I must call him. Milazzo...



“The Return”
VA Madcap

Chapter 1

Earth looks like a blue pearl from space. Do I really look like that? Man I'm a mess. I wonder how much has changed on Earth. I wonder how Krystal is, I wonder were she is right now. Will she remember me? I turned from his reflection in the shuttles window, to see a dark haired woman about his age sitting next to me. She had been there since they had left the Hub.

The shuttle landed in Paris. Aside from this being my quote Vacation end quote, I was do negotiate several contracts with Sol Based corporations. Ghostsword must have figured that I was an excellent choice to get the sol projects going as he would know the territory. If there was one thing I never wanted to do it was work with civilians on a civilian project. I was a Vice Admiral. Not some supervisor.

After I arrive at his hotel room I showered, and unpacked. An hour later I received a message to contact Ghostsword. I finished putting on my uniform and activated the laptop.

"Sir, what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?"

"I just wanted to remind you what your first job is. Don't forget to get that contract with Oberon, it's essential."

"Sir wouldn't one of VA's commercial advisors be a better candidate?"

"Julius, you know what earth is like, that is why I sent you."

"Sir, I am a military officer, not a God Damn corporate supervisor!"

"Admiral! Do you job! Ghostsword out!"

The comlink blinked out. The door chimed.

"WHAT!?" I snapped.

A muffled voice on the other side responded.

"May I enter?"

"Yes" I responded with a sigh.

The door opened to reveal a dark haired woman with intense brown eyes. She wasn’t very tall, but she was pretty. It was the woman from the shuttle.

"What are you…Who are you…"I stammered.

"My name is Jessica Johnson."

"Uh…my…my…ahem. I am Admiral Julius A. Maximus. Although everyone calls me ADCAP, it's my call sign."

"I know, ADCAP."

"Oh, so how can I help you?"

"Ghostsword send me to help you deal with the corporations."

We talked about the upcoming weeks for several more minuets before the door to my room was flung open and Azn Dragon, my assistant, rushed in.

"Azn, you're late."

"Sorry sir, alarm didn’t go off"

"It's forgiven. Azn Dragon this is Ms. Johnson. She will be helping us."

"It’s a pleasure to meet you."

"Likewise Azn."

Introductions given we continued. We had to get the Oberon contract as quickly as we could. Then we had to purchase several cruisers from Galspan. This all had to be done rather secretly, the sol government did not recognize VA's right to purchase and sell goods in Sol. While we were hammering out the details of the Oberon contract we picked up some help from Jessica's sister, Kirsten, who was a lawyer. She made sure that the contract was legal up to the point were VA was included. Within two weeks we had gotten both contracts. I sent Azn home with the first Galspan cruiser. Jessica wanted to stay behind for awhile and spend some time with Kirsten. I choose to take that vacation I was promised.

After doing some digging I found Krystal. I also found in my searching that Twilight Jack was going to be in concert tomorrow. I called Griff over the comm link. The person that answered wasn’t him.


"Um...yeah…is Griff in?"

"Yeah just a sec. Grriiffff!!! Julius on the comm link!!!!"

An unshaven, tired looking Griffin Moone appeared on the comm link.

"Hey ADCAP, what's goin' on?"

"Who's that?"

"Her? Oh that’s Kelly."

"Oh okay. Anyway do you have Twilight Jacks number anywhere?"

"Um yeah why?"

"He's gonna be in concert here and I want to take somebody."

"Oh lemme give em a call ill get right back to ya."

A few minuets later and I had a set of backstage passes and tickets to the Twilight Jack concert. I called Krystal up and asked her if she wanted to go. I don’t know what surprised her more, to hear that I was in Paris or that I had backstage passes to the concert. The whole night was perfect. Twilight was great. We walked along the Seine after the concert.

Several days later as I was going to see the Arch de Triomphe I paused to look at the Obelisk of Luxar. As I was standing there, I felt a hand on my shoulder. Startled I turned to see Amun Ra standing there.

"What are you doing here Ra?"

"Got a few days before the cruiser I was sent to get leaves."

"You were sent to get a single cruiser?"

"Not just a cruiser. It’s a whole convoy. The cruiser is going to escort the first shipment from Oberon."


"Ghost wants this shipment bad."

"I wonder why that is, most of it is just machinery parts. I should know I made up the contract."

"Whatever these ships and parts are for its so top secret I haven't been told yet. I just know that I have to get that convoy back to VA space."

"I wonder what the secret is. I guess we will find out soon enough. I'm going to the Arch de Triomphe, want to come?"

"I can't, I really should get back to work, I just wanted to see this before I left Earth."

"Okay see you back in VA."

"Will do."

After we parted ways I rode the one and a half miles to the Arch. It was incredible to think that here was seven centuries of history. In the 1910's Soldiers had marched here after the First World War. During the 1940's Nazi's from Germany had paraded here. After Chagne's attempt to conquer all of Europe and Asia failed in 2184 people danced here. With the announcement of the formation of a one European nation people celebrated here for days. In 2361 the Arch was the site of another parade and celebration as the Sol government was officially formed.

Chapter 2

After about a month on Earth the Excalibur arrived to pick me up and escort the last convoy from Oberon. This convoy I figured was the most important as those six freighters contained orians, Pegasus's, phoenixes, and archangels. These fighters were essential to the defense of VA. I sat in the command chair on the bridge of the Excalibur as I waited for the convoy to get ready for the jump to the Hub.

"Sir, all vessels report ready for jump."

"Signal all ships jump is go and engage the Tach drive."

"Aye sir."

Space warped into the familiar blue and purple tunnel of Tach travel. It would be an hour before the jump was complete.

Chapter 3

Upon arriving in the Hub sector the Excalibur docked at Alpha station to allow the crew some R&R while the freighters were checked out by Star Patrol. The bow of the Excalibur had yet to be repainted were the warped and twisted metal of the hull had been replaced. The gleaming silver contrasted with the solid black of the rest of the hull.

A day later the convoy formed up and we headed for Void Alliance space. Two hours into our journey a freighter in the convoy said it had to drop out due to engine trouble. I had the Excalibur call for a couple of frigates to cover the convoy while we covered the disabled freighter. The damage to the freighter was worse than expected; the whole Tachyon drive would have to be replaced. That would require another freighter coming out and delivering the drive to the disabled one. It would take four hours to get the replacement drive here.

Chapter 4

An hour later the pirates came. They didn’t expect a destroyer to be guarding the disabled freighter. They made a few passes at us before they retreated. I ordered the Excalibur along side the freighter. Several minuets later a freighter dropped out of hyperspace.

"Excalibur this is the Void Alliance freighter San Francisco. Super Bad commanding."

"Super am I glad to see you. Get over here and begin installing the tach drive."

"Aye sir."

As the San Francisco moved along side the pirates reappeared.

"Excalibur to San Fran, we'll cover you."


"Launch Red and Gold wings."

"Aye sir."

"Sir, I'm picking up weapons fire onboard the other freighter!"


"Sir Freighter 54 request assistance they claim they are being boarded!"

"Super what the hell are you doing!?!"

"Sorry Admiral." And the line went dead.

"Launch blue wing, have them attack the San Fran."

"Aye sir."

"Lock weapons on Freighter 54."


"Just do it. We can't let the pirates have those Phoenixes."

"Weapons locked."

I hesitated, those were VA personnel on board that ship, but if I didn't fire the pirates would get those fighters. The Ensign interrupted my thoughts.

"Sir, what do you want me to do?"

I sighed. "Fire." I'd worry about the court-martial later.

Freighter 54 exploded taking with it the San Francisco.

"Alright lets get our fighters back and get the hell out of here."

"Yes sir."

"All fighters aboard sir."

"Take us home."

"Tachyon drive engaged."

I slumped into my chair. I was not looking forward to telling Ghostsword that I had lost a freighter. Not to mention that I had destroyed it myself.


“Running The Void”
FyreHeart of the Void Alliance

Chapter 1
Onyx Eagle was bored. He was born in the Bora colony of New Gaia, but by the time he was old enough to fly, the war with GalSpan was over. His parents didn't approve of his love of space, but he managed to convince them to let him go to flight school, under one condition...

...but life as a freighter pilot was almost as boring as he had feared. Back up the freighter, oversee it being loaded, check inventory, fly through a few sectors (which the autopilot could do), back it up, watch it being unloaded. Then, do it all again. There was some occasional excitement when a pirate attacked, but they were rare in the Hub and Star Patrol was usually on them quickly - no fancy piloting required.

When the opportunity came to transport a shipment of "sensitive material" to the Frontier, he jumped at it. He didn't have the experience of many of the older pilots, but most freighter pilots weren't types to invite danger. He won the job.


Onyx had pushed his freighter to the limit, and finished his run with two days to spare. It wasn't much time to explore the Frontier, but it was better than nothing.

New Vegas starbase was all glitz and show. The excessive neon and gaudy adornments proliferating the starbase spoke of the many fortunes that exchanged hands within, most being handed over to the casino by its patrons rather than the other way around.

The atmosphere inside the starbase, though, contrasted with the cold peace of space outside. The air was filled with heated tension. Small groups of people could be seen everywhere, huddled together and speaking in hushed tones. It filled Onyx with an anxious excitment, generated by both fear for himself and anticipation that his dues as a freighter pilot were almost paid up.

As he sat at the bar, he strained his ears to hear some of the hushed conversations. After most of the day, too much cheap beer, and several trips to the lavatory, the best he could deduce through his booze-bubbled brain was that two mercenary groups were at odds, and their collective disagreements were on the verge of breaking out into open war.

The next day, Onyx hung around the station, trying to look inconspicuous. He desperately wanted to ask someone what was happening, but fear and caution held him back. After a fruitless morning, he resigned himself to packing up his freighter for the trip home the next day. Crowds in the corridors thinned as he made his way to the freighter docks. As he turned a corner and headed down the stairs, a face caught his eye.

"Hey... haven't I seen... Yeah! I saw him at the restaurant at breakfas... and the bar, and... uh oh," he thought.

Onyx forgot about his freighter, and took several random turns, doing his best to catch sight of the stranger inconspicuously as he rounded corners. The stranger stayed behind him, never getting close, but always visible. Unsure what to do, Onyx made his way back to the crowded main deck and seated himself in the courtyard where he could watch for the stranger to emerge from the stairs.

As he waited, a few others sat around him. One bland looking fellow ordered a lemonade. He glanced around at the faces, keeping one eye on the stairwell. Suddenly, he started and leapt to his feet.

The stranger smiled and offered him a seat.


Chapter 2

Onyx sat tenatively. "Um... why have you been following me?"

"Get to that in a minute. What's your name, son?"

"Um... Onyx. Onyx Eagle. Who are you?"

"I'm called WhiteFox. I've been watching you for the past few days. You're new to the Frontier, aren't you?"

"Yes. Yeah, I am."

"It shows. That could be dangerous." Onyx squirmed in his seat. "It looks to me like you've been doing a lot of listening the past two days."

Onyx sat forward defensively, "Maybe. So what?"

"So, what have you heard?"

"What do you care?"

"I think you're confused, and I'd like to help. Perhaps explain some things to you. But if you're not interested..."

Onyx leaned forward excitedly. "No! No, I am. OK - this is what I can figure from what I've heard. It sounds like two rival merc groups are at each others' throats and something big is about to go down. One of them's called 'Void' something and it seems like most people want them to win whatever this is."

WhiteFox smiled a smooth, knowing smile. "It sounds like you've got good ears, Onyx. May I call you Onyx? What you've heard is true. Two of the many mercenary clans in the Fringe are having a conflict. We have very different - ah - philosophies about how to... do business. Those philosophies have led to repeated conflicts between us, and we fear that those conflicts have reached a level that's going to lead us to war."

"Wow," Onyx breathed in awe. "So... so you're part of this?"

"I am. I represent the clan called the Void Runners."

Onyx's heart leapt. "That must be the 'Void' clan everybody's been talking about," he thought. "They must be something to have so many people behind them. Boy, I'd love to fly with them - if just for a day."

WhiteFox interrupted his thoughts. "You seem like an observant, insightful ladd. Those are valuable traits. Are you a pilot?"

Onyx sat bolt upright, his spine rigid with excitement. He debated with himself over what his answer should be, but finally his lips let out a quivering "Yes" that conveniently avoided mentioning anything about flying freighters.

WhiteFox only nodded. "I'm afraid the Void Runners have a rigorous recruiting policy, but if what I see in you is there, I think you might make it through. That is, if you're willing to try?"

Onyx spurted out "yes" before he could think.


Onyx sat in back of WhiteFox's Pegasus as they made their way to Void Runner space.

"So, what's the story about this other Merc group?" he asked.

"The Alliance? They're lead by a pilot named 'WitchKing', if that tells you anything. He recently changed his name to put a better face forward, but their tactics have stayed the same."

"Like what?"

"Well, if anyone pays in advance, they often take the money and then refuse to fulfill the contract. They're so rich and well equipped that no one wants to stand up to them. They extort money from the casinoes, spy on smaller contractors like us, and kill anyone who gets in their way."


"And that's not all... they use guided missles in the Fenris Arena."


"It's true. So you can see they're completely dishonorable pilots who make up for their lack of skill with money, firepower, and deceit. I'm just glad the Runners found you first."

"Me, too," Onyx thought, but silently looked out the window at the stars.


For the next week, Onyx Eagle was put through the paces, learning combat flying on every type of ship the average Fringe Merc could afford. He was dizzy with excitement as he was finally able to follow his lifelong dream. Piloting a fighter was not much different than flying a freighter to him, though he felt more comfortable in the heavier ships.

"OK, kid, this is it," WhiteFox said. "Gotta tell ya that an ArchAngel isn't my ship of choice, so you're lucky, but if you can disable me with that EMP, you're in."

Onyx took a deep breath and responded, "Got it."

"OK. Come get me," WhiteFox said, then switched to a private comm channel.

"Think he can do this?" WhiteFox asked.

"The kid obviously had no combat experience, but he's a heckuva pilot." The voice on the other end belonged to DoomStag, one of the chiefs of the Void Runners.

Another voice over the comm added, "and he's learned fast. I don't think you need to be too easy on him."

"Yeah, but if he doesn't beat me? We still want to use him." WhiteFox said.

"We cross that bridge if we get to it," DoomStag said. When the comm switched off, DoomStag turned to Earthquake and said, "We wanted a fall guy, but this kid may turn out to be one of our best pilots. I think he'll take WhiteFox easily."

Outside the station, Onyx and WhiteFox were rapidly approaching dueling distance. When his radar pegged 10 clicks, Onyx engaged lateral thrust, just as he'd been taught. Dual EMP cannons flashed from WhiteFox's ArchAngel, but flared by harmlessly. As WhiteFox lined up again, Onyx rolled between the EMP blasts and latted above the Angel, then opened fire. The EMP fired so rapidly and accurately that WhiteFox's shields were down to 40% before they passed. Onyx engaged slide and spun around to face WhiteFox, and took the rest of his shields down while flying backwards.

WhiteFox was enraged. "No snot-nosed brat is going to take down my sheilds on one pass and get away with it!" he hissed, then he switched his primary weapon to Sunspot missles and his secondary to Tesla EMP missles. As he slid around to line up on Onyx, DoomStag came over his comm.

"I know what you're thinking WhiteFox. Don't do it. If that kid sees a missle lock on his console, it could blow our plans."

Bitterly, WhiteFox switched his weapons back to EMP projectors. As he lined up, Onyx was already coming his way. He dove, then slid his nose up to tag Onyx in the belly. Only a few shots connected before Onyx latted out of the way. WhiteFox rolled and EMP flares flashed above his cockpit. He transferred afterburner energy to his shields, then lined up on Onyx again. When the first blast hit, Onyx pulled up just as WhiteFox anticipated and ran headlong into the second blast. His shields dropped to 12%. WhiteFox smirked and pressed his advantage, burning in close to get behind Onyx, but Onyx just kept pulling up, and ended up staring down WhiteFox's nose upside down. The blast he unleashed finished WhiteFox's shields, and a spark flew from his afterburner control. The EMP had disabled his flagging burner.

"No matter," thought WhiteFox, "it was almost gone anyway."

WhiteFox slid around to face Onyx again, but no one was there. In a panic, WhiteFox glanced down at his radar, but it was too late. EMP flares from below tore into his ship's systems. Sparks danced over his console, and he knew he'd been beaten.

"Outstanding, Onyx," came DoomStag's voice over the comm.

"He went easy on me," Onyx said.

"Nevertheless, fine flying. Welcome to the Void Runners."


Chapter 3

WhiteFox licked his wounds and put on his best face as he ferried the Void Runners' newest member to the New Vegas shipyards. Part of the Void Runners' ritual was buying a new recruit his own ship. What was unusual this time was that Onyx was going to be allowed to pick his. WhiteFox made sure to let him think that was standard policy.

As they checked in to the New Vegas hangar, the agent stopped them. WhiteFox took this nervously.

"You said Onyx Eagle, right?"

"Yeah, that's me," Onyx replied, stepping up from behind WhiteFox.

"You got a message at the freighter dock few days ago. Says it's urgent."

"Oh," Onyx said, and his heart sank.

WhiteFox excused himself, ostensibly to the shipyards to fill out paperwork, as Onyx made his way to the freighter dock. He checked in with the agent and was handed a viewpad with three messages on it. One was dated yesterday.

"Onyx Eagle, we received confirmation of successful shipment from DiaMann Industries, but you were due to return to the Hub yesterday. Is everything all right?"

Message 2: "Onyx Eagle, I don't need to tell you that your tardy return and failure to respond to calls does not reflect well on your work record. Management is considering severe action if you do not respond immediately."

Message 3: "Onyx Eagle, if you want to keep your job, you must respond by close of business today. If we don't hear from you, your employment will be terminated and you will be prosecuted for theft of our freighter."

"Slag," he thought, "that was yesterday. Guess I'm an 'employee' of the Void Runners now. Wonder if I can return this freighter to get them off my back?"

He returned the pad and made his way to the shipyard.


At the shipyard, Onyx caught up with WhiteFox. Apparently he had filled out whatever paperwork he needed, 'cause Ed, the manager, was ready to sell. Onyx selected a WarHammer. It was a nice, big ship that reminded him of flying freighters, but still felt like a fighter. WhiteFox placed no limits on him, so he got a full loadout: Lateral Thrust, Boosters, Railgun, lots of Plasma Rockets. He almost fell over when Ed handed over the access crystal. His own fighter! This was almost too good to be true.

"There you go, kid," WhiteFox said. "Do us proud."

"What... you're leaving?"

"Yeah. Got responsibilites."

"So... what happens now?"

"You're free to check the New Vegas job board, get the feel of your ship, y'know. Just make sure you show up at Void Station in the next few days."

"OK, good," Onyx sighed. He explained the situation with his job and that he needed to return the freighter if he wanted to avoid an arrest warrant.

"Eagle, they're not going to come after you. Star Patrol doesn't exist out here. Why don't you just keep the freighter - we could use it."

Onyx was shocked, "Uh..."

"Look, I need to run. Think about it, OK kid?"

"Uh... yeah. OK. See you at the station, WhiteFox."

Onyx was still stunned. He almost forgot to thank Ed for loading out his ship.

He flew around New Vegas sector, doing loops around the starbase and flexing his Hammer's muscles. He finally tore himself away from the thrill and parked the Hammer in the freighter's cargo bay.

He arrived in the Hub at about 4 pm, local time - still an hour before close of business. He hid out in the scrapyards for over an hour, waiting for most of his former coworkers to leave. When he felt he could make a safe run, he backed the freighter into it's docking bay, left a quick note about a "new job opportunity in the Frontier," and settled into his Hammer.

As Onyx made his way to the Frontier mega gate, he picked up some comm traffic.

"Hey, look at that ship! A Runner in the hub. Let's take him down."

Three Piranhas descended on him, lasers blazing. Onyx wondered what kind of deadbeats would attack a lone clanner unprovoked. He rolled and burned downward. The Piranhas lined up behind him and opened fire. As his shields flared, he slid around to face the Piranhas. The first volley cleared with his shields down to 38%, and he opened fire. The Piranhas barely put up a fight before his Hammer, but one of them put in a call to Star Patrol before he ejected. Onyx burned toward the gate, but Star Patrol burst into the sector in moments. They ordered him to halt, but he faked radio static and made his escape.


Back in New Vegas, Onyx enjoyed his fill of the casino life. He hung out at the bar, ate some fine food, and even tried a slot machine or two. After he'd had his fill, he perused the job board.

"Arena match? A bunch of pilots slugging it out in the Fenris Arena? For pay? Gotta try that."

Onyx accepted the job. It was several hours before the match was to begin, so he looked over the board some more and then killed the rest of his time in the bar.

A little tipsy, he stumbled down to the hangar and pointed his Hammer toward his first Arena match.


This was one of many qualifying matches for the tournament, so an eclectic group of pilots was in the arena: everything from Makos that had been resurrected from the scrapyards to the latest GalSpan had to offer, complete with its shiny, original paint job.

"Welcome to Qualifying Round 8 for this year's Arena Tournament Season!" belted the announcer over the TachBand P.A. system. "The contestants are in the Arena. Let's begin!"

Onyx's Hammer seemed to be moving slower than normal, so he burned toward his nearest opponent, flying a Bora Dagger. He hit 10 clicks, and let off the burner. As the Dagger's first volley flared from its hardpoints, he rolled and then latted above it, the blasts passing harmlessly. One Plasma Rocket from above and a perfect rail shot took the Dagger out of the match.

Next in line was a little Mako - one weapon mount, one missle mount. The little ship didn't have a prayer. Onyx chuckled as he closed in and lined up. A Plasma Rocket and its shields were down. The little ship darted about in a few evasive maneuvers, but Onyx had no trouble keeping his aim. A split second's hesitation by the Mako and his finger tightened on the trigger. The rail gun rocked his ship with a perfect shot, and the Mako was gone.

Onyx's shields flared almost immediately, and he checked his radar.

"What th'?"

His eyes bugged out. The Mako was still alive! He swung around again and drew up on the little ship. Another beautiful rail shot, but the Mako wasn't there. The little ship darted above him and unleashed a minor torrent of laser fire, steadily draining his shield energy. Onyx slid this time to face the Mako quickly, but he couldn't line up on it. The ship darted this way and that, always just evading his aim while unloading a seemingly limitless rain of laser fire. Worse, while Onyx struggled to trap the ship its shields were recharging. Finally, he was able to lat behind it and buy enough time to squeeze off a rail shot. The Mako's shields fell and its hull dropped to 48%. Onyx quickly let go a Plasma Rocket as the Mako feinted to the left. The proximity detonator blasted and the little ship was gone.

Radar showed another ship incoming. It looked like a GalSpan Phoenix - a tough ship to crack. Onyx took stock: hull still green, rail energy low, shields only recharged to 21%. He ran. A zigzag course with full afterburner shot him away from the Phoenix and out of its firing arc. The big craft burned in pursuit. Onyx was able to keep just out of range. As he neared the Arena boundary, he spun. His shields were up to 43%. It would have to do. He disengaged his slide and burned toward the Phoenix, closing the gap quickly and firing two Plasmas before latting out of its firing arc. The ship was big and clumsy, so the two rockets connected easily. That only brought the shield down to 23%, though. Onyx rolled as the Phoenix lined up on him and came alive with its awesome firepower. He jerked his stick, fired his lats, and punched the afterburner. Much of the assault connected, though, and that one volley stripped his shields. Onyx continued latting to the side of the ship, moving faster than it could turn, and fired another Plasma Rocket. The Phoenix's shields were down. Quickly, he fired the Rail Gun and then burned out of the way. The Rail shot connected, but the Phoenix was still alive. Another downpour of firepower, but Onyx was ready this time. He dodged, spun and fired the rail again. The Phoenix's hull showed red. Onyx hit his burner and rammed the Phoenix out of the match. The crowd went wild.

Three other ships were fighting it out on the far side of the Arena. Thankful for the respite, Onyx cut his throttle and sat in space, letting his ship's systems recharge. He closed his eyes for a moment, and only then noticed that he had a nasty headache. He struggled to open his eyes again, and as they came into focus he saw a blip on his radar. One of the ships had broken out of the fight and was coming after him! He throttled up and hit his burner, but the burner only sputtered. Not enough energy! As the ship closed in, Onyx saw that it was a Piranha. He aimed the Hammer straight for it, and as it opened fire, he let go three Plasma Rockets in rapid succession. The Piranha blew.

Onyx continued toward the other side of the Arena, but kept his throttle low. This time he kept close watch on the dueling ships. A Bora Mace was dancing with a Posidon. Both pilots had talent, but the Posi finally succumbed to the Mace's speedy maneuvers. Filling out a smooth arc from its final volley, the Mace came for him.

Its shields were low from the drawn-out fight with the Posidon. Onyx throttled up, took aim, and fired his Rail Gun just as the ship got into range. The shot was perfect. Without shields, the thin hull of the Mace burst before the Rail Gun's power.

Onyx blew breath out of puffed cheeks and slumped against his pilot seat. Then he noticed that Tachband had come alive with wild cheering. The announcer's voice shouted over the deafening crowd, "We have a new Tournament contender: Onyx Eagle!"


Onyx hobbled back to New Vegas starbase exhausted. The "thrill" of destroying actual ships felt much different than he imagined. It didn't help that he was having trouble holding his liquor. He ordered a room for the night and collapsed into bed.

His only thought before falling asleep was, "Tomorrow, Void Station..."


Chapter 4

Onyx awoke with a throbbing headache. The beer had felt good before the Tournament Match yesterday afternoon, but it sought its revenge now. As he looked at his bloodshot eyes and tousled hair in the mirror, he thought, "This life is going to take some getting used to."

He washed up as best he could manage and wobbled upstairs for breakfast. A table in the common area barely caught him before he met the floor, and he ordered a painkiller and black coffee with breakfast. As he pored over his food a group of giggling girls fluttered up to his table.

"Are you Onyx? Onyx Eagle?" one of them asked.

He tried to smile, but it felt like his lips were oozing down his face. "Yeah, that's right. I'm him."

The girls giggled. Another said, "We saw you in the match yesterday. Wow!" She could barely get the "wow" out before falling into giggling again.

"You were incredible," the third continued. She seemed slightly more level headed than the others and added, "I'm Tisha."

"Call me Onyx," he said, extending his hand. She took it.

"Um... we better go. See you around, Onyx," Tisha said. With that the girls flitted away.

"Er... yeah. Take care, girls."

Onyx had forgotten all about his hangover.


Down at the hangar, Onyx settled into the pilots seat of his Hammer. After yesterday's match it was starting to feel like home. He went through the formalities of launch clearance, and the blasted out of the station toward Void Runner space.

It was a short trip. His week's training with the Void Runners had given him a familiarity with the station, so he made his way to the command deck to see what was happening. He didn't quite know how to react to the flexibility of the job, he was so used to keeping rigid freight schedules.

As he entered the command deck, most of the Runners there were watching a dogfight on the huge viewscreen. A War Hammer was battling a triple-rail equipped Cutlass. The Cutlass bobbed and pitched, dodging the flood of Plasma rockets flowing out of the Hammer, but the Hammer pilot seemed to know just when to roll or lat to dodge the Cutty's rails. As Onyx approached the commanders, Doomstag leaned over to him, eyes still riveted on the screen, and said, "The Cutty's ours. The Hammer is one of the newer Alliance pirates - Dark Ice." As they watched, a pair of Plasmas finally connected with the Cutlass. Then a Rail Gun erupted from the mount above the Hammer's cockpit, and the battle was over. The viewscreen flickered off, and DoomStag and WhiteFox turned around, both wearing a look of disgust.

"When did that happen?" Onyx asked.

"Two days ago," WhiteFox answered, "The V... uh... the Alliance has been recruiting quite a few new pilots. We try to watch them fight and learn their style, so we know how to defeat them."

"I saw the broadcast of the Arena Qualifier," DoomStag said. "I'm pleased with your flying." Onyx blushed. "I would encourage you to continue flying in those matches. The Arena can be an excellent training ground."


"Absolutely!" WhiteFox said.

DoomStag continued, "We have an assignment for you in about two days. In the meantime, keep flying contracts. You'll need all the experience you can garner."

"Um... ok, but..."


"Well, where do I live. The rooms at New Vegas aren't cheap. Neither is the food. And, I mean, I know I could earn some from the contracts I take, but I gotta maintain my ship, too, right?"

"WhiteFox, you haven't shown Eagle his quarters?" DoomStag said, turning.

"Um... well, not exactly."

"Well, let's be exact." DoomStag turned back to Onyx. "Eagle, this station is your home now. You are welcome in your personal quarters, in the canteen, in any public area. We do insist on a certain - dues payment - to maintain the station, but consider this home."

"Can I fix up my ship here, too?"

"Of course. We have crews that are members of the Runners. You won't have to pay Vegas's prices ever again. WhiteFox, show this man his quarters."

"Ok, come on. You remember that room you spent your first week in?"


"Call it home now."

Onyx was thrilled.


Onyx spent most of the morning settling into his quarters. Once he felt they were comfortably personalized, he took his Hammer back to New Vegas to take another look at the Job Board.

The first round of the Arena Match was tomorrow, so he signed up without hesitation. There were all variety of jobs available, from bounty hunting and contract killing to escort runs to even more esoteric requests from the Asteroid Barons. He noticed that most of the contract killing was taken by a group of pilots with ominous names, all part of a group called the "Devil's Fist." That made him nervous. He felt a certain closeness to the freighters, though, and selected a modest-paying escort run as his first contract.

He went back to the main deck of the starbase and ate a quick lunch, making it down to the hangar a few minutes before he was supposed to check in for the escort run. He checked the loadout on his Hammer and ordered up some more Plasma Rockets, got launch clearance, and met the freighter outside the starbase.

"This is freighter Antares to pilot Eagle. You there?"

"Copy Antares. I'm right with you."

"This ought to be a simple run. We have to pick up some supplies from Foothold and ferry them Bora space. Just keep an eye out for pirates."

"You got it."

Freighters were notoriously slow, and with the mega-jump to Bora space the run was probably going to take all day. Onyx wondered if he'd made a mistake. It struck him as odd that just a few weeks ago he'd been in the freighter pilot's shoes and would have thought nothing of an all-day run.

The trip to Foothold sector was uneventful. Everyone expected it to be, though. Only a foolish pirate would jump an empty freighter. Rather, the risk was getting from Foothold to the Bora space jump point. The Skav sector stood between Foothold and the mega-gate. Of the pirates in the Fringe, the Skav were probaby the tamest. They were a loose group of disgruntled employees, some fired, some just between contracts, who used their piloting skills to jump freighters for extra cash. The Skav weren't murderous, just greedy. Onyx himself probably stood the greatest risk of being harmed.

Onyx emerged from the gate shortly after the freighter exited hyperspace.

"Nothing so far," the Antares said.


Skav space was littered with asteroids. An ambush would be hard to see coming. They churned through the sector at the freighter's slow pace with nothing happening.

"Half way. This might be easy pay," Antares said. Onyx chuckled.

Nothing. The Antares was almost to the jump point, so Onyx broke off and headed for the TCG gate. He was within 5 clicks of the gate when a flash caught his eye. Wary, he pulled up hard and spun toward the Antares as his comm crackled to life.

"Eagle! Eagle, we've been rammed!"

A huge fireball was dissipating from one side of Antares. The freighter was beginning a lumbering, uncontrolled spin. The blast had knocked them off their trajectory toward the jump point, and they were sitting ducks until they could get the ship under control and back on course. Onyx hit his burner.

As he got within range, he saw two wings of Mantas - the Skav's trademark ship - dancing around the freighter. One wing was targeting the ship's powerplant while the other generally harassed them. He cut in close behind the freighter and placed his Hammer between the attacking Skavs and the Antares's powerplant.

A steady drizzle of laser fire was coming from the Mantas, along with an occasional Tiger missle. Nothing too frightening. Onyx unloaded several Plasma Rockets and a couple of Rail shots, and the Skav were minus one wing. The second wing broke off their harassment of the freighter and came for him. He ran, trying to take the battle away from the Antares. As he ran, his comm began to chatter.

"Hey, boys! A Runner!"

"What's that freighter carrying that YOU'RE covering its butt?"

"Runner-boy's probably gonna tell you it's none of your business."

"Hey, listen - what's your name? Eagle - sorry for the mix up, OK? We'll let you go back to babysitting your freighter. Just warn us next time, got it?"

...and the pirates vanished into the asteroids.

The rest of the run went without incident, but a sense of foreboding was descending on Onyx. He began to wonder if the Void Runners were all that they appeared.


Chapter 5

Onyx awoke from a restless night's sleep, anxious to see what his first assignment was going to be. His time in the Arena had been exhilirating, but his heart was no longer in it. Breakfast passed in silence, and with a rising lump in his throat, he went to see DoomStag.

"You're early," DoomStag exclaimed, looking up from his console. "I'm pleased. Just give me a moment..." DoomStag tapped away at the console for several more seconds, hit the "Enter" key with a certain finality, and spun in his chair to face Onyx.

"Sit." Onyx did. "Well, Onyx, the time has come for you to show the Void Runners why we invited you in. Are you ready."


Onyx thought he saw DoomStag's eyes narrow slightly at his listless response, but he continued, "Good. We'll start you off easy - this is just a reconaissance mission. We want you to fly into IceRink sector and hide in the asteroids. We are expecting the Alliance pilot Dark Ice in that sector sometime today. Get a full scan of his ship: weapon loadout, upgrades, modifications, anything you can find out. Get us a mesh of his build and cockpit layout, too, if you can. We don't know who or how many may be traveling with him, so keep a low profile. If he's alone, though, don't be afraid to engage if it becomes necessary."

"...and if I do have to engage?"

"Kill him if you can. We wouldn't need the data then, would we? But either way, come back alive. That's first priority."

"Got it. When do I leave."

"Immediately. Don't come back and don't break comm silence until you've found him. Good luck."


Onyx didn't like the situation he found himself in, but he didn't know what else to do. The Void Runners had given him his ship, his training, his home in the Frontier - his new life. But was that going to be a life worth living?

"At least I don't have to kill the guy," he thought, standing before the hangar door. That was poor consolation, though. He set his jaw and went in.


Onyx's head bobbed for the third time. The sound of his eBook clattering on the floor jarred him awake. He grimaced as he removed his stiff legs from the console and bent down to pick it up. As his eyes grazed past the radar, he saw the blip.

Forgetting his eBook, he spun his darkened Hammer toward the blip and targeted it. It was him - Dark Ice. A Hammer flying alone. He powered up his own Hammer, anxiously watching the console as systems lazily came to life. Flipping the scanner on, he moved out of the asteroids, slowly gaining speed so as not to attract attention. He had a tough job: the scanner had a range of only 10 clicks, but his EW Jammer would protect him up to 8. He had to stay between 8 and 10 clicks until the scan was complete. At least Dark Ice was alone.

Onyx eased up behind him and began active scanning at 11 clicks. He pulled within 10 clicks, set his ship to match speed, and watched the scan data play across his console.

The plasma volley caught him completely unaware. Dark Ice had sensed something amiss, and spun around in a slide. At the sight of a Hammer on his tail with full jamming on, he opened fire. Frantic, Onyx fumbled with the controls. The second volley hit. Cold instinct took over and Onyx dove and slammed his burner, then, without bothering to look at his readout, transferred energy to his shields. He spun to face Dark Ice and jerked his trigger manically. Dark Ice bobbed, pitched, and retreated. Onyx had time for a shallow breath and a glance at his console. Shields gone except for the energy he had transferred and hull yellow. His frantic play to get Dark Ice to retreat and buy himself time had depleted half his ordinance. Things looked bad.

He switched off the scanner and glanced at the radar to find Dark Ice. Without hesitating, he latted and burned as another volley of Plasma Rockets descended from Dark Ice's closing ship. Only one connected, but his shields were down. He spun and unleashed two volleys of four Plasma Rockets each in rapid succession with accuracy only panic can inspire. Now Dark Ice and he were on level ground, and the duel began.

A rail gun furiously split space, the flash blinding Onyx as he narrowly dodged. Onyx fired a lone Plasma Rocket wildly to give his eyes time to clear, and then responded with a rail shot of his own. A miss. Dark Ice was superior to the pilots in the Arena.

Onyx noticed on his scanner that Dark Ice had shields again. An energy transfer - the like of which he didn't have the luxury of any longer. He cut loose with Plasma again. One connected. He fired again. Proximity detonation only. Dark Ice's shields had gone red, but refused to fall. He jerked his stick and rolled as another volley rushed in from Dark Ice's Hammer. He countered and fired.

Nothing happened. He was completely out of Plasma. Desperately, he switched to lasers and rail gun, aimed, and fired. A hit, and Dark Ice's hull integrity dropped as the power of the rail gun forced its way through his flagging shields. Onyx held his finger down on his laser trigger as he pitched an rolled to avoid Dark Ice's onslaught. His hull went red. Dark Ice's shields dropped. He latted, burned, rolled, latted again, and fired his rail gun as Dark Ice's Plasma bore down on him. A jerked stick, a roll, a frantic lateral, and he was still alive. He spun around to face Dark Ice again, and ship debris clattered on his viewport.

He had won.


Onyx limped into Void Station and pushed past the gate attendant without a word. Back in his room, he locked the door, collapsed on his bed, and sobbed himself into a fitful sleep.

To Be Continued...


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