SP03 twitched lightly in their suit as the unknown, unfamiliar voice broke into their chanting. As the voice was not joining in with the chanting, and was not an infidel who was being destroyed for the New World Order, it was promptly ignored.
SP03 frowned, somehow harder than normal, as he continued his lockstep march down the hallway. Whatever the voice was, or wanted, it was not important. It was not blood. It was not reparations. There would be no ceasing, no end to the violence, until all things were right again, until-
There was a pip on SP03’s HUD. It started in the center of the screen and moved, slowly to the upper right. Some deep, ancient part of the pilot’s mind caught onto the simple moving oval, and his head moved with rapt attention. Closer… closer to the corner point, would it make it?! Would it–
The oval missed by just a few pixels, and SP03 cursed audibly. He slowed down his march, his comrades subconsciously matching his pace as he watched the pip go to the bottom left. Maybe this time, it woul-
It missed again?! He couldn’t murder with impunity anymore – not until the thing went in the corner!
SP03 stopped dead in his tracks and watched the oval icon continue it’s traversal across the screen.
“Uh?” SP03 Grunted, looking around his HUD for the voice indicator icon. “Yes?”
“Oh.” Specialist Pierce sighed with relief, as behind him his entire chain of command was in mid-eruption of both controlled and uncontrolled outbursts. “Oh, thank God. The DVD Trick worked.”
“The what?” SP03 said, still staring intently at the oval pip that just missed the corner again damnit–
“It’s nothing – it’s a uh, focus trick some big brains thought of in testing a couple decades ago.” Specialist Pierce said, directing his feed to his superior’s terminals. “SP03, can you give us a status report?”
“Sure, sir. We’re moving towards the rendezvous point; LG is anchored outside of habitable areas, and would cause potential structural damage if removed. We verified it can’t be accessed from within, so we’re escorting our VIPs.” SP03 rattled off, matter-of-factly. “Current estimates from OnStarBoard Navigation says we should be 15 minutes out at most. Is our data not transmitting properly, sir?”
“It’s not that,” Specialist Pierce said, leaning into the mic. “-It’s the who-”
“What in the fuckdamn are you dustfoots chanting?!” Interrupted Captain Kirk, who had finally gained enough mental bandwidth to focus his entire attention on Kill Team Spite.
SP03 straightened up in his suit, the rest of his team now standing still as the air – and bodies – cooled around them. “Sir, permission to speak freely?”
“Granted.” Growled Kirk. “Explain yourselves – this is not behavior befitting a soldier of the UTF, let alone one of our elites during a multi-species operation. What the fuck are you thinking?”
“Sir. If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.”
The silence that fell across the bridge at SP03’s response was tangible, settling over everyone like a thick, choking fog. Specialist Pierce’s mind rattled between ‘did he just say that?!’, ‘holy shit the balls on this man’ and ‘I mean, he’s right tho.’ – judging from the glances he took at his fellow crewmen, some variation of those thoughts were oscillating between everyone else’s mind as well. The silence stretched on for a few uncomfortable moments, before Admiral Hawkings cleared his throat.
“Far be it for me to meddle in the jobs of my crew, but. SP03 – are you fulfilling combat objectives?”
“Sir yes sir.” SP03 responded.
“And.” Admiral Hawkings leaned back in his chair, eyes cast upwards in thought. “Is everyone safe and accounted for?”
“Sir yes sir.” SP03 replied.
“Then please, keep the chanting to yourselves.” Admiral Hawkings stated, with a wry smile on his lips as he could hear the glee in SP03’s affirmative response. Hawkings looked down from the ceiling to Kirk, who was rubbing his jaw in frustration. “One last thing, soldier.”
Admiral Hawkings – a man who straddled the line between warrior and politician – firmly leaned on that fine line to put as much steel as he could in his voice. “If you ever ignore orders again, or cut off your data feed when it’s not truly mission critical, you will be shot. Is that understood.”
“Y-yes sir.” SP03 responded.
“One last, last thing, before we let you loose again.” Admiral Hawkings said, warmth creeping back into his voice. “Can you enlighten us as to why and to whom you were chanting? That’s not a corps chant – at least, nothing I’ve ever heard.”
SP03 nodded. “Sir. It’s for him.”
The combat suits that Spite were in were incredibly durable and powerful according to human standards, but were bulky and slow to move. SP03 began to traverse right, and his suit started to shuffle in place, slowly walking itself around in a circle. The camera view traversed from the carnage at the front, to the firing line beside him, to the VIP Nathaniel Callaway skittering along the wall like some deranged, puffy spider over to-
Standing before SP03 – well, behind them, were a duo of Jornissians. The first one, who looked completely unimpressed, was saddled with a majority of the war booty – of still smoking personal effects, jewelry, valuable electronics and various bric-a-brac, stuffed into a giant bloody tarp that he was hoisting over his shoulder, making him look like an incredibly tired serpentine Santa Claus. His costume had no red trimmed with white; he was obviously a pirate combatant, but he was under a net, so apparently everyone was just ok with that.
The other one though.
The Jornissian was deformed, that much was obvious; Hawkings had never seen a Jornissian who looked like that, and didn’t even know it was possible. He looked rough, a young body weathered with old years’ worth of work, and he was clutching what seemed to be a crudely-made figurine of a posing human in his hands. Hawkings was able to glean through body language alone that this person before him was an outcast, uncomfortable with any form of attention, and very uncomfortable with what was going on around it. The IFF stated he was the “Emotional Support Animal” of the VIP.
He was draped in enough jewelry, gold, gems and fabrics to cosplay as an ancient Egyptian god.
“[Um. Please? Please stop?]” The Jornissian said, softly, as he held the figurine to his chest. “[You… you don’t have to – not like this.]”
“He is pure and I love him.” Someone on the bridge said, starting a ripple of conversation and speculation as SP03’s camera stayed fixed upon the object of affection… and the source of the impromptu murder-cult’s obsession. As the volume of conversation grew and swelled, Admiral Hawkings looked over across the table to his friend, Captain Kirk – who had his head in his hands, massaging his temples.
“Everyone’s getting written up. We’re all getting written up. I don’t want to go back to Naval Court.” Kirk kept mumbling, shaking his head slightly from side to side.
“Well Fuck.” Hawkings said, and for the second time everyone agreed with him.
= = = = =
The Jornissian paced – well, what counted for pacing for their species – across the small, cramped room. What once was a hub of activity and illicit ideas had turned into a last bastion for a select few, and those select few happened to be the remnants of the Body Politic.
“[Alright, alright alright alright alright-]”
“[That incessant prattling is not helping!]” snapped Bile, and Brains frowned. “[We’re dead, we’re all dead, and it’s your fault!]”
Brains recoiled, placing a hand over her chest. “[My fault?! I’m in charge of sales, you half-brained nitwit! Your team was the one who alerted the senate and brought the wrath of Oru’si upon us!]”
“[Please, both of you.]” Bones groaned, flat on his back as he stared at the rats nest of wires that criss-crossed the ceiling. “[We’ve gotten out of worse-]”
“[Worse?! The worst thing I’ve gotten you out of was a paternity record, you deadbeat!]” screeched Bile, his feathers molting in a gentle snowfall around his office. Once the shit hit the fan – I mean, the final shit, not all the other shit that’s been hitting the fan over the past week or so – the Body Politic had a choice to make: Stay together, or die alone. Everyone still alive chose the former, and the most equidistant office to every place on the rock was the IT nook, where Bile made his magic happen.
Blood was MIA, and Back took the latter option – you see how she turned out.
So Bile’s office was invaded, the underlings ejected, the door welded shut and the panicking began behind closed doors, where it was relatively safe to do so. The only danger here would be from each other, and Bones mused whether or not he was the only one who brought weapons with him as the remainder of his management team began to bicker with him, with each other, and with anything within arm’s reach. The arguments kind of faded into background noise, and Bones smiled to himself that such anger could produce a zen moment.
He waited there, for minutes or hours – he couldn’t tell, as the carefully constructed organization that he and his people had built from nothing over the past few hundred years came crashing down in fire and death around him. His offshore retirement funds would probably still be there, if they weren’t traced and repatriated to his victims, but the fortune in physical goods that hadn’t been moved yet… that was forfeit for sure. Losing over half your wealth in a day… He wouldn’t go down as a mysterious benefactor of the youth, his fortune secret and his past unknown. He wouldn’t go down as a great philanthropist, after starting a large family on some backwater, building much needed (and family owned, of course) utilities and amenities to build up a planet. He wouldn’t even go out in a blaze of glory, those years of vip and vim long behind him. No.
He’d go out as a cautionary tale. Something mothers would sing to their hatchlings once they got too rebellious.
“[At least I’ll be remembered.]” Bones said, musing out loud as the argument around him died down.
“[Remember what?]” Brains spat, defensively curled in the corner of the office. “[You’ve been no help this entire time, and I have half a mind to connect to this fleet and turn you both in.]”
“[You cold-hearted station-hopping whore.]” Growled Bile, ducking down in an aggressive posture. “[I’ll kill you before you get the word out-]”
Bones blinked. “[Wait. Wait. The word out – wait. We still have time!]”
“[To commit suicide, yes.]” Bile mocked, staring at his colleague. “[But what, you have some master plan now?]”
Bones rolled over onto his feet, shaking his back out. “[Not a master plan, no – those seem to fail. However, Bile – you still have those recordings of the human, correct?]”
Bile looked at his terminal. “[I do. Illegal recordings might be a nice thing to sell for some after-prison money, but they’re going to search our personal data cache-]”
“[We might only have a few moments – there’s no guarantee, but we might as well try. Can you run a program to pull out all of the human’s voice lines?]” Bones said, standing up and shaking his legs back awake.
“[I think so, but… why?]” Bile replied, his hands a blur over inputs only he could see.
“[Do that, do that now, and open a channel to the senate fleet. We’re going to negotiate.]” Bones said, smiling a bit too wide for comfort.
= = =
“[Captain, we’re being hailed.]”
“[By the humans?]”
Captain Fierce-gale perked up and waved his assent to be patched through. Himself, the Admiral, as well as a dozen other operatives patched into the call, interest piqued at this 11-th hour missive.
“[Attention Senate Fleet!]” Crowed a half-crazed looking Karnakian, staring unblinking into the camera with a single eye. “[We have the human! We are willing to negotiate!]”
Immediately, the tone shifted on the bridge of “The Last Word”, Captain Fierce-gale sending out silent requests for negotiators to present themselves immediately. As he was issuing silent orders, there was a sound played just off screen-
Fierce-gale muted his voice, hailing the analysts on the bridge. Within a few moments the vocal fingerprint was digitally verified and sent back to his terminal; It was human, it was a male. Most likely still alive…
The Karnakian shook, eyes darting both on and off screen. “[Again! Cease your operations and begin negotiations, or we will harm the human!]”
Captain Fierce-gale re-opened his microphone. “[Greetings. I am Captain Fierce-Gale of the enforcement ship “The Last Word”. I have received and acknowledge your missive; to whom are we speaking with?]”
“[Bones! Give us your word we’ll stay alive – no, give us your word you’ll let us go, and we’ll never darken your or anyone else’s doors again!]” The Karnakian – Bones? Was it? – said, looking between the camera and something off-screen, head twitching between the two in an erratic, stressed way. “[Do it now! Now!]”
“Oro owo ohno oyo froyo-”
Fierce-gale was about to respond before… something pricked the back of his mind. Something was … off. The tone of voice from the first human outburst – no, not even just the tone of voice, but the words themselves, made no sense when compared to the second outburst. The first, loud and aggressive; the second, almost playful. Someone who was being held at knife-point, someone whose life was in danger, didn’t sound like that. It didn’t make sense.
“[Please what-]” Bones said, as the line was muted.
Fierce-gale knew enough when it came to hostage situations; stall for time, wait for the professionals to get there, let them negotiate and go with their suggestions – this is why he immediately called for them, after all. But this… Captain Fierce-gale pinged his Human colleagues. Immediately the call went through, and was apparently auto-accepted; there was a hum of activity on the bridge of the Human ship, and Fierce-gale let a small smile spread across his features as the smaller creatures moved about with such determination, doing their best in this new situation that the universe had thrown them into.
It was admirable, if you looked at it; for hundreds of years straight, Humanity had done nothing but adapt, overcome, surv-
“Alright, it’s settled.” Admiral Hawkings said to a group of people off-screen. “That one will be an honorary vice-captain. His lackey will get no title. Agreed?”
Admiral Hawkings inhaled deeply, the genuine smile on his face replaced with something much more professional as he looked down at his open terminal. “Ah, my apologies. Good morning, Captian. We won’t have a crew manif-”
Captain Fierce-Gale leaned forward in his seat. “[Sir, forgive me, but I’m currently in talks with what we assume is the Pirate leadership. Is the human prisoner accounted for?]”
Admiral Hawkings paused in mid comment, looking at something off-screen. “Yes. Yes I am very certain our VIP is accounted for. Patch me in, please.”
The technicians listening into the conversation did the work without being ordered, as the two-way call suddenly became a three-way.
“[-SAID I WOULD KILL THIS HUMAN IF YOU DON’T MEET OUR DEMANDS!]” Bones roared into the camera, almost dancing from side to side. “[WILL YOU NEGOTIATE?!]”
Fierce-Gale raised his hand in a pacifying gesture. “[Bones, I have brought in the lead for this operation, who is the person you need to negotiate with. His name is-]”
“Admiral Hawkings, and we don’t negotiate with terrorists.” The Admiral stated, matter-of-factly, as he sipped his ice-cold cup of coffee. “Go ahead and rip his guts out.”
Bones paused in the middle of his stress-dance, looking at the camera before bodily turning off-screen, waving his arm a bit. Immediately human noises were pumped into the mic, but they were all nonsensical babble – cries of joy and surprise and pain and a couple other emotions that we can’t really talk about in public. Hawkings nodded to himself as the noise came and went, and was replaced with an earnest silence as the Karnakian leaned towards the camera.
“[See?! He’s alive and-]”
“And you don’t have a translator, so the only reason you can understand me is because of our software.” Admiral Hawkings said with a deep sigh. “So you’ve just pumped babble at us and claimed to have a body. I’m calling your bluff; kill him. Right now.”
Bones looked at the camera, before looking off screen. “[Please hold.]”
The pirate’s screen cut to black, and the two military leaders looked at each other with inscrutable expressions. The dead air lasted for a few moments before the feed was brought back to life, a much calmer – and different – Karnakian sitting before the camera.
“[Hello. My name is Bile. We do not have your human, as you know. Instead, a new negotiation!]” The xenos lifted up a bundle of triggers, each one aglow and flashing to some unknown pulse. “[If you do not negotiate with us, we will release the tethers to this system; not only will these rocks separate kinetically, but most of the interior will be exposed to the void!]”
There was another pause, before Admiral Hawkings shrugged. “Go ahead. Do it. I fucking dare you.”
“[I… I’m sorry?]” Bile said, lowering his hand slightly. “[I’m… threatening to kill everyone. One of our asteroids could even slam into your ship, killing your crew-]”
“[Admiral, if I may? Our negotiators are ready to help diffuse tensions.]” Captain Fierce-Gale interrupted, bowing his head slightly. “[I think this could be a way to end the bloodshed and-]”
“We. Do not. Negotiate. With Terrorists.” Admiral Hawkings stated with cold certainty. “And if you need some proof, let us help. Captain, order the FCs to fire at an appropriate target.”
“[Wait, wait-]” Both Bile and Fierce-Gale pleaded, almost in unison, as Captain Kirk barked orders to the lieutenant under him, who directed Fire Control Team Alpha to task. FC Alpha, always ready, trained their weapons systems at a tether anchor and let loose a volley of dumb, unguided torpedoes to the one part of the cluster that had no friendly IFFs nearby. Within a few moments fire bloomed across everyone’s screen – save for Bile’s, whose office was bathed in alarms and warning lights. As the constellation of rocks began to sway, and the debris cloud silently expanded through the operating theater, Admiral Hawkings lifted his mug and held it out to the side. Without breaking eye contact with either of the xenos he waited for a few moments, before an aide refilled it with piping hot caffeinated slag. He brought the mug back to his lips and took a sip, the bitter lowest-bid coffee sandpapering his tastebuds and esophagus away as it bubbled down into his core.
With a light tak he placed his mug back on the table. “Do I now make myself clear?”
“[S-sir you do, but please, can you calm down?]” Captain Fierce-Gale exclaimed, scratching his neck to work out his tension. “[Let us help now?!]”
Admiral Hawkings sighed. “Alright. But I’ll say this – Bile, was it? I beg you, with tears in my eyes – do not fuck with us, because we will kill everyone here.”
The Karnakian full-body nodded, what remained of his plumage fanning out and back in rapid assent, as surrender negotiations finally began.