Chapter 6

Vengeance (Currently docked at Kei'iorn Station)

Traverus Rift

November 2409

After several hours of intelligence gathering, the operatives were debriefed. Cray looked at Rocker as he was helped into the room. His nose was broken and his face was bruised.

"My gosh, what happened to him?" The skipper asked, astounded by the mere sight of the usually-mischievious coxswain.

"He got into a fight with an alien, sir. He hit on another alien's wife." Sargent Harston answered. Cray blinked. Just why would a normal human being do that?!

"His wife'?" He said, shocked.

"Yeah, his wife, sir." Harston nodded as did the others as Rocker looked away in shame.

"Take him to Sickbay. Tell the doctor exactly what happened and give me a full debrief when you come back." Cray said to the two bodyguards assigned to Rocker.

"Yes, sir." The ex-Wolves said. They left, carrying Rocker away.

"So, give me some news, folks," Cray said, looking around. He wanted to put the incident behind him.

"Sir, I found star charts, sir. I got them for free because the clerk was so nice." Ward said, putting a big stack of charts on the table.

"My Lord in Heaven, you got all of that?!" Stanch said in surprise.

"Yes, ma'am." Ward smiled.

"A local even explained where we were," He brought a slate over to the Captain and showed him as he explained the function.

"I don't recognize any-" He looked at the system names written in Pre-War English: Wolf 359, Alpha Centauri, and Sol. He immediately stood up straight as soon as he saw the words 'Sol', the fabled home system of the Human race.

"That's-Where..." Cray said, shocked. He looked around the room.

"You are serious... we're in the outside galaxy?! The Outside galaxy?!" Cray asked, his eyes widening. Everyone stood shocked. Nobody had been outside of the Cluster in two thousand years... not since the UNE abandoned the Cluster during the Ana'halesh War. Nobody knew exactly where the border of the Cluster was, but the Cluster was big. Not only that, but every expedition sent outside of the Cluster into unknown space never returned.

"We're in some region called the Traverous Rift, sir," Ward said, explaining how the maps worked. He told him what colors represented what.

"So, we're in a Frontier region of the outside galaxy... but we're far away from the Cluster as we know it." He said, thinking. Every kid in the Cluster learned that the Frontier Cluster was Galactic Southwest of Earth, far southwest. This was going to be a lot more than a predicament.

"What about the year? What is it?" Cray asked, looking up.

"I don't know, sir, I forgot to ask. However, I did discover evidence" Stanch came forward as she spoke and put several books on the table. He couldn't read English, but the number struck him as odd.

"'1963'... what year was that?" Cray asked his Comms officer.

"By my recollection, that was the year after the Cuban Missile Crisis of that time period in Earth's history, sir," Stanch said, matter-of-fact.
"Sounds vaguely familiar. It's been a long time since I took Ancient Earth History back in school." Cray said, trying to remember.

"It was during the period known as the Cold War, after the Cuban communist revolution, that the Kennedy administration of the United States of America discovered that Cuba was being used as a nuclear weapons base. There was a standoff as the United States Navy blockaded the island from everyone. A fleet of ships from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was sent and a standoff ensued for some time. There were fears that a nuclear war would erupt, destroying the world as they knew it." She told him. He tried to think. It rang a bell but not much. Not everyone wanted to know Earth history and few kids in the Frontier Cluster Alliance wanted little to do with Pre-War history as told by Systems Union 'propaganda' that was spread during the occupation of the future Alliance.

"Obviously, that never happened, right?" Cray asked, chuckling nervously.

"I hate to say this, sir, but history as we know it and what the books I'm reading have aren't compatible. They don't match after 1962." Stanch said. There was a minute of silence. None of this boded well for anyone.

"What else do you know, Ms. Stanch?" Cray asked, serious.

"I know that there are several powers at play here. I met a woman who claimed that she fought for a nation of humans or possible humans called the 'New Nations Empire', the successor to the United Nations, or so it seems. Our United Nations was reformed after the 2030s into a more socialist and world-governing unit." Stanch told him.

"And the other powers?" Cray asked. There was more than one player in the game of galactic politics, he knew.

"Something called the 'Krawl'. I've yet to read the book on that one. From what I heard, they sound like something dangerous. And then there's also the Sol System Alliance."

"So, there is an Earth-governing nation?" Cray asked for clarification. It would've been very interesting to meet the folks running Earth.

"If Sol is in the name, it has to be, sir," Stanch affirmed.

"Also, a bit of history is that some time ago, perhaps a century or more, there was a civil war within the New Nations Empire, spawning the Sol Systems Alliance." She told the group.

"So, like our War of Independence from the Susies?" Cray said for clarification.

"I'd have to say 'yes' on that, sir," Stanch admitted.

"Hold on... you were helped by someone? Who was it?" Harston asked, leaning forward.

"A woman with a tattoo on her shoulder. It was an eagle and a gladius." Stanch answered, concerned. . Harston frowned.

"An alien intervened when the other alien nearly beat up Rocker. He was the one who punched Rocker in the face. He said his name was Verath and made some kind of reference to a movie I never heard of." Harston confessed.

Ward blinked.

"I was helped by some kind of alien counselor who explained to me about the star charts' icons and colors," The whole room stood in silence as they all contemplated what was going on.

"Ah, shit. Someone's watching us!" Harston exclaimed.

"By whom? I don't remember hearing about a secret police on this station," Stanch said, trying to control her emotions.

"Maybe, they're local security?" Cray suggested.

"No, the counselor I talked to said she was from a ship called the Phantom," Ward said.

"Whoever they were, the station's management must have contacted them about us!" Cray said, interrupting the conversation.

Cray looked at the star chart in front of him.

"Alright... we'll head to a research world nearby. Ward, see anything like what we want?" Cray asked. Ward looked at the chart.

"Yes, sir. There's one, but it's a bit far. Goes by the name of Galileo."

"Then, that's where we're going." Cray decided.

"You're all dismissed. Ward, I want you to hand those charts to Mackers and see if we can integrate them into our ship's computers." Cray ordered.

Ward affirmed the order and took the charts.

"'Phantom'" Cray whispered. He remembered a conversation he had with Lupa earlier.

XXX

Earlier

Lupa sat in the viewing room on board the Vengeance, observing the space station docks, its technology, and the ships currently docked. The expressionless gaze of the Wolf-Mother showed hints of interest as she observed the area. She already recognized the space station.

The hissing of the door to the viewing room confirmed someone was entering. Lupa recognized the footsteps.

"Captain," She said in her ever stoic voice, not looking away from the window.

Cray walked up next to her. It had been about thirty minutes since he sent his crewmen out to gather information.
"See anything recognizable, Lupa?" He looked at the station and the passing ships that were docking and undocking.

Lupa offered for her superior officer to sit on the couch while pointing to a ship docked beside them. It resembled a sailing vessel of some kind.

"That is a Uda'no class exploration vessel...alien, most likely owned by a Nagyua crew." She said.

"Are you sure?" Cray asked her. He took a seat next to Lupa after looking at the neighboring vessel.

After saying that, Cray saw a group of individuals with various shades of blue and green skin walking out of the vessel, fin like ears were present on their head along with gills. They had webbed hands and feet. The privateer struggled to keep his mouth from dropping.

"Unless humans in this universe evolved to become Piscine, I am certain," Lupa remarked.

Her posture remained the same and her expression gave no way of telling how she felt.

"Have you ever heard of the man named Erwin Schrödinger, Captain?" She asked.

Cray thought for a moment. The name was familiar.

"He's referred to in ancient texts and tablets back home. Some kind of Old Earth philosopher? Something involving a cat?" He asked.

"It was a thought experiment...but there was one time he spoke to a class, discussing history...in that lesson he coined used the term"multiverse" to describe that all possible events of history happen all at once. Branching into multiple universes..." Lupa explained.

She stood up, looking out the window.

"Those are Nagyuan people...I know because my sister and I were two of six of our brothers and sisters in the Super soldier corps to be dispatched with twenty marines to their planet to helping push back the aliens I mentioned we were at war with." She explained.
She looked at Cray.

"The question I have is not if these are Nagyua...but if the Nagyua are from my universe," she said.

She turned back to the window.

"For so many years I've wondered what happened to my sister and our unit before I awoke in your universe...right now: The cat in the box is neither dead nor alive...not until the lid is opened." She said.

Cray thought for a moment.

"I just sent a few of our people: Four that can speak English with two bodyguards each with concealed weapons in case of harassment. I wanted to send you out as well to see if you recognized anything, ask around. I'd also like to ask around if that'll help you." Cray offered. He paused before speaking.

" Also, this alien race you were fighting: Who and what were they?" He asked.

"The only aliens back home were the Ana'halesh and nobody's ever seen them... until the Mary Anne team came across those bodies. Did you see the footage?" He asked.

Lupa was quiet for a moment, contemplating her answer to the first and second question.

"I would prefer staying on board for the time being...I'm still analyzing the star charts. If I exhaust the charts I will go out and investigate" She said.

She looked at him.

"I've seen the footage of the bodies...and all I can say is this, Captain: in Nature, there is no such thing as evil...but our foes...they were the definition of evil," Lupa answered his questions.

Lupa raised her hand to her temples, rubbing them as memories from decades ago surfaced.

"Forgive me, Captain...but I would rather not talk about them." Cray felt guilty at this.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to bring back painful memories," He apologized to his elder.

"It is no fault of your own," She said, dismissively.

Suddenly, Lupa's head snapped to the left, clearly, something caught her attention. She shook her head.

"I will be reviewing the star charts, sir." She said.

Cray frowned

"What was that?" He looked to the left of the ship.

Lupa shook her head, her attention has been drawn to late.

"For a moment, I thought I saw a phantom of the past."

She walked out of the viewing room.

Cray saw a curious looking frigate.

"Phantom of the past," He echoed.
"What does that mean?"
XXX

Cray then realized something. 'The Phantom' and Lupa's phrase... what if they were connected somehow? He was about to take the books from the table when he realized that Stanch had already taken her. Shoot.

In the Phantom's briefing room, Kadin listened to Verath, Ashley and Heather's reports of their encounters with their targets. While the interactions differed, one thing that was agreed upon was that the crew members of the ship, which Jasper and Kadin had tagged with a beacon that could allow the Phantom crew to keep track of their targets, were lost. Ashley's conversation proved to be the most insightful. Even after an hour of searching, X could still not find any registered colonies (religious in that case) that had the name 'Thayer'.

The fact that the woman Ashley conversed with did not know of the Krawl threat to their galaxy was also quite surprising.

"It is hard to not notice a race that constantly invades entire planets in a matter of days…whether said world has space flight or not," Verath commented the Saager veteran had plenty of battles against the Krawl back in his youth during the Vanguard Wars eighty six years ago.

"She seemed very perplexed when I brought the name up," Ashley insisted. "Go out into the streets and even bring up the name "Krawl" and the people will shiver in their shoes…she did not even flinch in confusion."

Silence filled the gap between the four, no one was really sure who these people were. It was possible that the crew-members of that ship had been separated from the rest of humanity in the first centuries of human expansion from Sol. How these people ended up from the Galactic South to the Far East of the Galaxy was something Kadin did not know, as X's scans could not find any active Crystal Core.

Either these people got sucked into a wormhole or were professional con artists…but if Kadin was being honest with himself, the latter sounded plausible.

"So boss," Verath's voice drew the captain from his thoughts, the aging Drakonian looking at him. "How long will we follow them?"

That was the question. How long was enough?

"I don't know, to be honest," Kadin answered, crossing his arms. "We'll keep the Phantom's cloaking on while we follow them, make sure they aren't really con artists…if they run out of fuel en route to their location we'll help them to a refueling station, then we can question them properly…and find out who the heck they are."

"Why not just inform the Alliance?" Ashley asked. The Imperial veteran was right, this was Alliance space, and it was technically their problem. But Kadin had a feeling the Alliance would not handle the situation well.

"Because I don't trust the Alliance Navy to keep it's distance long enough," Kadin answered.

Then the room's comms turned on.

"Hey Captain," Parker's voice spoke through the speakers. "Looks like our neighbors are getting ready to leave."

"Alright Parker," Kadin replied. "Wait a few minutes before undocking. We don't want them getting suspicious."

"Copy." Parker said before cutting the comm.

A half hour after the strange shift left the station, the Phantom's engines flared to life and the ship backed out of the docking cradle it had docked at and zoomed forth away from the station, following the signal from the tracker on the hull of the strange ship. When the Phantom was a few light years from the station, the Phantom's cloaking system engaged, effectively seemingly disappearing in the void of space

XXX

"Algeron Drives are up and spinning, skipper," The helmsman said.

Algeron drives were the less-than-ideal replacement for the better and now-lost Alcuiberre Drive. According to Ancient Earth History, the Alcuiberre Drive had been theorized in the late twentieth century (Anno Domini) by a Mexican scientist with the name of Alcuiberre. Some alterations had been made over the years until it's final invention in the twenty-third century. The drive was completely lost after the events of the Ana'halesh war. The Algeron had been regarded by many as its replacement. Sadly, it didn't live up to par. Two lightyears gave you two weeks' worth of travel in the Cluster. More than that and it would be a long time. With the Mark V Alcuiberre Drives, it would've taken only a day or so in the Cluster.

"Good," Harper said for Cray.

"We're right on course to Galileo, as well." The helmsman added.

"We'll keep a steady heading. Also, I want the Point defense batteries up in case we run into pirates. Ward said that we were in a frontier-type of star system. And Frontier, like our own cluster, means pirates." Cray said.

The irony wasn't lost on most learned men in the Frontier Confederated Alliance Navy. The FCAN had used pirates as privateers against the Systems Union occupying forces before and then stopped using them altogether. Rewards for their service such as the commissioning of captains and their crews in the Navy had been used. Other crews that were too wild were purged, sadly.

"Yes, sir." Lieutenant Weathers said.

"Roy, you have the conn. I'm going to rest in my quarters." Cray said, saluting.

"Aye, sir. I have the conn." Roy said, saluting. Cray left the bridge.

Commander Roy Harper sighed as he stood. Before the war, he'd been a Lieutenant Commander and an executive officer to, of all things, a supply vessel, the Harvolt, in the Pickett's Rest fleet. He had also seen some things that he shouldn't have before he left. As part of an agreement, he left the Navy with an honorable discharge. But, what he saw back then would haunt him. Namely, his captain's complete and utter involvement with smuggling. He wasn't in on it, but he faced threats. He couldn't go into System Command as the skipper of the Harvolt would've found out.

Unlike the Systems Union Navy which had numbered fleets with crews and captains from all over, the FCA Navy had more regional-based and homegrown fleets. Even the Frontier Guard regiments were based on what planet and local region they were from. Wealthier systems could afford fleets numbering in the low hundreds. Some others less wealthy would be in below a hundred at most with the poorest only affording two or three ships and at the very least a regiment. Albeit, by law, every world was to provide for its own defense. Private companies were allowed to do the industrial work, provided they were paid, of course. Lancer Interstellar Industries had been one of, if not the only, company to do such.

He stood at the conn for about two hours. Things were silent, the occasional report would come in. Bored, Roy turned to Stanch.

"Stanch, do you know how Chief Petty Officer Warren got busted up? I passed him earlier today." Harper asked. Stanch, now in her uniform and hair in a bun, paused.
"I heard that he tried to," she paused.

"commit adultery with an alien's wife and he got himself in a lot of trouble. Another alien had to bail him out-out of the kindness of his heart. However, said alien then punched Rocker to teach him a lesson."

"Rocker tried to screw an alien's wife? Was she human?" Weathers asked.
"Actually, you went on 'shore leave'," Roy said to Stanch.

"Was everyone there... alien?" Roy asked.

"No, there were a few humans." Stanch said.

"These aliens? What were they like?" Matthews asked, interested.

She hesitated on how to answer.

XXX

"They were like us, only different in looks." Sargent Matthew Harston said to the gathered Marines in his platoon. He was now dressed in the gray camouflage uniform of both the Confederate Marines/ Frontier Guard and the Partnership Marines.

The gathered four ten-man squads of 3rd platoon were gathered in a section of the barracks for 3rd Platoon. A few of them were ex-Wolves like himself. Andriy 'Jotun' Gustavsson was somewhere doing his prayer group/ bible study.

"Yeah, Rocker did try to commit adultery," He admitted.

"Fucker should've been shot," Gunny Hayes of 3rd platoon said. Others agreed with him. Rape was a serious crime back home along with sex abuse.

"We're lucky he didn't. He's our one good source of music on this boat, Gunny." Hayes said. This was a sort of debriefing for the Marines. From him, the whole platoon would know, and then the entire company. Even Captain Jaansen was here.

"Not only that but hopefully he's learned his lesson. If not, we're going to have to leave his ass here."

"So, to clarify Sargent, we're in the Outside galaxy?" Captain Jaansen asked.
Harston sighed before replying.
"Yes, sir... but it's not our Outside. According to Stanch, this galaxy has a lot more aliens than the old UNE and Susies would ever like."

"An alternate reality? I thought that was disproved thousands of years ago!" A lance corporal exclaimed. He was right. The whole theory was supposed to have been blown out of the water a long time ago.

"Do we know what year it is in this alternate reality?" Jaansen asked.

"No, Lieutenant Stanch is reading all of the books she got at the station bookstore," Harston said.

XXX

"Rocker, you jackass. You're lucky you didn't get shot in the face." His CO Lieutenant Alan Rogers said to Rocker from within his HAZMAT suit. The alien object had been in the quarantine room for the past few weeks. Rocker had been put under quarantine and the other three had been checked and quarantined after their boarding for diseases. There was no telling how this would play out. Hopefully, there would be no outbreak onboard.

Rocker's nose had been broken and the re-setting had been a real pain in the neck. Doc Hudson keenly reminded Rocker about his fortune that his face wasn't caved in by the alien's punch. There was bruising around his nose.

Rocker sighed, his once-untamed mane of brown hair was cut short, put back into his service to the FCA's Privateer/ mercenary organization's regulations. He had wild blue eyes that spoke of being free from the chains of order. Right now, his eyes spoke of pain and regret at his drunken conduct earlier.

"Sorry, boss."

"One of these days, it won't matter if you're the rockstar of the squadron, you'll be the bottom of someone's boot or vacced," Rogers warned.

"Sir, I said I was sorry!" Rocker muttered like a child getting scolded.

"Not good enough! I told you before I read your record and I told you what we expected of you when you were off-duty and on!" Rogers said, reminding him of past mistakes.

Rocker gritted his teeth. Back in his service to the Pickett's Rest fleet of the FCA Navy, he had been renowned for sleeping with someone's wife and the only reason how he got away with it was that of his uncle being an Admiral in a neighboring fleet.

"I hope to God this is the last time you do something like this, Rocker. I hope it is." His CO said, angrily.

Rocker sighed as the Lieutenant left without another word. He rubbed his face. He hadn't expected things to go like that. Damn it, all he had were two drinks and that was it!

His uncle Harry's words came back to haunt him.

'You'll be just like your Dad if you don't watch out,'

Like heck, he was going to be like that no-good two-timing drunken deadbeat! He slammed his fist onto his bed. The heart monitor machine, he noticed, started showing his spiking vitals that fluctuated.

"Is everything alright, Warrant Officer?" A nurse asked.

"Yeah," Rocker said.

"Hey, who's doing the radio since I'm gone?" Rocker asked before the nurse could leave. He was referring to his work as the ship's disc jockey while the ship was en-route to its destination.

Just then, he received another visitor, one he did not expect. She also wore a HAZMAT suit. Wolf-mother's face studied his own.

"What do you want, Wolf-mother? Come to gloat?" He asked.

Wolf-mother had no established rank in the Partnership Military. The ex-Wolves followed her for some reason. They discouraged questions about it and she was also the captain's advisor.

Wolf-mother was silent and then she spoke.

"You're lucky the Drakonian let go of you. Once a Drakonian grabs you: They won't let go of you until you are a bloody mess...especially regarding the well being of their family and Clan Siblings."

Rocker blinked.

"It wasn't my idea! And the fuck's a 'Drakonian'?!" He called out after Wolf-mother's back.

XXX

Pup had hidden the kittens he found in a place no one would ever think to look... unless you were an ex-Wolf who could easily smell garbage, mangy fur, and cat fecal and urinary waste.

The kittens mewed in a box that he put some of his spare clothes in as a liner. The kittens, he knew needed food and drink.

XXX

The Phantom trailed it's target for three hours, maintaining a safe distance while keeping the ship in visual. Thus far X had not picked up any Krawl ships on scanners, however it was unwise to rule out that while the first three hours were uneventful that the rest of the flight to the Vengeance's destination would be smooth flying…not if the ship was flying through a system that was popular for Smugglers and pirates alike.

The Sea of the Unfaithful was a portion of space with in the Frontier that was mostly used by Clanless Drakonian bandits, individuals who left their clans in favor of a dishonest and ruthless living. Tactics Clanless would use to attack unsuspecting ships was keeping the engines and noncritical systems offline while hovering within trade routes in order to jump on unsuspecting trade vessels.

Normally trade vessels had an armed mercenary or military escort…but there were still those few ships that thought they could evade the Clanless.

Parker silently hopped, however, that there were bandits in the region. He hadn't put The Phantom through a non-critical engagement for some time. Krawl Hornets and Wasps were not good fliers, but they were annoying and difficult to outfly when they swarmed. But an enemy vessel that was not organic and was piloted by inferior pilots? Parker could get behind that kind of skirmish.

But with no skirmish in sight or an asteroid field to maneuver through: the teenager needed something to pass the time.

"Definition of insanity." He said.

"State of being mentally…"The AI started to answer.

"No…I mean do you know Einstein's definition of insanity?" He asked, looking at the AI.

"The claim that Mr. Einstein had a unique definition for insanity is disputable, Michael." The AI retorted.

Parker rolled his eyes at the AI's avatar that hovered next to the flight controls. So much for a trivia game.

"At least tell me what it is if you know." Parker sighed. Of course X knew it, she was connected to the Galactic Wide Network. Trillions upon trillions of information was available for her at a second's notice. Parker just enjoyed testing that knowledge…though it wasn't helpful that X was so literal.

"Very well," X relented, the avatar crossing her arms across her chest. "'The Definition of Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result each time.' Source: Sol System Alliance Network Archives, Berlin Germany."

"Awesome as always, X." Parker replied with a smile. "Try me."

"Very well: Who was Ptolemy XI?"

"Uhh…Cleopatra's brother?" He guessed.

"Incorrect: The brother of Cleopatra VII Philopator was Ptolemy XIII Theos Philopator. Ptolemy XI was the ruler of Egypt in 80 B…"

"You always pick the hard ones," Parker took a sip from his cup of coffee and winced. It had too much cream in it.

"If I may: I choose the little known questions." X responded…almost with a smirk.

"...At least try and come up with a popular question I can answer."

"You can answer these."

And there she did it again: being literal, right back to a calculated AI.

Then, as if fate had come to his pride's rescue, his console's instruments picked up a 'ping.' It was very low, but aside from the Vengeance, there was something else in the area…not far from the Vengeance's position. What was suspicious was that whatever triggered The Phantom's instruments clearly was stalking Vengeance, not effectively as the Phantom but effective enough for unsuspecting pilots.

"Oh boy…" Parker muttered as he clicked on the comms. "Boss, we're not the only ones trailing the weird guys."

"Have a visual?" Kadin asked.

"No, my instruments briefly picked up a ship before it vanished. No Warp discharge detected so it's still around."

"Alright, X: Deploy a drone to the area where the ship was last located and have it track our guests. Parker: stay on course, but be ready to engage if the ship if it is a threat to the Vengeance."

"Understood, Captain," X replied to the captain, signaling the main battery to prepare a drone launch, which would recon the area.

Parker was about to reply…before he saw on his instruments that the Vengeance had come to a stop…activating magnification on his console, he looked down at the telescope equipped on the bow of The Phantom to get a visual on the Vengeance a distance away. Parker's swore as he saw why the ship stopped.

"Uh boss, the Vengeance has come to a complete stop…in front of a Saager trading vessel." Parker said to his superior on the ship's intercom.

"In distress?" Kadin asked, his voice crackling.

"No…it's a Saager vessel," Parker could confirm that it looked like a Saager freighter…but the hull was off. "But it lacks the clan markings on the hull…" He commented.

Suddenly Verath's voice come onto the comms, a low growl heard.

"Clanless…Those savages are about to ambush them."

XXX

Roy Harper blinked. Things were getting weird.

"Just, where in the heck did they come from?!" Roy barked. That alien ship appeared suddenly, just right in front of them. They had to do a hard stop in the middle of their transit.

Lieutenant Mackers looked at his screen.

"I haven't a clue, sir," Mackers said, dumbfounded.

"Sir, we're being hailed!" Stanch said, turning to her executive officer.

Just then, an unexpected figure came into the bridge. Everyone looked at the new arrival.

"Wolf-mother?" Harper asked, concerned that the captain's advisor would come onboard the bridge uninvited.

"Executive Officer, we stopped. Why?" She asked. Harper looked at her as did everyone on the bridge. Cray's personal adviser stood on the bridge, unannounced with her usual attire.

"You don't have any authority over me, Wolf-mother," Harper said his voice firm. He wanted to sigh. This old girl... why? Why did the Captain trust her? What did he and the ex-Wolves know that the rest of the crew didn't? Heck, nobody knew Wolfmother's real name! At least, nobody that Roy knew.

"A ship just appeared right in front of us," Mackers blurted. Harper closed his eyes and muttered a curse.

Wolf-mother tilted her head. The ship was far away, but close enough to be seen.

"Are they hailing us?" Wolf-mother asked.

"Yes, Mother." Stanch answered, confused on how to deal with this situation. The captain's advisor had rarely come onto the bridge. Her real official rank was never decided by Partnership Command. Not even the Commodore had decided.

"Can you put it on speaker?" Wolf-mother asked, concerned. Stanch blinked and looked at Harper.

"And why should she do that?" Harper asked, crossing his arms with a skeptical expression.

"I know a lot more than you do about where we are, Commander." Mother said. Everyone looked at her with tilted heads, blinking eyes, as well as glancing at each other.

"Do it," Harper said, nodding. He was willing to take a chance for just this once. Besides, he was curious about what she knew about this place. Not only that, but she never talked about knowing this area before.

Stanch pressed a few buttons and then the alien language was heard. It was slurred and guttural, Harper would say. He never heard it before. Wolf-mother listened. She gestured for Stanch to cut the speakers. Stanch did so.

"They're asking if we're alright. They're identifying themselves as a Clan Saager freighter and they're concerned about our well-being as we have no crystal core, which is needed for FTL speed." Wolfmother stated. She frowned.

"Something's not right. Do sensors see any markings on this 'Saager' freighter?" She asked Mackers.

Mackers glanced at his console.

"Uh, cameras don't see anything and I'm picking up a strange IFF signal." He said.

"Some kind of..." He leaned closer to the screen.

"Freighter, I think. I could be wrong. Hell, I don't know what the hell I'm looking at!" He slapped his knees in frustration.

Wolfmother walked over and looked at the sensor officer's screen.

"A Saager freighter... but no markings." She whispered. Everyone looked at her. She then walked over to Stanch.

"Hand me your headset, Lieutenant," Wolfmother said, extending her hand. She said it more as an order than a request.

Stanch handed Wolfmother the headset reluctantly.

She put it on and started speaking the alien language herself.

Stanch gawked at her as did the others. One would say she spoke it fluently. Then, Wolfmother's eyes widened. She looked at Weathers and then Harper.

She then mouthed in Neo-Anglic 'Ready the weapons. They're a threat'. She said.

Just then, the skipper came onto the bridge. He had red eyes that showed that he was tired with bags underneath him and he was dressed in a simple gray T-shirt with sweatpants and sneakers.

"What the hell is going on and why are we not moving?!" Cray bellowed. Before she could speak, a loud bark was heard from the headset and the line went dead.

Stanch heard Wolfmother curse in Pre-War English. How did Wolfmother know it? She wondered.

"Mother, Roy, what the hell's going on around here?!" Cray asked, hands on his hips.

"Captain, I think we're about to be under attack by pirates!" Wolfmother said to him.

"Pirates?! Why would they attack us?!" Cray said in disbelief. Just then, Mackers shouted.

"We've got incoming projectiles, sir! Unknown what it is, but judging by the readings: it's plasma!"

"Plasma?!" Cray said, bewildered.
"Activate the maneuver thrusters, hard to port!" He bellowed to the helmsman.

"Hard to port, aye, firing up engines!" The helmsman said.

"Impact imminent!" Mackers said. Just then a blue glow was seen as it got closer. They felt the engines hum and the ship start to move with a steady jolt.

"Point defense turrets are online, sir! Firing now!" Weathers said. The alarms for General Quarters started to sound off.

"Wolfmother, I want you to get off my bridge and focus on defending my ship from boarders," Cray said.

"I'll talk with you about this later," He added.

"Aye, sir," Wolfmother said, handing the headset back to Stanch and left the bridge.

"Sir! The battery's not taking it down!" Weathers reported.

"Where's the impact going to be?" Cray asked. There could be still enough time to evade. Everyone went to work.

"It'-" Then the distant sound of something scalding hot burning metal was heard. The ship jerked to port.

"Impact! Decks Seventeen and Eighteen! We have an air leak!" Mackers said.

"Seal the leak!" He bellowed. Damn it, how many people did they just lose?

"Sir, another ship's appeared... no- Make that two!" Mackers said as Cray sat down on his command throne.

"Two?!" He tried to tell himself not to panic. They were a Lancer-class battleship. They could handle a few smaller frigates, couldn't they? Then again, they were without support.

"Wait... the second ship that appeared is attacking the other ship that appeared. Sir, it looks like we have an ally!" Mackers said.

"What do they identify as?" Cray asked.

"Sir, the allied vessel is identified as the Phantom-3," Mackers said.

"Stanch, tell the Phantom 'thanks for the assist' in Pre-War English," Cray ordered.

"That ship again," Cray muttered, remembering the debriefing and the conversation with Lupa.

"Sir, I'm sorry to say this but we can't use the railgun as the enemy vessel's too close and we're not able to acquire the trajectory for the main gun yet until we are straight on target!" Weathers said as the ship started to slowly move.

"Alright, fire missile pods One and Two and fire both batteries of laser guns! Hopefully, we can overwhelm-" The sounds of the laser guns firing and missiles launching.

"Do they have a lock?" Cray asked.

"I wouldn't have fired if I didn't, sir!" Weathers said.

"Sir! They're firing again!" Mackers said.

"Missile One has been struck down! She shot it down!" Mackers said in horror. "Sir! A smaller object detached from the second enemy vessel. It may be a boarding craft! It's heading for our cargo bay!"

"Stanch! I want that cargo bay evacuated and send in the Marines!" He then thought for a moment. An idea hit him.

"Stanch, change of plans: I want the Wolves on this one. I want every ex-Wolf we have down in that cargo bay." He said.

Stanch nodded and gave the necessary orders.

"The enemy ship we're targeting shot the other missile down!" Weathers reported.

"What of our lasers?" Cray asked.

Mackers gave an answer that Cray didn't like.

XXX

Sergeant Harston got the orders as soon as they came in from the intercom system.' All ex-Wolves to the Cargo bay: Enemy boarders boarding there, all ex-Wolves to report to the cargo bay to repel boarders. All Marine platoons are to standby as reserves.'

"Guess, we're being Wolves, again, eh, Sargent?" Pup said as he and the other Wolves from the barracks jogged to their destination. They were dressed in camouflaged gray combat armor with sealed helmets for fighting in a vacuum. They and they had their Kinetic Assault Rifle-4902s with them. Others had tactical shotguns. All had Colt-Wesson side-arms. A few had K-SAWs, descendants of the Old Earth-Belgian made Squad Automatic Weapons. There was a platoon of them, about thirty-six, maybe thirty-eight.

"Guess we are. Except, I didn't get my legs busted on a training jump." Harston said. Pup made a wounded puppy face. Others chuckled.

All checked their weapons as the crewmembers from the cargo bay ran like hell away from there. The sounds of some kind of gunfire were heard and loud roars. The Wolf-mother met them at the entrance. Harston and the others felt honored and elated at her presence. The mere fact that she was facing an enemy alongside them this day at this hour felt... incredible. She wasn't wearing her old armor, he knew. There had been so little time to get it on. Instead, she wore the usual combat armor that both the Frontier ground-pounders and Partnership Marines wore.

"Alright, we're going dark on this one." She said to them as they gathered around her. She was referring to operations that were conducted at night or bloody.

"Our regular brothers in arms have no idea how to face them, but I do." She added. He felt privileged to hear her speak.

"Strike hard and fast, be swift most of all." She advised. She then gestured for the Wolves to get in.

They then charged into the cargo bay as the last of the crewmembers ran out. There was the smell of blood, plasma, gunfire, and burning meat. The ex-Wolves took up positions around various crates as their enemies opened fire. Harston felt some kind of bolt whizz past his head. They waited for the enemy to keep firing. They would get low on ammo soon.

Harston peered down the crate-filled bay. There were one-no-three levels to the bay for supplies, in case of extended tours of duty. There was also a lot of ammo here for their weapons. There were also the bodies of several crewmembers that didn't make it out. Their bodies face down as they tried to run away from their scaly doom. Harston gritted his teeth. They would be avenged.

"Bridge, Wolf-mother. Everyone's out... everyone that made it. Shut the hatch behind us. And kill the lights!" Wolfmother's voice crackled on the COM-channel. The giant hatch behind them slammed shut and sealed. Then, the lights went out.

Before the slaughter began, Harston looked at their enemies. He saw that they were large, draconian creatures, larger than a man. They had strange armor on and their armor was adorned with grisly trophies like human and alien skulls. But, they weren't Wolves. The lights went out and he had a gray vision of the bay around him. The Wolves howled and began laying down covering fire. Others started moving in for the close-quarters kill.

XXX

"X, jam their comms," Kadin ordered as he entered the bridge, taking his seat on the command throne. "I don't want these killers signaling for help."

"Yes, sir," X responded affirmatively. "Jamming comms."

"Parker, go nuts," Kadin ordered his helms officer, who merely smirked at his orders.

"Sir, yes sir," Parker replied, making a quick maneuver to starboard as the Clanless vessel that attempted to ambush the Vengeance follows Phantom. "Yeah, that's right, come and get me, buddy."

The Clanless vessel fired off a spray of Plasma rounds from it's secondary guns, attempting to pelt the Phantom's shields and breach its armor. However, the ship was agile and a small target, making it easy for the ship to perform barrel roles through Space in any direction. At this point, the Clanless gunner onboard the ship was wasting energy from the secondary gun by firing continuously.

Eventually: the gun itself shut off, needing to cool down from a constant state of fire.

But X's warning confirmed that the ship was not done firing at them.

"Their targeting computer is trying to get a lock," X announced to Parker, the Pilot grinned.

"That's an Era 2-Attack Assaultor." Parker stated as he turned the controls to starboard, turning the ship around one hundred and eighty degrees and proceeding to zoom forward at the enemy ship. "These things have lots of armor…but their missile bays are covered with armor, needing to always be exposed when preparing to fire."

Kadin smirked.

"Light the powder keg, Parker." Kadin ordered.

Parker nodded, pushing forward on the thruster switch, increasing speed.

"Salen," Parker contacted to the Phantom's main weapon's bay. "Sending you coordinates, get the main gun ready."

"Get ready for fireworks." Salen replied. A few seconds later, after the ship's XO and gunnery chief had charged the Phantom's Thor-13M, a gun that was normally installed on Capitol ships and cruisers and had a devastating beam of molten metal and plasma when fired.

With the weapon charged, and his target locked on, Parker pounded the switch on his console, initiating the firing sequence of the Thor.

In a three second blast from the main gun, a blue beam of plasma and molten metal flew from the now exposed main gun. The beam flew directly at the Clanless vessel's now exposed missile bay. Upon connecting with the loaded plasma trident torpedo, a massive explosion tore through the interior of the enemy ship, cracking it open like a nut, killing thirty percent of the ship's criminal inhabitants while the rest were quickly sucked out into the empty vacuum of space.

"X, status of the Vengeance?" Parker asked his companion.

"I patched through to their comms," X announced as her Avatar appeared over a projector. "They have a hull breach and have been boarded by a raiding party."

Kadin, without hesitation, stood up from the command throne and prepared to walk out of the cockpit.

"Contact the Vengeance, Parker," Kadin ordered. "Deal with the last Clanless ship and tell the captain we are coming aboard to help deal with the invaders."

"Got it," Parker answered, turning back to the controls.

Kadin tapped his comm as he made his way through the CIC.

"Verath, Te'lan, Salen: Get your gear ready," Kadin ordered.

"Good, time to kill some savages."

"Got it."

"Right there." Each of the mentioned squad replied respectively.

XXXX

"They want to board my ship?!" Cray asked, bewildered. The sixty-five-year-old man was diverting his attention away from the fight.

"Sir, they're saying that they can help us repel boarders," Stanch said.

"Tell them we have people on it!" Cray said, looking back at the fight ahead of him.

"Sir, I've noticed something," Mackers said. Another bolt of blue plasma streamed towards the Vengeance. It hit the starboard side, rocking the ship. The alarm klaxons blared nearly deafening the bridge crew.

"Hull breach Deck four!"Mackers said, anxious.

"Seal it, damn it!" Cray said. How many people were they losing? Who died? Who was out in space right now, choking in the vacuum? Cray shifted his focus away from the dead. There'd be time to mourn later.

Both vessels were now moving, circling each other like wolves dueling over a bone. However, the Vengeance was much slower and unable to use its main gun. There were laser batteries and point defense cannons that could fire. However, they barely made even a hint of damage on the shields.

So far, they lost three-point defense turrets and three laser turrets to the enemy vessel. There were now three hull breaches on multiple decks. Repairs were going to be a real pain.

"What is it?" Cray asked Mackers.

"They're shielded like the Susies. However, like the Susies way back when;they drop their shields to fire. What if we fired when they dropped their shields?" Mackers suggested. Cray nodded.

"Weathers, soon as the shield's dropped, blast their ordnance! I want that damn thing out of commission, she's killed who-knows-how-many of our people!" Harper ordered without Cray saying a word. Cray smiled. That was Roy. If he was lucky and showed more prowess he'd be captain in no time.

"Sir, the Phantom's captain strongly advises you to take up his offer of help. He says that you have no experience in dealing with the enemy we're facing now. His words." Stanch said after conversing in English. Cray gritted his teeth.

"Fine, they have my permission to board!" Cray said, angry that more foreigners were coming onboard. Stanch nodded and relayed the message.

"They're on the way, ETA: Under one mike. Also, the Phantom's coming in to aid us." Stanch said.

"Good!" Cray said.

"Shields down!" Mackers said.

"Fire everything we can at that alien son of a-" Cray ordered. Weathers smiled as he acknowledged the order.

"Starboard side lasers are firing now!" He announced.

The remaining nine laser turrets aimed and fired invisible lines of energy at the enemy vessel, destroying its plasma cannon. The enemy ship shuddered as the lasers fired into it. The Phantom-3 swooped in and fired a massive salvo as it flew between the two vessels with the Vengeance pouring fire into her as the plating started to melt under the laser's heat.

The enemy ship exploded as her engines were hit by the killing salvo. The enemy ship burst into pieces of metal. The Vengeance activated its maneuver thrusters to get as far away from the explosion as it could.

"How in the heck does a ship that small fire a beam that frigging big?" Matthews asked, looking at the sheer absurdity of what he just saw. No one back home would ever believe this. Big ships fired big rounds. That's how it usually went!

"Sir, I'm getting reports from Wolf Mother that there may be crewmen still alive in the cargo bay." Stanch also said. Cray tilted his head at her.

"Everyone there is Wolf, dead or alien. How the hell can anyone be alive down there?!" Cray asked, looking at her.

"Unknown, sir. I'm just relaying what Wolfmother's saying." Stanch said.

"Tell that old girl to do what needs to be done! And get those darn aliens off my ship!" He said.

"Also, ask the Phantom why in the hell that gun of hers is so frigging big though she's probably a frigate." He added, quickly.

XXXX

The Phantom's Hawk dropship flew towards the Vengeance's breached hull. Within the passenger area of the dropship, Kadin and his fire team made sure their air supply was secured before the pilot opened the side doors. Once the team's breathing units were secure and their boots magnetically locked to the floor, Kadin gave the Hawk's pilot the all clear.

Shortly after, the side doors of the dropship opened, revealing the hull breach of the ship.

Using their boot's thrusters, the fire team briefly drifted towards the Vengeance before going through the breach and landing within the ship. While all areas close to the breach were locked down, preventing the ship from tearing itself from the inside out by the vacuum of space, Kadin knew that if they unsealed a door, more air would be lost from within the ship.

"Te'lan, deploy a shield unit to cover the breach, should serve as a temporary barrier while we unseal the doors," Kadin ordered his third in command.

"Copy," Te'lan replied, nodding as she pulled out a cylinder-shaped device from her waist bandolier. "Should be up for an hour at most, hopefully, we will be done by then."

"The savages will be dead less than half," Verath said darkly. Being a Saager veteran, the Drakonian had fought, and killed, his share of Clanless before. They left nothing but carnage in their wake.

After Te'lan had deployed the Shield generator, a spherical field of energy appeared, covering the hull breach in a protective shield. Physical bodies could pass through the shield, but projectiles and air could not pass through, making the generator useful for combat operations and temporary hull fixes, like now.

With the temporary fix done, the fire team proceeded to a door that sealed. As they approached, the door did not open.

Activating his comm, Kadin hailed the Vengeance.

"This Captain James Kadin of the Phantom-3, my fire team and I entered through the hull breach and have temporarily sealed it…right now we need the doors open to enter." Kadin announced.

On the other end, Kadin heard words spoken in a version of English that was foreign to him. But based on the tone, there was confusion. Shortly after, however, the crew member responded.

"Copy that, opening up for you…good luck."

Seconds later, the doors unsealed, allowing the fire team access to the rest of the ship.

"Interior comms," Kadin ordered to his squadmates, who nodded as they shut off their helmets exterior speakers, from this point on whatever words they spoke, were muted and could only be heard from their helmets' comm channel.

Raising their weapons and switching their visors to night vision, the four entered the section of the Vengeance the Clanless were attacking. All lights were out and much of the corridors were wrecked from the Clanless looting the area, leaving nothing unturned. The first sign of bloodshed came from a few meters from their entrance…human bloodstains painted in the form of a human skull.

"Skullcrushers…" Verath growled as he looked at the blood. "Sick and demented monsters even by Clanless standards."

"Never knew they had standards," Salen commented as he checked the team's rear.

"Most Clanless leave their slaves alive. Skullcrushers take pleasure in watching them die…what they do to the bodies afterward is beyond sickening." Verath explained.

"Enough chatter," Kadin ordered, hearing gunfire down the corridor. "Salen and Te'lan, set up. Verath, you're with me."

"Copy." Everyone responded before splitting down a corridor, which X said, based on her Pulse Scans, diverted to a central area where most likely the fighting was occurring.

Verath and Kadin quickly trotted down the central corridor.

"Permission to rip the clanless to shreds when I see one?" Verath asked his captain, less of a question and more of a statement.

"Granted," Kadin nodded. "Go nuts."

While her Wolves took out the aliens from a distance, Lupa engaged from mid to close range. Her augmentations and implants made her more than a match for the Dragonoid aliens. While the aliens were horrified to see a human combat them up close and personal, the shock wore off and quickly continued to fight back in a futile effort.

The last alien standing of the initial attack group attempted to run, only to meet his end when Pup blew his head open from a shot of his rifle.

After the last of the aliens were dead, Lupa ordered her wolves to go to cover to prepare for more hostiles, who she figured had more on the ship than just ten raiders. The wolf mother kneeled next to the corpse of an alien, removing his battle helmet…revealing a Dragonoid alien, the same that the away team had described they had seen at the station. This one had blue war paint on his eyes…Only…it was not paint.

From a distance, the Wolves saw their commanding officer look at the corpse in disgust…there was contempt in her eyes. This shocked even the most veteran members of the Wolves.

"Ma, you okay?" Pup asked, cautiously. He too had heard the stories that Lupa never broke her stoic expression…but this time she was clearly unnerved.

Lupa stood up, eyes burning with hatred at the aliens.

"Savages…" Lupa muttered under her breath.

Before anything else could be said, a roar came from down the hall. Looking to her left, Lupa saw a group of the "savages" rush towards her. The Wolves quickly raised their weapons, ready to fire.

"Hold!" Lupa snapped to her Wolves, further surprising her troops. "They are mine."

Picking up the weapon of a fallen alien, instinctively pressing a trigger on the hilt to reveal a long blade which suddenly ignited into green flames.

Lupa then lunged forward at the aliens, releasing a relentless roar as she threw the blade at the first Dragonoid alien to come through the corridor. The rest of alien's brethren pushed the dead to the side, only for the rest to meet Lupa's fists, sickening crunches heard as their faces met her fists.

XXX

Whoever said 'Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned' had obviously referred to the Wolf Mother. No doubt about it, Pup figured as he and the other Wolves watched as their founder and spiritual liege decimated the alien pirates. He wondered what had disgusted her about these particular aliens? He couldn't help but think that maybe every alien race had internal conflicts that boiled over into the galaxy... it was possible and had happened according to Ancient Earth history. He went back over to the corpse and inspected the face of the Draconian alien. Now that he saw one of them up close, he had to say it did look like a dragon, kind of. There was some kind of paint or something across its face. That must've shook her up. He took his helmet off and sniffed it.

"What is this?" He said, gagging. It smelled kind of like... blood? Was it alien blood? He took out his knife as his brethren picked off the Dragonoid alien pirates. 'Savages' she called them.

Well, he'd probably get in trouble for poking around shit he wasn't supposed to during a firefight... but he just had to know. He unsheathed his combat knife and sliced open the alien's throat. Blood didn't pour out, but rather it... He squinted as he looked closer. The blood of the dragon aliens was vastly different than that of the 'war paint' on the- He then realized what it was. Blood... another alien's blood. These were some sick bastards. Whereas the blood on the face was a shade of dark blue, the blood from the dragonoid alien was that of reddish-bronze. What kind of sick fucks were these things?

He joined in the firefight, aiming his rifle. The sounds of battle filled his ears along with unit COM traffic.

"Got one on the right!"

"Contact, left!"

"Kill these fuckers!"

A few even howled as they fought. Pup watched from a distance as Lupa bashed a Dragonoid's face in with her gauntleted fist, a sickening crunch was heard and blood came out of its nose. She turned to the next one. In his opinion, this was a massacre, an absolute massacre of the enemy.

Damn, she was pissed.

Every wolf knew when she was angry... and when she was really, really pissed. Usually, she was 'calm' about it and assigned some of the worst punishment details if you were a bad Wolf. Things like cleaning the scullery, cleaning the latrine, shining everyone's boots, cleaning everyone's gear, and so on and so forth. He heard of the rare occasion when she once punched one of her spiritual sons in the face when he did something she didn't like. Nobody knew, save her, if he lived or died. He would have to ask her after she calmed down. No way in hell was he getting his face caved in.

The violence of her actions caused a bunch to pause and watch from cover as she bashed in heads, broke necks, and other brutal things.

A loud roar filled the air as the dragonoids retreated. The aliens seemed to quiver and shake from what he saw.

Was it more of their kind? Or something else?

Just then, some kind of fireteam came out of the darkness from what looked like the direction of the breach. Their armor was weird. There was a dragonoid alien with them, but he didn't have the same kind of war paint of these guys. In fact, he carried some kind of shield.

The blasts from their weapons weren't solid like theirs, but more like the energy that the aliens fired. Pup wondered, not a lone, just who the heck were these guys?

XXX

The roar of Verath's war cry nearly disorientated the Clanless raiders, afraid and confused how a Saager brave could be present on a human vessel? The tall human woman had been making short work of their fellow raiders, but the arrival of a Saager brave, a trained and disciplined warrior, was enough to terrify the younger clanless and worry the older ones.

Those Clanless that were closest to the Saager brave attempted to turn their attention to him, but only to meet their end by the concentrated plasma of the brave's axe…once the brave had come into full view, all Clanless recognized the two handled plasma axe.

The fabled weapon of War Chief Vrekath, the Fury of the Saager. The Clanless knew that the War Chief had retired from his position eighty five years ago…and that his War Son had inherited his axe.

In an instant, all weapons turned on Verath, every clanless recognizing the protégé of War Chief Vrekath. Just like his War Father, Verath had a reputation of slaying any Clanless whom had the unfortunate fate of crossing his path. The Saager brave had fifteen guns and weapons turned on him, ready to tear through his armor shields.

However, the Wolves, Lupa and Kadin's fire team had not ceased their onslaught.

Kadin circled around the clanless that had formed a half circle around Verath, extended his kinetic blade and activated it, the crimson glow emitting through the blade. With a slash, Kadin's blade severed a clanless' left leg, causing the brute to roar in agony, only to be met with the captain's blade going through the side of its head, killing him.

Sa'len, having taken position from the upper rafters, activated the mag locks of his boots to allow him to hang from the ceiling and proceeded to shoot five clanless while upside down, each plasma round going straight through each of his targets' heads.

Telan, from underneath the floor grates bellow a pair of Clanless, activated a pair of magnetic Arc-Dispersers, which flew forth through holes in the grates and locked onto the closest shielding in proximity. Said devices, circular discs in shape, locked onto the legs of the pair's armor and proceeded to disperse nonlethal shocks onto the Clanless, knocking them unconscious.

The eight clanless that were dispatched by Kadin and his team were dealt with in a three second interval, but to the remaining seven clanless it happened quick enough to startle and lose their concentration on Verath.

With this break in focus, the Wolves proceeded to relentlessly fire upon the Clanless brutes, the swarming of solid rounds proved to be overwhelming for their already depleted shields.

In ten seconds, all surviving Clanless in the vicinity were down. Aside from the two unconscious raiders, all Clanless were dealt with.

All hostiles dealt with, Kadin depolarized his helmet's facemask before having the entire helmet fold back, exposing his entire head.

"Okay, rally on me." Kadin ordered to his fire team as the Wolves approached the center of the cargo bay.

Sa'len, after placing a magnetic grappling line on the ceiling and attaching it to his belt, depowered his mag boots and slowly descended to the floor towards his captain and the rest of the team.

Meanwhile, as the Wolves approached, Telan pushed the grates open, startling some of the Wolves, unaware they had an ally underneath.

"Don't shoot!" Telan said, hands raised when she noticed the startled expressions on the soldiers. To some of the Wolves, they were startled by her sudden appearance, while most were surprised at seeing her lavender skin and black eyes…and the fact a humanoid wolf was among their ally's team.

"She's with us." Kadin announced, approaching Telan, offering his chief and combat engineer a hand as she climbed out.

The Vengeance soldiers were silent, Kadin noticed they looked at him as though he were speaking a broken L1 (Primary Language.)

Suddenly, the wolves parted as a tall woman, easily almost an adult Drakonian's size, approached Kadin. Looking up at her, Kadin noticed a white streak run through the woman's hair confirming that, despite looking in her mid-thirties, the woman was most likely older.

"Captain Kadin," The woman announced, stunning the captain, his crew and some of her men, who glanced at one another. "A pleasure to meet your acquaintance."

"The pleasure is mine," Kadin responded to the greeting…despite his confusion. He had given his name to whoever he spoke to upon boarding the Vengeance, but he doubted these soldiers would be contacted in the middle of a fire fight, let alone remember as they were shot at. "But I am afraid you have me at a disadvantage…miss?"

"Lupa," The woman introduced herself, before gesturing to her men. "These are my men, 'Wolf pack' as we are called."

"And…how do you know my name?" Kadin responded.

The woman pointed at the insignia on Kadin's left shoulder pauldron, a black and white stallion was engraved on it.

"It is not difficult to recognize a Kadin's family insignia, especially among Dragon Knights."

Silence filled the gap between the two groups for a moment, Telan and Sa'len hid their shock, just as the rest of Lupa's men were. Verath and Kadin's reactions, however, were both a combination of muted surprise and contemplation.

What Lupa said was true, Kadin's great grandfather had aided the Dragon Knights, an elite group of genetically altered human super soldiers who went through military training since childhood. Many Dragon Knights, including the most famed Drago-001A, had been transported by Marcus Kadin's ship, the SSA Phantom-2 during the first Krawl war eighty five years ago.

Verath, a veteran of that war, had served alongside many Dragon Knights, including Drago. But he could not tell which Dragon Knight this woman was if she had been transported on the same ship as he had been on.

"You have the scent of one that is certain." Verath stated, his eyes staring into Lupa's own, seeing if he could remember her in anyway.

Lupa turned towards Verath, her expression calm and unchanging, another quality common among the Dragon Knights. However a faint smile crossed her lips.

"My sister and I were in Drago's fire team, we helped reinforce you and the other survivors of your Warband during the Battle of Okean." Lupa explained. "After I tossed you a rifle, you said 'Let's squash these bugs.'"

Everyone turned to Verath as his eyes focused on Lupa, memories swirling as he thought back to that critical point in a battle that, at first, was turning against him and his fellow Braves. But then his eyes widened in recognition.

"Samantha?!" Verath said in shock…yet happiness.

Lupa's men glanced at one another at hearing their Wolf Mother's real name...no one knew the Wolf Mother's true name as she kept most of her history to herself, only giving information on her military service, never her personal life.

While Lupa herself was uncomfortable hearing her old name, she still walked up and extended her hand, which Verath took clasped tightly, smiling at his old ally.

"Saw you get spaced." Verath stated.

"It is a long story, old friend." Lupa replied.

Kadin stepped forward, interrupting the reunion.

"As much as I would enjoy hearing that story, your crew is not out of the clear just yet," Kadin stated. The Captain wanted to know more about his great grandfather, he truly did. But while the Clanless had been dealt with, Kadin expected the two ships were not the only Clanless vessels in the system. "We need to get your ship repaired and out of this system, it is a hotbed for Clanless attacks."

Lupa's eyes narrowed upon hearing that information.

"Does your ship have gravity cables to tow us?" Lupa asked. "If those are still used." She added for confirmation.

Kadin nodded.

"Once your ship is fully repaired, we can guide you to safety." Kadin replied.

"Good," Lupa nodded. "I will inform the captain that the situation down here is secure."

XXX

"Can anyone else make heads or tails of what they're saying?" A guy named Dennis Hales whispered to a few of the other ex-Wolves.

"I think I can make a few words out," Pup said, thinking. The other team spoke Old Pre-War English, it looked like. No one spoke it in a long time, not since the rest of humanity moved out of the Cluster during the UNE-Ana'halesh War.

Every ex-Wolf had night-vision per the genetic alterations and enhancements they received during training, allowing them to see in the dark just as they did in the day. They could hear the furthest sound possible by animals.

Pup looked at the two. It looked like Wolf-Mother knew the other team... or at least two members of it. Everyone stood in shock as the dragonoid alien on the other team said 'Samantha'. Every wolf froze and looked at Ma.

'Samantha'? That's her name?' Pup thought to himself. No Wolf dared say the name out loud for fear of what would happen. She never talked about her private life, with good reason, it appeared. Then, she turned to the Wolves.

"I want all of you to check the area for more intruders. Let me know if you find anything. Also, catalogue the dead." She ordered in Neo-Anglic. She then smiled.

"You've all done well," She said, smiling at them all. Her praise made his chest burst with pride. Not many could claim praise from their founding mother.

"I will escort these newcomers to the bridge. I believe they have much to speak to talk about with our own captain." Wolf-mother said.

"And a standing order is this:" She warned as she glared at her sons.

"Don't call me 'Samantha'... ever. You will regret it."

The pups affirmed the order as the Draconian alien chuckled. Then, the group moved away as they talked. The ex-Wolves then started their work with the warning in mind as they hunted for further intruders, stragglers that survived but not for long.