Written by Craig Black

The year is 3009 A.D. For eight long years, the Fourth Galactic War has raged on, as the Stellar Federation makes good on its mission of total domination of our Galaxy. It is becoming apparent that the War may be at long last drawing to a close, but it's not clear which side will emerge victorious; the Stellar Federation, who have already made their presence felt on the star systems once colonised by Earth many centuries ago; or the Independent Coalition, a group of star systems and clusters who had tried for decades to wrestle their way free of the Federation's control?

The question also remains whether or not there will even be a victory, as both sides have been crippled in the conflict, having used up most of their resources against each other.

The Federation have fought hard against the Coalition, but they have other enemies to deal with at the same time. In the heat of the conflict are the Neutrals. Pirates, gypsies, travellers, all other sorts of people who hold no allegiance with either side. Each side has suspected them of assisting the other in fighting against them, but only the Federation has tried to combat this, whether by destroying them completely, or by assimilating them into their forces against their will.

This is the story of one of the Neutrals; a pirate who had turned her back on the Federation, and turned to the stars to make her way. She fights for everything she stands for, whatever that may be. Her name will be revealed in due course, but suffice to say she is well known...

Somewhere on the outskirts of the Procyon System, the Stellar Federation battlecruiser Oshan Akuma was out on the prowl for rogue vessels. Pirates, rebels, smugglers, they were all the same to Zeus Barratt, the grey wolf in command of the Akuma. And they all deserved the same fate: total annihilation.

"Commander Barratt, we've picked up a cargo vessel on the radar. It's a Skurk class freighter, unnamed. Serial code, SG-CV-ZNPN..."

"Bomb the shit out of it."

"Commander? Why should we...?"

"Do as I command, Captain Gwydir!"

"Yes, Commander. Sorry." The tall, lean red fox went over and called down his microphone to the gunners. "You heard what the Commander said. Destroy that freighter."

"Your command, Captain Gwydir." said the lead gunner, and before too long, both Barratt and Gwydir could hear the sound of the Akuma opening fire on the rogue freighter. They looked on their view screen to see the freighter trying to fire back at them, but its efforts were hopeless, and soon it disappeared in a huge fireball.

Commander Barratt chuckled to himself. "Music. Sweet, sweet music. You know, Captain Gwydir, I've been working for the Federation for 34 years, but the sound of an enemy being destroyed never gets old. Don't you agree?"

"I do indeed, Commander. Seems a pity, though. I mean, that freighter did look quite nice. Lovely colour, orange..."

"Oh, shut up, Gwydir. She was an associate of that Captain MacTaggart, and you know it!"

"Of course, Commander. Sorry. But I just...hey up, there's another ship coming up on the radar. It''s...oh, speak of the devil."

"What? What is it, Gwydir?"

"It's a pirate ship...It's her! It's...Captain MacTaggart!"


"What should we do, Commander?!"

"...I've been waiting for this chance...The chance to have a full on bloodbath with Captain MacTaggart."

"You mean...You plan to fight her?!"

"That's the reason I'm here, kid!"

Commander Barratt strode over to the large window at the front of the cruiser. In the distant blackness of space, he could make out the distinctive shape of a cruiser rising up towards them. The vessel looked to be about the size of the Akuma, and much more of a wreck. On one side, the vessel had some strange writing on it, which Barratt immediately recognised as Japanese. The Oshan Akuma had similar writing on it as well, and Barratt knew that it was a translation of the ship's English name. As the ship turned around, Barratt's suspicions were correct; Stellar Typhoon. Yes, this was Captain MacTaggart's ship, alright.

Captain Gwydir ran up alongside Barratt.

"You're crazy, Commander Barratt! We wouldn't stand a chance against her!"

"Just do as I say, Captain! Send out the surrender signal, and draw them in close!"

"Yes, Commander..."

"Play possum!" the Commander shouted to the pilots, giving the order to cut the main engines.

"Cutting main engines now, Commander..."

Meanwhile, on the bridge of the Stellar Typhoon, two of its crew members saw the Akuma's engines dying out, and its navigational lights alternated between white and their usual red or green. This was the universal surrender signal, very much like the traditional white flag.

"Look at that. Surrendering without a fight again," said one of the crew members, a scruffy yellow cat with a dark raccoon-mask across her eyes, "The Federation always pisses themselves with fear as soon as the Stellar Typhoon shows up!"

"You're right there," replied the other crew member, a war-battered red squirrel with an eyepatch, "Looks like we won't have to open fire on them."

"No, doesn't seem that way. Okay, prepare to move her in..."

"Wait, Blackmask!"

Both the cat and the squirrel turned back to see an imposing figure sitting in the command chair. The figure, a raccoon, was a dead ringer for a Federation officer. The long trench coat certainly looked the part. The skinny jeans and thigh-high boots, not so much. She also wore heaps of jewellery, a red armband with something printed on it in Japanese, and an eyepatch. She sat up in her command chair.

"Captain MacTaggart?" the squirrel asked, "Is there something troubling you?"

Captain MacTaggart stood up from her chair, and walked towards the front of the bridge.

"I think the Captain suspects foul play." said Blackmask.

"You're right there." said the squirrel. She then said to the Captain, "What course of action should we take, Captain?"

"Send out CF-4."

"Yes, Captain."

A few minutes later, CF-4 was flying out of the Stellar Typhoon's launching bay. This was an ex-Federation patrol craft that Captain MacTaggart had seized in a past raid. There wasn't anybody on board, as it was being controlled remotely from the bridge of the Typhoon. This system had been implemented by the Captain's Chief Engineer, who had also added a manual override system. This meant that the craft could be piloted manually if the need ever arose.

When Commander Barratt saw the craft flying towards him, he shouted to his troops, "Alright! Start the attack! OPEN FIRE!"

The Oshan Akuma opened fire on CF-4, but it was too quick for them, and kept darting out of the way. It flew past the bridge and scraped the front window with a piercing shriek. It then retreated, still being fired at.

"You certainly called it, Captain," said Blackmask, as CF-4 returned to the launching bay, "Good thing we hadn't moved in closer, eh?"

"Yes, that was a lucky thing." said Captain MacTaggart. She turned to the squirrel. "Leslie, you know what to do."

"Yes, Captain." said Leslie, "Blackmask, fire back at them!"

"Aye-aye, Kennedy!"

Blackmask took hold of her blaster controls, and carefully aimed at the Oshan Akuma.

"Right...They always say it's a dog-eat-dog universe we live in. Let's see where wolves fit into that equation, shall we?"

Blackmask opened fire, and a barrage of laser bolts flew towards the bridge of the Akuma. When Captain Gwydir saw them, he panicked.

"Retreat! Take cover! THEY'RE COMING RIGHT FOR US!"

Gwydir and most of the other commanding officers made a run for cover out of the bridge. Commander Barratt stayed right where he was.

"Come back here, you cowards! Come back and FIGHT!" Suddenly, the laser bolts hit the bridge, and there was a series of explosions. Parts of the bridge started to collapse. "Wait for me!" Barratt shouted, running after Gwydir.

Captain MacTaggart watched with satisfaction as the Oshan Akuma retreated away from them.

"Well done, ladies," she said, "Chalk up another victory for the crew of the Stellar Typhoon. Now, you go and get some rest while we wait for our next raid..."

"Er, bad news, I'm afraid, Captain. The freighter that was supposed to rendezvous with us was destroyed by Commander Barratt just before we turned up."

"What?! Okay, see if we can get one of my other suppliers to come out here."

"I'm on it," said Blackmask, who was typing up information on the computer console, "What about that guy from Midnight Sun on Procyon VI?"

"Brilliant. Bring up his number. I want to make this call myself..."

Meanwhile, on Procyon VI, Alasdair Geddes was slowly trudging his way through the rain, around the planet's capital city of Glenfalcons.

He was a raccoon, and a very handsome one at that, he felt. And truth be told, he did look rather dashing in his military jacket. The effect was spoilt by the baggy bell-bottom jeans, and the thick pair of glasses he wore. He had a drab look about him, which perfectly fitted his dark, miserable surroundings. The Procyon System had been settled by a group of Scottish colonists many centuries ago, and it showed. Glenfalcons felt as close as you could get to the city of Glasgow back on Earth without actually going there.

In other words, it was wretched, miserable, cold, dark, or, as Alasdair would put it, a shitehole. There wasn't much positive about the place, or at least nothing that Alasdair could think of. All Alasdair could think of about this place was how much he wanted to leave. All he wanted was an excuse to leave Glenfalcons for good. Any excuse at all would do...

Alasdair came to a tall statue stood in one of the city's small parks. He liked this statue. He could express his true feelings to it without his words being shot down. This was what he was doing right now.

"Yoo've got tae make th' most ay whit life gives tae ye. Life isnae meant tae be easy, ye ken. Nae fur anybody. Weel, okay, perhaps some ay us start it in life wi' a wee bit mair than others. Mair...advantages, shall we say? But that's nae th' main item. It's basically jist a case ay every man for himself, isnae it? Ah mean, take th' two ay us, for example. What did we start wi'? What did we dae wi' ourselves? Weel, fur a start, there's mah National 5s. Three. Ah-hah! Noo there's a fair advantage, ye micht say. But Ah worked hard for them. see, that's whit ye an' Ah hae in common. Nae th' Nat 5s, ay coorse. Nae, th' advantages. Ye ken, th' wee things 'at support us oan life's weary way."

Alasdair looked up at the statue, and managed a little smirk.

"Let's face th' facts, Earl. We've baith hud uir fair share ay advantages. Loch, for instance, ye waur born in India. Ah braw, warm country. Ye hud money, cows...girls. Big horse. An' a great lot ay curries, I'll bit. Nicely dain, Earl. Nicely dain."

It was then that Alasdair looked at the small plaque explaining who the statue was of. This Earl had several titles on the end of his name. DSO, CGC, BSC, SSC, and lots of others. But it was what wasn't there that caught Alasdair's attention.

"Oh, bide a wee minute, thocht. Aam nae seein' tay many Nat 5s thaur, Earl, auld son. Noo, hoo did ye dae it? An' why th' fuck dae Ah nae hae a job?!"

With that, Alasdair kicked the bench in front of him in frustration. In doing so, however, he attracted the attention of a local tramp on a nearby bench.

"Eh? Whit?! Whit's goin' oan? Ah, sling yer hook, ye wee bastard! Aam tryin' tae sleep ower haur! Come oan, clear aff!"

"Aye, weel, up yoors, ye prick!" Alasdair shouted back, before running off again. He decided he'd done enough talking for one day, and decided to head back home.

When Alasdair reached his home half an hour later, he stopped outside and looked at it despairingly. It was his home, by a very loose definition. In actual fact, it was an old, wrecked executive transport ship, which had been left to rot on a vacant plot of land near the railway station. Alasdair had found it, and made it his own.

He didn't have anywhere else to go. Before the War, he, his mother and his older sister had been travellers, moving around wherever life took them through the Galaxy. However, when the War broke out, Alasdair's mother had been killed in a Federation raid on their ship. His sister, Valerie, was now living with an uncle who stayed in Glenfalcons, but Alasdair had moved in with a friend of his. However, he'd recently been kicked out, and now the transport was his only home. It may have been a shitehole, but it was home for Alasdair.

The rain had really picked up now, so Alasdair hurried inside, chucked his coat aside and headed up to the lounge-the former crew quarters.

The place was a mess. Alasdair had used his meagre wages from his uncle to keep the freighter safe to live in, but he rarely had money left for any luxuries. He staggered his way through the mess, but as he approached the crew quarters, he swore he could hear someone doing something. Quickly, he searched about in the mess for his baseball bat, and quietly pushed his way through the door, only to find...

"Jesus, Alasdair! You might have told me you were on your way back!"

"Oh...Hello, Mercedes."

Sitting on the couch was a lady raccoon slightly shorter than Alasdair, but about the same age. This was Mercedes, the friend who'd put him up after his parents' death. However, her mother had objected to him staying, and kicked him out. Since then, she'd often dropped in to look after Alasdair, and help him with things like cooking and cleaning (both of which Alasdair was utterly horrendous at).

"Sit your arse down there. I've got your dinner ready."

"Thanks, Merc. Anything interesting oan th' telly?"

"Nah. Just the usual shite."

"Aye, sae Ah noticed. Anything happen while Ah was gain?"

"Well, Val called round at lunchtime. She said that Stanley needs you on the Midnight Sun tonight. I said I'd send you there after you'd had your dinner."

"Och, nae mair bloody wark! Ah dinnae ken wa Ah still bother workin' fur Stanley. Th' bastard!"

"Now, Alasdair, be reasonable. He is your uncle..."

"Ah ken fine weel he's mah uncle, Merc! But Ah jist dornt want tae keep at 'at dead end job aw mah life."

"Why not? You're a computer technician. You like that sort of stuff, don't you?"

"Aye, but nae when he's makin' me dae it."

"I suppose so...Here you go. Chef's Special." And Mercedes passed Alasdair a bowl of noodles.

"Thanks, Merc."

"You know, these living conditions really aren't ideal. Why don't you get Stanley to just put you up at his place?"

"Coz his place is e'en mair ay a shitehole than thes place, that's wa!"

Mercedes said nothing more. She just waited until Alasdair had finished his noodles. Then she took the bowl from him.

"Right, you'd better be off. I know you think your job's rubbish, but you'll find yourself in even more shite if you don't do it."

"Yeah, Ah suppose yoo're reit. See ye, Merc."

"See you." Then Mercedes kissed him on the cheek, and watched wistfully as he set off across the vacant lot. She wished there was some way she could help her friend...

Alasdair soon arrived at his uncle Stanley's lock up. Stanley and Valerie were already there. Before Alasdair could say anything, Valerie snapped, "You're late!"

"Time is jist an illusion," Alasdair shot back, "Noo, whit dae ye want me tae dae?"

"Well, for a start, you can get your arse onboard the Midnight Sun, and keep your shite patter to a minimum until we're off the planet."

Alasdair shot his sister a dirty look, but said nothing as he climbed aboard the freighter.

But even when the Midnight Sun had cleared the outer atmosphere of Procyon VI, both Stanley and Valerie were still cagey with the details of their delivery. Alasdair hadn't been able to find out what they were carrying, and he couldn't get access to the cargo hold. At last, he gave it up, and retired to his cabin-which was actually just a maintenance hatchway. But he couldn't sleep, and spent the rest of the night wondering how he could free himself from this dreary existence...

The next day saw Alasdair carrying out some maintenance work on the ship's computer. Some of the wires needed to be resoldered into place, but that was easier said than done, as the computer was giving Alasdair a hard time about his work.

"No, no! That soldering iron needs to be two degrees hotter, or the wires won't bond properly!"

"Listen, B.E.R.T. Onie mair ay yer shite patter, an' I'll bond yer bloody vocal synthesizer circuits shut! Noo shut th' fuck up!"

B.E.R.T was the name given to the ship's computer. Ostensibly, it was an acronym for Bio-Electronic Receiver & Transmitter, but in reality, the Midnight Sun's previous owner, in his infinite wisdom, had thought it'd be funny to program the computer's vocal synthesizer with the voice of Bert Raccoon. This meant that the computer spoke in a whiny, nasally tone of voice, which in turn meant that most of the other crew members were careful not to upset it, as that was when it especially got grating.

Alasdair, on the other hand, didn't care a bit how B.E.R.T felt, and he carried on his work ignoring the computer's demands.

Eventually, he finished his soldering work, and left the flight deck to cook himself some breakfast in the galley.

Alasdair decided he would make pancakes, partly because he had all the ingredients there, but mostly because it was the only thing he could make without destroying something.

Things went alright until he tried to flip his first pancake. As is often the case when making pancakes, Alasdair had tossed his just a little too high, and it ended up being plastered on the ceiling. It was just too high up for Alasdair to scrape it free with a spatula, and he couldn't find the stepladder. Nothing else for it, he thought, he'd have to switch off the artificial gravity for a few seconds and float up.

He managed this with relative ease, but the trouble only started when he switched the gravity back on again. As he did so, he heard a loud splash coming from further along the ship.

"Ah, shite." Alasdair thought to himself, "Whit time is it? 10.57. Reit. Noo, who's normally in th' bathroom at thes time o', FUCK!"

Then, as if on cue, the relative peace and serenity was shattered by the bellowing of a wild animal.

"Alright, where's that sleekit little bastard?!" screamed a voice that Alasdair knew all too well. It was Valerie. Alasdair tried to make a run for it, but there was only so far one could go on a freighter travelling through deep space, and he was soon trapped in the flight deck.

Valerie burst in, soaked through and clad in nothing but a towel. She glared at Alasdair.

"And what, exactly, the fuck do you think you're playing at?"

" Er, naethin', Val. I've jist bin makin' pancakes. Dae ye want one? Ur at least, what's left ay one?"

Before Valerie could say anything else, they were interrupted by the sound of the alarm system blaring into life. B.E.R.T too roared into life.


"Whit?! Aw, shit! We've got tae gie it ay...Did ye say a pirate craft?"


"Gallus!" thought Alasdair, "Mebbe Ah coods convince them tae lit me join them. 'En Ah can finally escape thes piece ay shite existence!"

Alasdair was interrupted from his thoughts by the computer again.

"Attention! Pirate craft has remotely cut off our oxygen supply, and is pulling us in with its tractor beam."

Alasdair was secretly delighted at this; if he was captured, maybe he could convince the Captain of the craft to keep him on. He knew his technical expertise could be invaluable to this gang of pirates. He said nothing as Valerie, oxygen-deprived, blacked out. Then a few minutes later, he passed out as well...

Meanwhile, elsewhere in space, the crew of the Oshan Akuma were still recovering from their ordeal with the Stellar Typhoon. Up on the bridge, Commander Barratt was giving Captain Gwydir a thorough lashing.

"You imbecile. You COWARD! If you'd just stayed where you were and fought Captain MacTaggart, we would have got her this time! Now she's gotten away again!"

"With all due respect, Commander, if we had stayed put, we would have been killed."

"Yes, and I wouldn't be having to have this discussion with you. This is the nineteenth time in one month she's slipped through our fingers!"

"Twentieth time, actually." corrected the yellow lady fox who'd just arrived on the bridge.

"Yes, thank you, Lieutenant McMurdo. I suppose both you and Captain Gwydir here know what that means."

"I do indeed, Commander."

"Well, in that case, you'd better look away now."

McMurdo did so, as Commander Barratt pulled out a revolver, and aimed it at Gwydir's head.

"Forgive me, Captain, but you did bring this upon yourself..."

A few seconds later, Captain Gwydir was lying on the floor, with a large, bloody hole in the back of his skull. Commander Barratt seemed utterly indifferent to this.

"Stupid Welsh bastard." he muttered, "Okay, Lieutenant. You can look again."

"I'm not sure I want to, Commander."

"Very well. I've got a few jobs for you, anyway. Find Captain Mandarin, and tell her to report to me here."

"Your command..."

"Oh, and send someone up to dispose of Captain Gwydir, would you? There's a good girl..."

Alasdair wasn't quite sure how long he'd been out cold for, but the next thing he could remember was hearing someone with a soft female voice, gently trying to wake him.

"Senpai? Wakey-wakey. Hello? Anybody there?"

Alasdair groaned profusely, and slowly began to wake up. The headache he had was phenomenal, but he felt it'd be worth it in the long run, if it meant he could get away from Glenfalcons.

When he opened his eyes, he thought it'd been worth it sooner than that. Crouching down beside him, and looking at him, was the most beautiful, the most handsome, the most breathtaking lady raccoon he'd ever met in his life. She had deep violet eyes, raven black hair (done up in a ponytail), and very thick glasses, very much like Alasdair's. She was also dressed very simply, in a t-shirt and denim bell-bottoms.

Alasdair was simply lost for words, not just because he was still short on oxygen, but also because this girl, whoever she was, was just too beautiful to respond to. He cautiously sat himself up, still looking at the girl.

"Oh, thank goodness! You're awake. For a moment there, I thought we'd lost you."

"Weel, ye quite clearly didna. Aam still haur," Alasdair chuckled, "Noo, whaur am Ah? Who ur ye? What's gonnae oan?"

"All in good time. I'll leave it to Captain-basan to answer Questions 1 and 3. As for Question 2..." The girl smirked, "Kyoko-desu...Kyoko Mori. I'm the Chief Engineer on this ship. Now, who are you, handsome?"

"Weel, thaur goes th' job offer," Alasdair thought to himself. He then said, "Er, mah name is Geddes. Alasdair Geddes...ain yoo're beautiful!"

"Why, what a beautiful name. And thank you, Geddes-san. I..."

"Caa me Alasdair, please. Ah dinnae gang fur aw those formalities."

"Very well, Alasdair-san. So, you're Scottish, then?"

"Aye, in a sense. Aam actually a traveller, but Ah was born oan Procyon VI. 'At system's a Scottish colony, sae ye ur sort ay reit."

"I see. I'm the same. The star cluster I come from was settled by the Japanese. We actually have an even mix of both on this ship. So you're a traveller, then? Like a gypsy?"

" Weel, nae really, but Ah jist say Ah am, coz Ah cannae be arsed correcting fowk. Noo, whaur am Ah? An' whaur ur th' others?"

"I'll go and get Captain-basan. She can tell you what's going on."

"That'll be stoatin', Miss Mori."

" me Kyoko." Kyoko said in a reserved, shy manner. She opened a door and poked her head through. "Okay, Captain-basan. That's this one awake. Would you like to talk to him?"

"I very much would, Kyoko." said a second female voice. Alasdair looked up to see another lady raccoon enter the room. In comparison to Kyoko, she looked rather scruffy, as if she'd just walked off the streets of Glenfalcons after a Friday night out. As Alasdair had put it in his mind, she looked like the kind of person you'd see appearing as a prison warden in a 70s East German S&M film. Needless to say, he didn't dare say this out loud. This woman looked rather threatening, and if Alasdair made such a comparison, she could very well kill him. The eyepatch certainly didn't help.

"H-hello, Miss..." Alasdair began, but the raccoon spoke first.

"So, you're that technician who was on that freighter? Pleased to meet you. The name's MacTaggart. Captain MacTaggart. Who are you?"

"Mah name's Alasdair...Alasdair Geddes."

"Well, welcome aboard, Alasdair. I see you've met my Chief Engineer."

"Aye, an' she's verra pretty, if neither ay ye woods min' mah sayin' sae."

"Oh, we don't mind. It's actually quite nice to have a prisoner complement our crew. You should have seen that woman we had in here before. Wouldn't let us talk to her until she'd changed out of that towel!"

"Ah, 'at woods be mah sister, Valerie. An' oan 'at subject, whaur am Ah, whaur ur they, who ur ye, an' what's gonnae oan?"

"Hmm, you are an inquisitive soul, aren't you? Well, if you must know, you've been taken on board the pirate cruiser Stellar Typhoon. Your fellow crew members have been questioned and released. You already know who I am. And we've just conducted a raid on your freighter."

Alasdair noticed that Captain MacTaggart had used finger quotes on the word raid. He sensed that things weren't as simple as they appeared. He also noticed that the Captain's right hand seemed to be a robotic replacement, but he didn't say anything about it just yet.

"Whit kin' ay raid ur we talkin' abit haur?"

"Well, actually, I tell a lie. This isn't a real raid at all. You see, I have an agreement with several people around this Galaxy that they supply me and my crew with food and other stuff whenever we happen to be in a particular area. Your uncle was part of that agreement."

"Ah see..."

"Now, if he'd just come to us and just handed over the stuff of his own volition, then he'd end up in very serious trouble from the Federation. So, we have to make it look like I'm attacking him by surprise, and stealing his cargo."

"That's...that's actually quite clever. Didna a coople ay kids dae 'at durin' 'at whole sugar prohibition hin' a coople ay years ago oan...?"

"Yes, probably. However, I think the Federation's caught on to our game. Only yesterday, they blew up one of my contacts while they were trying to reach us. But we soon sorted them out, didn't we, Kyoko?"

"We certainly did, Captain-basan."

"Now, I think the ship's feeling rather exposed sitting out here. We'd better make a move before the Federation blows us up. You may go back to your freighter now..."

"Actually, Captain," said Alasdair, "If ye dinnae min' mah sayin' sae, eh'd raither nae."

"Why not? Is it because of Kyoko here? If it is, I don't blame you!" Captain MacTaggart smirked.

"Captain-basan, please!"

"As much as eh'd loch 'at tae be th' reason, aam sorry, but it isnae. Nae entirely. If Ah gang back oan 'at freighter, I'll end up back in 'at shitehole they caa th' city ay Glenfalcons."

"Well, I could always used another guy in the maintenance crew. I mean, Kyoko here does her best, but I think she's been feeling overworked. She could do with some help, couldn't you, Kyoko?"

"I suppose so, Captain-basan."

"That's settled, then. Come on, Alasdair. We'll take you to the bridge, and we'll let your uncle know what the score is."

"Suits me braw, Captain MacTaggart."

"Please, call me Jaws. All my friends do. And my enemies...But don't worry; I don't actually bite!"

With that, Jaws and Kyoko led Alasdair out of the holding cell towards the bridge. As they went, Kyoko whispered to Jaws.

"He's a nice guy, isn't he, Captain-basan?"

"Oh, yes. Very nice. I see you like him."

"Yes, I do!"

"Well, I reckon you should get to tapping that right away!"

"Honestly, Captain-basan! I've only just met him!"

"What's 'at yoo're sayin' abit me?" Alasdair asked, having overheard what the ladies were saying.

"What? Er, nothing you need to worry about right now, Alasdair."

Alasdair was about to challenge Jaws further, when another voice rang up over the intercom system.

"Hey, Captain? We've got a big problem up here. Barratt's back!"

"What?! Okay, Blackmask, try and stall him until we can reach you. By the way, Stanley's nephew is joining us as of today."

"Okay, Captain. I'll do my best. And I look forward to meeting our new recruit. I only wish it wasn't under these circumstances." The intercom abruptly cut out, and the corridor seemed to shake slightly.

Jaws began to run faster. Kyoko quickened her pace too, grabbing onto Alasdair's wrist as she went.

"Come on, Alasdair-san!"

"Alrecht, aam coming! 'At Blackmask lass sounded pretty American. Ah thought ye said it was mostly Scots an' Japs oan thes ship."

"It is. With a few exceptions, obviously. Now come on! Hurry!"

When the three raccoons reached the bridge, Leslie and Blackmask were waiting for them.

"Thank goodness you're here, Captain," said Leslie, "Commander Barratt wants to talk to you, and he's getting pretty impatient."

"Okay, patch him through, Leslie. Alasdair, you wait over there a few minutes."

The large view-screen flashed into life, and the crew could now see the familiar face of Commander Barratt looking back at them. Standing next to Barratt was a scruffy looking lady red fox with an eyepatch.

"Well, well, well," said Jaws, "If it isn't Commander Barratt. And...oh, Captain Gwydir! I didn't know you'd gone in for a sex change. Rather suits you!"

"Less of that, MacTaggart. This is Captain Mandarin. Gwydir has outlived his usefulness on this ship. I've done to him what I've been waiting to do to you for four long years."

"What?! You're crazy!"

"Perhaps...Or maybe it's just that I work for a crazy person. Now, I suppose you know the reason for my contacting you just now..." Before the Commander could continue, Alasdair interrupted.

"Hang oan. Thes Captain Gwydir lad. Whaur was he frae?"

"What's it to you where he's from? Well, if you must know, he was Welsh."

"Sae, thes subordinate was Welsh, huh? Och, that's real fucking original!"

"Is it?"

"Och aye, it woods be...If they hadnae awreddy did 'at shtick oan Danger Mouse. An' Minder, too. 'En some other divits did it oan..."

"Alright, shut up, you stupid Scottish bastard!" Commander Barratt snapped, "Or else you'll go the way of the Welsh one. Now, as I was saying, we managed to catch a glimpse of your most recent raid," He too did the finger quotes, "And I think we've got all the evidence we need. So my mandate is clear; either you surrender yourself, your ship and your crew to the Stellar Federation; or we blast you right out of the Galaxy."

"My dear Commander," Jaws said coyly, "Surrender isn't a word found in the Official Guide Book For Space Pirates."

"Now, that's complete and utter bullshit, for two reasons," said Captain Mandarin, "Firstly, no such guide book exists. And secondly, even if it did, surely the word surrender would be found somewhere in it. Even if it was just to say, 'We never surrender'."

"Hmm, I suppose Captain Orange has a point there." said Blackmask.

"My name is Mandarin!" Mandarin snapped.

"Okay, since neither of those choices seem all that appealing," said Jaws, "I propose we take a third option; how about we fight?"

"Fight, eh? Very well," said Commander Barratt, "Go ahead, Captain. Make the first move. I'm ready." And with that, he shut off his end of the message, leaving the test card pattern on Jaws' end. There was a moment of silence before Alasdair spoke up.

"Ye cannae be serious, Captain?! He's a madman. He'll blow us tae smithereens!"

"Don't you worry yourself, Alasdair. I know what I'm doing. Besides, aren't you exaggerating a bit? Smithereens is a good fifty light years from here! Now listen, we haven't got much time. Our secret weapon is out of action, and Kyoko hasn't had time to repair it. We need you to try and help repair it. Now go! Kyoko will show you the way. We'll try and fight with our main weapons until you've finished. Hurry!"

With that, Kyoko quickly led Alasdair off towards the gunnery section of the Stellar Typhoon, while the rest of the crew prepared to open fire on Commander Barratt.

"Leslie, Blackmask...You know what to do..."

"Yes, Captain!"

Jaws was unconcerned about the risk of being destroyed; she'd fought against Barratt many times previously, and every time she came out on top. She was ready...

Meanwhile, on the Oshan Akuma, Commander Barratt was poised and waiting, ready to deflect Jaws' first attack...But it never came. After about five minutes, still nothing. Barratt began to wonder what kind of attack Jaws had planned for him.

"Why doesn't she attack?" Captain Mandarin asked nervously, "Is she planning some kind of trap? Is she just waiting for us to move in?"

"I don't know, Mandarin." said Barratt, "But we should still wait. Any false move, and we could end up eating dust."

"Any false move, and we could end up being dust!"

"Now, I wouldn't overestimate Captain MacTaggart's power, Mandarin. Even if she is one of the most feared pirates in our Galaxy, neither she or her crew are any match for the Stellar Federation!"

"I sense some minor overestimation on your part, Commander. If she really was no match for us, then we would have captured her by now. And we wouldn't have lost Captain Gwydir..."

"...And I wouldn't have to be putting up with you talking shit like that to me! Now shut up, and pay attention. Otherwise, you'll find yourself reuniting with Gwydir a lot sooner..."

"Sorry, Commander...Still no sign of any...Hang on. What the hell is she doing?"

Both of them looked at the view screen. The Stellar Typhoon still hadn't opened fire, but at that moment, it was slowly tilting backwards. Commander Barratt realised what Jaws was going to do immediately.

"Not on my watch, MacTaggart," Barratt sneered. He then suddenly barked down his microphone, "Akuma Fighter, Interceptor & Bomber Squads, launch immediately. Then form a barricade above us. That space pirate's going to try a Skippy."

"Yes, Commander." responded the Squad Leader. Before too long, both Barratt and Mandarin could see a swarm of fighters emerging from the Oshan Akuma, and assuming the desired position above the battlecruiser. A Skippy was when a rogue craft, when confronted with a Federation cruiser, attempted to escape by flying over and behind it. Barratt knew from experience that this was one of Jaws' favourite manoeuvres to use against him, but he wasn't going to let her succeed this time.

Before he could say or do anything else, Commander Barratt saw the Typhoon suddenly shoot towards the wall of fighters. They attempted to open fire on it, but the Typhoon simply ploughed through them with only a few scratches, scattering them aside.

"After them! FULL 180!" Barratt shouted, as the Akuma slowly turned around so as to be able to pursue the Typhoon. He didn't bother to recall his fighters, even though failing to do so was a breach of Federation regulations, and instead simply sent them after the Typhoon. "You're going nowhere! Captain MacTaggart, submit to your own destruction!"

Back on the Stellar Typhoon, Kyoko had finally led Alasdair to where Jaws' secret weapon was hidden. However, it wasn't as impressive as Alasdair had imagined it to be; it was simply a large, black box, with various wires and pipes coming out of it.

"Huh. some secret weapon yer Captain's got haur, Kyoko. Doesnae swatch loch much o' a weapon tae me."

"It isn't. This is just the operating console for it. I'd just finished fixing up the main components when we raided your uncle's freighter. I was going to work on the console once you'd left, but Commander Barratt-san stopped me from doing so."

"Hmm, thes looks tae be in pretty guid condition," said Alasdair, as he opened up the console to inspect it, "Yoo've dain a bonnie job ay maintaining it. Doesnae swatch loch we need tae dae anything."

"Oh, well, it is kind of my job to do this!" Kyoko said modestly, "But this weapon uses up so much of the ship's energy that we normally only use it as a last resort, so I don't look at it too often. And I think the wiring needs to be looked at in some places..."

"Ah, dinnae fash yersel', lass. I'll manage thes jist braw. Er, ye got a toolkit anywhaur?"

"Oh, yes. Over there. I left it there during our raid." And Kyoko quickly passed Alasdair her toolkit. Alasdair quickly set to work, trying to ignore the girly stickers adorning the kit...

Up on the Typhoon's bridge, Jaws and the rest of the crew were trying to shake off Commander Barratt's forces. Jaws was intently surveying the battlefield with the Typhoon's external cameras.

"Right. A good swerve hard to port should sort them out. See to it, Leslie."

"Yes, Captain!"

Leslie took hold of the steering column, and swung it hard to the left. The Typhoon made a sharp turn to port. Most of the fighters kept going straight on, but the Squad Leader quickly redirected them, and they continued going after the cruiser. Jaws had to think of something else, and quick.

"Nothing else for it. We'll have to destroy them. Blackmask, prepare our pulse cannons. We'll get them in one go."

"Yes, Captain. Pulse cannons ready to fire. Firing-AAH!"

Blackmask was knocked from her controls by an almighty blast hitting the ship, which also knocked everyone else to the floor.

"Watch out, guys!" Jaws shouted, as she picked herself up, "Someone's firing from behind!"

"It's Commander Barratt!" Leslie yelled above the noise, "He's caught up with us, and he's coming up from behind!"

Jaws looked on the rear camera to see that the Oshan Akuma had indeed caught up with them. The fighters were still sandwiched between the two cruisers, but they quickly scattered and returned to the Akuma, as it opened fire again. The Typhoon swung hard to starboard, but the Akuma simply turned to follow them.

"Take us up, Leslie. Full throttle!"

"Yes, Captain! Full throttle taking her up now!"

The Typhoon quickly began to soar upwards, levelling itself with the Akuma, but still far ahead of the Federation cruiser. Suddenly, the Akuma landed a shot hard on the right hand side.

"Starboard engine's been hit, Captain!" Leslie yelled.

"Right! Evasive manoeuvres! Convert power to our main shields!"

"Yes, Captain."

"Captain!" Blackmask shouted, "Watch out! We'll be destroyed!"

Jaws looked to see that they were now on a collision course with the Oshan Akuma.

"Crap!" she thought. "Leslie! Maintain evasive manoeuvres!"

"Right away, Captain!"

The Typhoon quickly swung around again, just narrowly avoiding the Akuma. It shot off to one side, but the Akuma quickly followed...

On the bridge of the Oshan Akuma, Captain Mandarin was closely watching the scene.

"She's been hit, Commander!" she shouted to Commander Barratt. He laughed in manic triumph.

"Ha-ha! They weave and dance, but they can never escape us! Their defences have weakened massively. Mandarin, GO IN FOR THE KILL!"

Back on the Typhoon, Jaws was still trying desperately to outrun Commander Barratt. She was glad when she heard the familiar voice of Kyoko over the intercom.

"Captain-basan? We've got the operating console fixed for our secret weapon. Alasdair-san's done a magnificent job on it. We're ready to open fire when you are."

"Okay, Kyoko. You couldn't have called at a better time. Get ready to carry out each step as I give the word."

"Hai, Captain-basan!"

Commander Barratt watched as the Typhoon yet again swung upward to evade him.

"So...Trying more evasive measures, are we? Mandarin! What's the status of our fighter fleet!"

"Eighteen fighters heavily damaged, Commander, and seven completely destroyed. Damage is repairable, but it will take time. However, we have also delivered a crippling blow to the Stellar Typhoon."

"Good! The time has come to finish Captain MacTaggart off!"

"Er, Commander," said Lieutenant McMurdo suddenly, "You might want to come and see this."

"What is it, McMurdo?" Barratt began, but he then stopped and looked on. To his amazement, the Stellar Typhoon had stopped, and was turning around to face them. As it did so, Barratt was even more surprised to see that Jaws was sending out a surrender signal with her navigation lights.

"What do you make of it, Commander?"

"I don't know, McMurdo. Perhaps she's finally decided it's not worth it, and that she'd be doing better behind bars. Captain Mandarin, advance forward with caution."

"Are you sure about this, Commander? They could be trying to do what we tried yesterday. It could be a trap."

"If it is, then we shall know when we've captured and interrogated her and her crew. We shall-What the hell?!"

Commander Barratt could see that three enormous lightning cannons were unfolding themselves out of the Typhoon's main body; two on the bottom corners, and one on top. This was Jaws' secret weapon; the Trinity Cannon. Barratt had never seen it before, and he didn't know what it did or how. But Jaws certainly did...

"Trinity Cannon ready to use, Captain-basan." said Kyoko over the Typhoon's intercom.

"That's good, Kyoko. Now, we'll try and draw in a bit closer. Wait until I've given you the signal, and then...let the fuckers have it!"

"You could have simply said 'fire when I say', but your wish is my command, Captain-basan."

Jaws waited tensely as the Akuma slowly moved towards the Typhoon.

"Captain?" asked Leslie, "Surely they'll have suspected something by now?"

"Oh, I don't doubt that for a second. But if they do, they'll probably think these are the crap lightning cannons the Typhoon was built with."

"I see your point, Captain...Are they close enough for us?"

"Yes, perfect. Right, Kyoko. Are you listening?"

"Loud and clear, Captain-basan."

"Good. Now, get ready to fire when I say...Wait...wait...wait...FIRE!"

Back on the Akuma, Commander Barratt saw the three lightning cannons activate, and noticed that they were all aimed at a single point just in front of the Typhoon. When the three bolts of lightning met at this point, they all seemed to merge into one large super-bolt. Then, to his horror, this bolt then headed straight for him. He shielded his eyes from the bright glare that emanated from the bolt.

"What the hell is that?! Look out! EVASIVE MANOEUVRES! RETREAT!"

But it was too late for the Akuma to do anything, as the bolt hit the front of the cruiser with a loud, vicious crack! The whole cruiser seemed to act as a conductor for the bolt, as lightning shot out all around it. Then the Akuma began to explode and shake violently. Commander Barratt and Captain Mandarin both screamed in terror as they were flung about the bridge.


On the Stellar Typhoon, Alasdair was shouting their triumph out over the intercom.

"HA-HA! We hit 'em! Guid shootin'! That'll show th' wee bastards!"

"Yes, it looks like we won't be seeing them again for a while," said Jaws with an air of satisfaction, "But they will be back...Leslie, take us up, maximum velocity. Now! Come on! We're on a collision course! Come on, TAKE HER UP!"

"Yes, Captain!"

The Stellar Typhoon shot hard up, and flew over the still-exploding Oshan Akuma. On the bridge of the Akuma, Commander Barratt had no choice but to admit defeat, obviously not for the first time.

"Retreat! RETREAT! Very well, Captain MacTaggart! You may have tricked me again this time, but next time...Strengthen your pathetic little ship, because I SHALL RETURN!"

With that, the smoking Akuma flew off into the starry blackness...

On the Typhoon, everyone cheered as the Akuma fled from their sight, and they began to celebrate their victory. They cheered even louder when Kyoko and Alasdair arrived back on the bridge. Jaws walked up to Alasdair.

"Well done, lad! I don't know how we'd have gotten out of that one alive if we hadn't had you and your expertise."

"Och, weel, that's verra simple; Yoo'd hae hud wee Kyoko haur helping ye. Dinnae forget, Ah was jist helping 'er."

"Hmm, modesty's really your thing, isn't it? Never mind. Kyoko's the same. I expect you'll get along just fine with each other." Jaws winked at Kyoko. "Anyway, thanks for helping us out. I've never seen the Trinity Cannon work so well! That's definitely secured you a place on the Elite Crew of the Stellar Typhoon."

"Cheers, Captain. Aam sure I'll loch it jist braw haur!"

"I should hope so! Now, since I haven't had the chance to do so before, I should probably introduce you to my crew. As you already know, I'm the Captain of this ship. And this is my First Mate..."

"Leslie Kennedy, at your service. Pleased to meet you, Alasdair." Leslie shook Alasdair's forepaw, and for the first time he noticed a distinct reserved air about her; she seemed very sad and stoic for some reason.

"Aye, braw tae meet you as weel."

"...And my Second Mate..."

"Call me Blackmask. All my friends do...and my enemies...and my family...and myself..."

"Reit, reit. Ah gie th' picture. Aam Alasdair."

"...And of course, you've already met Kyoko, my Chief Engineer, and my niece."

"Yoroshiku, Alasdair-san." Kyoko bowed politely.

"Och aye...uh, ay coorse. Braw tae meit ye aw. Sae, whereaboots dae Ah fit intae thes equation, noo 'at aam part ay yer team?"

"Oh, you'll be the Assistant Chief Engineer. You and Kyoko will be in charge of running and maintaining the ship's technical systems. Weapons and that. You might even get to help invent some gadget for us to use against our enemies..."

"Och, I'll look forward tae 'at. By th' way, Ah notice yer crew is mostly jist birds. Nae 'at aam complaining ur anything, but wa is 'at?"

"I'm not sure myself. I know I had some reason for that, but I just can't remember. And it's not mostly birds. It's almost entirely birds. There's only, like, two other blokes on this ship, and I can hardly even remember either of them!"

"Ah see."

"But don't worry. We'll try not to be any threat to your masculinity!"

"That's alrecht, 'en."

"Now, it's getting late. I think it's time we showed you your new cabin."

"Weel, thank ye. but ye dinnae really need tae bother abit 'at. I'll jist sleep in a maintenance hatchway ur somethin'. Ah dinnae want tae make a fuss."

"No, no, I insist. There's already a spare cabin going unused just across from Kyoko. It'll be perfect."

"Weel, okay. If ye insist."

"Excellent. Now, Kyoko will show you where it is."

"Okay, Captain-basan. This way, Alasdair-san."

A few minutes later, Kyoko led Alasdair into his new home. The cabin wasn't the largest Alasdair had ever seen, but that wasn't too surprising for a pirate cruiser. It had a small bathroom, a desk, a mini-fridge & microwave, a large double bed, and even a TV, all crammed into the small space. To Alasdair, it felt rather like a room in a cheap hotel. And he'd been in plenty of those before.

"Well, this is it, Alasdair-san. What do you think?"

"Weel, Ah hink it's...Weel, it's great. better than Ah was expecting. Certainly much better than th' shitehole Ah used tae bide in."

"Yes, er, I can imagine. So, this is it, as I say. The mini-fridge is fully stocked, but if you need anything else, just ask. I'm just across the corridor if you ever need to see me. And Captain-basan's agreed to move all your stuff in here as soon as she can arrange it with your uncle."

"Och aye, thank ye. Thes is braw. Ah hink aam gonnae loch workin' fur Captain MacTaggart."

"I'm sure you will...Well, I'd better be off to bed. Oyasumi..."

"Aye, er, goodnight."

Kyoko smiled at Alasdair as she went, and just before she left the room, she looked at him and blew him a little kiss. Once she'd gone, Alasdair lay down on his new bed, taking full advantage of the extra room compared to his old bed.

He didn't go to sleep right away. As he stared up at the ceiling, he said to himself, "Somehow, Ah hae a feeling thes new job is gonnae be far frae uneventful..."