Chapter 2: A Tunnel Devoid of All Light

Planet Name: Algia

Location: Zeta Imagen System

Description: A terrestrial planet with an oxygen-rich atmosphere. A layer of single-celled photosynthetic organisms covers the entire surface of the planet, giving it a uniform appearance and a vivid green colour. These unicellular plants are so successful that the evolutionary process has largely stalled, however several more complex species of photosynthetic plant have also developed. A small colony has been established on the planet, and the inhabitants harvest vast quantities of the native algae for use as both a food and a biofuel.

I open my eyes just to see two pairs of dirty leather worker boots walk back to the Arnav's cantina. The unkept ground feels wet and mushy under my chin, the sounds of society fade away as the door slides shut and I'm left alone on the pavement.

"Thass right, don mess wih me!" I'm drunk, which is an impressive achievement on its own. Normal drinks don't affect me, the hard liquor barely gives me a buzz. I have probably been drinking without stopping for a couple of days now, or was it weeks? I hate planets with different rotations than the F.E (First Earth) Standard, you never know what day it is, sometimes even what month.

"You didn' kigh me out, I juss' didn' like your stupid algae drins!" I tried to lift myself up, but I slip back down. It's hard doing everyday things when your right arm and left leg are missing, you become a social crutch that the rest of the galaxy has to bear with. I try lifting myself to all fours, as my body adjust to the strain, my stomach decides to clean up all of the cheap algae alcohol, or biofuel, it all tastes the same after repeated consumption. I throw up, spasm and fall on my vomit.

"Damn… stupid, drinss… stupid, stupid, stupid..." A pair of clean, polished slim leather boots slush to a stop in front of me.

"Look at you, disgusting, a waste of what you used to be." A female voice, sounded high class, educated, a classic intellectual.

"You don' know me, nobody knowss me anymore. Nobody cares."

"Does the name Vulia mean a thing to you? Or do I have the wrong person?" she squats to get a better look at my face. She smells nice, a smell I've never smelled before. Sweet, fruity and exotic. Her eyes lock with mine, clear gray, devoid of all color.

"Vulia… atmos racing… Why... do you care?" Her face seems to be fading away

"Perfect," her voice sounds echoey, "first let me introduce myself. My name is -" The world turns black.

The world is bright, too bright, so bright it blinds me.

"Where am I?"

"Aboard my private ship, technically I never landed in this planet. Technically I never left." The lady from before, I remember her voice. She wants something from me, or of me… It is hard to remember.

"You never left from where?"

"Home, I guess that's what you call it." The world begins to clear, dark shapes begin to blur into existence.

"Home… Then what is this?" The blurry shapes begin to turn into furniture, bookshelves, lamps, strange equipment. What's going on?

"As I said, my private ship. This is the medical bay." She is leaning against a wall, far from me.

"Private ship? You have more?" The people that can afford multiple ships are never good news, nobody that has that much money got it legally, not in this galaxy at least.

"Hahaha, the ship isn't mine, it's a family ship. This one in particular is, let's just say, under my supervision." She seems uncomfortable talking about her past life, but then again who isn't.

"What am I doing here?" The room is bright white, clean and most likely sterilized. I'm naked and washed clean, but that isn't the strangest thing that has happened to me so far.

"Straight and to the point, well I'm here to help." She moves closer to the hover-stretcher I'm laying on. She Smells like exotic fruit, something completely foreign in this wasteland of a planet.

"I learned the hard way that no one is out there to help you out of the kindness of their heart, what do you want from me?"

"I guess you're right, and as to what I want. I want you to work with me."

"Work with you? Lady I don't even know you, I haven't even agreed to any of this."

"You haven't agreed yet, I will make you an offer, would you like to hear it?" She smiles and lightly taps my nose.

"Does it look like I have much of a choice?" I strain against the cold metal restraints.

"Sorry about that, you are restrained because I was afraid that you would've reacted violently." She sounds genuinely concerned.

"Don't worry, this is the cleanest place I have been in a long time. I wouldn't want to ruin it just because I was kidnapped and restrained agaisn't my will." This ship could be anywhere, in any planet or space port. I'm naked and restrained, no matter how smart or strong I am, there is nothing I can do to escape.

"Funy."

"I try." I smile back and give her a sarcastic wink.

"The deal is simple, I get you a new arm and a brand new leg, and all you have to do is work with me." She pauses to let the information sink in.

"Hmm..."

"I don't expect you to have an answer-"

"What sort of work?"

"Oh, what? Uh… Yeah, I need a new start. I am going to need protection, a bodyguard of sorts. I also need to do some personal things, outside the circle of legality, and I also need funding from said circle."

"You turning to crime? You have such nice things, why would you ever want to turn?"

"I need to help someone I care about, I need equipment and funding. My family, or whatever is left of it, wants nothing to do with it."

"Hmm… I get it, I'm in."

"Really?" She looks stunned, obviously she didn't expect it to be this easy, but I have nowhere to go and nothing nothing to do.

"You had me at arm and leg, I don't care what I do as long as I'm finally able to do it, or anything by that matter."

"Perfect, I need to put you under first."

"Wait, I didn't get your name."

"Oh, you must've passed out before hearing it. It's-"

"No, don't tell me. No names, I don't want to know your past. I want to know your future."

"That's sweet." She smiles.

She presses a couple buttons on some strange machines, liquid glass comes out from the sides of the stretcher and begin to cocoon me, sealing me airtight. She gives me one last look and pulls a switch, the world goes black again.

Location: Somewhere in space. I know, very specific.

I wake up feeling the most rested I have ever felt in a very long time, My body feels numb and tingly as if there were tiny robots running up and down my skin. The surroundings are clean and white, but not with a clinical purpose like before, it feels cozier. There are yam colored wooden accents on the wall and furniture, it feels… expensive. There is an air to the room, from the extremely fine silk sheets to the lighting, this is more money in a room than I have ever seen in my life.

"You're awake," the lady from before is sitting on one of the multiple leather chairs in front of the bed. Eight concentric chairs facing the center arranged in a square with two chairs on either side. The lady looks tired, her wavy brown hair is tied in a messy bun, her expensive dress clothes have been replaced with some more comfortable, and still very expensive. She is dressed in a loose fitting white tee, tight black leggings with gray and white designs on the sides of the pant leg and some comfortable black and white running shoes. She looks good, no apparent enhancements of any sort, natural and beautiful.

"How long was I out?" The words croak out of my mouth.

"Three days, and don't try to speak. The tranquilizers aren't fully flushed from your system." She sounds intrigued and slightly surprised.

"Hmm..." There must be some truth to what she is saying because my body seems to be reacting slower than normal.

"You surprised me, the amount of anesthetic required to put you out was much higher than normal."

"Hmm?"

"We are talking lethal doses for the average joe."

"Hmm." I say with disinterest.

"Anyway, if you don't want to know my name, what should you call me? What should I call you?"

"Ha… Having an identity crisis?"

"What part of-"

"It'ss ffine, I ffeel ffine. I jusst need a glassss of wwater."

"You are remarkable."

"Thankss, I try my hardest. Did you ssee it?"

"See what?"

"My mark. I ssuppose you ssaw it ssince I'm currently naked in thesse sheetss."

"Relax, do you mean the tattoo on your clavicle?"

"I don't think it'ss a tattoo, why would I ever tattoo ssuch a thing?"

"I guess that makes sense. So you don't remember getting it?"

"No, the farthesst I can remember iss the accident."

"Where you lost your arm and leg, correct?"

"Yess doctor, anything else you would like to assk in thiss interview?"

"Hold your Dalgos, I'm just curious."

"Curiouss about what? You've already sseen it all."

She blushes, "Now listen you crude-"

"Teassing, just playing around... Tessting the waters."

She raises an eyebrow.

I grunt and exhale. "I don't know what it means and I don't want to find out. But, I guess it feels right if you call me by that name."

"Seriously?"

"Hand to Boson."

"It's kind of weird don't you think?"

"It makes sense to me. But what about you, what should I call you?"

"Hmm, I guess you could call me Bellona, after the-"

"Neo Roman Goddess of War."

"How did you know?"

"I may be a crippled atmos racer, but I'm not illiterate or culturally uneducated."

"Then you know where your name comes from?"

"Yeah, I've had too much time to research it. I know all about it, except why I have it laser-scribed on my clavicle." Her eyes widen.

"Laser-scribed?" She asks, surprised.

"Yeah, it's permanently inscribed on my body in a genetical level, pretty much all the skin on that part of my body will grow pitch black."

"That must've been expensive."

"Not as expensive as this room, let alone this ship."

"Do you like it? I only like it because of the incredible medical and engineering bay. Everything else is a little too much."

"I don't quite like it, too expensive, it's like you're begging to be robbed. What model is this?"

"I don't know much about ships, but I do know that this ship is a Constellation Class Phoenix ship."

"Your highness." I mockingly bow my head.

"Whatever. If you're feeling better then it's about time that you and I talked about business."

"Sure thing, do you have any clothes that fit? Any ex boyfriends you never got over or something of the sort."

"I'll act like you never said that. You're in luck, I just happen to have a pair of shorts that might just fit."

"Just shorts?"

"You need to let the synth skin bond with your real skin, wear the shorts just so that I don't have to look at your space junk."

"Funny." I straighten myself and sit up on the bed, with my feet off the edge. "Here goes nothing." The sheets fall off as my feet touch the ground, one soft tap and one harsh thud, in that moment I catch a glimpse of my right arm, shiny and actually there.

Location: Secondary planetary refueling station on the controlled space of the Amoh.

Planet Name: Kritha

Location: Akriti System

Description: A lush jungle planet slightly larger than First Earth. The planet rotates very slowly on its axis, causing long hot days and cold nights. A relatively small axial tilt makes for a stable, predictable climate. The planet was colonized by the Amoh (a small independent group of humans who rejected the rule of the Kuiper Government) over a century ago, and it is now one of their core worlds.

It has been a couple of hours since we last talked, and I'm finally overcoming the shock of what happened. The shock knocked me out harder than the drugs ever could. The room is nothing but a blur of light and darkness as I open my eyes, again. The low hum of engines running is a soothing, yet slightly unnerving, unmistakable sound. Cold sweat clings to my body as I will my heart to stop pumping so loudly, the sound of blood rushing in my ears is deafening.

I peel the sheets off my body and throw them as far away as I possibly could. Cold rushes in as the breeze from the air conditioning finally lands on me. A soft tap and then a louder, but still faint, thump of metal hitting wood. I walk to the bathroom attached to my room and slammed the door shut. The door had done nothing to deserve such treatment, but I'm in the mood of just hitting things as they approach me. I look into the screen placed above the sink and sigh as I open the tap and wash my face.

Still dripping from the wash I said "Reflection" and the screen once black blinks to existence showing my reflection. A pale face, typical of those that live most of their lives in space. I raise my vision to the face looking back at me. A perfectly defined jawline that terminates on a chin that couldn't make its mind if it was cleft or not. Above the chin is a pair of lips that rarely smiles, but not because of any emotional sadness, they just like to move as little as possible. The laziness of the lips fits the personality of the wearer, a man truly of little words. The nose is slightly bent to the right as it reaches the tip, it wasn't because of some previous injury, it was just a genetic thing. The cheeks may have been covered by freckles at some point, but by now they seemed like a distant memory fading away.

The eyes are a different story, undecided and quite temperamental in regards to their color. They are gray, or green, or blue depending on what light they were in. They seem tired, as if they had experienced too much, seen too much. Above those eyes are brown eyebrows that had a hint of blonde when in contact with light. And to top it all was a mess of dirty blonde hair that waved and curled down to the chin. On the sides of his head is a pair of ears that are just plain old normal ears. The lobes aren't attached and they are neither large or small. But those ears did hear many things. While the lips were lazily resting on each other, the ears were working hard trying to gather as much information as they possibly could. The face could have belong to anyone, but this time it belongs to me.

On one side of my upper body there is a black synthetic skin-like fabric that covers half of my right pectoral and drops all the way down to to the side of my abdomen, which then proceeds to loop back around my shoulder plate. The synthetic skin feels like skin but was absolutely black and contrasts with the silver prosthesis attached. The second skin is there to ensure the nerve endings of my natural body connect the wires to the prosthesis. The artificial nerves in the prosthetics work at higher speeds than actual nerves, so once the impulse of movement reaches the prosthetic nerves, the limb will move before I finish the thought of movement.

"Incredible."

"I know, right. I did a pretty good job." Bellona replies from the door frame, she is dressed in an elegant cropped lavender jacket with one flap open and pinned back to her side, revealing her bellybutton. Black tight jeans paired with lavender heels complete her outfit, elegant, influential and rich.

"Are you going planetside?" She looks dressed for warm weather, and she washed and straightened her hair.

"We are, but first you need to wash up and get dressed." She hadn't enter the bathroom because she was clearly avoiding my smell.

"I can take a hint, besides why am I going planetside?"

"You need clothes don't you? Besides I know a guy in the planet that can help us out in our new business venture"

"I see. What is this line of work in particular, you never explained it to me." I look at her with quizzical eyes.

"I'll tell you more after you clean up." She smiles and points to the standing shower, high tech and just as clean as the rest of the ship.

"Fine." She leaves and closes the door. Alone with my thoughts one question begins to tear me apart: Are the prosthetics waterproof?

A bustling independent station, a unique environment of criminals, refugees and overall the perfect place for people trying to escape the kuiper government or starting a new life. The station's outer shell is in the shape of an upside-down teardrop with five concentric triangle shaped docking stations, giving the top of the station a starfish like look. Or so the layout map has you belief.

I'm dressed in a plain white shirt, black pants and dress shoes (the only male clothing available at the ship, being the captain's spare clothes, he won't miss them for long.) I look into the glass exterior of the horizontal elevator that is taking us through the docking station and into the inhabited portion of the station. I look at my shaggy long, wavy mess of dirty blond hair.

"Do you want a haircut?" Bellona asks me absently. She is leaning on the railing of the elevator, resting and clearly daydreaming.

"Yeah, it's kind of a mess. Won't the pilot wonder what you're up to?"

"Not at all, he thinks I'm here to see the newest Amoh fashion show."

"Really? What about when you start your new life?"

"Have you ever faked your death?"

"I guess I haven't."

"It's easy if you have lots of money, and you know the right people."

"Do you know the right people?"

"Hopefully."

The elevator stops and opens its doors, opening a new beginning, hopefully. A deafening roar of human activity chokes out the silence of the elevator, drowning the endless drone of the massive engines but unable to stop their ever present vibration. The oxygen rich artificial atmosphere wakes me up and sets me on edge.

"It takes a while to get used to it."

"Why is it set so high?"

"I don't know, maybe they like it that way."

"Maybe." I already don't like it.

We start walking through the buzzling customs like a breeze, money and power sure beat begging in dirty streets. We pass through security without even a question, just a lot of bows and handshakes.

"Independent and Trustworthy my…" I turn to look at her, "The corruption in independent planets sure isn't blown out of proportion, this is unreal. "

"You say that because you've never been inside the Kuiper belt."

"I guess you're right. Where are we going?"

"Clothing store, then hairdresser and finally we will take a shuttle planetside."

"Seems fair."

"Tell me, what style do you like?"

"What?"

"Clothes."

"Oh, yeah. I guess I like something sturdy that will last for a long time, flexible enough to allow me to move freely, but strong enough so as to not let me down in a fight."

Bellona stops on her tracks and turns around, "I guess you're going to the mil-spec store."

"I'm going alone? I don't have any money, and how can you trust me on my own. I could escape, you know."

She smiles, "I know you won't."

I look at my prosthetic hand "I guess you're right, again."

"Here," she hands me a holo card, "buy whatever you want, I'll go and get you something myself." She starts walking away, stops and points to an elevator door, "Third floor, all the way to the end." She leaves me on my own.

"Hmm..." I take the elevator and pocket the card. In a couple of seconds I reach my destination. I walk through a thick crowd of people of all shapes and sizes, bumping and pushing my way through. I feel a tug at my pocket and instantly react, reaching down with my right, gripping the perps hand.

"Shazbot, what the-" The guy yelps as I squeeze his hand, "Fraaaaak… Watch the hand!"

"Watch your hands!"

He shrugs and straightens his jacket, "Whatever, you don't have anything worth taking." He begins to walk to the flow of the crowd, "Nice reflexes," and he disappears in the sea of people.

"Where in boson's name am I?" I reach the store, a sketchy military surplus store with bright neon signs that read: Ysaac's Mil Store, They lose 'em We use 'em. For some reason I walk inside, and I'm quickly greeted by an overly enthusiastic man behind the counter.

"Good to have you! My name is Ysaac, and this is my store." This man is clearly on some spice. He is wearing a form fitting leatherette jacket with a little too many buckles, just everywhere. He is also sporting a gray crew neck shirt and some black cargo pants.

"Thanks, uhm..."

"What are ya looking for their, buddy?" He leans over the counter and gives me a big smile.

"Jackets, flight jackets preferably, maybe some cargo pants. If there are any I will also like some boots and shirts."

"Great, great, grrreat. I sure have all those things, follow me and I'll give you a tour." He somersaults over the counter, trips and face plants. "Just a sec," he gets up and brushes off the dust from the floor, "Follow me, don't go too far." He is clearly on some form of spice.

The interior of the station is comprised of gray plasmiette (a cheaper and less effective form of plasium that isn't as strong or as durable), since only the exterior requires shielding. Each floor is unique from the next, with different communities and even their own cultures. All the migrants from diverse planets are looking for people with a shared culture or ideology, forming interesting social and cultural clashes within the same station and sometimes even the same floor.

Ysaac walks in front of me, pointing to random parts of the store while he tells me the story of how he came to own the store. "So there was this one Efalmorane from Doral, he… or she…. You never know with them, am I right. So he had this ehovogh with huge antlers, or was it teeth? Either way, turns...".He guides me to the casual wears as I choose to ignore his made up stories. In this section of the store there are some interesting clothing selections that most people wouldn't consider casual wears, there are flight suits, helmets, reinforced vests and military grade boots, pants and shirts.

"If this is casual wears..." Ysaac laughs at my comment.

"Yess, haha, wears, uhm… So, enjoy your perusing and tell me if you need any help, hehe..." He walks off backwards, still staring at me, he trips and quickly wiggles himself off from my vision.

"I hate people."

I look at all the clothes, my eyes fix on one I like, a dark green leather flight jacket, almost new but with clear combat experience. I take it and feel the inside, nice and smooth, insulated and slightly reinforced. There are flaps that can be open for breathing and a full ventilation system for both warming up and cooling down. I try it on, form fitting and rugged, but still somehow flexible. "This most likely belonged to some private army, or military police." There are no badges or identifying marks, the jacket is low profile on the exterior with barely any designs except for the shoulder and elbow pads, that appear to be reinforced. "Wow, hey Ysaa-"

"What?" Ysaac says from right behind me, giving me a small heart attack and a strange urge to smash his face in.

"In Boson's name, where you stalking me?"

"Stalking? Me? I would never- Yes I was." He gives me an apologetic smile.

"Either way, how much for this jacket?"

"Ahhh yes, that right there is, uhm… 3500 Creds, or was it 2500?" He turns and starts looking into the distance, counting fingers.

"Ok, I guess I'll take the jacket, those brown pants, the black boots and that grey t-shirt."

"Aha, yes oh yes… that'll be uhm..."

"Just put it on this card." I hand him the card bellona gave me, he takes it with shaky hands and bows.

"Your highness!"

"Is there a place where I can change?"

"Right over there your majesty!" Ysaac points to a door that hopefully leads to the changing rooms. I change into the new clothes and walk out of the store.

"Bye Ysaac, may I never have to meet you again you insane-"

"Hey!" A breathless female voice that sounds familiar calls from behind me.

"Bellona?" I turn around and see her panting and out of breath.

"Are you ok? Was anybody chasing you?" She squats down and lets herself fall to a sitting position.

"Yeah, some… some guy with a blue hat, red shirt brown jacket and, frankly pants that were too big for-" She seems a bit in shock, probably her first pickpocket. She's distracted and clearly trying to understand what just happened to her.

I snap my fingers, trying to bring her back to reality. "Hey! I don't care if his fashion choices weren't the best, did he take anything?"

"Just a ring." She is clearly minimizing the impact of what happened.

"I've never seen you wearing rings."

"I don't wear it as a ring, I keep it hanging on as a necklace."

"I see, where did he go?"

"I have no idea, he just faded into the crowd." She looks at me at a loss, hopeless.

"I know what you mean. Was the ring important? What does it look like?"

"Very, and it's gold with a blue rectangular diamond and a silver band on the inside."

"I won't ask about the story of the ring, I can tell it means a lot and I promise I'll find it."

"You don't have to-"

"I do, if we're going to work together we need to trust each other. Now, I don't need to know your motives for wanting to work together, if you trust me then I can trust you."

She smiles reassured, "Ok! First, I think you need something." She hands me a black bag, "Happy life day!"

From the bag I pull out a small metal box, "Wait a second, is this..." It's a gun box.

"You don't have to give me anything, just get me the ring back, I don't care how."

"I can tell." I don't want to ask if she bought the gun before or after the robbery.

"How else can I expect you to protect me once I don't have anymore private security?" I can't tell if she's kidding or not.

"What gun is it?"

"Can't you tell? I thought you were a burly man from the streets?" She teases me.

"Lost most of my memory in the accident that took my leg and arm. If I was a gun buff I can't remember."

"I guess that makes sense, physical trauma can cause memory loss." She looks off into the distant, as if unsure what to diagnose me with.

"Hey, doc?"

"What?"

"The gun, you can let go now."

She blushes and lets go off the gun, "Sorry. You better get going, think of this as a test."

"Test?"

"If you fail I'll have to kill you and find another person that is more reliable."

"Thanks."

On that happy note I start running on the direction that Bellona pointed at. I hide the gun in the back of my pants, not a good tactical choice but it's better than walking around visibly armed. I slow down to a jog once I reach the main halls crammed with people of all species. Tall Gozimas still wearing their winter fur, slimy Mabvanians rolling on their telekinetic carts, Lovons looking for a place to hibernate, Apilix, Mindoza, obviously Terrans and even some Yhogans trying to escape their lottery.

I walk up to a Yhogan, these intelligent monotreme-like creatures evolved from a planet with extremely high gravity, I chose this species because their culture forbids them to lie, it also automatically enters all adults into a species wide lottery were the winners are routinely executed to lower the population density of the species.

"Pako lo lajui laluikui." Hello and great greetings. The Yhogan stops stunned at replies back as is customary.

"Lajui rosui Luisi Luisi." Great indeed Fellow Fellow.

"La juilui luiti kosalui lo ro kilo ko jui lo ko kk (gutural french g) latilui."I have been confused and in search of a man of my likeness.

"Sako sila sajuilako, sisalui juila lo ti lako ki salo laluisuilo, sa siti juiro ko ko jui salo sui pa juilui." Upon this station, there are many men who bear such resemblance, but then again do not all terrans look the same. Damn these Yhogans, they may be forbidden from lying but manipulating the truth comes natural to them.

"La suisalui, sa sila lo la ko ko juikui sijui suilaso la ko la. Suilaso saluisa koki lalui kokilalui la juiroki pa sui. Ko lo jui Kolo si ko lo juiko sui lo juila lajuikui lati si? La sala jui pa pa pa suisasi juilalui ko si ko kolui." Tis true, but this man is fond of taking that which is not his. Which under most civilized societies is against the law. Do you a Yhogan know of any major laws you are breaking right now? I sure, as the day the truth arrived, do know of one. That should jog his memory.

"Jui silolo kolatilui sako pa sa ko La luilojuila sako lo pajui. La juilui jui lo tilosa lasi pa lo, sa la la luilojui lasilo jui lajuiso. La sui la lalui rolalui lo juilokolui kolalui ro jui la ko pa luijui luilako. La ko kolui lo kolalui lo kolui kk sajuisolui, lo kosisa suilolalako." A thousand forgiveness upon the sun do I declare upon your head. I have had an encounter with the man, but i did escape without a scratch. I saw him hide inside an abandoned office in hall six of the zeta section. I do hope you forgive and forget my brashness, and other transgressions.

"Pa pa suisasi salalui lo juisi, sakosisa ko pa sa." May the truth guide your path, brother of the sun.

"Lo lo juisi sui." And your path too.

The Yhogan quickly shuffled away back into his pack. I'm glad all those months stuck on that Yhogan colony paid off, I've always been quick to learn a culture, especially one with such control of the mining industry as theirs. Their home planet suffers from extreme atmospheric and gravitational pressure. They also live underground, by digging with their claws. This gives them an advantage on planets with a weaker gravity, which means their rocks are softer and easier to dig relative to those in their home planet of Yhoga. After leaving Vulia, and hopping planets until my money had ran out on ship transport and way too many drinks, I got stuck on a small mining colony on the planet Gebo of the Gebolax System. The planet had no native species so it was taken over by the Yhogan, cheap labour and a very generous and scared community. I begged for enough money to hop to another planet, and the Yhogan were happy to give. Their religion states that all good actions are returned, so many devout followers would feed me and give me money just so they would have a chance to escape the long feared lottery.

I head to a nearby elevator and press the button for the zeta section, the small room starts humming and heading down. After a few seconds I get out and inspect the area. Mostly abandoned halls, some makeshift homes and shacks, the slums of the station. My instincts take over and I start walking until I see no more people, in a station this small with so many people, why wouldn't the homeless find shelter in here. This must be the hideout or at least an entrance to it. I enter what seems to be an abandoned office littered with desks, chairs and papers. I feel like I'm being watched, this doesn't seem like an ordinary room. I walk out of the office and take a couple steps back the way I came. I pull out the gun for inspection.

This wasn't just any gun, it was a BR Handgun H35 Combustion Pistol. The serial number had been filed off and it sported a brand new, and highly illegal, bullet trajectory correction laser in front of the trigger guard.

Combustion pistols had been widely discontinued for their lack of modern usage and general unwieldiness. Most plasma weaponry had reduced recoil to a minimum, and compensated its lack of range and impact power with devastating burns from hot molten miniature stars. What the governments won't tell you is that modern cybernetic shielding was unable to correctly, and effectively, reflect supersonic metal projectiles, or bullets for short. The technology had improved in the later years, but so did the black market scientists. They had created a new targeting system that tracked through lasers the area where the bullet had to strike and corrected the bullet after piercing through the cyber shields, in effect nullifying their functionality. All modern combustion weapons had been limited to subsonic explosions, which greatly reduced their travel speed and allowed ample time for the shields to deflect the bullets.

This particular H35 had been retrofitted with a bullet speed regulator, allowing for a maximum of 700 m/s, and a minimum of 300 m/s. The slower speed allows for a much quieter subsonic bullet travel, that becomes almost silent when paired with the toggleable inner barrel suppressor. The subsonic suppressed shot did suffer in its travel distance and impact force, but for stealthy shots it was a perfect choice. The faster mode allows for an incredible two times faster than sound shot that is both deafening and devastating. Other additions were a small holographic hud in addition to the tritium low light sights. The projected display arced in a circle around the vertical midsection of the gun. The hud displayed speed selection, ammunition type, if the suppressor was on, the visible path of the laser, the expected trajectory of the bullet accounting for atmospheric pressure, humidity and wind speed, and the expected trajectory after laser correction. All of this would be too much information for such a small display, so it would only show the bare minimum of the possible information, which is a great tactical disadvantage. I need to get Bellona to buy some of those new Comms with holo displays.

I set the gun to silent, hoping that these guys don't have cybernetic shielding, I also check the bullet count and see a small twelve on the display. Twelve bullets, with an unknown amount of targets, I'm cutting it dangerously close. I check the safety and take a deep breath. I head back to the office, scouting every inch of the room for hidden cameras or doors. I feel a faint breeze near the farthest wall. I lay down to see a small separation between the wall and the floor where the air is coming from. A secret door, somebody had enough time and money to make it hard to find, the more I learn the less I think this is just another pickpocket. Time to test my new limbs. I make a fist with my right hand, not a regular fist like most people like to do. I keep my fingers straight after the second knuckle, this prevents possible injury from straining the wrist. I take a step back and enter a fighting stance. My left hand and leg are aiming at the point I want to hit, with my right waiting back ready to strike. I lunge and throw a punch and exhale while whipping my entire body forwards, adding my own weight to my strike. The wall dents and warps heavily. I reset, this time my right is facing forward with my left mechanical leg holding back for a kick. I take a half step and strike the dented wall with the full force of my kick, knocking it down. Beyond it is a dark staircase leading down to the engine room.

I put the gun at the ready, safety off and enter the darkness. Letting the low light sights guide my aim, making sure not to be caught off guard. Ten seconds of methodically walking down the stairs. Twenty seconds of pure silence. Thirty seconds in darkness. I can't see where I came from, or where I'm going. Fifty seconds and I see a faint slit of light across the floor. I remember to breath. After a few seconds to recompose myself I begin to feel the door, looking for a latch. I close my eyes and let my hands guide me until I feel it, a small lever. The door shudders as the tension from the lock is released, I gently push it aside and aim my gun. Two guards dressed in sleeveless sweatshirts and cargo pants, no signs of cybers. One had a plasma rifle, the other a smaller Plasma SMG. Dangerous. In between them is a door that probably leads to the actually safe house. The guards are distracted, probably not expecting an intruder. Before I know it I'm bursting through, one quick shot to the head of the guard with the smaller submachine gun. The second guard surprised, raises his and struggles with the bulk. I step in, punch his throat with my left as I drop my gun. He gasps, but no air comes in or out. I twist the rifle off his hands and into the floor. He grabs his throat and I punch his groin with my right. I raise my punching arm perpendicular with the floor and hook one of his arms. I step in and I slide my hook arm to his wrist while my left grabs above his elbow. I pull down and he falls to the floor. I raise my knee to his elbow, it pushes down as my arms pull. His elbow snaps as his arm bends backwards. The guard regained his breath and is about to scream, but I quickly punch him in the back of the neck and with a crunch he falls to the ground, limp. Hoping that nobody has heard the commotion I grab my gun and open the next door, with only eleven bullets left. A long hallway with multiple doors, and at the end of the hallway is the engine room. I open the door completely and start walking forward. Three doors on either side, one will lead to a control room overlooking the engines, two will lead to locker rooms, one to a mess room and, most likely the last two will lead to more hallways.

I peek through the first two doors on my right, locker rooms filled with weapons of all types, probably stolen. I peek through the last door and see a figure blocking my view. Taking a step back and opening the door quickly, the thug is stunned and stares at me. I waste no time and strike. Left hand enters knife hand form and quickly hits him in the left eye, not meant to damage, just to temporarily stun and set him into motion. He turns his head in the injured direction as I lift my right fist and punch just below the ear and behind his jaw hitting his Brachial plexus at the origin. Words appear before my eyes: A proper strike to the brachial plexus origin causes—Intense pain. Complete cessation of motor activity. Temporary dysfunction of the affected arm. Mental stunning for three to seven seconds. Possible unconsciousness. The words fade and the thug falls to the ground. I quickly pick him up from behind. I wrap one arm around his neck and put my palm on the back of my neck as i turn my head away from him. With my other arm I restrain his and keep him upright as he begins to wake up. He gasps, but it isn't air he's missing, it's the blood going to his brain. He goes limp again, but I keep holding until he stops breathing altogether. I stand and look around, one set of stairs leading up, most likely to the control room. I walk up the steps, stop at the door and try to listen to the inside. Three muffled voices, one sounds familiar. The pickpocketer.

The voices sound agitated, something must be putting them on edge. Without a moment to think I burst in gun at the ready, but as I step in, a fourth person from next to the door slaps it down, pushes me into a wall, grabs me and puts me in a choke against the wall. The three people turn to me, shocked, but as if they still had expected me.

"I'm telling you, she is worth it." The pickpocketer tells the other two. "Look at him, who would hire somebody like this unless they weren't worth it."

"The results are interesting and they will pay for her." This guy looks like one of the lieutenants, not quite the big fish in the pond. He has a brown and dark gray jacket with orange accents over a light gray ninja hoodie with the half face mask pulled down. He has brown pants and black boots. He is covered in tattoos up to his jaw. He has short hair on the sides and bleached medium hair on the top and back, held back by his sunglasses.

"She might be dangerous, but we know they are. We shouldn't hold her, let's get her off quickly and rake in the profit." This guy looked more distinguished, with a metallic blue and black striped jacket with black pads on his forearms, arms and shoulders. A black turtleneck sweater, a white belt, and pants that matched the jacket. His left hand was bionic, with a light silver metallic reinforcement. A black comm wrist band was on his right, which was most likely connected to his earpiece and vision band. The Vision Band was a thin strip of hardware covering his eyes like goggles, giving enhanced vision and and other possible enhancements. The sides of his head were shaved completely, with metallic blue vertical stripe tattoos all around his head. The same tattoos were present below his chin, but on a horizontal direction. His hair was black and parted to the side in cornrows. This was the big fish. "Cedrix."

The guy currently choking me grunts.

"Kill him, he isn't of interest."

Cedrix grunts in acknowledgement and begins to squeeze harder. My arms move faster than I can think. I strike his nose with my right palm as I pull his arm down with my other one. With my striking palm I grab the shoulder from the arm I pulled down and knee him in the testicles. I turn and pull the arm I'm holding lower, forcing him to bend down giving me the perfect place to strike, the back of his neck. One quick elbow from by bionic right arm and he falls down, whiplashed and out of commision.

"Shaz!" Yells the pickpocketer as he pulls out a pistol.

Disarmed, I vault to the side, trying to dodge the incoming shot, only to be greeted with an electric shot from the bleached hair dude. I crumple to the floor. It's hard to breathe. Blurry. Dark. I taste Iron. I spit blood. I was stunned not shot. I can't feel. A blurry outline above me is kicking me repeatedly. That would explain the blood. I can't move. I'm restrained. I can't think straight. All sound is muffled as if it were filtered out by thick walls. I force my eyes open and see lights and shadows. I blink to try and get my eyesight back.

"Blllllllllll."

"What?"

"Bll, bll blll."

"What?"

"God damn, Who are you?"

My mouth begins to speak before I can think, "Hoplite 24998 OF-2, Sex 09".

The blur begins to focus slightly, "What do you mean?"

"Hoplite 24998 OF-2, Sex 09"

"Damn it." The vision band guy turns away.

"What?" Says the lieutenant.

"He's military, or at least used to."

"Yeah, but that just confirms the target. Maybe we can even take a cut from him as well."

"Smart, run him through, see if he's worth anything." They all leave the room, The pickpocketer drags cedrix out and places three new guards to watch over me.

The guards are big and strong, but lightly armed. Only carrying handguns and small automatics, they don't expect me to escape, and with these bonds it's no wonder why. I feel around, I'm strapped to a pipe in what seems to be the engine room. If I wanna get out, I'm going to need some help. The three guards are probably the mechanics, strong from lifting and working against weight of the equipment. They are probably untrained in interrogation, and they're most likely only expected to stand there and watch over me until they decide what to do. Possibilities, but it is important that I get out so I can get Bellona down to the surface. I look at the three guards, looking for a flaw to exploit. There. One of the guards is uncomfortable with his gun, probably doesn't want to have nothing to do with any of this situation. He is built like a wardrobe, large and square. Short black hair, almost pale skin but with a hint of yellow, narrow eyes, and an almost innocent look to him.