Author's notes: Well, I got more characters than I anticipated… and what a colorful cast! I'm already thinking up some plots and ideas! Well, as I said, I was going to start this as soon as I got 5 characters… so I got 6, so here it is! I hope everyone likes it!

"Stars of Destiny"

By Al Kristopher

Chapter One: Chikou the Cunning, Chisatsu the Searching

RING! RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING! RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIING!!!

The unfortunate young man, probably more dead than he was alive, tumbled in his shredded bed as the annoying sound of an alarm clock buzzed in his sleepy ears. With crusty, bloodshot eyes, he examined the clock, yawned once, and feebly reached under his pillow for a gun. In the darkness of the morning, his numb fingers found the weapon, and lazily pulled it out to attack the offending alarm clock. With a nerve-shattering explosion, the bullet smashed the alarm clock into smithereens, and the ringing abruptly died.

"…I hate that thing," moaned poor Gregory as he gazed at the spot his clock formerly occupied. Now, of course, there was nothing left except for useless debris, smoke, and a tiny black spot that had been charred on his reading desk. He moaned in a weak victory, then slumped down on his pillow again to try and recover his sleepy mood.

Gregory J. Rodriguez, born on Earth and raised everywhere else, had not seen much of King Morpheus since his arrival on Saturn Space Station 02. It was true that he had been quite the busy fellow, having to perform "errands" for other people, and it was true that he liked his job well, but at seventeen years old, even his energy had to fade sometime. Case in point: last night. He had just gone through an arduous "negotiation" with some drug shippers, and had ran into some "problems" while engaging the leaders. Thankfully, he had escaped with nothing worse than a few bad scratches and a deeply-bruised arm; his first mission cost him a finger and a whole pint of blood.

Waking up at 5:45 in the morning was not Gregory's idea of a reward for his job. Not even the payment he received, 5,000 units, satisfied the pain he felt across his body. Of course, things could have been worse. He could have been stuck with her (then again, he did regret asking to go on that mission by himself, eventually). Gregory moaned and tossed in his bed, wishing that he hadn't thought of her at such an early hour.

Suddenly, the door to Gregory's room opened, and a tall and slender woman slipped inside. She had been wise enough to leave the hall light off; otherwise, the gun beneath his pillow would have been used again--and again. This woman, dressed only in a silky negligee, slinked inside the room and gazed down at the half-awake young man.

"Morning, lover," she whispered huskily. "Did you enjoy last night? I know I did…" Gregory moaned, and rubbed his weary eyes as he adjusted to the morning.

"…Do I know you from somewhere?" he asked. The woman scoffed and clicked her tongue in irritation. The way she stood and crossed her arms indicated irritation from her part.

"Ugh, morning yourself," she muttered. Gregory's face grew bright, reasonably enough (considering the hour was so early that not even the morning paper had arrived), and he smiled as he recognized the voice.

"Oh, Dana, it's just you," he sighed, slumping back to his pillow. "I thought I was being attacked by a succubus."

"Hmph," she snorted, "you would have been better off if you did. Admit it, Shifty, you're glad to see me."

"As glad as a lobster is when he sees melted butter," mumbled the tired young man. Dana let out a halfway-bitter chuckle, and bent down to shake her partner awake.

"C'mon, Shifty, you can't stay in bed all day."

"Why not?" he mumbled. Dana pouted and shook him harder.

"Because adventure's calling, that's why!"

"So let the answering machine get it," he mumbled. Dana snorted, raised her leg, and slammed the heel of her foot down on the poor man's body. She kicked him until he begged her to stop, then to make sure he didn't go back to sleep, she flicked the light on and tore the covers off his bed.

Gregory, or Shift as everyone seemed to call him, hissed like a vampire being exposed to the sun once his room lit up. Thankfully, he was a little more presentable than the woman in his room; otherwise, a scene would have ensued. Mumbling in irritation, he finally slipped out of the bed and made a show of stretching.

"Now that you're awake, maybe we can accomplish things," said Dana as Gregory scratched his head. "You'd better wash up, or else I'll never let you downstairs to eat."

"Ugh, no fair," grumbled Gregory. He leaned over slightly, rubbing his back and popping the air out of his fingers. Gregory normally wasn't so haggard-looking: he was usually average in appearance, not too tall nor too weighty (he had a problem with food--that is, he ate whatever was placed before him), and neither handsome nor unattractive, just a pretty average, everyday Joe. He had the kind of hair and eyes that suggested a much more laid-back style than even this early morning grogginess, and although he never could stand out in a crowd, he was indeed a very unique, albeit sleepy character.

Sleepy Gregory eventually obeyed his "partner in grime" (as he called her) and took his usual shower and shave. Gregory J. Rodriguez had made a habit of waking up early so he could snoop out the best jobs while everyone else was still asleep. Usually, though, these jobs would be held at night, so he was almost always a zombie in the morning.

When people first met Gregory, and plenty already had, they usually asked him one of two questions. "Why don't you sleep during the day?" was the most popular; the second was "Where did a guy like you pick up a beauty like Dana Withers?". Believe me, he would reply to the second, if I knew that, I'd be a lot happier than I am now. The answer to his first question was easy: nobody posted jobs at night. Morning was a prime time to look for the next big payoff; evening was usually reserved to actually carry out that specific job.

As to how he met Dana… Well, that was a little more delicate (Gregory never could piece together the entire scenario, no matter how much he tried or how much Dana told him). When Gregory first arrived at Saturn Space Station 02, one of the oldest pseudo-colonies floating around the gaseous planet, he had came with a minimal amount of income, among other things.

Try not to dwell on the past, his father once told him. It's lost forever and there's no use worrying over it. In fact, not even the future is worth the effort. Try focusing on what's happening now, because that's the only thing you can control.

"Thanks, dad," he said as the spigot soaked him wet. Gregory was smiling, but it was more nostalgia than anything else. His father was right, of course. The past was gone already, and no one knew the future, so why put forth the effort to bother over it?

It kills the boredom, he had suggested. Gregory shook his head, sending droplets of water flying, and tried not to jump from topic to topic. He had difficulty staying on one subject for very long, even if it was one of great interest. He sighed, and began thinking how he had met Dana…

It was about seven months after we arrived at the Station, he would usually tell people. Oh, "we" means my mom and I. Huh? My dad? Well, he's……… ahh, you don't wanna know. Forget about it. Anyway, we had managed to settle into the Station, and for the first few months we did a bunch of odd jobs to get by. Soon, I figured out I had something called "skills", and my mother supported me in my quest to see what kind of "skills" I actually had.

Let's see… Well, I guess you could say that… I, eh, sorta became a soldier of fortune, or something romantic like that. …Now don't put words into my mouth, I didn't say "mercenary". There's a difference between the two. Hey, if you don't wanna hear the story, you shouldn't have asked. (By this time, one audience member would get offended and leave. People asked him about his partner all the time; the two made a pretty good team, and they had already made a name for themselves)

…So much for them. (Gregory was a little too honest sometimes) Where was I? Ah yeah, I was just entering into the field of freelancing. Anyway, I sort of prostituted myself as a warrior, and believe me, in a place like Saturn Space Station 02, there's a lotta bad blood. I'm not too strong, but I am working on it. I guess I'm better with weapons than I am with my fists.

Anyway, I was doing favors for this doctor guy who was exchanging his services for mine. He wasn't exactly liked by the local illegitimate powers, so I had to do a lot of stuff for him--you know, bodyguard, watchman, spy, things like that. Anyway, I was on this one mission for him… I dunno what exactly I was doing, but it was on this one mission where I ran into Dana.

Dana's a lot like me, so we saw eye-to-eye pretty quickly. She's some really rich adventurer girl, and she'll take any job if it's fun or if it's for a good cause. Money doesn't mean a thing to her. Believe it or not, she's the adopted daughter of some governess or some other important lady. She doesn't tell me too much, but that's only cuz' I don't tell her much.

Anyway, we sorta became partners after we finished that job together. She's a little funny in the head sometimes--I mean, we both ended up living together in the same apartment, even though technically she can buy the whole complex. …Hey, I know what you're thinking, and brother let me tell you--you've got it all wrong! Sure she's pretty, and reliable as a dog, and tough as one too, and sometimes she acts like one, (I told you she was funny in the head), but I don't see her as… well… you know!

Of course, after denying anything between himself and his partner in grime, Gregory would receive more doubtful looks and eyebrows would be crossed and chins would be rubbed. He'd smartly make some kind of diversion to escape the pestering people, then would walk away and make himself lost in the hallways and streets.

So Gregory had lived on Saturn Space Station 02 for a little over a year now, and he had already made a name for himself as a "soldier of fortune". He had a competent partner whom he trusted and liked, to a degree, and with some exceptions, his life really couldn't get much better.

Except, of course, for the fact that Dana was such a bad cook that the only thing she could make was toast and cereal, which was what a ravenously hungry Gregory had for breakfast.

"Another culinary masterpiece," he noted, chewing on the slightly-burnt toast. Dana offered a watery smile and chewed on her orange.

"Well, I'm just used to having people cook for me. What about you, Shifty? Can't you cook?" He grumbled weakly, and decided not to pleasure her with a response. He finished both toast and cereal in quick time, then dove into the Classified ads and the Help Wanted section of the morning paper. Dana, sensing his desire to go out and work for a living rise up again, flicked on a television in hopes of finding the network that advertised available bounties.

Gregory's escapades as a soldier of fortune usually paid well, but the job was never constant. Just because he was famous (sort of), that didn't make him the desire of every damsel in distress or the object of every rich old crone's aegis. A job wasn't just going to land in his lap (except for that one he took…); he had to look for things.

A moan of disappointment escaped his mouth as he skimmed over the newspaper. There were lots of nice-sounding jobs that paid well, but currently, nothing that catered to his wide area of expertise. Dana smiled thinly as she saw her partner become more annoyed over the lack of work, and her smile didn't fade at all when the television offered nothing as well. With one lazy swipe, she tore the paper from out of Gregory's hands and shut the television off.

"Hm… what's up?" he asked her. Her smile told silent stories.

"I think Naja found us something," she told him. Gregory sighed and sunk his head to the table.

"And I'm desperate enough to listen," he moaned. Dana's smile grew even more, and she giggled just slightly as her "other" partner slithered up her bare leg. The creature snaking up her body--no pun intended--was a long and thin cobra-like creature, but unlike the snakes found on Earth, it had wings sprouting out of its back, and was incredibly intelligent for an aviaptile.

Dana cooed softly as the deadly creature curled up on her head like a living turban, and chucked the chin of the creature like she was crowing over a puppy. The creature stuck its forked tongue out several times, weaved its head, and leaned forward to touch its nose against her cheek.

"Now that's interesting," she mused. Gregory, still not used to seeing such a lethal creature in close quarters to another human, merely paled and finished his glass of juice. Dana smiled, and locked her sea-gray eyes onto his.

"Naja says that he witnessed a murder yesterday," she told him. "He got a good look at the killer, as well as the location of the murder. He's uncertain as to whether or not there's a reward, but I think we'd better investigate anyway." Gregory sighed and waved his hands in defeat.

"All right, I guess it'll give us something to do. Thanks, Naja." Naja, the aviaptile, hissed fiercely as Gregory stood up to pet it. Dana sneered, and hugged the snake close to her.

"Shifty, you know how agitated Naja gets when he's around strangers."

"Dana, we've known each other for five months," pointed Gregory. "I don't think I classify as a stranger."

"That doesn't matter to him," replied Dana. "To Naja, I am the only one worthy of his trust. Sorry about that." Gregory shrugged haphazardly, and ignored the entire situation as he wandered off to pack his things. He was far from a detective, and he hadn't done a murder case since first arriving, and with the reliability of a bizarre cobra pushing him into the job, he was sure that it was going to be a slow day.

Closing comments: Well, I hope I portrayed everyone well. For those who did not see their character, don't worry--I plan on including every single one in future chapters. For now, though, the story will more or less revolve around Gregory and Dana. Thanks go out to "Peter" for giving me Dana (and Naja, who I will not count as a second character since I made up the name), and "Taa" for giving me Gregory. I hope you like how I made them, and I hope it's okay that they're partners. And keep sending in characters! I can only do so much with the 6 I have!