LIBERATION landed outside of Eavesdown in the Barrens. Quinn started running scans trying to see if anyone was tailing them from the Docks. T’sien met Benjamin in the Cargo Bay, both men on their way outside. Both wanted to check on the damage inflicted by the missile. Abel was in Med Bay, interrogating the prisoner. Edward and Mack remained in the Galley, drinking cocktails. Randa was still in her quarters, gathering weapons and supplies. Zan knew all of this because he could feel all of it. Information cluttered his mind’s eyes. It was a jumble of words and pictures. He couldn’t turn it off. He could only tune it out.
Zan slipped out of his hiding place. He wasn’t supposed to be here. He was supposed to be waiting on the Doctor’s stolen ship. No, he was supposed to be at the facility in Persephone. No wrong again. He was supposed to be at the Academy studying astrophysics. Incorrect. He should be in Area 54 preparing to save humanity. In any case, Zan wasn’t supposed to be on a tramp freighter that nearly got shot out of the sky. It wasn’t logical.
Zan stood up, and assessed the situation. Logic told him that now was as good a time as any to leave the ship. However, curiosity demanded that he stay and find out more about these people who so easily took him in like a stray dog. Maybe he could help them. Maybe they could help him. Contradictions, false logistics – doesn’t make sense.
Zan focused on Benjamin. The Captain on a ship of fools. A fool himself for believing that he could escape the long arm of the Alliance. Leader. Warrior. Survivor. But there was more beneath the surface. Something he couldn’t decipher. Doubt. Anger. Fear.
Benjamin was relieved to find that the reinforced armor on the ship took the brunt of the damage from the missile. He knew how close the projectile had come to hitting the VTOL thrusters. A clean hit from that missile would have sent them spiraling out of control. He wasn’t sure if even Quinn could have recovered from a situation like that one.
Quinn. Zan adjusted his focus to the Ship’s Pilot. She was still scanning for traces of nearby ships. She was a pilot because the ship needed one. She was a mechanic when the need presented itself. She carried a gun because other folk did the same thing. Her plans fell apart when he ran away from the Academy. She’s living her life out in the Black day to day trying to figure out what to do when she grows up. A little girl clutching to the hand of a folk hero. Daddy’s little girl lost in the woods.
Zan could feel T’sien’s curiosity. The man was all gears and pistons in the head. Wanted to know. Needed to know. Hands constantly touching, eyes constantly searching. He could repair the damaged armor with the right tools and materials. Wanted to take the shuttle back to town to his warehouse. It’s all logical. Exactly what the Alliance was expect. They see the recordings. Watch the tapes. The all-seeing eye of technology.
Randa was walking towards the cargo bay. Zan could feel each step. Determination. Confidence. Frustration. Anger. Fear. Pretty little darling in combat leathers. Should be high heels. She has too many names. Banning is the only one that matters. Everything else is bullshit. Fake. Liar. False. Nobody will ever come to visit her grave. They won’t know who she is or where she is from. Alone.
Zan focused in on Med Bay. Two soldiers. Both Alliance. Both traitors. No man can serve two masters. Abel is just doing his job. Following orders. Turn his crank, wind him up, and let the little toy solider go to war. Each answer brings more questions. Who do you work for? Who sent you? None of it matters in the end. Little brother won’t even see it coming.
Edward and Mack were laughing. Zan could sense that neither man was sober. Both of them wore masks. One broken and the other one shattered. Both Frankenstein’s Monsters. Both of them soaked in the blood of innocents. Both of them living in the moment … hiding from the past … avoiding the future.
Zan’s eyes widened in profound realization. He scooted quickly across the hard, metal grating. He drew his legs up tight against his chest, and stifled a scream. Edward was one of them! Cut into our brains! Can’t be trusted! Zan felt trapped. He looked to the right and then to the left. Had to hide. Had to escape. And then he felt Quinn’s surprise. She saw a ship coming in fast. It was one she recognized just by the heat signature. The Hard Burn.
The enemy ship heralded the Crew. A sign of respect. Honor. “This is Spider Johnson of the ship Hard Burn. You are hearby “Bound By Law” and ordered to stand down. You will power down your vessel and surrender.”
Zan sat quietly. He squeezed his eyes shut. Too many thoughts. Too many pictures. Too much violence, anger, and fear. He sat there in his hiding spot for minutes. He hear heavy weapon fire outside. He listened to people shouting. Villains fighting villains. Contradictions. Illogical.
Hard Burn fired warning shots. LIBERATION didn’t. The enemy ship ignited, leaving a trail of black soot.
“I can’t surrender myself to a ship that’s on fire,” shouted Edward over the comm-link. “Should I bring pajamas or will work clothes be just fine?!”
The Hard Burn took several blasts from LIBERATION’s Twin Laser Cannons. Zan could feel the battle lust rising up in Benjamin. It was a strange brew of excitement and dread. The enemy ship went into a controlled spin. It pulled out of its dive, and turned back towards LIBERATION again. But Benjamin fired first.
Hard Burn lost a thruster. It went into a high-speed spiral that made it look like a fireball cast down by the gods. It hit the ground, digging a trench in sand and rock. After sliding several hundred yards, the ship came to a stop. It was a shattered wreck, still burning and spouting out thick, dark smoke. But Zan knew that at least one of them was still alive. He couldn’t die. Not today.
Zan knew that T’sien wanted to survey the wreckage. But the Captain ordered him back. There was another threat. Off-world, an Alliance ship was watching them. Observing the attempt on their life as if it were a sporting event.
Zan crawled back into the compartment and slid the panel into place.
He wasn’t supposed to be here.