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Chapter 2

They don’t get far before Tal finds himself wishing for the chaos of the mercenary base as they make their way across the snowy plains. High winds consistently impede on their progress. As his feet slosh through the thick, white powder, and cold permeates the insulation provided by his armor, in the back of his mind is the nagging desire to break the deathly silence that’s set in. Once the adrenaline of battle, and the excitement of being reunited wore off, he found himself at a loss for words. So they kept moving, Tal’s face obscured by the mask as he desperately searches for words to say.

“Are we almost there?” Anna asks for the second time, snow clings to her hair as golden locks whip about in the wind. “Not all of us have thermal masks you know?”

Tal sighs. “Allie, how much farther?” he consults the AI stored in the implant at the base of his skull.

The same voice that warned him of the encroaching enemies once again speaks to him. Would you like me to tell you exactly, or just an estimate?

“Are we close or not?” he repeats.

You are almost there, she answers with a tone of frustration in her voice.

“We’re close,” he reiterates for Anna.

“She’s still with you?”

“Of course, why wouldn’t she be?”

“I just figured, I don’t know, you’d have upgraded or something.”

Before Tal can respond, a holographic projection of a green woman in a short dress with jagged edges blinks to life in front of the other operative.

“I will have you know Miss West that Tal has no intention of trading me in for a younger model. The same cannot be said for yourself though,” the projection grins victoriously.

“That’s enough Allie,” he chides the construct. Obediently, with a hint of a knowing smile, she drops the projection.

“What was that supposed to mean?” Anna questions him sternly.

“The ship should be just ahead, come on,” he replies, in hopes of dodging the question.

Sure enough, they come upon a dim orange orb in the distance. As they get closer, the image becomes clearer. The single orb splits into several smaller ones that line the platform of the loading ramp to a Class IV Sparrowhawk vessel. The Amaryllis has been with him ever since he graduated out of the program on Praga. Plasma burn scars poke out from under the snow thin layer of snow that rest on top of it.

As they get closer a person can be seen sitting on the ramp eagerly awaiting their arrival. Unlike the mohawked warrior and his blood red armor, this one wears a white and grey outfit that is designed more for camouflage and protection against the elements than projectiles. She’s a couple years younger than both of them, with hair as dark as night, shortened into a pixie cut. Her dark blue eyes reveal an older soul beneath her youthful appearance.

The girl smiles upon seeing the two operatives approach.

“What took you so long?” she calls out to them. “I was just about to come look for you.”

“I took the scenic route,” Tal responds.

“Of course you did. I thought we agreed I’d distract them long enough for you two to get away. Why would you endanger the mission, endanger yourself, like that?”

“Hey,” he responds with a pained expression, hand over his chest in mock pain. “I had every intention to go through with the plan, but when I saw who we were rescuing I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see her in action.”

“And why is that?”

He smiles slyly before continuing. “I’d like you to meet Tannah West.”

“Who the hell is…?” The words trail off as it hits her. Wonder widens her eyes as they gaze upon the woman standing next to him. Tal manages to barely suppress his laughter as her face shifts from borderline annoyance to awe in such a short amount of time.

“Tan- The Avenger of Azariah?” All annoyance at Tal is forgotten as her attention shifts to the snow covered woman.

“Please, call me Anna,” the third operative states uncomfortably.

“Um, yeah, yeah sure.” The younger girl stammers.

“I hope you don’t mind but, is it possible for me to change into something a little less blood drenched?” Anna asks.

They proceed up the loading bay ramp. On one side are racks of various weapons and gadgets. On the other is a staircase that leads to the few rooms designated for operatives and guests, the cockpit, and the dining area.

“So, what are you doing here? If you don’t mind me asking,” the younger operative queries anxiously as they make their way towards the guest quarters.

Anna smiles politely. “I’m sorry, I don’t think I caught your name,” she replies instead of answering the question.

“Right, sorry, my name. How could I forget my name? I’m Jaya.”

“Jaya?” Anna responds with surprise. She to look at Tal inquisitively.

“Yes, that Jaya.”

“Um, what?” the girl asks confusedly.

“Nothing, just, Tal’s told me a lot about you. I’m surprised he’d let his baby sister join Orothros.”

“Well, technically he didn’t. He protested the entire time, until I went through implantation. Since then it’s been a seething resignation.”

“That sounds like him,” Anna comments with a teasing glance at the red haired operative. Tal, caught up in the moment, smiles back but quickly realizes his mistake as he tears himself away from her emerald eyes.

“So, you two knew each other?”

“How come you never mentioned you were partnered with the greatest hero humanity has ever had?” she inquires curiously.

A moment passes, he tries to think of a proper response but his wits fail to come up with a logical reason. “Jay, could you go get Anna some fresh clothes from your room.”

She looks about to protest, but the glance he gives her begged her not to. “Fine, but then someone’s answering at least one of my questions when I get back.”

Jaya quickly walks away. Tal presses his right hand to the square button beside the door. It slides open to reveal a small bedchamber.

The room is used to primarily house “guests”, be them friendly or otherwise. Generally of the friendly variety, but they’ve been known to take the occasional criminal back for questioning or imprisonment.

It’s fairly plain, a bed, a table and chair. The walls, unlike the blues, greys, and blacks that can be found throughout the ship, are barren white with splotches of various colors. Yet despite all its simplicity, this has always been Tal’s favorite room on the ship. For the very fact that every person that has ever set foot in the room left some kind of memento of their stay. He wasn’t sure when it started, but first it was writings on the walls; names, places, events that for one reason or another the occupant decided to leave behind. Soon objects began to decorate the room. Trophies of their adventures rested on the table. Pieces of clothing, shrapnel that had been pulled from bodies, dog tags of fallen squad members, bullets, anything from one of the many “guests” he’d acquired in his ten years as an operative be them alien or human.

“Remember this one?” He walks across the room to a scathing letter from their first mission together. The white, holographic image glows brightly in the dim lighting.

“Yeah, it was from the Scarletina mission. You threatened to leave the poor councilman behind because he kept loudly chewing those noxious candies,” she answers.

“In my defense, the scent of those things was leading the Wolves right to us.”

“They prefer to be called Ruguragi,” she corrects him, rolling each “r” in perfect pronunciation.

“They’re also ridiculously fast, eat humans, have patches of fur, and howl,” he retorts.

“It’s weird, I never thought I’d be a guest on my own ship,” Anna comments as she lazily wanders around the room, taking in all the sights and memories.

“I think you mean my ship,” he corrects her.

“You keep telling yourself that,” she counters with a sly grin.

He watches as she continues to pace the room. There’s a fondness to the way her eyes drift from picture to picture, relic to relic. It causes him to realize how much he’s avoided this room in the years since they parted ways.

“So, any idea what you’re going to add to it?” he asks.

“Honestly, I haven’t given it much thought. Not exactly a lot on me at the moment,” she replies with a hapless shrug.

He shakes his head amusedly. “I still can’t believe you’re here. How? Why?”

She sighs heavily, then looks him in the eyes. “Those mercs had something I wanted, so I intended to steal it.”

“How did you even find this place? I didn’t even know it existed until a few hours ago.”

She pauses taking a moment to ponder her response, then just as quickly she turns away to focus on the inscriptions adorning the wall. “Maya helped me,” she answers hastily.

Tal’s eyes widened at the name. “Maya Gaige. She helped you?”

“Yeah, she owed me after a job I did for her.”

Tal shakes his head in disbelief. “Okay. Then I guess that leads to my next question. How did you get here?”

She’s looking at the far wall, soaking in the history of the room. After a couple seconds she takes a deep breath, looks back at him confidently, and states, “I escaped.”


“Three and a half years ago.”

That catches him off guard, he expected it to have been a more recent development. To know she’d been free for so long, yet had refused to contact him in any way was a shot to the gut. An unsurprising shot considering how they’d left things, but a painful one nonetheless.


“Come on, seriously?” She turns to face him. “I’m a physiologically modified operative, and the daughter of an intergalactic scientist. Did you really think prison would hold me for long?”

Honestly, he didn’t. “Then why didn’t you contact me? Why didn’t anybody tell me about it?”

“Can’t speak for them, but we exactly speaking terms at the time.”

That renders him silent. She has a point, as much as they’d been through together, it had all ended when Council agents arrested her.

He’s about to ask her another question when Jaya returns carrying a fresh change of clothes. The awkward silence renders her inert.

“Did I interrupt something?” she asks nervously.

“No.” They respond in unison.

“I’ll leave you two be,” Tal announces as he quickly slips past his sister. “I’m sure Jaya has tons of questions for you.”

Next Chapter: Chapter 3