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Episode 5 Part 18

By:  Wynn

Derek Vonter beamed down at the stunned Nathian Guardsman, untroubled by the lack of a response to his generous offers.  As he waited for the Nathian to gather his wits, Vonter took a moment to quickly appraise the man standing before him.  Bullet Ruissir seemed a portrait of Guardsman standards, although from Vonter’s limited experience with the group he had come to believe the lot of them were all but identical.  Standard uniform, blue lining on a solid black coat, with a sword hanging from the belt – why a sword?  Had they never heard of guns?  Much more efficient.  Vonter could tell that, if anything, that weapon was one of Ruissir’s only deviations from the standard mold, as the hilt seemed extremely well worn, lacking the usual shine of the mass issue blades that most of the Nathian soldiers carried.

     On second glance, Vonter realized that perhaps this Guardsman wasn’t as immaculate as he had initially believed.  There was a certain disorder to him: his hair looked to have been hastily combed, and there was a slight shadow about his chin to match the darkness that Vonter could see under the frames of the Guardsman’s glasses.  Perhaps sleep had been at a premium, which was no surprise, considering where he had claimed to have been serving.  However, those scattered signs of fatigue and disrepair ended when it came to the Nathian’s erect stance and the fierce determination in his eyes, all confusion having quickly departed.

     “Derek Vonter, you and your crew, and those of the other ships in your formation, are under arrest for suspicious of piracy.  You are hereby ordered to power down all weapon systems and report to the nearest Council-sanctioned port, where you will turn yourself over to the police officials there.  Failure to comply with these orders could result in disciplinary actions, potentially including but not limited to-”

     “Ah, yes, yes, of course.  I believe I’ve heard it before, so you can skip the speech; it’s rather long, if I recall correctly, and I believe I get the gist.” Vonter shook his head, ignoring the Nathian’s growing scowl. “I’m afraid, however, that we won’t be able to go along with all of that.  We have attracted the interest of… the wrong sort of people recently, and I’m afraid that, especially considering the rumors of their last brush with a port under Council authority, it would be a mutually disadvantageous arrangement for both us and any port we’d be staying at.  Perhaps we could try it another day, after all this has blown over?” Vonter grinned broadly down at the Guardsman, noting the snickers from around the bridge.  His attention was focused, however, on trying to read the Nathian’s eyes: the anger and insult and then, finally, the faintest glimmer of curiosity.

     Perfect.

     The Guardsman allowed duty to take precedence over curiosity, however. “I’m afraid that will be unacceptable.  If security is a concern, I will escort you to the nearest Council-supported military base, where you can surrender without fear for your safety.”

     “Ah.” Vonter tried to subdue his rebellious mind, which was striving to call forth images of a certain ship and of its horrifying captain.  Unable to repress the accompanying shiver, Vonter shook his head adamantly. “No, that won’t work either.  It would take some searching to find one with big enough guns.  Really, we’ll just have to take a rain check on the whole affair.”

     The Guardsman unsubtly raised his hand to rest upon the hilt of his sword. “I’m afraid I must insist.”

     Time to call upon the obvious. “Is math part of whatever schooling that is required for your job?  You’re on a ship, one of five within close proximity of each other, and each and every crewmember aboard those ships is loyal to me.  They are also highly armed, might I add.  You, however, are alone.  And, ah, not so highly armed, not to insult your undoubtedly prodigious skill with that blade.  Perhaps, all things considered, it would be best for all of us if you just left?  I’d gladly leave some contact info or somesuch, in case you wanted to resume this at a later time.”

     Vonter’s enthusiastic smile wavered as he noticed that the Nathian was smiling in return. “I had noticed your advantage, though I thank you for pointing it out.  Let me assure you, however, that you, personally, would not come out of a conflict unscathed.  Nor would anyone on this ship, though I will admit that those on board the other ships in your formation would only have to suffer the loss of their commander.  So, again, power down all weapons and set course for the nearest port, or I assure you that you will regret it… briefly.”

     A quick scan across the faces of the crew on the bridge revealed that they certainly believed the Nathian, and considering that Guardsman Ruissir had agree to come aboard in the first place did add support to the notion that he would be willing to sacrifice his life in the pursuit of his rather obnoxious duty.  It was time, then, to change tactics, and see if the Nathian would take the bait he had already set. “We’re at an impasse, then.  Perhaps we can find another solution… Ah, I know!  What if we gave it back?”

     The Guardsman’s jaw dropped, as did his hand from his sword. “What?”

     “Yes, give it back.  All of it.  It is all aboard the Fickle Fate, and I believe that we should have enough time to allow for a quick account to be taken of it.  Considering that no shots were fired, not violence committed, that’s really the heart of the crime.  With that out of the way, I see no reason that we couldn’t go free, and wash our hands of the whole affair.”

     “But… I…” The Nathian’s confusion kept him from noticing the heated glares that the crew were shooting at their captain.  Fixing that would come later, Vonter knew; he had come to see the Guardsman as a potential solution to his current problems, and he would pay whatever price that might demand. “It would certainly go a long way towards insuring the leniency of the court that considers your case, but-”

     “Anyways, that would lessen the severity of our offense.  Would that not mean that we could postpone the surrendering and powering down and all that?”

     Vonter was again impressed with how quickly the Nathian regained his composure. “I’m afraid not, though I would personally speak on your behalf when we arrived.”

     “I still believe you underestimate the threat posed by those we are… seeking to avoid.  After all, they have already demolished one colony, and I am afraid that, now that they are pursuing us, they would not hesitate to repeat that tragedy anywhere we came to stop at.”

     Immediately Vonter could see the seeds of epiphany sprouting in the Nathian’s expression. “Excuse me, you said that they had already…?”

     “Yes, horribly tragic.  From what I’ve heard, they destroyed the entire colony without any real provocation.  No survivors, though there’s not been much information on that end.  Come to think of it, I believe it was a Nathian colony… what was it?  Ah, yes, Colony 96.”

     Silence draped over the bridge as the Guardsman stared intently at Vonter, who had let all humor slip from his face.  When the Nathian spoke, his voice trembled with hints of restrained anger. “You mean to say that you’re being pursued by the Red Death?”

     “Well, not exactly; agents loyal to her, not her specifically, which is a greater blessing than I could have asked for.  I presume, then, you’ve heard of her?  Oh, yes, and which colony did you say that you hailed from?”  Vonter casually glanced away from the Nathian, giving him a moment to consider the information that Vonter had given him. “Yes.  It would seem we have a common enemy, Guardsman Ruissir.”

     “It seems so.  That doesn’t change this situation, however.  If you will give me any information you may have on the whereabouts of the Red Death or her followers, I can assure you that my government will ensure that your sentence will be much lighter, and I will see to it that the people who are pursuing you are brought to justice.  Of that, you have my promise.” The emphasis that the Guardsman placed on the final word brought the smile back to Vonter’s lips.

     “Forgive me, but I doubt the tactic of storming aboard their ship and demanding their surrender would work quite as well with her bunch.  They’d most likely shoot you before you really got to the terms.  Perhaps I could suggest another possibility, one that would be much more mutually beneficial?” Vonter stood from his command chair, motioning behind him towards the elevator. “Since my crew have suffered enough distraction, shall we move to my conference chamber?  I’m sure you would appreciate a more comfortable setting for these negotiations.”

     Without waiting for an answer, Vonter stepped down from his platform and moved past the Nathian, moving towards the elevator.  After a moment he could hear that Ruissir had begun to follow him, and the noise of the bridge quickly resumed.  Vonter allowed himself a smile that he knew the Nathian would be unable to see.

     It had been almost too easy.   

 

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