The matching is approximate and works really similarly to discord search (basically, if you search your keyword in discord search, you will. The first advanced Discord starboard bot, the best way to archive funny messages, with much more features to offer than other starboard bots. Starboard This is an advanced starboard bot, with many customisable features and settings.
Starboard is an advanced, reliable, and highly customizable starboard bot, which I’ve been working on for a while now, mostly for use on personal servers. When it turned out better than I imagined, I open-sourced it and posted it to both lists. I hope you find this code and bot useful.
This documentation gives you a quick start to using the bot. If you see a problem, please let me know, either by using the bots suggest command or joining the support server. My discord username is
- Supports multiple starboards
- AutoStar Channels (media channels)
- Supports multiple normal and custom emojis for each starboard
- Leveling, rank, and leaderboard
- Starboard moderation, such as:
- Freezing a message, preventing the points from updating on it
- Forcing a message, so it’s on the starboard no matter what
- Trashing a message, in case a bad message gets on the starboard
- Advanced customization, giving you complete control over the bot
If you have any suggestions or found any bugs, please create an issue.
Note: Don’t actually type out
< > [ ] when I give you commands to run. Replace
[p] with the actual bot prefix.
channel means type “channel”, where as
<channel> means replace “<channel>” with the name of the channel.
- Create a channel for the bot (name it something like #starboard).
[p]starboards add <channel>('<channel>' is the name of the channel you just created)
[p]starboards <channel>to view all the settings for this starboard!
The starboard is now good to go, but you might want to change more settings (like the number of reactions needed). A complete list of setting in the wiki.
These directions are for self-hosting the bot. If you just want a working bot, you can invite it to your server instead.
- Clone the repo by running
git clone https://github.com/CircuitsBots/Starboard.gitin the command line.
- Make a copy of
bot_config.py.example, and rename it to
- Update the settings to your liking. If you need help with this, you can join the support server.
- Create a file called
.env, and inside it put
python bot.pyto run the bot!
If you see a bug or possible improvement and want to help out, you can fork this repostory, make the edits, and then create a pull request. Make sure to look at the guidelines in
CONTRIBUTING.md. I really appreciate any help that you can give.
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“...you'reshitting me,” Odisseus intoned.
“'fraid not. Iguess Mongoose hung us out to dry.”
Odisseus shook hishead with frustrated disgust. “Told you he was wearing a wire.”
“Guy's hadskinworms for the past seven months,” Nemo exclaimed defensively.“I see a weird bump under his shirt, I'm not gonna say anything,alright?” He inched the helmsman's chair to face his instrumentsagain, before adding, “Plus, he's the only fence I know, so.”
“I got a bloke instatee we could jabb at next time,” Two-Bit offered cheerfully.“Oh. 38%,” he followed up less cheerfully.
“So, what?”Odisseus questioned. “This is it? We're cooked?”
“Surrender?”Nemo blurted. “What're you, new here? You wanna be dropping thesoap in some Zibbian prison the rest of your life for contrabandtrafficking?”
“Federation'llonly clink for fifteen, iffen we can jank it down to Stolen Goods,”Two-Bit informed out of hand. “That, and the joint they got onZulfo's got big fat exhaust vents, the fucks.”
“Bloom that,”Nemo opined. “Time makes me lose my marbles. You remember theforty-five minutes I spent in the drunk-tank at the UnderglowPrecinct House?” he directed over his shoulder to his saltbrother.“I near about chewed my nine-year-old arm off.”
Odisseus sighedwistfully. “How could I forget?”
“Oh, hey, theparty's in here,” the singularly feminine voice of MoiraQuicksilver, also not her birth name, observed. Her entrance waslikewise masked by the hush of the helm door and practically jumpedthe Lover's captain, cutpurse and mechanic out of theirrespectively sweaty, slimy and shaggy skins. The ex-bounty hunterrarely visited the helm, preferring the privacy of the topturret, themedbay and occasionally her own quarters in what four months hadtaught her to be something of a proverbial sausage factory.
She lingeredjauntily in the doorway, squinting forward through the viewport. “Isthat the buyer out there? Flashing those police-strips?” Shesnorts. “That's a clever trick.” The awkwardness of the aboundedsilence that greeted said observation seemed to speak for itself.“Unless they're actual police strips on an actual police cruiserand we're about to get fucked. Are we about to get fucked?” Aheartfelt reprise of the crew's previous silence confirmed Moira'ssuspicions better than words ever could. “Sublime. I knew thatwasn't a skinworm.”
Nemo pitched hishands into the air. “Well, excuse the fuck me!”
“We're thinkingof repelling boarders, then?”
Two-Bit grimaced ashe pivoted about to face her. “If they've been diddling out hereall day, fixing to kuckle us, they'll be decking bloody task forcesof camos with fire-breathing plonkers and every blooming thing.”
A spark, a lightthe fledgling crew of The UnconstantLover had not yetlearnt to fear, enkindled behind the ashen eyes of their Captain, thebeginnings of a truly piratical notion. “Zibbians'll be looking totake us alive, right?” he asked of Two-Bit, his attention focusednowhere.
“Then let's dosomething stupid.” Uttered with honest simplicity, these wordsboded for the crew the beginning of a continuing career of mitigatingsaid necessary stupidities from those decidedly less so, as, in theCaptain's book, there were quite nearly always the same thing.“Abraham!” Nemo shouted into the interior comm channel. “Youdoddering old bastard, you awake?”
A fumbling sound,the unmistakable clatter of shattered glass and the hoary snorting ofan immortal Grimalti yanked rudely from sleep all proceeded Abraham'sgroggy reply. “Haul on the main brace!”
“Uh, sure,”Nemo agreed. “Listen, I need dead point coordinates outta here andI need 'em last year! Don't ask questions! Two-Bit, where we at?”
His blatantdisregard for segues breaking the sound barrier, Nemo flipped severalswitches with considerably more purpose than previously while barkingnew streams of orders. “Get ready to double-fold bombard shieldsdead bang over the bow. For this to work, I'mana need Moira in theturret and Odi in the engine room.”
“Aye aye,”Moira complied with relish before disappearing down the corridor.
“To do what? Makepeace with my gods?”
“No time fortalking. Move!”
With a stifledgrumble and the meanest of mean looks, Odisseus shuffled his bulkdown the helm's half-flight of stairs and plodded with as much speedas his stubby rear haunches would allow.
By the time Moira'dmade the comparatively short jog into the gundeck and up the accessladder to the Lover's practically unused Antagonist andOdisseus has completed the significantly longer trek down theabovedecks corridor, across the hold, down an access ladder of hisown and through the cramped orlop tunnel to the slightly-less crampedengine room, Two-Bit reported 59% rigidity on the Eye'sgraviton lock. The plan percolating in the untamed regions of Nemo'sbrain had spiked a considerable amount in both difficulty and danger,which he was less than loathe to admit was part and parcel of theidea's entire attraction.
“Those shieldsready yet?” he pressed.
“Coupla secondshere,” Two-Bit delayed with one hand placating Nemo, the otherdialing around the rig's main control panel. “Still getting a feelfor all the bells and whistles.”
“Soon as you getthem, shoot 'em up. Moira,” he addressed into his headset, “youknow what a graviton projector looks like?”
The unimpressivereception quality of the Lover's undedicated comm channeldistorted her reply. “A general impression.”
“Second you get abead on theirs, you give that sucker everything that gun I stole foryou's got.”
Granted exactly thelength of leash she preferred, Moira was only to pleased to affirmwith another “Aye aye.”
“Did you send medown here for something specific,” Odisseus, joining the comm chatwith the scuffing and scraping of his headset, piped in, “or justout of your overall disdain for my physical wellbeing?”
“No, I need youto keep the boosters all simpatico for me. Odds are,” he predicted,anticipating a similar such reaction from the crew, “they probablyain't gonna be big fans of this next little maneuver, so you gottamake sure they don't get the wrong idea and shut down on me, 'causethen, bloom, would we be sunk.”
A pause of advancedpregnancy followed. “What do you mean, 'not big fans'? What's inyour head, Nemo?”
“I said somethingstupid.”
With two last tapsof his keypad, Two-Bit hurriedly announces “Edgies're live!”
The effect wasinstantaneous and jarring. A barricade of undulating energy, so thickas to blur anything visible out the viewport past recognition,suddenly materialized between predator and prey. Upon arrival, itimmediately gave furious battle with the Eye's graviton lock.
The empty spacesome distance off the Lover's bow exploded into a battlefieldof invisible forces, the bombard shields polluting the purity of thegraviton's hold and taxing the Briza with more frenetic whipping andjouncing. Each crewmember, unprepared for the extreme turbulence,only barely avoided losing their individual lunches as theirspaceship lurched to and fro.
Seeing this, TheWeather Eye-come-police cruiser sidled itself forward in anattempt to successfully reel the Lover, an unyielding fishwho's swallowed the bait and seems determined to drown its anglerrather than be taken, toward its airlock.
With this actiondid Moira, sighting down the length of the turret's trifecta of abarrel in deference to that newly-installed know-it-all of amunitions computer, spotted the graviton projector, mounted obviouslyatop the Asylum-class freighter's airlock. She reveled in thethunderous sound of the Antagonist dumping its practically untappedammunition reserve through its flanged barrels but found the resultless satisfying, the Eye's ray shields crackling and fryingher best efforts into futility.
“No dice on theirprojector,” Moira was peeved to announce. “We really need anundergunner. Ray shields'll take punishment from me all day.”
Nemo treatedhimself to a then-novel grin of a certain wicked magnificence. “Iwas hoping you'd say that.”
He spent a momenthunting beneath the dashboard with one hand until, discovering it anagreeable distance from the yoke, Nemo's fingers brushed against theclutchlever for the very first time. Whomever its previous owner,they'd evidently very little use for such a feature, as Nemodiscovered it practically pristine, a true oddity on a ship thishaggard. He wrapped an appreciative hand around the stick's contour,feeling the points of traction prick the meat of his palm. A breathof impression, a clarion call to the drastic events to come, escapedhis lips before he floored it.
Deep inside TheUnconstantLover, surges of fresh fuel sluiced downconnector cables, her very veins, and flooded into the appropriatewells at the head of each booster, lovingly and unimaginatively namedPort and Starboard. Within a moment's notice, they converted saidfuel into reservoirs of additional thrust, enough to propel the Loverforward at a speed unmatched by any ship her size this galaxy canoffer. This thrust, considering the graviton lock, was more or lesswasted, if not for the ferocity of the freighter's new bucking andthrashing, exacting an incredible toll on both the graviton lock andthe ship's own skeleton.
“Oooh, okay, Ilike that. Let's do that some more,” Nemo resolved. Ignorantto the incoming objections of his crew, the Captain pumped theclutchlever a second and third time, both jetboosters pouring moreheart and more stomach into the effort until Nemo and everyone elseaboard actually felt the lock's rigidity suffer a palpable blow.Seeing this, the lurking police cruiser gained speed, suddenlyanxious not to surrender its catch to such an idiotic tactic. TheLover herself, boosters included, was none too happy about theturn of events, as Nemo'd predicted, and her chassis, stretchingitself too thin inch by inch, creaked and cried in metallic pain.
“Nemo!”Odisseus' bellow echoed around the engine room with remonstrancesecond only to the freighter's own. “What're you doing?She's not build for this, you're gonna–”
Murmuring somenonsense mockery, Nemo hammered the clutchlever entirely to itspossible limit, holding it firm with a prolonged squeal from both thestem and the stern. The graviton struggled against caving and theboosters streamed through more and more fuel to their obviousdispleasure. Still, their hold held fast, a nuisance Nemo dealt withby clasping the center of the yoke in a single hand and swerving thewhole Briza as far starboard as its maximum confinements would allow,only to snap in the complete opposite direction and send a shiver ofwhiplash back up the graviton to trouble the encroaching Eye.
As apparentlyeffective as these evasive maneuvers seemed to her Captain, TheUnconstantLover was laboring under astonishing duress,duress she, by all rights, couldn't endure for any realistic stretchof time without the very real possibly of ripping herself in half.
To the four othermembers of The UnconstantLover's crew, it appeared asthough their Captain, having already exhibited numerous indicationshe was perhaps several proverbial torpedoes short of a full magazine,had, at best, chosen an extremely inappropriate time to rev theship's engine and feel like a big man. At worst, he'd gone starkscreaming mad; the kind of mad where one feels inclined to tear anice hole in their starship and take a swim in space. As both optionswould probably result in their death or, at best, incarceration, eachcrew member felt a very potent and understandable need to voice theseconcerns, coincidentally all at once and less coincidentally all onthe same comm channel.
“–only gonnadestroy–”, “–must be outta your–”, “–she can't handleit–”, “Cap'n, are ye–” and half a dozen other suchobjections, coupled with a veritable hurricane of staticinterference, erupts out of every live communications port aboard, acacophony the Captain is magically deaf to.
For her part, theLover protests via every means available to her – screechingsirens, flashing alarms both relevant and otherwise, the boosters'own strenuous vociferations, even her beams, girders, plates andframe, the starship's very bones, expressing an increasing level ofagony as Nemo continued this ostensibly aimless torture of her.
“I know, baby, Iknow,” Nemo cooed under his breath, despite the evident fact thatno one aboard, including Two-Bit less than five feet away, couldpossibly hope to hear him, over their own babbling, the patched hissof static and everything teltriton screaming all around them.
In what could onlybe his last ditch attempt to realize this harebrained pipe dream ofan escape plan, Nemo increased the speed and frequency of his yokehand and his clutchlever hand respectively. He milked the clutchleverhard enough to actually push The Weather Eye scarce inchesback with the displaced force of their own graviton lock shovedslowly back into their face. He zigzagged the yoke fast enough toslap centrifugal force upside both cheeks of the police cruiser's bowuntil it was practically teetering on the thinnest link of itsgraviton chain. Both actions, of course, contributed greatly to thechorus of cracking, peeling and bending sounds resounding fatallyacross the Lover.
In each secondbefore he broke through, Moira Quicksilver, the Ortok known asOdisseus, Two-Bit Switch, Abraham Bonaventure and The UnconstantLover herself each imagined their respective deaths andsimultaneously rued the day and specific circumstances that hadfacilitated their first meeting with Nehel Morel. For the very firsttime, the four pirates and their spaceship bore witness to thatinexplicably queer and unpredictably reliant attribute of Nemo's theycould later ascribe only to the cliché of “good luck”.
By whatever powerthey cared to name it, The Weather Eye's graviton lock died,its projector burst and it spun stupidly aside, paving passage forits prey, the somehow victorious UnconstantLover, toblast dottibles past with the velocity her Captain had been sothoughtfully choking both boosters with.
They wereexonerated from either cold space death or a deeply unpleasantfifteen-year sentence in a Zibbian prison. They were burdened withboth an excess of unmovable stolen toothpaste and a burning desire tokick a certain tattletale fence named Mongoose directly in bothballs. They were seconds away from activating a miniscule dirty warpto carry them three zottibles to complete safety aboard a starshipobviously damaged but by some miracle still flyable. The Lover'screw, as one, were struck wordless by the event they would eventuallycome to call “The Bozee Bushwhack,” cultivating, if fleetinglyand extremely begrudgingly in some cases, an appreciation for theoccasional bout of lunacy from their Captain.
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In return, helaughed with unprecedented glee until they jumped warp.
On his cue, themachinery deep with the heart of that certain Briza Light Freighter,Model IZ36 once called The Poetic License, once called ThePoetic Justice, now named The UnconstantLoverclicks perfectly into place. By a power unknown to all aboard, thestarship cuts a swashbuckling swath across the sky as it vanishes,leaving behind only a trace of residual star stuff on its rocketingroad to vice, villainy and the nearest possible drink.
Two-Bit Switchsmiles and nods. He had smiled and nodded at the first of Velocity'sdemands; he had smiled and nodded at the tenth. In fact, here at thetwenty-eighth of said demands, each and every one of Two-Bit'scurrent activities fell neatly beneath the two headings of either“smiling” or its complimentary cousin “nodding.”
It had been madeprofusely clear to Two-Bit that he was, under no circumstances, tospeak even a single word at all during these negotiations. It hadfirst been made clear by each member of the Lover's crew ontheir initial approach into Takioro Defederate Station. The point wasrepeated by that same evidently well-meaning crew during theirtwenty-one minute walk and thirteen second shoot ride from DockingPort #3194 to their arranged rendezvous at, of all places, The BloodyAfterburn. The point was lastly belabored by Velocity herself, onceexpressly spoken and the remainder through her utter yet tacitdisdain of his entire presence.
With histwenty-eight smiles, his twenty-eight nods and not a syllable betweenthem, he, in truth, is beginning to wonder why they'd even broughthim along in the first place.
“That'd put usat, what, nineteen-fifty?” the Depot-Commissioner tirelesslytabulates, her eyes locked in the ceilingward gaze of joyfulcontemplation. “For a new window, six tables, eleven chairs,twenty-three glasses and the cost of general repair and maintenance?”
“That, uh,”Nemo comments, glancing down to the battle-scored tabletop beneathhim, bearing a litany of wounds and bruises from altercations decadesold and deciding once again that discretion is the better part ofcowardice, “oughta, you know, cover it.”
“Oh, that's justfor this dump,” Velocity disillusions merrily, reaching out toaccept an offered tankard from the approaching Unhappy Roger with anappreciative nod and no mind to her phrasing. “I couldn't care lessfor this putrefied bunghole if you fed it to me – I'm just rakingyou over whatever coals I can find.” Roger himself actually smirksat his own slander before shambling away, ten thousand happy hourspast caring and obviously in cahoots to squeeze them for money he'drather liquefy and shoot into his eyeballs than spend on repairs.
“Of course,”Nemo swallows. “How silly of me.”
They occupy theirusual places in their usual booth, Two-Bit across from Moira,adjacent to Odisseus and crosswise from Nemo. Velocity sitsreverse-style, like the cocky teenager she no doubt imagined herselfto remain, in a chair she'd dragged to the table's outer end whenshe'd made her original entrance, emptying the tavern's patronage andlaunching in with orders and decrees from the get-go. No alcohol sitswithin reach of anyone but Velocity, as Roger'd only scoffed whenthey'd attempted to order any, and the unanticipated sobriety,coupled with the persistent need to bite their tongues so hard as toalmost dribble blood out of the corners of their mouths, wasbeginning to undermine their clamant need for acquiescence.
“So, withnineteen-fifty to our depressing-as-dick friend back there,”Velocity indicates with a thumb, in the second's space beforeplanting her cracked lips to the tankard's rim. After only onemouthful, she's frozen, glancing to each assembled pirate for oneawkward moment and then oozing the tepid liquid back from whence itcame. “What's that shit made of?”
Shuffling backbehind his bar, Unhappy Roger only shrugs. Nemo opens his mouth for aquip, makes eye contact with Velocity and, after a beat, closes itagain.
“That stillleaves reparations for Pickle Planet, SQ, Gozzer and, of course, me.”She numerates each plaintiff on a callused blue finger, complimentingher ring and final finger with a self-satisfied smirk.
Nemo makes anebulous quantifying gesture over his lap. “Could we maybe get someof like, grand total or ballpark figure, rather than going througheach–”
“Nope,”Velocity's pleased to announce. “Pickle Planet's asking twenty-onehundred for a new kiosk and six hundred for the stock you ruined.”
“What, thepickles?” Nemo snorts. “Six hundred for pickles?” If anyone inevidence agrees or commiserates with this assessment, they don't dareshow it. “Seems like a good price,” Nemo finishes, after anawkward moment. “I like pickles,” he assuages finally in a smallvoice.
“SQ,” Velocityblazes forward on the next finger, “only had superficial damage totheir storefront, something like two-seventy to refurbish, but Italked them up to five hundred.” She reprises her earliermerriment. “Just to be safe.”
Odisseus grumblessome disparagement to Two-Bit's immediate right.
Velocity counterswith a blissful smile and blithe shrug. “My goons are exempt fromcollateral damage when they're shooting at you.”
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“That, uh, makesall the sense,” Nemo appreciates as he creeps a hand across thetable to reach for the Depot-Commissioner's discarded tankard ofbooze. Still distracted by Odisseus, Velocity doesn't notice thisencroachment until Moira's caught Nemo's wrist as it trespasses pasther and holds it hard to the tabletop.
“Get your grubbydickbeater away from my drink,” Velocity commands with palpablescorn. Nemo, glancing up at her from his protracted position,backpedals into the most accommodating and unselfish smile he canmuster and, with Moira's wordless permission, slithers back to hisseat. “On the subject of dickbeaters,” Velocity gracelesslytransitions, “there's the whole Gozzer matter.”
“Oh, moons,”Two-Bit mutters behind his teeth.
Velocity grips thechair's backrest and leans fully backward before dropping herextortionate bomb. “He wants twenty-four percent which,” shecants her contemplation aside to conjure mathematics somewhere pasttheir booth, “off what Xo threw at you for that piece of HourlyWage nonsense, would equal out to be near abouts fifty two thou.”
Nemo blinks. “Ishe here now?”
Velocity returnshis scrutiny with blatancy so potent it crawls Two-Bit's skin. “No.”
“Then fuck him,”Nemo resolves, shrugging and frowning in remarkable symmetry.
“I wanttwenty four percent,” Velocity corrects pointedly.
Moira parts lipsperennially sealed since departing Baz to point out. “That's threetimes what we offered him.”
The Vollockiqueenpin adjusts targets like a master duelist. “Think of it asinterest then, darling,” she condescends out of hand. “Plus, youpersonally gunned down three of his employees in cold blood.”
“Self defense,”Moira parries.
“What have you,”Velocity ripostes. She ameliorates her posture somewhat, plantingboth hooves delicately on the chair's stretcher. “Those threetogether come out to be about seventy-two thousand.”
With a snarlupraised to obviously indicate a question, Odisseus challengesVelocity in a manner even Two-Bit recognizes as witheringly sardonic.
“Positively,”Velocity replies with mildly mocked shock. “Never been so pleasedto memorize anything in my entire life. All that's left, then, is thelittle matter of me.” She changes gears smoother than an automatictransmission. “Total damages to my station, you know, the bench,the pay-comms, the shoot control box you iced,” she directs towardMoira, “the Nomad Café, those two dash you stole–”
“That's rich,”Two-Bit blurts, before he's entirely realized the implications ofwhat he's done. “I scored both of them tagalongs plenty of the useof their dash. Ring 'em both, if you like. And all you bastards,”he swings a finger towards the crew, “vizzed me doin' it. On top ofthat, we didn't even roon 'em or nothing! They're one hundred percentf–” the letter suddenly catches on his lips. Everyone at thetable, Velocity included, stares at him wide-eyed, in stark,screaming tension. “I know, I know,” he blusters after a beat,“'Two-Bit, whatever you do' and 'Two-Bit, don't jabb anything' butcome on now, she's bending us over the table and she fucking dellysit!”
The Afterburn'ssilence deafens Two-Bit. His own echo in the distant corners of theempty saloon is the only sound for many long seconds, save hisbreathing, shifting weight and the chorus of beating hearts aseveryone present attempts to anticipate, wince from or steelthemselves for Velocity's reaction. At length, she seems to rememberthe legs beneath her and rises gradually out of her chair, relishingthe moment's taut indecisiveness for her own benefit. For not thefirst time since shipping out aboard The UnconstantLover,Two-Bit Switch wonders if this might be his last hour aboard TakioroDefederate Station.
“We had anagreement,” she reminds Nemo at last, though never faltering thestream of smoldering blue eye-daggers at Two-Bit. “Dipshit openshis mouth for anything but air, you're all out on your bloomholes.”
“Dipshit forgot,”Nemo becalms with cool collectedness masking furious schmoozing,“He's dumb like that.”
“Yeah, I'm–”Two-Bit starts.
“He's shutting upnow, isn't he?”
Compelled tocomply, Two-Bit rams his mouth closed and raises both palms insurrender.
“And you?”Velocity dangles toward Nemo.
“I'm shutting uptoo.”
TheDepot-Commissioner lingers undecided another second before guardedlylowering herself back into her chair, glare dead set on Two-Bit andlegs still coiled to spring back up should this be some elaborateploy for him to speak again. “Overall damages to the station,”she concludes in the moment before sitting down, “comes to thirteenthousand.”
“Eighty-fivetotal?” Moira calculates. “Tidy.”
“We ain't doneyet,” Velocity chuckles. “Eighty-five's for the station andeverybody else. That's not me.” She plunks an elbow to the chair'scrown, extending her thumb, pointer and middle fingers as conditionsof some unquestionably domineering and irrefutable pain-in-the-assyet to be inflicted upon their unhappy selves. “I want threethings; take them or go fuck yourself. First of all,” she beginswith the slightest flick of her thumb, “I need assurances that noGalactic Menace or no Huong Xo is gonna come kicking my airlock doordown or humping my leg off to find you. You don't lie to me, you'ddon't bring trouble to the station and I do not abide the merestwhiff of any more buhoxshit, understand?” This surprisinglyreasonable request is met with exuberant nods all around. “Secondly,”she continues, tucking the thumb away, “I want sixty-five. Formyself. A gratuity. You know,” she tags on with a sneer.
Nemo breaks thesilence with a sidelong nitpick. “...little high for agratuity.”
“Well, then,”Velocity rephrases, “for pain and aggravation and whatever thefuck. Sixty-five ICC. In cash. Before you leave today.”
The Ortok voicesthe obvious question.
“Rith.” Theword is chocolate in Velocity's mouth and she savors it as such.“That's number three,” she confesses, dropping her pointer fingerand leaving the middle finger still standing in a manner she mustimagine to be cheeky.
Nemo buzzes adisappointed sigh. “Aw, Vel–”
“Consider it afavor to Baigo and me. Or, rather,” she amends, “don't. Considerit me fucking with you.” The following smile is cheap theater.“Non-negotiable.” She replaces thumb, pointer and middle to theirpreviously extended position, retracting each as she reminds thereluctant pirates of each of her specific demands. “No shenanigans,one hundred fifty thou, that year-old Rith caper.” She holds hermiddle finger fast as a reminder of the consequences of refusal. “Yesor fuck off.”
The decision's cruxweighs clearly on the crew. Resolving to return to Takioro's ribaldRings with their tails between their legs, make peace with Velocityby begging from scraps at her already reasonably scrappy table andmove on with their lives as best they could had been a simple enoughdecision to arrive at fifteen days ago, in cold theoretical space.Here, though, even under such obvious and apparent duress, Velocity'sscraps had quite suddenly become a surprisingly hard pill to swallow.
If anyone in BadSpace is ballsy enough to refute the Depot-Commissioner in her ownhouse on her own terms, it must be the Captain. “One twenty-five,”he proposes, as though this was actually the price she'd named.
Velocity doesn'tblink. “One fifty.”
Odisseus follows upwith a statement of three syllables, whose meaning is no mystery toTwo-Bit.
“One fifty,”Velocity counters and confirms.
Even Moira takes acrack. “One forty-five.”
“One fortyeight?” Two-Bit, the born haggler and entirely unable to helphimself, squeaks meekly.
“One fifty itis!” Nemo agrees with a certain degree of desperate conviction.Each pirate exhales, either in relief or confusion. Extraordinarilyeager to be removed from the situation and left to their own devicesas fast as Velocity's hooves can carry her, all four shift and budgeuncomfortably in their seats in the manner of impatient restaurantpatrons, waiting for the bill. Nemo even half-stands, limited thoughhe is by the ratio of table to booth, and addresses the crowd ofonlookers as though charged with imperative business requiringimmediate attention. “Now, if you'll all quite excuse us, my goodhoodlums, we have ourselves some puppies to smuggle.”
The ring of eightgunmen that encircles their booth, all armed with and currentlybrandishing heavy assault weapons of various varieties and allspecimens Two-Bit recognizes, as an unofficial expert in Takioro'spersonnel and patronage, as the very happiest of the trigger-happyvariety of hired muscle, glance to Velocity. As she nods, they eachinch several steps away, but don't dare remove their weapons fromtheir carefully trained positions at the crew's heads. The onlyexception, of course being Traasha, one arm in a sling, the otherclutching her 387 Absconder carbine in claws quivering with rage, whodoesn't move a single muscle and instead bores holes into Moira'shead with a glare that could burn nitroglycerin.
Velocity risesunceremoniously from her seat, signals her bevy of goons with a boredgesture and tromps with equal boredom toward the exit, tossing herlast remark over her shoulder without a scrap of eye contact. “Squareup with me before you leave or don't bother coming back.”
The necessaryarrangements made, the unnecessary platitudes extended, Velocity andher squad of hard-bought bruisers march out of The Bloody Afterburnand disappear among the agog spectators crowding the Second Ringstreet outside, each hoping to catch a glimpse of the million creditbounty head and the bane of capital warships galaxywide. For theirpart, Captain Nemo and his three lieutenants, each with assholes sorefrom the hour and more of their proverbial chewing, wallow sullenlyin the corner booth where the Depot-Commissioner had left them formany silent minutes as the Afterburn's patronage begins to trickleback inside.
As clamor andcarousal returns to the oddly calm tavern, Odisseus finally extendssome manner of question an allowable interval past Velocity's mightyearshot. Nemo responds with the deadliest of possible responses.
“I mean, sure.What could possibly go wrong?”
Kolfo,of Yezza, Kolfo & Associates, raises his hand and forearm toblock the strident rays of the Rithese noontide sun and jangles theclump of change and bills in his closed left fist. His morning dutiesand clients had cut severely into his lunch hour and he was nowpossessed of less than twelve minutes to jaywalk across the busythoroughfare in front of his offices, purchase a Pickled Pacho Pawfrom the Pickle Planet kiosk across the street, devour his briny mealand jog back, hopefully with a few minutes to spare, in which toprepare for his first afternoon appointment.
Unfortunately, theflow of traffic at this particular time of day is dizzyingly thick,especially in this particular neighborhood so close to the city'scenter. The stream of driftcars, occasional wheeled vehicles and thepassing divisions of the inner city tramway complicate the issue ofhis crossing into a near life-and-death scenario. After severaltempting but ultimately too risky chances, Kolfo's opening comes andhe shoots the gap, walking the semi-hurried walk of a rabbitypedestrian ready to break into a bolt at the first sign of hismiscalculation.
The Pickle Planetkiosk is ideally situated directly in front of the point of hiscrossing, as though by design. The earthy Duutho teenager operatingthe stand is polite, pretty and forgettable, with her swarthy skinand fragrant dreadlocks of coarse black nerve endings, and is onlytoo eager to indulge Kolfo's weekly indulgence of grease and gophermeat. Rather than joining his colleagues in their firm's recreationroom with a bowl of iced fruit salad, Kolfo, once a week, fed thebehemothic corporate monster that was Pickle Planet with his 22.75ICC and fed his own craving for decadence and salt with a PickledPacho Paw.
His wife, ofcourse, would be horrified, but as long as he wasn't careless enoughto leave the receipt or the wrapper in his blazer pocket, she didn'tnecessarily need to be kept abreast of his lunchtime dietary habits.
He's wandered ahandful of steps away from the Duutho, to safely consume his morselunder cover of a turned shoulder and he's even lifted the drippingpaw to his mouth before he first hears it. Initially, it's thesound's distance that's its primary virtue and Kolfo stops his mealshort to strain his ears and attempt to discern or detect any moresalient details about what, precisely, he's hearing. Within seconds,though, he's doubly repaid for his efforts, as the soundmaterializes, with stark surety: an engine, opened entirely to fullthrottle. An aircraft or low-flying spaceship is Kolfo's best guess,judging by its apparent altitude, approaching with incredible speedfrom downtown.
Before he's reallyregistered its passing, it's whizzed by overhead. A blockishteltriton blur, a displeasing shade of yellow in color, spews behindtwin gouts of blistering blue flame that trace thick clouds ofunwholesome exhaust as it flies past, low enough to the ground to popboth Kolfo's ears and rumble the very street below in its wake. He'snot able to remark to anyone or even recover his eardrums beforeanother layer of the original distant sound announces its presencesplit seconds later with a squeal.
A disconcertingnumber of low-atmosphere driftcraft, perhaps ten or fifteen, eachstamped boldly with both the “Rith Policing Corporation” logo anda corresponding strip of flashing lights, thunder past a blink of aneye behind their apparent prey, the ugly urine-colored spaceship,sirens in clamorous complaint and engines apparently overtaxed tocatch their fleeing culprit.
Three secondslater, the whole spectacle is vanished, rampaging over buildings andstreets blocks away to the north. Kolfo, once frozen in surprise,remembers himself, exchanges a confounded look with the Duutho behindthe pushcart, muses privately on the wonders and annoyance of livingin Bad Space and bites into his pickled gopher meat.
Odisseuswallows in his usual spot in the usual corner booth at The BloodyAfterburn, complete with three broken teeth, a deeply ingrainedaversion to Duutho gourmet cooking and a blistering sunburn. Theirtriple-pronged confrontation with the local Port Authority, theRithese Policing Corporation and even some renegade members of theneighborhood terrorist element twelve days past had left theremainder of the crew also in various different degrees of personalinjury.
Bandages stillswaddle Two-Bit's head. Nemo's throat is encircled with obviouslyswollen lacerations. A multicolored mural of bruises is paintedacross Moira's knuckles, the sort one only accrues by punchingsomeone literally to death. Each pirate, Odisseus included, staresdown the barrel of their individual alcohols, privately wonderingwhether the deceptively simple act of lifting said tankard to theirlips would also find some way to blow up in their collective faces.
The BloodyAfterburn they ignore somewhere to their left is diametricallyopposed to the tavern they'd left behind a month previously. Therambunctious discord of an especially wild weeknight debauch bouncesabout the room beyond their secluded booth.
Some bush leaguebuccaneer Odisseus didn't recognize, a Mantrian boasting an amalgamof piercings sprouting from seemingly every orifice on his body andan exhilaration too overwrought to indicate anything but afirst-timer, had apparently knocked over some drifttrain on Prashthat had been in the process of making a transfer between local bankbranches and was, unsurprisingly, stacked to the ceiling withuntraceable cash. His and his crew's celebration having now trampledfar past the three-hour-mark without indication of ceasing any timesoon, Odisseus would normally have entertained thoughts ofstrangulation, but with Danbonte only days cold and his mood quitecompletely in the toilet, he nurses his Gitterswitch and grumblesmoodily instead.
Twelve monthspreviously, it'd been the four of them, Nemo ebullient with thepromise of fresh and exciting piracy, Moira fidgety at the sight ofanyone's hand any number of inches from their respective holsters,Two-Bit receiving an over-priced lap dance from an alive and unhiredZella and Odisseus, admittedly surly and unpleasant, but with all histeeth and a nose oblivious to the horrors of the Rithese desert sun,carousing and cavorting about the Defederate Station like they'dcommandeered the place themselves. To see them now, they were anotherfour and entirely dissimilar handful of desperadoes, soiling theAfterburn's penultimate corner booth with the depths of theirdespondency.
Nemo drumslistlessly against the table's lip at an irregular and unresolvedtempo, more from the habit he's unwilling or unable to shake thanfrom any more of his heedless exuberance. Two-Bit's leaned fully backin his seat, bandaged head propped against the booth's backboard asthough asleep, only sparing the occasional glance at the posterior ofthe passing new waitress, a Trijan girl with yellow streaks throughher musty hair and the subject of a great deal of in-stationspeculation as to her relation with Roger, be she mistress ordaughter. Moira's not even concerned about the possibility of beingshot she's so distracted, her gaze fixated at the dregs of her drinkrather than scanning the saloon for potential assailants or exitpoints.
Odisseus himself,watching all this with gloomy resignation, reasons this'll soon beended to everyone's satisfaction. Velocity would doubtlessly arrivewithin the hour, ream them out over their inept bungling of the Rithpuppy caper with that certain coarse thoroughness unique to her and,this tribute paid, the dejected crew of The UnconstantLovercould retreat back to their spaceship to sulk in private. He'spassingly wondering which of the Lover's dozens of systems sorecently damaged by police disabler cannons to begin his catharticrepairs with when Nemo finally usurps the sustained silence.
“Okay, so, idea,”he proposes with a certain apprehension but clearly something toaddress, “let's do a little survey. How many of you knew he had acybernetic arm?” Sequentially, each of his three officers, firstOdisseus, then Two-Bit and lastly Moira, raise their hands. “Really?”he objects rather than questions. “And none of you smug fuckersthought to mention this?”
“We assumed youknew!” Odisseus finds himself protesting quite stridently.
“He had atattoo!” Nemo counters.
“You can gettattoos on cybernetic arms,” Odisseus assures him. “I've seen itbefore.”
“Least theydidn't do a strip search,” Two-Bit mutters.
“Where?” Nemocontinues defiantly. “Where have you seen it before?”
“Boy Blaster hasone. Fuck, he has like, seven.”
Moira, nevermissing a chance to correct Nemo, utters without eye contact.“Tattoos.”
“On hiscybernetic arm,” Odisseus provides.
Nemo musses up hisexpression. “Right or left?”
“Shit in mypants,” his saltbrother remarks amazed. “I did not know that.”He ponders this a moment, the conversation nearly dying, before heopens his mouth with another asinine observation. “Not to changethe subject, but I always sorta wondered how that 'cybernetic armthing' would work. You know, for the whole business of...” heinsinuates with a wholly unsubtle hand gesture.
“Yeah,” Moirainterjects, eager to prove everyone's understanding of the topic athand.
Nemo, however,being Nemo, is entirely oblivious. “Milking the one-eyed crotchworm of the Pants Nebula.”
Moira and Odisseusshare an exasperated sigh and a face-to-palm moment respectively,though, in truth Odisseus is somewhat relieved to have a discussionat all. As Nemo's lewdness threatens to condemn the conversation backinto doldrums, it's Odisseus who risks stoking the flames some tosuggest, “Maybe you should have asked him. That customs officer, Imean.”
His hand returningreflexively toward the redness of his neck, Nemo squints inappraisal. “Little difficult to get a word in edgewise. You know,when you're being strangled to death.”
“Still,”Two-Bit comments, not rising from his slouched posture to properlyengage. “Very rangu, us not gettin' strip-searched.”
As the sound of theuninvolved festivities fills their conversational lull, Odisseus isstricken by the fleeting, self-extrapolating and irrational fear thatno one will bother to fill the void with more conversation. In thatunheralded and ignominious moment, Odisseus fears The UnconstantLover's crew has reached the end of its effectiveness andrelationship. Before he realizes what's happening, Odisseus will bereturned to Dirty Djembe's Discount Engine Repair with Nemo and allthese strange, infuriating people vanished from his life once and forall.
Ironically, it'smorose Moira who speaks next and rescues Odisseus from a fate worsethan death. “Baigo smelt fucking awful.” The pirates, as one,chuckle or bluster out breaths of bewilderment in recollection andthe Ortok cannot help at smile at the first mate's seemingself-sacrifice.
“Thank you!”Odisseus exclaims suddenly in sheer commiseration. “Thank you!”
“Like stir-friedshit,” Nemo hypothesizes.
Moira crinkles herbrow. “Who stir-fries shit?”
“And bad, badcarbon petro,” Odisseus conjures from his olfactory memory, hisvastly superior nose purchasing him unwittingly front row seats tothe spectacle of unadulterated repugnance that was Velocity'sbrother. “And arlaxi piss. And tabasco sauce. And jborra litter.”
“I was about tosay something,” Nemo boasts, as though this probability would comeas a bald-faced shock to his companions.
Rather thansnarking, Moira corroborates with something unseen on her harsh, palefeatures – a smile. 'I know you were. I could tell.”
“You had that,”Odisseus confirms with two knowing nods and the vestigial beginningsof a smile on his own muzzle,“'I-have-some-douchey-remark-all-chambered' face. Plain as day.”
Nemo scowls to maskhis somewhat flattered smirk. “I have a face?”
“Yes, Nemo,”Moira deigns with playful mockery. “You have a face.”
“Tell you what Iwasn't expecting,” Odisseus supplies for further fuel. “Thosepuppies to grow up so blooming fast.”
Groans, nods and“yeahs” of agreement resound from each of the table's fourcorners, each spending a mental moment to envision the boxes ofscraping, clawing and howling monsters they'd, for some reason,imagined as adorable if troublesome infants through the timeless hazeof procrastination.
“I guess tjewolves really spring up,” Nemo comments idly. He spreads hands wideagainst the table, as though to finally clear the air. “I thinkit's fair to say that if I ever agree to smuggle any live carnivore,no matter how cute, ever again, you're all encouraged to mutiny.”
“So noted,”Moira agrees.
“Coulda beenworse,” Two-Bit warns for the third time. “Coulda strip-searchedus.”
“You keep sayingthat,” Nemo abruptly appreciates. Odisseus and Moira likewise shifttheir attention to the reclining jabberhead. “What is so fuckinghorrifying about a strip-search? Ain't like you were smuggling thewolves in your bloomhole or anything.” He winces suddenly as adisquieting notion pops into his mind and onto his face. “Wereyou?”
When challenged atlast, Two-Bit Switch peels his eyelids open, straightens his spineand carps defensively, almost prudishly. “Well, I don't know. Ijust get sorta prickly, you know.” He gestures in a mannerapparently intended to surrogate his meaning but, as no one presentfollows, he's forced to fess up, somewhat bashfully. “About my manbits.”
Moira closes hereyes. “And now that's in my brain forever.”
“What? Hisprickly man bits?”
Odisseus raises atentative paw. “...they're not actually prickly, are they?”
Both humanoidsseated across him exchange glances a moment and evidently fail toproduce an anatomical consensus. “Uh...” Nemo stammers.
“What?” Two-Bitsputters indignantly. “No! Of fucking course not!”
Moira shrugs coyly.“I didn't want to presume.”
Nemo shrugsconsiderably less coyly. “Number of diseases you've probably caughtoff every willing pair between here and Talos, wouldn't really be toosurprised to discover your pecker had some prickle.”
At this statement,each of the seated pirates turn slowly to notice, apparently for thefirst time, the curvaceous figure of the Afterburn's newest waitress,standing stock still before their table, raising a quizzical eyebrowtoward Two-Bit and collecting his empty tankard at the extreme end ofarm's length. Odisseus snorts, unable to stifle more chortles as shesaunters skeptically off. Two-Bit fumes hot enough to catch hisbandage on fire.
Moira pats theCaptain companionably on the shoulder. “It was the decent thing todo, Nemo.”
“First time foreverything, I guess,” Odisseus evaluates.
Nemo scratches theexact curvature of his scar with a restless finger. “I miss myhat,” he announces without prompting. A general murmur ofdisagreement ensues, the crew balking, scoffing and recoilingrespectively at the hated bowler hat's mere mention. The Captainopens his mouth, finds himself incapable of mustering a properobjection in the face of overwhelming censure and closes it meeklyagain.
The thwartedTwo-Bit, after watching the one that got away literally get away,changes the subject somewhat drastically. “So, what do you think?”
Nemo hoists hisBackwash. “About?”
Two-Bit gesturestoward the Afterburn proper, partying as ever, and lets his hand dropempty to the wood. “The rest of it. Where do we go from here?”
“Well.” Nemostalls before wiping the pond scum mustache from his lips with theforearm of his duster, already blanching off-white from repeated useof this tactic. “We're nice and square with Velocity now, much asI'm loathe to admit it. Should probably re-establish this as ourtemporary base of operations,” he confesses, with a glance ofremembrance and delayed pride at the grungy mess of the Afterburn'scommon room.
“The bountyhasn't decreased,” Odisseus is eager to remind.
Apparentlydiscerning his meaning, Two-Bit nods with as much sageness as hisdoofy bandage allows. “And Xo's gonna be none-too-giddy about thatwhole Noxix situation.”
“And we've gotthe footage still,” Moira adds.
“You want myopinion,” Nemo conjectures, “I think we can still squeeze somemileage out of the Boss Ott angle.” Scowls meet this chain of logicbut, undeterred by common sense as a general rule, Nemo proceeds. “Ifwhomever's scraped his campaign back together has a dick's worth ofbrains, they ain't gonna spread around word of Ott's death.”
“It'll leakeventually. Too many jabbers,” Two-Bit disillusions.
“Eventually,sure. Until then, though, until we can think of a better idea,that'll be our shield against Xo or bounty hunters or whomever elsewants a piece.”
“Xo's after ourjuice,” Two-Bit disagrees. “They ain't ever gonna blank about us,especially considering Noxix.”
Moira's humor hasdissipated. “I'd rather deal with them sooner than later.”
At this prompting,Nemo draws the farthest corners of his mouth into the faintestsuggestion of a smile. “I might have a few ideas.”
“Care to share?”Odisseus offers, knowing the answer full well.
“Well, I didn'tsay they were good ideas.” He plants four fingers along the side ofhis tankard and slides the sloshing beverage about. “Way I see it,Xo's like the Counterattack. As shadowy and badass andblooming scary as they might seem, as hard as they try to suggestotherwise, they're anything but invincible. There's a way to dealwith them. There's a way to deal with everybody.” He plucks thedrink off the chipped hardwood to the protests of the condensationbeneath. “Noxix only needed a canister to the brainpan. Can'tpromise it'll be that easy with Xo, of course,” he admits, “but Ican promise it'll be fun.”
Moira sneers. “I'llquote you on that, shall I?”
“For the timebeing, though,” Nemo frames, with a shrug and more gesturing withthe raised tankard, spilling minute quantities of booze over its rim,“I say we keep our mouths shut and our ears to the grindstone. Velwants to throw work at us, we'll consider it, but right now, we'vegot a goofy amount of capital - plenty to keep us in the green longpast the point when Xo'll come a-knocking.” He sips the alcohol outof hand and, when he returns from behind the drink, he's a differentNemo.
Glimmers of thatdeadly coldness are present somewhere behind his eyes. The Captain'stone is swapped away entirely from his blind predictions intosomething nearly vulnerable, something nearly defenseless, yet stillpainted on a canvas as inconstant and mischievous as Nehel Morel.“You know, whatever happened with the whole...” he stalls himselfa moment and the muted menace flares momentarily, “Ott situation,”he settles upon, “I think we probably came out ahead. People knowwho we are. People are scared of what we can do.”
Odisseus cannotrestrain a smirk, knowing precisely which people Nemo refers to. “Wedestroyed their capital ship,” he points out with precise andgrowing intensity.
“We killedQuuilar Noxix,” Moira comprehends next, as though coming into fullrealization of this fact at only this moment, and the thought somehowconjures another small smile where once her habitual frown belonged.
“We have 4.5million credits,” Two-Bit remembers quite vividly, his own grin farpast humbleness or introspection and solidly in the rarefied categoryof pure greed.
The BloodyAfterburn thunders with the guffawing, quaffing excitement of anovice pirate crew and their hangers-on glorifying a virginal heistsuccessfully accomplished with booze and bravado. Unbeknownst to therevelers, another such crew, now haggard, weathered and threadbare,savor a somber few seconds of piratical solidarity, their homecomingfrom hell and back unlauded by anyone but themselves.
Their Captain, withnewfound vigor, heaves his half-full tankard only inches high.“Commission blows,” he substitutes for his usual toast.“Freelance forever?”
Two-Bit Switch,nefarious mind positively swimming with thoughts of further booty,cracks his tankard flush to his Captain's with such vigorous force asto mingle spillage from their drinks.
Odisseus,understandably enthused to rediscover his saltbrother's inexhaustiblepluck, won't be left behind to supply his tankard and it's the thirdto the center of the table.
The final person torender her verdict is predictably Moira Quicksilver but the impishfire igniting her normally lusterless green eyes stands as atestament to her imminent conclusion: to hang her misgivings andraise her own tankard so they perfectly clash.
To my loyal band offans and supporters, whose generous donations allowed you to read allthese words in the first place: Mary Ann Boeff, Kelli Breslin, RogerCherry, Christina Dundee, Jay Dupree, Scott McClure, Eric Meyer,Robyn Meyer, Connie Molony, LKJ Slain and Jesse Toldness.
To Chris Allio ofThe Hydrilla, for his stellar cover design.
To my family, fortheir unflagging support despite how uncomfortable 'self-publishede-novelist' must be to report at dinner parties and familyreunions.
To the crew of ThePoetic Justice, who, I'm sure, all contributed in their own way.
To Dan Glaser andSteven Molony, for their selfless and tireless aid in the creation ofthe book's promotional campaign.
To Hallie Clawson,for literally everything.
Aboutthe AuthorAbout the Author
TIMOTHY J. MEYER iswanted on five counts of piracy, two counts of brigandage and onecount of enthusiastic corruption of the galactic good. If you haveany information on his whereabouts, please contact the local branchof the IMIS (Imperial Ministry of Interstellar Security).
Book II of the BAD SPACETRILOGY
Moira's out of hercell.
In the space of thenext three seconds, she's strode into the harsh light of the corridorproper, straddled the corpse of her first felled foe, fully extendedthe stolen electrobaton with a vicious snap of her wrist and now, shereadies herself to clout the oncoming guard upside his creepy,emaciated face. This second prison guard, another Gantor, apparentlyfavors his own chances over those of his counterpart, whose open headwound stains the floorplates cyan between Moira's bare feet, and,rather than raising the cry or sounding any alarms, herstill-standing adversary withdraws his own baton and charges her.
She allows herselfa flinty smile; after slipping out of her magnetic cuffs, flatteningher body into an upside-down Cotor Clutch against the ceiling of hercell for a quarter of an hour and incapacitating the first guardstupid enough to deactivate the door control and investigate herevident disappearance, Moira's more than earned this.
The Gantor, asix-foot-six nightmare of snow-white skin stretched to its absolutelimit over ridged alien bones, instantly closes the gap on hisunearthly, elongated shanks. He strikes first, swinging the bludgeonin a wild, left-handed clobber. Moira parries neatly and scrapes hisbaton aside, both weapons fizzing as their electrical charges kissand clash. Her following thrust, what would skewer him were shewielding a proper weapon, is nullified by her baton's blunted pointand the thick layers of riot armor the Gantor is encapsulated within.Instead, he doubles hard over, weapon spilling from his gauntlet,helmet spilling off his head and his exposed scalp presented beforeMoira as though he awaited her to oblige him a knighthood. Moirachristens him unconscious instead, spinning the electrobaton once andcracking its micne-capped tip hard upon his cranium.
He screams in shockand agony on his two-foot fall to the floor, a scream she muffles bystooping and planting a hand over his mouth to ease him onto thedeck.
After ten secondsof chaos, silence once again reigns supreme across the Twenty-SixthDeck of TFS 283 Mercy-class Prisoner Transport Vessel Surimiah.Moira Quicksilver crouches motionless, the very picture of vigilance,between the slumped forms of two prone Gantorese prison guards, onedead and the other out cold, and before the deactivated door of heragape cell. The corrugated corridors, whose curvature stretchesbeyond her vision in both directions, are hauntingly hushed, save thehum of shipborne systems and the occasional snore of an unseendetainee. Moira'd calculated the immediate hour of her escape attemptto coincide with the regulated sleeping patterns of her fellowcaptives, to minimize the chances of some dimwitted or spitefulprisoners spoiling everything with a squawk.
Her calculationsalso surmised that she'd need to neutralize at least another twoprison guards before achieving the service elevator that could takeher off this deck. Seeing as how neither the corpse to her left northe drooler to her right had wielded anything but humbleelectrobatons, Moira could reasonably expect both remaining guards tobe packing much more serious heat, likely in the form of the standardissue Imperium assault rife: the tried-and-true SV7.
Before all that,however, came the looting.
She's dismayed todiscover, after rifling through all four pockets in question, thatboth of the vanquished two sprawled at her feet were, as far asprison guards are concerned, comparatively affluent; both boast fatstacks of tender Moira's woefully unable to pocket in her pocketlessjailbird's jumpsuit. She does, however, make meaningful prizes of oneGantor's insulated deflection gloves, the other Gantor's remotecell-door activator and both Gantors' electrobatons. With her righthand strapped uncomfortably into the oversized gauntlet, anelectrobaton in each hand and the remote activator in her teeth,Moira cursorily sweeps both corridors and, with nothing untoward insight, slinks off in pursuit of her exoneration.
Forward process ispainfully slow, as she only dares skirting sprints from cover tocover after waits of arduous length and total stillness. She cowersin any available corners, often with an ear pressed hard to theteltriton of the floor or walls, in rapt attention for any sound orsignal of her discovery. Nothing quite raises Moira's hackles like anardent need for stealth; in a circumstance in which encounteringliterally anyone could spell her own destruction, Moirawholeheartedly favors discretion as the better part of valor.
A quarter ofrotation around this layer of the detainment column passesuneventfully, with only a steely scowl to quiet an awake Diraaqiprisoner in a passing cell, before Moira stumbles upon her quarry.She manages to sidle into the shadow of a bracing beam before theycan take notice, but standing an aimless vigil at the foot of theelevator's embarkation platform and with both backs turned mercifullyaway from her position are the potential pair of prison guards. One,a female humanoid sporting Moira's pre-prison shaved-pate haircut,passes the time with a ThumbSmash handheld console while the other, athird Gantor, leans heavily over her shoulder and offers the odd wordof ignored advise. Slung carelessly over each of their shouldersdangle the sought-after SV7s.
A workablestrategy, a simultaneous smacking of each unaware guard on theirrespective temples, is summarily dashed to pieces when, as Moirastalks up behind on callused feet and with weapons loose her hands,her sweaty finger slips and quite accidentally extends her leftelectrobaton with a ratcheting sound and an energizing sizzle. Bothguards, evidently expecting an unheard peer simply fiddling theirweapon, glance over their shoulders to spot guilty Moira five feetbehind, in a half-squat, with one massive black glove, liveelectrobaton and remote starter clenched in stunned teeth.
The tinny melodyemanating out from the ThumbSmash game underscores this supremelyawkward moment, a reverie Moira interrupts seven seconds later byactivating her other baton.
All the partiesexplode into motion at once. Moira launches forward in a leap, theguards shuffle backwards in startled concert, two assault rifles arehurriedly unslung and the ThumbSmash lives up to its name against theteltriton as it's dropped. Cursed with both her handheld contrivanceand significantly shorter legs, the humanoid guard staggers a secondbehind her partner and subsequently earns Moira's unforgivingheadlock. She thrashes, flails and makes every attempt to wrestherself free from Moira's grasp, but the hardened fibers of herstolen deflection glove more than adequately squash her windpipebeyond anything but a stifled cry.
Confident in thestrength of her right arm's stranglehold, Moira employs her left handand its subsequent electrobaton into whipping the Gantor brutally inthe kneecap. He stumbles, losing his grip on his assault rifle andpurchasing much needed time for Moira to wheel her impromptu hostagearound to face her towering opponent. By the time the Gantor'sregained both his footing and his firearm, Moira's positioned thehumanoid woman advantageously between herself and the SV7's snub,both women praying to all the moons that the instructional manualissued to each Imperium prison guard frowned upon shooting one'scomrades in cold blood.
Moira's gamble paysoff as, when faced with the hasty humanoid shield, the Gantorhesitates. Moira returns the favor by introducing his balls to bluntforce and electricity. As he reels, she gambles again, tightening hergrip around the humanoid's throat and inching a step backward, a stepcloser to the opposite wall of the corridor.
Again, he takes thebait, wincing while he limps forward and still struggles to bring therifle to bear, an impulse Moira rewards with a shocking swat acrossthe chin, followed by another step back. Soon, she's sufficientlygoaded him and it's a dance, each participant exchanging as manyinjuries as steps, until Moira's an arm's length from the intendedwall and the Gantor's a bruised, burnt and bloodied mess. Finally, asa haymaker, she does her level best to counterbalance herself, sucksin an anticipatory breath and, using the unwilling guard as a pointof pivot, takes her third and certainly not final gamble of theevening by performing a flying wall kick off the teltriton behind andinto the Gantor's face.
This chain ofevents the Gantor takes understandably poorly, flopping listlessly tothe deck, slapped senseless more from surprise than impact. Alightingawkwardly on the floor behind the twisted and discombobulatedhumanoid, Moira renders final judgment by seizing the woman's jaw andpromptly snapping her neck. In response, she performs a lopsidedhalf-pirouette and joins her partner in a heap on the floor,constituting both Moira's second prison guard pile-up and a corridorclear of any more obvious hostiles; all without a single shot firedfrom either weapon.
Her bounty ofpilfered equipment suddenly swollen twofold, Moira, after summoningdown the elevator to the Twenty-Sixth deck, hunkers to the floor tocollect her winnings before the noise of her scuffle attracts anyundesirable company. She immediately deprives the humanoid of herammunition belt, the Gantor of his SV7 and further laments heraccursed jumpsuit in the face of still more unobtainable pocketchange. As if on cue, the service elevator dings obligingly behindher. Moira Quicksilver, with soon-to-be-disassembled assault rifleslung over her shoulder, a belt to clip both batons to cinched aroundthe waist of her neon yellow onesie and the remote starter twirledaround her right pointer finger, gives each arm of the corridor acautionary glance, as though she's about to cross a busyintersection, and darts into the service elevator's opening doors.
Once inside, shedials coordinates for the Seventeenth Deck and drops to her knees todismantle the SV7 just as the elevator, after disengaging from thepresent clamps, shoots upward.
The HIN Surimiah,like all Mercy-class prisoner haulers, had a queer design. On spec,the craft was markedly similar in shape to any average spacefaringvessel and was only nominally larger than The UnconstantLoverherself; all in all, barely room enough to house one hundredprisoners, much less nine times that. In order to readily retrieve,transport and deposit such prodigious numbers of passengers, however,the Surimiah made use of a three-hundred foot cylinder,jutting straight out of the ship's underbelly, called a detainmentcolumn.
Ostensibly a thirtystory building, a free-standing tower in its own right, thedetainment column allowed The Endless Imperium the peerless abilityto, seemingly on a whim, transfer entire wings of their planetaryprisons to and fro across the civilized reaches of the galaxy. Withrelative ease, the Surimiah had charted a checkered coursethroughout the Midworlds, collecting the very crème de la crème ofconvicts, Moira Quicksilver included, from holding cells andprovincial prisons along the way. Her coffers full, she cut canvasnow for the fifth planet of the Prash system, freezing and lifelessVorse, where she'd detach the column, the Seventeenth Deck wouldbecome the Seventeenth Floor and the Surimiah, thusunburdened, would depart for Medroteria or Jotor or wherever empty,idle prison ships go.
Moira, on the otherhand, harbored other plans for the HIN Surimiah, plans onewouldn't find on any official Imperium manifest or procedural.
She's scarce enoughtime to wrest loose the SV7's percussion cap in the time she'sallotted before the service elevator clicks into place on theSeventeenth Deck and Moira's forced to abandon her handiwork with aclatter on the cross-hatched grating as the doors grind open beforeher. Both her electrobatons unsheathe and extend before eitherstanding sentry can even register the elevator's sudden presencebehind them. With one culminating motion, she claps both their skullstogether with fierce strikes to their corresponding temples. Theycollapse comically together, their bodies propped against one anotherin an unconscious canoodle before the yawning elevator doors.
After confirming aclear coast and recovering the assault rifle's component parts frombehind her, Moira, weaving around the two toppled prison guards,notes the Surimiah continued prevalence of Gantoresepersonnel, wonders vaguely if Gant is her original port of call andbusies herself with the elevator's nearby motor control box. Pryingthe main panel free certainly wasn't Moira's definition of easy, norher definition of silent and, to judge from the shrill teltritonprotest that echoes down the hall when she swats it aside with herelectrobaton, she anticipates the arrival of re-enforcements withinthe next two minutes.
Luckily for Moira,the call request transponder within the control box is simplylocated, as no one had ever accused her of being an expert inelevator design. A little manual surgery later and she's successfullyextracted the transponder and all its attendant cords and wiring.Coupled with the remote cell-door activator and the SV7's percussioncap, the service elevator's call request transponder represented thefinal piece of that strange cocktail of mismatched mechanicaloddments so integral to Moira's escape.
How exactly any ofthese seemingly random pieces of technical apocrypha intended tospring her from this exhaustively secured prison hauler mid-warp,Moira had precisely no idea.
The SeventeenthDeck of the HIN Surimiah is more or less identical to itsTwenty-Sixth Deck; a black teltriton corridor, cast in a gentle curveand outlined in the wavering pink light of the individual cells. Cell17P is halfway around the column's circuit and Moira dares it openly,trio of disjointed machine parts in one gloved fist, electrifiedbaton in the other. She fails to run afoul of any more guards alongthe way, though she does earn the semi-occasional hoot or catcallfrom an awake prisoner, a form of attention Moira's habitually deafto. She lingers before the deflection door of Cell 17P, a shimmeringmembrane of projected pink energy entirely impermeable to anythingbut the insulated gloves worn by the Surimiah's guards and nowMoira. The door's reflective light only manages to spike the wide-seteyes of the cell's sole occupant dim pink and, whomever may lurk inthe cramped chamber's further corner, they don't so much as shifttheir weight or stir themselves at all in reaction to Moira'sarrival.
She drops calmlyinto a knee before the scintillating barrier and, after waiting abeat, extends her gloved hand through the membrane. Despite thedeflection glove's best efforts, her skin beneath still crawls andcreeps unnaturally as she deposits each nonsensical item in a neatlittle procession on the prisoner's side of the door; remote starterfirst, percussion cap second and call request transponder third. Thisdone, Moira withdraws her right hand, manages the best eye contactshe can with the pink pinpricks within and makes a singlestipulation.
Starboard Discord Meaning
A gruff noise,either a grunt or a growl, signals an acceptance and heralds the nextand least pleasant of Moira's tasks.
Unsaddled with herlate errand and its resultant cargo of knickknacks, Moira Quicksilvernow intended to run down the nearest gaggle of guards, preferablyarmed, and pick the nastiest, noisiest fight possible. She rises toher feet, banishes any arrant thoughts of stealth and suddenly stompsout of sight of Cell 17P and its wordless occupant.
Moira dashesfurther down the hallway at full tilt, with both electrobatonsextended and armed, visibly unafraid but inwardly anxious about thelife-or-death calculations involved with this oncoming gambit. Hermost conservative estimate placed at least another pair of guards,standing watch over the opposite service elevator, on this deck andthe possibility of another two remained worryingly distinct. To date,Moira had never engaged more than three individual combatants at onceand emerged victorious. Considering that any resistance she's likelyto encounter would almost certainly be armed with more thanelectrified sticks, she doesn't necessarily like her odds.
She's, as always,afforded precious little time to fully contemplate these odds as sherounds a sloping corner onto, she guessed it, four individual prisonguards, all loitering about the corridor in various states of repose,their bored conversation immediately interrupted and each only tohappy to leap off their laurels to meet Moira's unspoken challenge.
She spends a secondcounting comparative distances, extrapolating estimable gaps betweenenemies' entrances into the fray and prays to all the moons she knowswhat she's doing.
Two batons,delivered as one directly to the side of his skeletal head, are morethan sufficient motivation to entirely flatten the first prison guardto reach Moira, an unfortunate Gantor who ends his life with amoment's regret and a caved-in skull. Her introductions made, the twofurther guards unsling and cock their respective SV7s toward thecharging Moira. Her momentum doesn't slacken when Moira hurls herleft-hand electrobaton at the leftmost of the two marksman, ahumanoid male who appears understandably astounded by the sparkingprojectile whizzing end over end toward him. Whether or not thetossed baton suitably distracts or even comes close to hitting him atall, Moira can't say as she immediately has the second guard, aSybolo wheezing methane through a breathing apparatus and wielding abaton of his own, with which to concern herself at present.
A precision striketo his wrist clatters her enemy's weapon to the floor and, before theectoplasmic prison guard can properly react, Moira's seized him bythe scruff of his collar in one gauntleted fist and rammed thebusiness end of her baton neatly beneath his chin, as though holdinghim at sword point. The Sybolo attempts physical protest, but thehissing tip of Moira's baton reminds him exactly how fragile hisrespiration equipment could be. At this moment, killing this idiotwasn't her main priority. Closing the gap between herself and eitherof the apart assault rifles was.
The roar of gunfiresomewhere behind the Sybolo indicates to Moira the trigger-happiestof her armed options and, thrusting forth the unwilling guard as asquishy pink meat shield, she advances toward the thus far unmolestedprison guard and his precious assault rifle. The continued sound ofhis firing, especially when contrasted against the yielding wetsounds of the Sybolo's skin popping, further indicates to Moira thatthis Gantor shares few of his former comrades scruples againstshooting one's co-workers. She can only hope he retains some scrupleagainst breaking regulation and shooting detainees that arepractically asking for it.
By the time she'staken five steps, the Sybolo is little more than a ragged hunk ofdead flesh, rent body armor and transparent blood, supported only byMoira's fist around his collar and Moira's baton at his throat. Uponhearing the telltale click of an emptied magazine, Moira commends theSybolo for his sacrifice by pitching his corpse unceremoniously asideand risking the home stretch fully exposed. At sight of her, theGantor rifleman, yet again a tall cadaverous razorback in riot armor,only just manages to cram another clip into the SV7's awaitingchamber. He levels the firearm point blank at her and Moira, amillion mottibles away for all her electrobaton can avail her now,tries her hardest to contort her body in such a way as to minimizethe grievous internal damage the oncoming laser bolt is likely todeal.
The Gantor squeezesthe trigger, supercharged ditrogen plows a hole through hermidsection and Moira Quicksilver, unsure if her fourth and possiblyfinal gamble of the evening had actually paid off, crumples to thedeck.
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