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The Insurgency: S4 #10 Dreams of Life (FB)
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Part 10 in Season 4 of my Insurgency series! A freebuild for the Marauders. Please comment, rate and enjoy!
About this creation
Corresponding text underneath each picture.


Before you read this episode, make sure you have read THIS episode by Iris AD.


3rd February 2098: Present Day


It was a beautiful day on Toliv.



The sun was beating down and the waves rippling across the clear blue seas nearby reflected the beams, scattering them in every direction.


The city of Obri-Tone, located on the western coastline of the planet's main continent, showed no signs of the recent revolution; in fact, I would have gone so far as to say that it looked positively peaceful.


Everywhere we went native Molluscans and the now equally-classed Iguanians, mixed with off-worlders here for pleasure and off-duty Imperium scientists, strolled casually along the boardwalks, going about their daily business or simply admiring the views.



There was no jostling and bustling; everybody we passed gave us plenty of space. Actually, they gave us quite a wide berth, but that was probably because we were the only people in a hurry. Cat and I were supporting a woozy Captain Brass between us and Tracks was walking ahead of us to clear a path through the crowds.


We had thankfully avoided any further confrontations on our way down to the planet, despite our fears about being either shot down or pursued by Imperial fighters, but Brass' health had deteriorated rapidly. It transpired that having your arm blown off didn't do you any good! Cat had bundled up some cloth she'd found in one of The Viper's storage compartments and was using it to compress the wound. It turned out that as well as losing sparks (which I still didn't understand!), the Captain was also losing blood and was now pretty weak. Once we'd landed at the spaceport, Cat and I had managed to get him out of his armour and put him into a spare change of clothes that I kept in another storage compartment. He had protested at that but wandering around in full Aurelian armour on an Imperial controlled planet was not the best of ideas! And, without making light of the situation, it also turns out that getting armour off of another person is much easier when they only have one arm!



I had looked up the closest medical centre on our journey down, but Brass had protested and insisted that we instead went to a private clinic a little further away. Both Cat and I had argued against it, but he was adamant that that's where he needed to go.


So now here we were, almost dragging the one-armed man through the streets, finally approaching the clinic.
Tank: "Are you sure about this?" I checked before we entered and with a weary sigh, Brass nodded.
Brass: "I know the guy. I've seen him before." He breathed, his voice sounding weak and rasping.
Cat: "Okay."
Tracks pushed open the door and the four of us made our way inside.



Cat: "Excuse me, we have an emergency here." Cat began explaining to the receptionist. The woman at the desk looked up with a frown, saw Brass' lack of an arm and her eyes widened.
Receptionist: "Oh God!" She exclaimed. "I'll get the doctor!"
I gave my thanks even as the woman rushed from the room. Moments later she returned with an elder human male in tow. The doctor took one look at the Captain and said,
Doctor: "Quickly. Through here."




It was about an hour later when the doctor emerged from the operating room and came into the waiting room to speak to us.
Doctor: "He's stabilised." He announced. "I'm about to start replacing the limb, but he's requested that you be present." The doctor nodded at me. I frowned, wondering why Brass would have requested that, but didn't want to let him down or delay the surgery any longer, so I gave Cat a quick kiss and then followed the man into the other room.



Brass: "Hey." He greeted with a smile, still sounding drained, but a lot more with it than he had been a short while ago.
Tank: "Hey. How're you feeling?"
He pulled a face and shrugged.
Brass: "I've been better." He smirked.
Doctor: "Okay, hold still. I'm going to start operating now." He announced and Brass nodded in confirmation.


For a good couple of minutes, as I leant against a nearby cabinet watching the proceedings, nobody spoke; the only sounds were the ones of the doctor's tools as he worked on Brass' shoulder.
Then Brass spoke up.
Brass: "I suppose I owe you an explanation."
Tank: "You don't owe me anything."
Brass: "Well, you did save my life. Again."
I couldn't help but smile at that. "That's the second time you've saved me from an explosion in that ship of yours."
Tank: "Who's counting?" I joked. Brass smiled back before continuing.



Brass: "I'm a cyborg." He explained, sounding like he was admitting to a crime. "A highly advanced one, yes, but still a cyborg."
Tank: "Okay. I'd kind of gathered that." I replied, gesturing to his missing limb. The open wound was no longer sparking everywhere and the doctor had stopped the bleeding, but it was still an odd sight to look at.
Brass: "Yeah, I thought you might have." He admitted in return. "Still, I'm sorry you had to find out."
Tank: "What? Why?" I asked, confused.
Brass: "Well, being a cyborg isn't exactly something to boast about, y'know?" The Aurelian explained. "It's embarrassing. Only a handful of people, yourself now included, know."


Tank: "Why is it embarrassing? Why is it such a secret?"
Brass: "You know what most cyborgs are like! Think about every news report about cyborgs that you've ever seen or read. Think about any times when you've met a cyborg in the past. Half of the people who are turned into cyborgs go crazy!"



I thought back to any cyborgs I'd met in the past and the one who stood out in my mind was General Gendar. Yeah, he'd not been pleasant. But then another came to mind.
Tank: "Max Power was a cyborg." I pointed out.
Brass: "Yeah! And he was as mad as a box of Frogans!"
Tank: "True." I conceded. “How did you become a cyborg anyway? Was it by choice? Or…?”
Brass: “I was in an accident when I was younger.” He explained. “Was my own fault. Went for a joy ride on my Dad’s speeder bike and had a pretty bad crash. They had to replace most of my organs as well as all four limbs. The only thing that’s real me is my head.” He smirked, before his expression fell again.
Brass: "You see? Being a cyborg is not something to be proud of. I’m not really me any more."


Tank: "But it's almost impossible to tell! If you hadn't had your arm blown off, I would never have known! I mean, it certainly explains how agile you are, but you'd never guess just by looking at you."
Brass: "I know. But cyborgs get such a bad rep..."
Tank: "So change it!"
Brass frowned.



Tank: "Change that rep! Cyborgs only have a bad reputation because the only ones we hear about are the crazy ones! You're a respected Captain!" I insisted, careful not to call him an Aurelian in front of the doctor. "If you went public and told people that you were a cyborg, it would help to change people's views on them."
Brass: "That's a pretty big step, Tank." He replied sounding more than unsure.
Tank: "I know! But you're spending your entire life hiding from who you really are." I carried on, more quietly now. "You're keeping the real you pushed down inside just for fear of what other people might think of you and that's not right. Why do you care about other people's views of you? Would it not be better to live your life as best you can and be happy in yourself? Instead of living in constant fear of what other people think?"


I wasn't sure why I was so adamant that the Captain should be proud of himself, but as the doctor continued tinkering with what I could now clearly see were some sort of cybertronics inside his arm stump, Brass sat and listened intently to what I was saying.



Tank: "Let other people think and say what they want. Surely it's more important to be happy in yourself?" Brass nodded slowly and I could see that what I was saying was sinking in. "And besides; if you decide to tell the galaxy who you really are, if you show everyone that not all cyborgs are madmen, then slowly other people's views will change too. Yes, you might get some backlash to begin with, but it'll be worth it in the long run! And not only will you be improving your own life, but think about all the other people in the galaxy who need to have cybertronic enhancements, maybe after an accident or a birth defect or... whatever! Those people who have to become cyborgs but are too scared to because of this bad rep that they get. If you help to change that reputation, you'll be improving the lives of all those other people as well as your own."


Brass was silent, but I could see from the look on his face that what I had said had hit home. It had made an impact on him. Whether he would or not was another matter, but at least someone had said it to him now.



Doctor: "He's right you know." The doctor chimed in. "Life is too short to live it unhappy. Best to be happy and live it to the full. Nobody is perfect; once you accept your flaws and move on, the happier you'll be. I've seen far too many people in here who are unhappy with themselves and want to change something. Sometimes it's their nose, sometimes it's their ears, sometimes it's their stomach... whatever it is, everyone has something about them that they don't like, so it makes a nice change to hear somebody making some sense for once." He nodded to me and a smiled gratefully in return. Lord knows there are things about myself that I wish I could change, but at least I've learned to live with them or at least learnt to look past them and if I could help Brass do the same, then I would.



It was going to take another couple of hours for the doctor to fit the Captain's new metal arm and fine tune it, so after a little longer, I excused myself and returned to the waiting area. I suggested the three of us go for a walk while we waited, but Tracks opted to stay behind in case Brass was discharged early.



That left Cat and I to go exploring, and so a short while later, we found ourselves on a quiet beach situated a little away from the shop fronts, strolling along hand-in-hand by the water's edge.


Tank: "You know what; this is the most peaceful I've felt in a long time."
Cat smiled up at me and I returned the expression, wrapping an arm briefly around her back to hold her closer.
Cat: "Despite the huge battle in space, the near death experiences and a friend getting an arm blown off?" She asked jokingly.
I paused before replying,
Tank: "Yeeeeeeah. Just... just gloss over all of that." I laughed and Cat grinned.


We walked together in silence for a good minute or so, simply enjoying each other's company, something that was growing rarer and rarer with every passing week, and the beautiful scenery surrounding us.



After a while, Cat asked,
Cat: "Do you think Brass will be okay?" dampening the mood slightly.
Tank: "He’ll be fine." I responded reassuringly. "It sounds like he's been through worse."
Cat: "Yeah."
Tank: "Still, it was definitely a surprise to find out he was a cyborg!"
Cat: "Yeah!" She agreed with a chuckle. "I certainly wasn't expecting it!"
Tank: "Me neither! I guess you never know who people really are unless they really want you to." I theorised, thinking back to when I'd known Cat as simply Riley and had known nothing about her secret life as an assassin.
Cat: "That's a truth and a half."



We ambled along the beach a little further before stopping by the water. Cat took a couple of steps forward and let the waves wash over her boots. I stayed back, deciding to remain dry and simply admire my beautiful girlfriend instead.


Cat bent down and picked up a small stone. After a moment's aim, with a flick of the wrist she sent the rock skimming across the wave tops. As she repeated the process and I watched on, I let my mind wander. I felt like I'd spent far too much time recently being stressed out or under attack from somebody or other. From trying to find Darkblade to the whole Registration Act hassle and now our narrow escape just hours earlier. It took moments like these, just being stood on a beach, watching a beautiful woman skim rocks across the ocean, to remind me that there was more to life than just stress. Yes, there were things to be done, urgent things at that, but you also have to make time to relax and just breathe.



And that's exactly what I did. Closing my eyes and taking a deep breath, I held it in for a few moments before exhaling loudly, trying to let out all, or at least some of, my stresses.


Cat: "What's on your mind?" She asked, walking out of the sea to re-join me.
Tank: "Just... thinking of what's to come." I replied, knowing what we needed to discuss.
Cat: "And what is to come?"
Tank: "Well, we don't have any other leads on Darkblade. There's nothing else holding us here. I think we should do it."


Cat didn't reply. Instead she resumed our walk along the shore, letting the dry sand cling to her wet boots.



Tank: "We've come all this way. We still don't have any actual proof that Darkblade was ever here, but hopefully the spaceport will have some sort of records and we can find out if he did in fact board a transport or not."
Cat: "But, System 55 is a long way away." She protested quietly.
Tank: "I know. But we don't really have any other options do we."
Cat: "I know." Cat responded, echoing my own words.


Tank: "Cat, I need to find him." I told her honestly. "I need some sort of resolution to this. If I can capture him, I can find out who hired him to kill my parents and why. When I thought I'd killed him, I lost all of that. I thought that I would never fetch any closure. But now I have the opportunity again. I need to find him."
Cat: "I know, I know." She repeated. She didn't sound angry or annoyed, just a little uncertain and maybe slightly sad.
Tank: "Then what's wrong?" I asked, gently taking her hand.



Cat: "It's just..." She started before pausing to collect her thoughts. "You're hunting down Darkblade because you need closure; my father is still out there somewhere. She continued and I felt a pang of guilt at dragging her around all over the place on my own personal quest when she still has her own issues to deal with.
Cat: "He's still out there and I never know if he's going to send people after me! After us!" She exclaimed. "He could have spies tailing us even now. Or maybe an assassin waiting to take us out back at the space port. I can't live like this, Tank! I need closure just as much as you do."


I nodded understandingly.
Tank: "I get it. But, we have no idea where The Boss is." I replied, using Cat's father's crime lord name. "He could be anywhere in the system. Heck, he could have gone to System 55!" I continued. "We have no leads on him what so ever, he's just... disappeared and as much as I want you to have the closure that you seek, the same closure that I am after, there's physically nothing we can do about it right now. And don’t forget, I want to find your father just as much as you do. He’s the one who faked all of that evidence about my parent’s taxes and stopped their statue from being unveiled. Without him, I can’t clear their names."



It was hard telling the woman I loved that I couldn't do anything to help her at the minute, but it was the truth and I knew that in her heart Cat knew that too.


Cat: "I know, it's just... I wish there was something we could do."
Tank: "I know. Me too, hun." I replied, quickly kissing her on the head. "But, we're doing everything that can be done. The police have all the information that we gave them and are doing what they can to locate him. And, of course, he is an enemy of The Brain, so whenever he crops up, which he will have to at some point, I'm sure that Mr. Grey will let me know. For now, that's all that can be done."


Cat nodded and sighed quietly.
Tank: "So in the meantime, while we wait, we may as well go to System 55 and see what we can dig up there on Darkblade. Besides!" I continued, now trying to cheer Cat up and lighten the mood, "It'll be fun! We'll be explorers!" I grinned. "It'll be amazing to see all those new planets!"



I briefly thought back to when I'd seen the planets of System 54 for the first time. I'd just escaped prison with Jarred during The Shift and had been awed by the unexpected appearance of multiple new planets in the night's sky!


Cat: "I suppose it would be nice to see the Universe a bit." She conceded.
Tank: "That's the spirit!" I grinned and Cat couldn't help but smile at my enthusiasm.
Tank: "It's settled then. We'll see if the space port has any records and if not, we'll go travelling."



Elsewhere…



There was an annoying alarm bleating away as Darkblade made his way through the facility. Marching, sword in one hand and gun in the other, along a corridor of white walls and glass floor to ceiling windows, everywhere he went, scientists fled or cowered in terror at the sight of the black-clad mercenary.



Darkblade was still attempting to find Dr. Lobotomy and had found records of him on Toliv so had tracked him there. Unfortunately, when he'd arrived on the watery world, the trail had gone cold. However, his trip had not been a total waste of time. Darkblade also knew of a company that produced a performance-enhancing drug on the planet. Not only that, but they were currently working on a serum for the Imperium military that would be double the strength of anything currently publicly available.


Still searching for anything that could better himself in any way, as well as searching for the man who had made him the way he was, Darkblade had of course decided that this serum was worth at least investigating.



Now, after breaking into the facility, Darkblade approached the main laboratory. He tried the handle on the glass entry door but found it locked. He snarled in frustration and was considering his next move when a whimper from nearby caught his attention. He turned to find a scientist in a lab coat cowering terrified in the corner of an adjoining room.


Darkblade: "Open it." He growled, indicating to the door with his sword. To his credit, the scientist didn't cave in and instead shook his head frantically, sounding like he was about to cry.



With a groan of annoyance, Darkblade with one hand shot the scientist in the head, ending his pathetic whimpers and then with a swipe of his long, black sword, shattered the glass door. Stepping through the wreck, Darkblade took a moment to look around the laboratory.


But just a moment.


Then he surged forwards and began a frenzied search.


Shattering test tubes and sending vital equipment flying, he raged through the lab like a bull in a china shop, but it quickly became apparent that he had no idea what he was actually looking for. It was unlikely that the serum would be labelled "super soldier juice" or anything as simple as that.



So instead, he tried another tactic.


Grabbing the nearest terrified scientist by the back of the head, he slammed them into the nearest cabinet, drawing a scream of pain from the man.
Darkblade: "Where's the military serum?" He demanded.
Scientist: "I don't know!" He begged tearfully.
Darkblade dropped him to the ground and put a bullet in his face.
Darkblade: "Who's next?" He growled, looking around for the next nearest coward.



He found a Zarun hiding behind a barrel of fuel and grabbed him by the eye stalk, making him howl in pain and scrabble to try and break free.
Darkblade: "Where's the military serum?" He asked again, but the man only continued crying in pain. Darkblade raised his gun again, but before he could fire, a woman's voice called out,
Woman: "ENOUGH!"


A lone figure stood in the centre of the room; a human woman getting on in age.
Woman: "Enough. It's over here. Just stop killing people." Darkblade's lip curled under his helmet and he shoved the Zarun away before stomping towards to woman.



She turned and led him to the opposite side of the room, where she unlocked a refrigerated cabinet and withdrew a syringe filled with a horribly green liquid.
Woman: "There." The woman shoved the syringe into Darkblade's waiting hand.
Darkblade: "Is this it?" He demanded.
Woman: "That's it." She confirmed.



Darkblade: "Good." He responded and shot the woman dead.



Somewhere In Space…



The Nocturn Incorporated space station drifted powerless through space. It's energy reserves completely spent, it was dark and deserted.



Deserted save for the lone figure who now pushed their way through an old-fashioned swinging door into an antechamber of one of the central control rooms.


Looking around, they searched; searched for any indication that their quarry had been here. From their position in space, approaching the station from the sun-side and therefore shielded from most scanners, they had seen a large Imperium vessel, at first docked, but then leaving the station.


The vessel was The Obliterator and was Captained by one Brax Rider. The figure had learned that Brax was trying to locate The Vindicators and had hacked into the Imperial network in order to follow him here. However, they had arrived just in time to see The Obliterator leaving, so had no idea whether Rider had captured Jay Arathon or not.



As the armoured figure entered the central control room for the station and began to look around, they stretched out their feelings, their senses, with all of their limited power, trying hopefully to catch some sort of indication that Jay had been here. The Archmage's husband certainly wasn't here now, but had he been?


There had been... someone here. That much the figure could tell. At least two, no... three people. But whom, they were unable to distinguish. Their curse did have one or two benefits, their heightened senses and ability to feel the vague presence of others being two of them, but the downside still far outweighed any positives. By a long way!



As the helmeted intruder continued to look around, their foot bumped into something on the dust-covered floor. Bending down, they discovered a comlink unit. It was clean - it hadn't been there long. Somebody had dropped it recently. There must have been a struggle. That meant that Brax had found at least some of The Vindicators. But was Jay one of them? And who's comlink was this? There was no need to try and sense this one; a quick look into the unit's call history gave all the information required. It wasn't Rider's, which meant it belonged to a Vindicator - which one was still unclear.



But the armoured being wasn't too worried about that now. With a satisfied smile, they turned to leave. Now that they had one of The Vindicator's comlinks, it meant that they could trace them. This chase would not last much longer.
Figure: "Not long now, Jay. Not long at all."



The INV Anvil…



The bridge doors slid open silently and Captain Drayson strode through. This was the first time she had stepped foot on the bridge since the disaster that had been the battle and since she had blown up the cruise liner full of holidaying civilians.



Following the destruction of the cruise ship and the escape of the Aurelian fleet, Drayson had ordered search and rescue to begin immediately and then returned command of the 51st fleet to Admiral C'paya, before excusing herself.


She had needed time to come to terms with what had happened; what she had ordered to happen. Of course, she had never intended on killing what was sure to be thousands of innocent beings, but it is what had happened nevertheless and that was something that she was going to have to come to terms with.


However, now the Admiral had summoned her back to the bridge. Why, she didn't know, but it would surely not be good. Worst-case scenario was that she would be dishonourably discharged from the Imperium and sentenced to death.



Best case scenario was that she would be demoted. Given her previously spotless track record and the fact that nobody could have predicted the arrival of a cruise ship in the middle of a battle, Drayson was hoping that her superiors would be lenient. However, on the other hand, given the nature of what had happened and the number of dead, the decision could go either way. All Lya could do now was wait and see. As she marched towards her fate, she could see through the forward duraglass that the wreckage of the cruise liner had been towed away already, presumably down to the planet for salvaging, but the clean-up operation was still underway.


Cadet Odanna was still on the bridge and had now been joined by several other cadets who all stopped what they were doing and turned to watch as the Captain made her way along the central command walkway towards the forward viewscreen.



Drayson: "Admiral" She saluted sharply, professional as ever, as C'paya turned to face her.
Ad. C'paya: "Captain." He saluted in return. Drayson tried to get a reading from his face, to try and pre-empt what her fate may be, but his expression was as stony as ever and she got nothing.
Drayson: "Before we begin, I would like to say that it has been an honour to serve under you and state that I am willing to accept full responsibility and any due punishment for the incident that occurred earlier today..."
Ad. C'paya: "What incident?" He queried seeming deadly serious, interrupting and confusing Captain Drayson.
Drayson: "The... the cruise ship, sir."
Ad. C'paya: "That cruise ship was a tragic accident. Destroyed by the Aurelian fleet before they fled." He stated matter-of-factly with a stern gaze, making sure that Drayson understand what he was trying to tell her.



And she did. In her chest, her hopes rose. They were covering it up! Admiral C'paya was going to lie to protect her! Maybe her future wasn't so bleak after all! The Admiral's on the other hand... if the truth got out, if the public learned what had really happened this day - that an Imperial warship had opened fire on a civilian transport - then there would be an outcry that would surely spell the end for C'paya's career as well as her own.


For a moment it crossed her mind that anybody who knew the truth, anyone who had been involved in or witnessed what had happened would need to be bought out to ensure their cooperation. Bought out… or silenced permanently. This incident couldn't be allowed to affect her career in any way, Drayson thought darkly.


But then the moment passed and thoughts of ordering the murders of hundreds of loyal Imperium soldiers were gone. There were simply too many people to get rid of. Not to mention the entirety of the Aurelian battle fleet that had witnessed it as well. Now, whilst killing hundreds of Imperials was something that Drayson was not entirely comfortable with, Aurelii, rebels, freedom fighters, whatever they wanted to call themselves, were another matter completely. Captain Drayson had no qualms about obliterating terrorists who's only intentions were to cause havoc across the galaxy. That meant that Vice Admiral Ku'lk and the rest of his fleet would have to go. Drayson would need to find them, hunt them down and exterminate them as the pests that they were.



But that was a matter for the future. For now...
Ad. C'paya: "Do you understand, Captain?"
Drayson: "I do, sir." She confirmed.
Ad. C'paya: "Good. Now, I summoned you here because congratulations are in order."
Drayson: "Sir?"
Ad. C'paya: "I will be the first to admit that I was not overly happy about handing command to you during the battle earlier, however once again you have proven yourself to be an adept and competent leader. Your unusual tactics and your keen instincts, coupled with your knowledge of behavioural traits and Imperial procedures served you well today. The Aurelian fleet may have escaped, but you destroyed one Dauntless-class cruiser and crippled several more ships. That is more than I achieved in this fight. You have done an impressive job."
Drayson: "Thank you, sir."
Ad. C'paya: "No thanks needed, Captain. You did well today. You have my praise and my gratitude."
Drayson: "Permission to speak freely, sir?" She requested after a moment's thought.
Ad. C'paya: "Granted."



The Captain took a few moments to compose her turbulent thoughts. She had arrived on the bridge expecting to be dismissed from the Imperial navy, but instead she was being congratulated. That and her fleeting thoughts of mass murder in order to protect her career troubled her.


Drayson: "I do not deserve praise." She began. "I do not deserve gratitude. Nor thanks or congratulations of any kind. Thousands, if not tens of thousands of people died under my orders today. Innocent men, women and children."
Ad. C'paya: "Captain..."
Drayson: "They were on holiday!" She continued, trying hard and almost failing to contain her emotions, cutting her superior off. "They were on holiday and now they are dead. Yes, I destroyed one cruiser, but the rest escaped. Slipped right through our clutches."
Ad. C'paya: "In fact, just a short time ago, we learned that the Captain of the Dauntless you destroyed, a Captain Brass, did actually survive the attack." At this, Drayson groaned. "But still," the Admiral continued. "It is one less cruiser for the Aurelians to use against us."


Drayson: "You see! I didn't even kill the Captain." She exclaimed in frustration, staring out into space where the battle had been raging just hours earlier. "Ku'lk escaped, that Captain survived...I achieved nothing today."



Ad. C'paya: "You judge yourself too harshly, Captain." He consoled.
Drayson: "No - I'm just a realist." She replied, turning back to the Admiral. "Permission to be excused, sir?"


C'paya briefly considered denying her request in order to continue trying to convince her of how well she had done, but knew her well enough that no matter how hard he tried, he would never be able to change her mind unless she herself was willing to accept it.
Ad. C'paya: "Permission granted." He nodded. The pair saluted each other and then Drayson turned and stalked back up the command walkway.


Ari' Odanna had watched the exchange from afar, unable to hear most of the conversation, but she knew her mentor well and could tell that something was wrong. When the Captain stormed back across the bridge, Ari' excused herself from the other cadets and quickly followed.



Ari': "Captain!" She called out. Drayson didn't turn around but Ari' knew that she had heard her. "Captain Drayson!" She tried again as she jogged to catch up to the other's long strides. "Lya!" She shouted when there was still no response.


At that, Drayson stopped in her tracks, spinning around and Ari' virtually ran into her. Drayson's nostrils flared and she looked down at her mentee with fire in her eyes.
Drayson: "Do not refer to me in such a way in public again." She threatened.


It wasn't a shout but it shook Arianne more than any yelling ever could. It was the first time Drayson had ever scolded her. She knew that there was still something wrong though.
Ari': "I'm sorry, Captain." She apologised, before Drayson turned and continued her march. This time however, Ari' managed to keep up.
Ari': "What is wrong? What's happened?"
Drayson didn't reply immediately. Ari' was about to ask again when Drayson spoke.
Drayson: "I was applauded."



Ari' frowned, confused.
Ari': "What?"
Drayson: "The Admiral congratulated me on my performance at the battle earlier today. He said that I had done an impressive job." She explained as they reached the door to her quarters and she keyed in the correct code, permitting them entrance.
Ari': "I don't understand. Then what is the problem?"
Drayson: "The problem is that I don't deserve it!"
Ari': "Of course you do! You won us the battle! Without you, the Aurelians could have invaded Toliv!"
Drayson: "I just did a better job of commanding than the Admiral. That's all. Ku'lk escaped, the Captain of the cruiser I destroyed survived and then I killed God knows how many civilians... none of it mattered." The down-hearted Captain continued, her sadness beginning to turn into frustration.



Ari': "Of course it mattered!" She assured, placing a hand on the other woman's arm. "Without you, the Imperium would have lost entirely! The battle may not have ended in the Aurelian's total defeat, but at least you stopped them from gaining any kind of victory."


Drayson took a deep breath and sighed it all out.
Ari': "Lya;" Ari' continued, gently placing her hand on the Captain's cheek. "It mattered. YOU matter."


Drayson closed her eyes, enjoying the soft touch of the other woman's hand and the momentary distraction, but then her frustration and annoyance at herself got the better of her and with another sigh, she pressed the door release again.
Drayson: "I need to be alone." She declared. Ari' looked concerned and was reluctant to remove her hand, but when Drayson removed it for her, she slowly turned and left the room.



Once over the threshold, she paused, trying to think of something reassuring to say, but as she opened her mouth to speak, the Captain pressed the door switch again and it slammed shut in her face, leaving Ari' alone in the corridor.



Somewhere in America, Earth…



Warner: "Oh come on!" He yelled at his computer screen, shoving his mouse and keyboard away forcefully.



25-year old Exon Warner sat at his gaming set-up in the gloomy basement apartment where he lived. He didn't get out much but thanks to his full-time hobbies, he didn't need to. His gaming videos raked in millions of views online and helped him pay his way. That, plus the money from his... other hobby, meant that he didn't need a real job and could spend as much of his time as he wanted hidden away in the dark.


Warner: "Stupid Qoterian scrim-bag." He muttered angrily at nobody in particular, thinking about the player who'd just killed him on Call of Duty: Century. With a sigh, he forced himself calm and rearranged his setup, pulling his keyboard and mouse closer to him again.


Voice: "Quite the temper you've got there." A voice from behind growled, making him literally jump out of his seat in shock.



Warner: "Who's there?" He demanded; part terrified, part angry.
Avorax Wolfhide strolled down the stairs into the room, allowing the kid to get a good look at him.
Warner: "You!" He exclaimed, clearly recognising the bounty hunter. "What do you want? Why are you here? Who sent you?" He babbled nervously, and he would have carried on had Wolfhide not interrupted.


Wolfhide: "Jesus, Warner! You always ask this many questions?"
Wolfhide began wandering around the other man's home, looking about just for the sake of it.


Exon swallowed hard and tried to calm himself.



Warner: "What do you want?" He finally asked, settling on the most pressing question.
Wolfhide: "What do I want?" He repeated. "Good question. How about we turn it around? What do you want, Warner?"
Warner: "Uuuhhh..." the young man stammered, still worried about having the Infamous bounty hunter in his home and now confused by the question. "I... I want to know why you're here."
Wolfhide: "Oh, grow a pair, kid!" He growled. "Y'know, I was expecting someone more. I didn't know you were just some gaming nerd living in yo' momma's basement."
Warner: "Hey! I pay rent!" He exclaimed.
Wolfhide: "Big deal." Retorted the other. "Now grow up and tell me; what do you want?"


There was silence as the two men stared at each other and then after a few seconds, Exon spoke again.



Warner: "I want money."
Wolfhide: "There you go." He encouraged with a sly grin.
Warner: "I want money. And recognition."
Wolfhide: "Good. I can offer you both." The one-eyed man declared. Warner frowned, clearly suspicious.
Warner: "How? You're a fugitive. Beta Squad was disbanded. You have nothing."



Wolfhide: "That's true." He agreed calmly, leaning against a nearby desk and examining a small model that was on display there. "But I will do. I'm putting together a team." He began to explain.
Warner: "Go on." Exon encouraged, intrigued, when the wanted man didn't say more.
Wolfhide: "I'm putting together the best of the best, or rather, the best of the worst, to make a team. You know the problems Beta Squad had. In-fighting. Leadership struggles. But with my team, everything would be under my control and I would make sure people know it. Beta Squad was a good idea badly executed. I want to try again. Do better. So I'm putting together a team who will actually be effective."


Warner: "So where do I come into this?" The gamer queried, still unsure about the proposal.
Wolfhide: "You'd be our eyes and ears. Tech support. 'The guy in the chair.'" Wolfhide explained and Warner nodded in understanding. "But you'd be with us." At this Exon stopped nodding and cocked his head slightly. "You'd be on the front line providing all the data and information that we'd need."
Warner: "But I can do that from here..." he began to protest, but Avorax cut him off.
Wolfhide: "Not fast enough. In a life or death situation I need that information on the spot. I need to know you're on it; not on some stupid computer game."
Warner: "I don't know... I'm not sure." He admitted.



Wolfhide: "You said you wanted money. Recognition. Fame. This will give you it all."
Warner: "More like infamy."
Wolfhide: "Same difference." He snapped. "Look, are you in or are you out? Last chance."


Wolfhide pushed himself off from the desk and stood with his hands on his hips in the middle of the room.
Warner: "I..." he stammered, still not sure. If he agreed, it would be the biggest project he had ever been involved in, but with that of course came the money...


Wolfhide: "Five. Four." He began counting down the seconds. "Three. Two."
Warner: "Okay!" He shouted. "Okay, I'll do it!"
Wolfhide: "Atta' kid." He grinned and clapped him on the shoulder. "Now; your first job is to find me some more team members." He beamed innocently before turning to walk away.
Warner: "Wait, you don't have a team?!"



Wolfhide: "You're the first! You're welcome!" He laughed as he reached the stairs, leaving Warner shaking his head.


Wolfhide: "Let me know when you find some suitable candidates, Download."


Download: "Wait, we're doing codenames again?"
Wolfhide: "We're doing codenames again." He confirmed and with that, slammed the door closed.


In his desk chair, Exon Warner AKA Download, former member of Colonel Ramson's Beta Squad stared blankly at the now shut door, wondering what he'd gotten himself into.
Then, with a smirk, he spun himself back to his computer.
Download: "Download's back in the game!" He grinned.



Toliv…




The surgery door swung open and Captain Brass emerged, closely followed by the doctor. Brass was flexing his shiny, new metal arm and examining it under the lights.
Doctor: "As I said, it may take a while for it to fully integrate into your system, so take it easy for now. But on the whole, you should be able to go about business as normal."
Brass: "Thanks Doc'." He smiled sincerely and shook the other man's hand.
Doctor: "No worries. Just... try not to lose it again." He smirked and the Aurelian laughed.


I stood from where I'd been sat beside Cat and Tracks in the waiting area and watched as Brass approached. It took a few moments for me to appreciate what I was seeing.
Tank: "Are you not getting it covered in syn-flesh?" I queried, eyeing up his clearly robotic arm.
Brass took a deep breath before replying.



Brass: "No. I've decided that; you're right. I've had enough of hiding. Enough of pretending to be something that I'm not. So what if people know I'm a cyborg? I don't care. Not any more, anyway."
I smiled, glad that I'd had such a positive effect on the Captain.
Cat: "That's good to hear." She added from behind me and Brass nodded to her in appreciation.


The Captain turned back to the doctor and gave his thanks and then a few minutes later, the four of us were leaving the surgery, stepping back into the hustle and bustle and beautiful weather of Toliv.


Tank: "So what's next?" I asked Brass.



Brass: "Well, I'm going to have to speak to my superiors and try to convince them that I'm fit for duty. After that... who knows. Time will tell, I suppose. It depends on how everyone takes to this news."


I nodded understandingly.
Brass: "What about you guys?" He asked. "What are you going to do now?"


Cat and I exchanged looks before I replied.
Tank: "We've decided that we're going to head to System 55 for a bit." I announced.
Brass: "Oh really?" He asked, sounding surprised.
Tank: "Yeah. We've got some business to take care of over there.'



Brass raised an eyebrow at me, so I elaborated slightly. I didn't want to go into too many details, so I just told him;
Tank: "We're looking for someone."
Brass: "I see. Well, I hope you find whoever it is that you're looking for."


He offered out his hand - his shiny, new, cyborg hand and I shook it with a smile.


Tank: "Trust me; so do I. So do I."


It wasn't long afterwards that Cat, Tracks and I were sat in The Viper as I primed the systems for take-off. We had come via the spaceport security office, but they claimed to have no knowledge of a man in black and red armour coming through recently. That could mean one of three things; that Darkblade hadn't been here at all, that he had been here and then left, staying in system, or that he had been here and was now on his way to System 55.



With no way to tell which option it was, we decided to stick to the plan and head to the neighbouring system. Brass had collected his armour from The Viper and then we had parted ways and a few minutes later, I was inputting the coordinates necessary to make the jump to hyperspace and head for System 55. Once the computer was set, I glanced over my shoulder at my two passengers.


Tank: "Family road trip?" I asked with a smile.


Tracks whirred encouragingly and Cat concurred with a nod,
Cat: "Let's do it."


I pushed forward on the Warp Drive lever, the stars around us contorted and then we were gone.





BONUS PICTURES




The exterior of Toliv set. I have always imagined Toliv to look like Manaan from Star Wars, so I tried to get the light colours and sweeping curves in there. It came out alright in the end. Also, I had to retake the first several images from this episode, because I had forgotten that I had written Brass wasn't in his uniform, so here you can see that this was taken before the re-shoots!



The surgery set.



One of the sets for the lab.



Download's apartment.


N.B. The Nocturn Incorporated space station was created by Iris AD.


As my series is going to be jumping around though time, I will include a date on each episode and add it to the timeline at the end of each episode so that you can follow it.



TIMELINE




Comments

 I like it 
  April 10, 2018
Fun episode, with interesting developments with captain Brass. I do question how much of an positive image Brass could be, considering that he's an Aurellian, and the Imperium government would most likely use that fact against him. Perhaps he could be be that for aurellians, Aurellian sympathizers, and neutrals, but it could be interesting for the Imperium to use that fact against him and the Aurellian cause.
 I like it 
  April 6, 2018
Very, very impressive, R.K.! It may not have had that much action wise, but it still gripped my attention the whole way though. The story was enticing, and I like how you're advancing your characterization with them all too. And on their way to System 55 now, eh? Well, that'll be fun Probably more fun for us to read, though. ;) either way, I absolutely can't wait to see what you do next!
 I made it 
  April 5, 2018
Quoting Werewolff Studios Another fine episode mate, well done! Really liked the GI's response to Drayson's 'mishap', as well as Brass and the whole cyborg component. Great stuff all round! Also, with that strength boosting serum, may I propose that it's an earlier version of the X-17 serum Uek possesses? One that Falcon sold before he teamed with Uek, and that those scientist refined until it actually worked? Just a thought.
Thanks 'Wolff! And yeah, that sounds fine to me! --Blast--
 I made it 
  April 5, 2018
Quoting Captain Kenbo Absolutely loved this one! Your sets are always incredible but the ones for Toliv really stood out to me. Great designs. The cyborg stuff was interesting, I could see a cyborg equal rights movement in the Insurgency universe haha. Also I've kind of been expecting some romance between Drayson and Ari.... So if that happens I totally called it lol
Thanks Kenbo! Glad you liked it! I personally thought it was a bit of a boring one! Haha! And as for Drayson and Ari', yeah, they are together. It's not a new thing, they've been together for at least as long as they've been in my series, it's just I've never shown it outright. Of course, it's completely against all rules etc, so it's a big secret - hence Drayson having a go at Ari' for calling her by her first name when there are other people around. But yeah, I'm showing more and more of the two of them. I was wondering when people would start cottoning on. Haha! --Blast--
 I like it 
  April 5, 2018
Another fine episode mate, well done! Really liked the GI's response to Drayson's 'mishap', as well as Brass and the whole cyborg component. Great stuff all round! Also, with that strength boosting serum, may I propose that it's an earlier version of the X-17 serum Uek possesses? One that Falcon sold before he teamed with Uek, and that those scientist refined until it actually worked? Just a thought.
 I like it 
  April 5, 2018
Absolutely loved this one! Your sets are always incredible but the ones for Toliv really stood out to me. Great designs. The cyborg stuff was interesting, I could see a cyborg equal rights movement in the Insurgency universe haha. Also I've kind of been expecting some romance between Drayson and Ari.... So if that happens I totally called it lol
 
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