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Avenger Assembled

A Still More Glorious Dawn Awaits (IC)

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A few days after the events of Shore of a Cosmic Ocean 

 

Aquaria crouched between the front seats of the shuttlecraft, her forelimbs folded in front of her, arms tucked under her body, and back legs folded forward so far her elbows and knees brushed together. It would have been an uncomfortable position for a Surfacer - but then she wasn't a Surfacer. She wasn't sure what she was, not after three sleeps journey through the cold, endless ocean of space, not with the faces of the creature she'd seen die, no, that she'd helped kill, burning in the back of her mind, not with the sight of the burning Spectrum Knight fortress overrun with those Praetorian thugs curling away like the ever-present shadow of a nightmare. She was still in her armor, largely because their hasty flight had meant she'd left her moisturizer back on the planet where they'd started and the glowing energy field it emitted was all that kept her from burning in the cold dry fake air of the shuttlecraft. 

 

There was water, but of course they'd needed that to stay alive. She and Jessie had been able to find food from a panel in the wall, silvery meat packets that tasted dry and squishy to her but that Jessie ate without complaint. In a few days they were going to run out if they weren't careful. Aquaria had seen the inside of the ship, once, when Bie Yie had given her a tour. She knew that the front of the ship was where you steered it and she knew where the food was, and the head, and the places to sleep in. But neither she nor Jessie White had the slightest idea how to fly a spaceship; or what the words and lights that the ship had been saying to them meant. Through the windows, she could see something approaching that Jessie had said earlier was a planet, a brown-green ball that was getting bigger and bigger, like they were going to crash right into it. 

 

She closed her eyes and began to croak softly. "Oh Father Dagon, Mother Hydra too, listen to me sing your song-" she opened up her eyes and stared out at the pitiless cold black ocean that surrounded them, then closed them again. "oh-oh so far from you. I know you have a plan for me and a crooked pattern for my life, a pattern you made when I was hatched from my egg. I know that you are trying-" the last word was more of a pained bellow, "trying me. Because I was vain and swam too high, the sun of your wrath burned me. I understand that." She thought of Jessie, still in the back compartment, quiet and still as a barnacle. "But Jessie didn't do anything to deserve punishment. She's tried so hard to be a good person. I should have listened to her from the start..." She swallowed hard, an impressive sight as her massive throat bobbed. "Dagon and Hydra, I know she doesn't believe in you - but please, please, take her into your maw if we die, and remember her when you return in your glory." 

 

She began to sing then, the names of her tribe and her friends from Project Freedom, the names of Jessie's 'sister' and her mate, of her friends from the DuTemps Building like Kimber and Indira. The names of people she would never see again. 

 

Meanwhile, the autopilot spoke again in a dignified male tenor Galstandard (Lor-Van Standard accent) that neither Aquaria nor Jessie could understand, continuing the conversation it had begun with them two and a half standard days earlier. 

 

"Autopilot protocol engaged. Fuel supplies critically low Emergency landing course plotted. Touchdown on planetary surface in five minutes." 

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In the back of the little ship, Jessie startled badly at the sudden loud male voice, then settled again just as quickly when she recognized the inscruitable mechanical voice that had periodically made announcements for the past few days. She wasn't sure what it was saying, but so far it didn't seem aggressive or able to hurt them, so she tuned it out. She'd been staring at the bulkhead for, oh, it was hard to say, probably a few hours now, not thinking of anything in particular, just drifting along through space along with her body. The bulkhead was a soothing pale blue, scuffed and pitted from years of use, so that the metal beneath was visible in parts. The metal parts were cold to the touch, like the blue paint was some kind of insulator and not just decorative. Jessie knew that the metal was cold because she had touched it herself, though it had taken most of a day to get her courage to that point. She wasn't sure why she was surprised that it hadn't hurt. 

 

There was a foil packet next to her on the seat with half a food ration in it. Aquaria said that there wasn't very much food left, so it was better to conserve what they had. Jessie didn't need to eat every day, she was sure of that much. She had Erin's memories of many days of no food, either because she was busy, or too bereft, or just because there was nothing to be had. Normally Jessie was careful to never miss meals because it made her feel safer not to, but these were unusual circumstances. Nothing was safe. They were lost and helpless, and saving the food probably only meant they would die of thirst instead of hunger, because even though Jessie knew how to purify bad water or make a solar still, she couldn't make one without a sheet of plastic or any sunlight. She wondered which Erin's heaven she would wind up in, and if anybody would help her get to where she was supposed to be. Erin had told her heaven owed them a favor, Erin had said she would make sure it worked out. Jessie had faith in Erin's efficiency, but it did seem to be asking a lot. She wondered if Erin would realize that Jessie was dead. Did a person feel it when their double died, like someone walking on your grave? 

 

She glanced over at Aquaria, who was deep in her croaky prayer songs and looked unready to be disturbed. Aquaria did not feel good at all about the way things had gone on the planet. Jessie found it hard to blame her though. Aquaria didn't understand how dangerous things were, in general. She settled back in for another round of wall-meditation when suddenly the atmosphere changed, sending her bolt upright all over again. They were falling... 

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Aquaria was sitting up in the front seat when Jessie came to the front too, watching that ball grow larger and larger, until the impossibly vast planetary landscape filled the entire screen. The greenish-brown planet was mottled with dark blue sea - and unless Aquaria missed her guess, they were going to hit somewhere where the sea touched the land. That seemed fair to her, after so long, Dagon and Hydra calling her home - even if it wasn't fair to Jessie. "I'm sorry, Jessie," she said, swiveling her whole body to look up at her friend, her eyes wide and glistening in the glowing lights from the control panels. "Everything that happened to you since I picked up the trident was my fault. I'm so sorry." Jessie had seen Aquaria cry, a noisy, melodramatic affair full of bellowing sobs, but Aquaria was holding that back now at the end. 

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"It's all right," Jessie told her without looking, her attention fixed on the front window. The rapidly-growing planet was reflected in her too-wide brown eyes as they hurtled downwards. "It could be much worse. If we don't burn up, we'll die on impact and we won't suffer," she ruminated softly. "Unless your armor might protect you? You can go out into space with it, so it must be very strong. Maybe you should take it off," she suggested. "It would be better to be killed than maimed and helpless and starving. Nobody should have to die like that." She shuddered and hugged her elbows to her own chest, then arranged herself crosslegged on the front bench to wait. 

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Aquaria listened to Jessie's words, then carefully removed the suit. Neatly rolling it up, she placed it on the floor at her feet and looked over at Jessie and shivered slightly. "It's cold," she croaked softly before turning to look at the incoming planet. They were going faster now, or so it seemed, the impossibly vast planet now filling the screen, filling their world, the invisible top of the sky swallowing them up. As the rumble of atmospheric descent began, she closed her eyes and waited for the warm embrace of the Final Seas of Father Dagon and Mother Hydra. She didn't reach out for Jessie, knowing her friend didn't like to be touched, but she knew Jessie would be with her all the way. 

 

"Surface contact in two minutes." 

--

One of the most swampy worlds in this part of space, Pantanal was too hot and too wet for the comfort of most hominid species, though amphibians and aquatic species liked the high humidity, the high temperatures, and the omnipresent (albeit toothed) insect and piscine life once you got out of the artificially ionified air of the planet's few settlements, mostly constructed by Lor resource-extraction companies centuries earlier. The logging and mining had never really struck computronium, though, and the towns themselves hadn't much expanded in nearly a humanoid lifetime. At the fringes of civilized galactic society, its companies the sort of low-rent enterprises that asked few questions, the workers the sort of rough-hewn characters who answered even fewer of them, Pantanal was a good place to go to disappear - or to go find someone who had tried to do the same thing. 

 

The Voidrunner crew had only touched down at the small Pantanal City spacestrip a few minutes earlier when the next vessel arrived - a civilian shuttlecraft, its emergency lights blinking frantically in the numeric code that was the universal signal of autopiloted distress, touched down next to them. It was local night, the stars overhead bright and the noise from the swamp nearby almost as noisy as the local cantina would be. At a manned spaceport, emergency crews would be piling out right now to see what was wrong with the unlabeled civilian craft. But here, it would be dawn before local law enforcement showed up to investigate and probably demand a bribe from whatever suckers had just gotten stranded in this backwater. 

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Roulette's ears were still ringing.  An expected collision in a port was not quiet in the slightest.  Even on a backwater world like Pantannal.  If their ancient hunk of metal wasn't giving off every warning imaginable.  Then the local security systems were just as bad.  "Oh, come on!  This was our easiest job yet.  We just had to drop down and find this guy. One armed, and blind in one fishy eye."

 

Roulette adamantly complained over the ship's intercom.  All the while heading in the direction of the airlock.  Inspecting the damage would be the only way to really get a handle of how hard it would be to actually get off planet.  Just one job where everything doesn't go karking sideways.  That is not too much to ask.

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There was no visible damage to the exterior of the Voidrunner that Roulette could see. The autopilot on that fool's ship across the way had landed neatly enough now that the alarms were silent, albeit close enough that a spray of dust and debris had left brownish stains along the craft's left flank. Nothing that wouldn't be washed off by the interstellar medium - unsightly though it was. As he watched, the cargo hatch in the rear of the nearby shuttlecraft opened up and a humanoid he wasn't familiar with walked out. 

 

It was of average height for a Galactic sentient, but its bulging eyes, glistening green and white skin, and webbed wide feet and hands bespoke a creature from a far more aquatic place than most worlds. The being padded slowly down the gangplank, sniffing the air and studying the scene with those two bulging eyes. Its garments were a tight jumpsuit like many technological interface suits Roulette had seen, albeit adorned with armor that looked vaguely like Star Knight armor. The creature looked around, locked eyes with him, and suddenly vaulted back aboard ship, taking the gangplank in one leap of those massive legs!  

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"Szagh!  Tchlopa lu-ocl!"  Came our Bliss rasping native tongue with the half-swallowed consonants across the intercom as well, while she sidled out.  Not wearing her traditional sealed suit.  It was simple, her homeworld was like this place.  More or less.  Enough she was comfortable here.  A sleeveless black top, a grey tool belt and grey pants that went into boots, looking like most others, at least in attire.  She showed enthusiasm in hitting this particular stretch of dirt than she had shown before.  Managing to squeak to the airlock just after him, missing the other.

 

"Better.  You will have try one of those big, chittering arthropods they have here... I prefer them still alive, but I am sure we can cook them for your sensitive stomach.  I will look to see if we need to use one of your nice shirts to buff it out.  Your chariot must be pretty after all."  Breathing in deeply, gleefully, of the scent of this place, that kind of slight bit of decay that was omnipresent in places like this.

 

She stopped and looked at the shuttle, getting a bit of movement of the retreating figure and not quite a good look at whatever it was.  And with that, she ducked down with that odd boneless grace she had, and exploded outward, leaping onto the 'dock' proper.  As much as this place had those amenities.

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Ruby held onto a wall as the ship shuddered. Either someones autopilot was not that great or someone fresh from pilots school had just landed a spacecraft. amateurs. She grumbled as her face vanished behind her helmet. The bounty hunter had to hold back more eye rolling just hearing Roulette complaining. "Stahnze, You should realize now there is no such thing as a simple job." Ruby said as she headed to the airlock. Her wrist comp was projecting an array of holographic screens, showing data from planetary information to any wanted targets were loaded onto its systems. A good hunter double checks their information.

 

Don't recall seeing Bliss this happy in a long time. Or hearing that kind of language from her. Ruby thought as she followed after her. She did stop and eye the stopped transport. "Wonder what happened to them?" She wondered. She honestly was not angered by dust on her ship. That tends to go flying off the ship when trying to leave the atmosphere. She kept an eye on the ship, her wrist comp screens still open.

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As soon as Bliss got within ten feet of the gangplank, another sentient emerged, this one built much more along the lines of the Lor and their associated races. This one was obviously female, with shoulder length blonde hair, a muscular build, and a facial expression that could best be described as a combination of terrified and murderous. She also had a length of metal pipe in her hands, one that looked like it had been ripped free from the underside of a standard three-bank of shuttle benches. "Don't come any closer!" she snapped, her words unintelligible to anyone not familiar with extremely backwater languages. To Roulette, the voice and the face were unmistakeably familiar. 

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"We might have to wait on you catching our meal of the day Bliss."  Roulette's eyes widened upon recognition at the monstrous Terran.  The only commander on that Strike Team that Roulette genuinely didn't like was Corona.  And the only one that he was genuinely a little bit afraid of was standing on the opposite end.  Next to some sort of Amphibian woman, most likely a local from this planet.  Although as Bliss showed there were plenty of options where an Amphibian could call home.  

 

"That woman's a Terran.  Wander, we worked together during that whole Communion thing.  Living weapon, quite personable, don't piss her off though."  Roulette responded without turning his head towards Ruby  The Zultasian wasn't sure where the woman's vehicular translator was.  But, he was sure this was nowhere near Terra.  

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Wait, I know that language. Roulettes quick rundown of the girl just confirmed it. Her limited understanding of her homeworld had its people pegged as either weaklings that would not survive intergalactic space for long or superpowered titans that could put Lor mentats to shame. There was something missing if she did not fit those two categories. Taking a deep breath, Ruby started to make her approach up the gangplank. "OK. Wander, put the pipe down." Ruby said in plain English, her voice sounding a lot more British as she returned to her native dialect. "No one needs to get hurt here." She continued, her hand hovering over her pistol.

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"We aren't going back!" croaked the amphibious humanoid behind 'Wander'. "I don't know how you found us, Bie Yie," she declared, pointing at Roulette, "but we aren't going back to the Spectrum Knights!" The translation didn't ease her nerves, after all, the Spectrum Knights had all been able to understand each other back at their base and look how that had turned out for them! She padded to one side, her thick hands curled at her flanks in the readiness that meant she was keeping as near a weapon as Ruby. Bie Yie sounded like someone from one of Zultas' various religious orders, not really anything that was part of his current life. "We aren't running away anymore!

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She stopped, and looked at her comrades and then back to the two threatening them.  She might not understand their language, but that part was kind of clear.  A warrior and gladiator before being an outlaw, this stuff kind of stuck out.   To the other two the Xuli'pa would look alien, the cephalopod roots somewhat evident.  The 'nostril' slits flared in annoyance as her alien eyes watched them.

 

"She's not personably.  She is threatening me."  Bliss growled out in Galstand, as she stared up at them.  She was hardly armored, though not small in the slightest, even if what she was would be a bit off.

 

Being the belligerent being she was, she stepped towards them, deliberately.  And then swept an arm at them in a broad gesture, dismissively, before turning on her heel and walking away from them.  She found the best way to show yipping things that they held no interested was to just be up front about it.

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Jessie raised the bat a little higher as Ruby approached, then startled when she began to speak English. "Not when you still have a gun," she began, then was distracted from that and the issue of her own name by Aquaria's sudden agitation. She turned to her friend, confused. "That's not Bie Yie," she told Aquaria. "He doesn't look anything like Bie Yie. Except for being the same kind of alien," she allowed. She swung back on guard abruptly as Bliss approached, then blinked when the alien went away again. "Who are you?" she demanded of the group in general. 

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Ruby's head tilted to the side. Apparently the frog alien was quite racist. "He doesn't collect slaves if that's what you are worried about." She said, taking a shot in the dark about what the girl was paranoid about. Her attention however returned to Wander. Again she regarded both of the girls. "Considering you both seem pretty dangerous even unarmed, you'll have to forgive me if I seem a little reluctant to drop my weapons."

 

"We're the Voidrunners. Names Ruby. That was Bliss. The Zultasian over there is called Roulette." There was a pause for a moment and her hand drew closer to her holstered weapon. "...Who has met you before apparently. Funny how you don't seem to recognize him." Suspicion was creeping into her voice. She was hoping that he wasn't trying to humiliate her or pull some sort of con. She wasn't in the mood for it.

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"I'm...Sea Devil," said Aquaria, stepping out from the shadows inside the shuttlecraft to stand beside Jessie. "And this is my friend Singularity." The 'hero names' had come to her lips automatically; names they hadn't given the Spectrum Knights during their time with them. "We are lost," she said to the Voidrunners, but focusing on Ruby who could at least speak Surfacer. "We were stolen into the sky, uh, into space by bad Surfacers, uh, aliens, called the Spectrum Knights. But now we want to go back home. Are you from Earth? Can you help us?" She rocked back and forth slightly on her long, amphibious legs. "My friend's cousin is a mighty warrior from Earth. She is very powerful and she will reward you with lots of..." By the whore gods of Atlantis, what do Surfacers like! "Lots of gold! And treasure! And we are very strong. We can help you fight your enemies on the way back to Earth." She hopped down to the middle of the gangway, doing her best to look trustworthy.

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The name Bie Yie sounded familiar.  In a there are at least 10 Bie Yie's on Feric sort of way.  "Maybe Terrans have issues with long term memory if you need to introduce me again?"  Roulette asked after seeing Ruby point at him.  Thinking the idea that he was anywhere near forgettable a bit of a laugh.  It'd also explain why there never seemed to be a Terran that stopped to pick up something as basic as Galstandard.

 

He wasn't entirely sure what the amphibian being was saying to Ruby.  It looked as if she was trying to sell him something.  But, as backwater as the planet was it didn't seem like an ideal stopping place for Lor missionaries.  Not a large enough population.  Although she could probably pass for a pacifist from the Jerreid Hemogony.  Spreading the word of eusuchian peace.

 

"If they're selling something.  I'm not buying.  Just let them down in a way that doesn't end with Wander throwing your ship."

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"Ether that or you can't tell them apart. Her name is Singularity apparently. Didn't take you for the type to mix up the faces of Lor-like species." Ruby shouted over to Roulette in Galstandard, her hand drifting a little away from her pistol. Singlarity sounded like a strange name. As far as she could tell the girl did not have any obvious cybernetics or anything that would point to having such a name. She decided to ignore that and return her attention back to Sea Devil. "I might be from there. Early life abductions make naming your home planet difficult. Though the fact I'm not using a translator to talk to you two at least points me in that direction. I'm not sure why you two would have caught Spectrum Knight attention thought." It did not help that Rubys knowledge of the organisation was rather limited other than the fact they were a terrorist group that stalked the galaxy. 

 "We are in the middle of a job but maybe. I will admit I am curious about Terra. I'll talk to them." As much as running off to see what her home planet, she did have some professional standards to maintain. She raised her hand and turned to the rest of the Voidrunners. "OK,: These two are trying to get back to Terra. Also do any of you have any Info on the Spectrum Knights? Odds are they might be coming." She asked.People on the run have a bad habit of bringing trouble. And knowing their luck that trouble could arrive a lot sooner than she would like.

Edited by Darksider42

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"Not much."  Roulette responded.  His dead father may have been a Star Knight, but that didn't mean the Zultasian had a working repository of knowledge on everyone who called themselves a knight of some sort.  "Give them directions to the warp to that stupidly large space station.  You know the one that's clearly a Communion death trap that will eat everyone inside one day."  

 

Supposedly the converted space station was somewhere near Terra.  He didn't actually know what Terra looked like.  Or where that would be.  Just that it was where the Khanate's most demonized person lived (Daedalus) and that strangely powerful barbarians hailed from there.  Likely some sort of evolutionary coping mechanism for a planet that hadn't developed faster than light travel yet kept get getting caught up in interplanetary political conflicts.

 

 

 

 

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"Stahnze Turk, truly you are a repository of compassion and knowledge." Though he could not see it, odds were her eyes were rolling behind the helmets lenses. "I guess me and Bliss will entertain the offers of treasure Sea Devil here is offering." She said with a chuckle. While the actual value of gold tended to vary wildly from planet to planet, Ruby was certain there was somewhere she could get a decent price for it. Of course that was assuming the offer by Sea Devil was real and not just empty promises to help them return home.

 

Ruby shrugged and turned back to the Terrans. "It might take a bit of convincing, but I'm sure he will come around." The bounty hunter said. She peered over Jessie's shoulder, trying to asses the condition of the shuttle. "How badly done in is your ship anyway?"

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"Wander is my sister," Jessie explained haltingly to Ruby, the only one who seemed to understand what they were saying.  "She came to space and fought the Communion last year. She made friends with other heroes who were fighting, too. She's going to be very worried about me. She'll find me eventually, but I really want to get home before she has to come looking. If you need payment, we can find a way to pay you," she agreed.

 

Jessie had to fight the urge to strike out when Ruby closed in and looked over her shoulder, but managed to keep her hands and improvised bat at her side. "We don't know anything about the ship," she admitted. "When it started to descend, we thought it was crashing, but then it just landed. I don't know what the laws of salvage are here, but we took it from a bunch of bad guys. You might be able to have it, if you want." 

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"Whoa, whoa, whoa there.  Wander's a dear friend.  Of course I'm willing to help someone who looks like her splitting image."  Roulette replied.  Singing a different tune at the prospect of a payday.   Despite the fact that Sea Devil sounded like the moniker some sort of Amphibian space pirate would use.  Like that Captain Kraken guy.  "In fact, I'll understand if you want me to negotiate how they should split up our loot."

 

That last bit was him simply trying to get under Ruby's skin a little more.  Stahnze was cognizant of the fact that he couldn't even direct them to the bathroom on their ship with such a language barrier.  But, no language barrier was going to stop him from pushing Ruby's buttons.  

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"I don't know anything about spaceships," said Aquaria, backing away to let Ruby look the ship over. It looked like a pretty standard civilian shuttlecraft, albeit one with a few odd scorch marks along the flanks that looked like it had passed through some rough 'terrain' on the way. Ships like this were a hundred a credit once you got back to the wealthier parts of the Galaxy. At the pilot's seat, the autopilot was intoning in Lor "FUEL LEVELS DEPLETED. PLEASE REFUEL AT YOUR NEAREST FUELING STATION." 

 

Aquaria thought about telling Ruby that they'd never been off Earth before, but she didn't want to make them look any more helpless than they already were. If strange fish couldn't prove they were valuable to a school, they just might find themselves gobbled up. It was an old Deep One saying. "You can have it, though, as our gift," she said seriously, reaching over to pat Ruby on the shoulder with her three-fingered hand. "So what do you do?" she asked Ruby. "You and the Voidrunners? Are you superheroes?

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"Hijacking spacecraft from nefarious organisations? Always fun."  She opened up her wrist computer, swiping aside the holographic bounty list and opened another panel to check on the ships price. What info she had indicated it was not exactly valuable for a spacecraft. It was still going to bring in some credits for the Team. Might be able to afford proper deflector shields. She closed it down and continued to check the ship.  "Hm...Looks intact. Ships out of fuel so it isn't going anywhere unless that gets sorted. Not much use to us since we have our own ship to worry about." Trying to pawn off a ship to the first person you meet at port? She was starting to wonder what these two had gotten themselves into.

 

Ruby tilted her head as she looked at Sea Devil. Superheroes sounded familiar, but she was not sure she qualified for what that meant. "...No. We're Bounty Hunters. Someone does something illegal and tries to hide out in other sector or is too dangerous for regular authorities,  They send us to capture them. Assuming they have a price on their heads to cover the expenses of course. " For Ruby, that pretty much covers it. From the looks of it, they did not seem to know much about the galaxy at large.

 

"Hm, seems he came around." Ruby said as she once again turned to her team. "I'll save you the trouble Turk. After all I'm sure you can use your share to buy yourself a translator. Besides they just gave me their ship. Should be worth a bit at least." It was moments like this that made her wonder what Roulette was trying to accomplish. He was not very good at getting a rise out of her through words. "Anyway, they are making more if we take them home. Willing to do it since their ship is going nowhere and Its more exciting than the bounty you picked out."

Edited by Darksider42

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