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Scrapmetal Circus: Wayfinder

#1
Xen peered across the terraced decks of the spaceliner as her crystalline dome covering the forward star terrace deck shifted opacity to allow for a more Earth-like viewing, being that four large sister stars were hovering in a sea of blue as the ship allowed for a partial orbit, essentially slingshotting it between them as it entered the orbital gravity wells of the stars themselves. The potted plants around him seemed to beckon him to them, the perfectly manicured rose vines letting their lovely and enticing aroma drifting on the air. Xen smiled, and he allowed himself to sit in the soft breeze generated by the air controlled environment. This garden was the pinaccile of artificial environments, little ecosystems unto themselves. Truely, the Starry Night was every bit the magnificent display of elegance and comfort that it had been made out to be in advertisements. Though perhaps to be picky, Xen knew he’d been aboard luxury far more excessive once upon a time. He suddenly shuddered, pushing his more unpleasant memories to the back of his mind as he accessed the ship and her smorgasboard of data.


While his body enjoyed the sensations a cool spring day, his mind however was much more satisfyingly occupied. His cyber-brain was hooked up wirelessly to the Starry Night’s data center, enjoying the many sights and sounds of the ship all at once. One of the benefits of a completely prosthetic body, he supposed. Xen gazed down at his own hand, and how perfectly flawless and lifelike his skin appeared, albeit he had quite litterally no arm hair. In fact, the only ‘hairs’ he had were where he had designed them to be. Having had such a body since he’d been a child himself had been an inspiration to not only create and enhance prosthetic body parts, but to then offer said parts to those who needed them most at no charge. And that, in turn, had led him here to today.


But perhaps his body was a different story than his mind. His personal cyber-lobby was joined up in the stream of the thousands of other devises’ lobbies linked to the ship. Some had direct neural interfaces like him, and others had devices that linked them neurally to the network. The different devices were easily to detect in the network for Xen, especially since so many of his aftermarket parts were installed with infiltrating networks in mind. It wasn’t something he broadcast out loud, but he was considered to be a wizard class hacker which was achievable by very few humans, even those as heavily cybered as he was, and even more so those cybermechanized for battle, like he also was, but even then there were those far more fearsome than he. There did come a point that enhancements could be only so lifelike depending on their nature, but Xen himself was a sucker for lifelike appearance.


The device signatures Xen was observing allowed him to differentiate between low-intelligence robots and human/alien interfaces easily and even then the secondary versus primary type human/alien interfaces were discernable from one another, and where everyone and thing was venturing. Of course, as Xen groaned upon realization, the Net’s smut storages were being accessed by over 65% of the guests aboard. What was fascinating Xen was the amount of people accessing the star maps and the constant chatter between guests aboard the Starry Night, while their physical bodies were on complete opposite sides of the ship. The Age of Digitizing and Cyberization had its perks of bringing people together, though Xen shuddered to think of the data abuse he was often hired to discover. His prosthetics company had become more of a side-job due to the many contracts outside of his buisness contacts for various governments, salvage operations, and so many others he could hardly name them off the top of his head. Wizard class programming skills were a hot commodity, something that had come with age and rather also hand-in-hand with the prosthetics design carreer participation in his company’s subcontracts with galactic military, police, and scientific organizations. Indeed, it was as much his programming skills as his various other talents that kept his presence in high demand, on the books and off. Wizard class programmers was the polite name for ‘hacker’ in these glorious times. Paired with the fact he was one of the best operators of a cybermechanized body in the known galaxies, Xen was often out on business for weeks at a time. As to whether he was allowed to discuss what work he was doing was another topic entirely. Not that travelling aboard this luxury Spaceliner was truly something to behold, but his memories repeatedly came rushing back as he ventured through the Starry Night. It wasn’t too bad this time, but he was still shaky at times while aboard these marvels of space travel. But those were memories for another day to confront, the now was too positive to just get lost in his nightmares.


The gardens of the gracefully aging spaceliner were simply breathtaking, the plants landscaped in ways that defied the laws of physics. This truly was a vacation from the hum drum day to day of planetary life. Flashbacks of his times in gardens so much like these echoed in his head as he scanned the constant flow of information aboard the ship, searching for irregularities in the various streams. Nothing was out of the ordinary, so Xen gave it a rest and shut his connection down, leaving behind a few scanner programs to notify him of anything fishy going down if it occurred. He stood up, and stretched his muscles. His lifted his hand up to the third and largest star, looking at his bio-tech flesh and chassis. He sighed and lowered his hand as he began walking along back into the ship proper, headed for one of the many restaurants somewhere deep within. The hardest part was being able to decide what tickled his fancy more.


He accessed his mental phone, and left a voice message for his assistant, Jade, to meet him at the China Food restaurant on the forward B-deck as it had a lovely poolside atmosphere with delicious food and some potent cocktails.


Xen stopped in his tracks when his personal e-mail beeped within in his mind, and he paused to take a look. As he read the e-mail, he began to smile. New job prospects were in order, and they were suitable to his pandering whims. Death Planet exploration… with suitable volunteers to go to make the job easier. He had, in fact, just finished his business on Terra-2 and he really wasn’t wanting to go back to Seraphim Industries to do all the hum-drum day to day activities that running the company entailed.


Xen began to go over the details of the message as he began walking again Several screens popped up in his mind’s eye, each one containing the different aspects of the mission. He brushed most of his programs aside as this took his focus. As he was expecting, he found out upon inspecting the first tab he was to foot the bill, with compensation for expenses to be paid on completion of the mission parameters. Xen immediately began the arduous task of providing the advertisements for said mission, and started to bombard various planetary network points through the Net as he continued to go over the various tabs his e-mail had opened. It should be only a matter of time before applicants began to apply to him. He left the advertisements surprisingly devoid of information, listing the details minimally as he was still going over the files himself. As an after thought, he decided to mention his company name as the lead sponsor, and not so subtly hinted at substantial monetary rewards for participation in the mission at hand.


Zen began searching the documents detailing the mission in search of the location they were headed off to. It was only once Xen discovered the star system they would be going to that his jaw dropped, he stumbling into an elderly woman from the shock. “Well I never! How rude!” she scoffed, and turned her snobby nose up and indignantly walked away. Xen, however, didn’t even hear the old bat.


Falo. They were going to Falo…


Falo… The Star Ocean… the Pirates… all of this and more whirled through Xen’s mind. His knees buckled as he began to hyperventilate. It was like all of the ugly monsters hiding in the shadows had all appeared at once, and Xen was struggling to cope with so many nightmares coming at him all at once. As Xen struggled to deal with this sudden onslaught to his mental state, he gripped a railing to help himself up.

Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrnnnnnnkrrrrrrrnnnk!

Looking to the railing he had just used, Xen signed as he realized he'd gripped it so hard, he'd completely bent the metal tube completely in on itself, his handprint all too visible. "I'll need to have that repaired...." he muttered, and began taking his first tentative steps to the restaurant he'd intended to go earlier before seeing this e-mail. Using his mental phone again, he sent Jade another voice message... to order Xen the strongest drink they had for him.
 
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#2
Jade was In his quarters, having his tv on in the background as he was running a scan on his heart, making sure it was still up and running smoothly. His phone rings and he sees that it's a voice message from Xen. He listens to it and turns the screen off on his phone and finishes his scan. He shuts his tv off and gets up, putting on his vest and shoes before walking out the door.
He walks through the halls, greeting people as he walks by on his way to the Chinese restaurant. His scythe hangs from the strap around his waist as it is retractable. The same strap has the satchel of knives hanging from it. He wondered to himself what has Xen troubled.
He comes up to the restaurant and walks in. He's greeted by the hostess “Hello. I'm meeting Xen here.” The hostess nodded and brought Jade to the table where Xen was sitting. “Hey Xen.” He said sitting down across from him.
 
#3
The noises of the night filled every space of the diamond city, even in a cramped alley way. The noises, however, had become a lullaby to those who inhabit the merciless pit they called a city. A pair of figures shrouded in black walked along the wall of an alley, and paused at the brick wall at the end. A gentle, feminine hand was placed on the brick, and with a quick movement she moved a brick away. Following the brick , the rest of the wall seemed to fall away into digital code that formed a fragmented doorway that lead to a small, dark room. The two figures slid into the room, and the wall automatically rebuilt itself upon their arrival. A sigh escaped the taller one and she flipped the hood off her head. Silver hair trailed down around her shoulders from a loose hair band at the base of her neck. The second figure removed their hood and lit a digital beacon that gave off a gentle yellow light.

“That was another successful day I’d say.” The woman spoke softly with a hint of exhaustion under her breath. A bag was removed from underneath her cloak and set out on a glass table at the center of the room. As she emptied the contents, fruits and packaged dried meats piled into an empty bowl waiting to be filled.

“Wow mom you really did score, but you know I don’t eat that much.” The second figure was a boy, having the same hair color as her. His hair was brushed to one side covering his left eye completely. In his hands were papers that he collected from all around the city. Most of them were job opportunities that peaked his interest.

“Yes but you’re a growing boy. You need to eat.” She said sternly and sat on the couch that was falling apart at the seams. It was very old fashioned to say in the least, having stuffing falling out of the cushions at all corners and stains from years of use. As the boy went through the papers, he took a bite from a very small fruit, only less than half remaining. Most of the ads were for mechanics and marketers trying to suck you into doing their work and being stuck for years. However, there was one that really made him stop and think.

“Hey mom, here’s one for you. It’s about checking out a death planet. Hey! It’s funded by Seraphim Industries! They’re the ones who made the parts for my arm and are the best in the field! We should check it out!” J said excitedly. His mother gave him a sceptical look looking through some similar papers.

“I don’t know J. That’s pretty dangerous for a kid to go to a Death Planet.” He frowned and read more into the details. Of course they were very vague, but there was one thing that could convince her, which made his smile return.

“The expedition is all paid for. You know I can handle myself and I won’t let anything bad happen to you. It’s not like I don’t know how to fix you.” J spoke with a little smirk on his face. A defeated sigh was exhaled as his mother’s silver eyes looked up at him.

“You really want to do this one don’t you?” She sighed. Every time he wanted to do a job, there was no shaking him, and Yuriko knew that. The boy nodded excitedly, and held the paper close to his chest.

“If they’re the ones funding this then I might be able to have access to tools and supplies to make specialized weapons and defense systems. It’s the best one out of all of the rest of the offers.” Yuriko got up and looked over the paper her son held so tightly. He was right, of course, and it was better than the jobs they were doing now. A shiver ran down her spine at the thought of the next customer she had to please.

“Alright J. We will set out in the morning. We have to prepare our stuff anyway if we are going to be away. Do you still have the compact storage unit?” J rummaged through the small bags attached to his hips for a few moments then smiled as he pulled out a small cube. That small cube had the capability to hold the digital code of all of their personal belongings and remove them whenever they needed to use them.

“Alright. Eat some more then get some rest. I’ll start putting things away.” The boy quickly scarfed down several more fruits before laying down on the makeshift bed they had made. A part of him felt sad for leaving this small hubble they called home for a few months now, but he knew that perhaps if they could finish this new job, they could find a permanent home. As for his mother, all she wanted was a place for her son to be safe. Perhaps if they get through this last horrible job, they could be somewhere safe.
 
#4
Xen smiled faintly, leaning forward. He waved his hand to the neon green drink sitting next to him, shimmering and swirling away of its own accord. "I had hoped you would have this waiting for me."

"I'm sorry, you were too fast for me. What has you so bothered that you of all people needed a drink?" Jade lifted his hand up to motion a waiter come over. "I'll have whatever that is." he told her, and she smiled. "Right away, Mr. Indigo." Off she went, leaving the two to their own devices. "So nice to be so famous, everyone aboard knows us by name."

"I suppose it has its perks. I'm just thankful I'm not a movie star with the paparazzi after me constantly. We do get to enjoy drinks without cameras in our faces." Xen lifted his half full drink. "Drinks you'll be enjoying, too."

"What is that, by the way? It looks amazing."

Xen nearly choked on the very drink being discussed. "You don't know?"

"No. It just looks like a lot of fun. Besides, Boss, it's on your dime anyway for dragging me along on these incredibly boring trips."

Xen laughed, and began to feel better. One of the best things he'd ever done was hire the Osc on a whim after finding him drifting alone in space, perhaps in an homage to his own cloudy past. The Osc was incredibly capable, and Xen could think of no one else he would rather drag along.

"It's called Vallem, and it comes from Grena grapes. The juices squeezed from them never quite mix together, and once alcohol is added to it, it amplifies and adds to the fruit's natural effects. It's quite the euphoric sedative." Xen knew his alcohol buzz wouldn't last long, his body was already hard at work breaking down the poison he was filling it with. The waitress then approached again with two drinks nearly identical to Xen's, though rimmed with blue sugar crystals and deep red in color. "I'm sorry, but Mr. Seraphim has already ordered the very last of the Vallem Green, would you care for the Red?"

Xen motioned to her to place the drinks at the table. "Yes, thank you. Even better for my fleshy friend here, the Red is even more delishious." Xen smiled as he tapped his wristband against her own wristband. Instantly, funds were transfered, paying for the drinks and leaving the waitress a tip. "Thank you, Mr. Seraphim!" she said, happily surprised. Xen winked at her, and replied, "Nothing to it. Think of it as a surprise gift from an adoring fan. Keep up the practice, and I expect to hear you over interstellar radio one day." Xen smiled wide as the girl looked pleasantly puzzled/shocked for a moment, but walked away still happy. Xen had just left her a $100 Earth currency tip.

"You're a generous one, aren't you?" Jade was looking at a mobile tablet he had pulled from his pocket. "$100? Out of our non-existent pretend budget for this trip?"

"Shhhh, it's not pretend, it's just... on a sliding scale." Xen closed his eyes, watching a video of the very same girl practicing her violin in the gardens in her off time. "I have my reasons. She's a violinist, and I've seen her playing. She's good, and it's always good to nurture the arts." Xen finished the rest of his green drink in one swig, and then looked to Jade pointing to his still untouched Vallem Red. "Well come on, it's not going to drink itself."

Jade shook his head. "Forgive your 'fleshy friend' for not wanting to die of alcohol poisoning." he said, and delicately lifted the drink.

Xen smiled and lifted his second drink to Jade. "A toast. Here's to you, my friend. Thank you for putting up with an old fool."

"And thank you for the best job ever, even if it is boring sometimes." They clinked their glasses together, and Xen downed half of his to keep his pleasant buzz going. Xen placed his drink down onto the table once more, staring into the remaining liquid as his smile faded.

"We have a new job." he said, his voice suddenly without his normal giddiness and vibrance. Jade was taken aback by this sudden change in his friend and boss. "And this job is...?"

Xen looked up from his drink, his eyes devoid of the spark they always had. "We're going to Falo. A death planet."

And so it was Jade's turn to choke on his drink. "A death planet? Are you out of your mind?" He stared Xen in disbelief.

The old cyborg let out a garbled laugh. "I must be. However, it is a job my company is expected to handle." Xen shook his head in sheer overwhelming confoundment.

"Seraphim Industries is to go to Falo, and investigate the damage to the crust of the planet, as well as retrieve several artifacts still residing planetside. We also are to see how the planet is still holding together, and if it can possibly sustain life."

"Falo...." Jade wrinkled his brow in trying to remember where he'd heard that name before. "Wait, wasn't that the planet hit by Gravity bombs around 500 years ago? As some sort of terrorist attack or something?"

"The one and the same. We are to see how the planet is faring, more or less." Xen sighed. "The planet isn't the problem; its something else. Falo is relatively tame when compared to other death planets." Xen shrugged, and took another gigantic swig from his beverage.

"Then what is? You can tell me, Xen." Jade's concern was touching but Xen only shook his head. "I'm sorry, but I'm just not ready to talk about something like that." He stood up, and his sad smile reflecting his thoughts. "But you'll be finding out soon enough. Everyone who signs up will. And one of the biggest mysteries of the ages will be solved, no less." Xen began walking, mostly to get away from his emotional vulnerability. "I have applicants already filtering in. I'll check them through, but please see to it their trips to Seminol taken care of. We will embark from that space colony once the Starry Night docks there. Give the applicants I forward to you their shuttle ticket reservations and then instructions to make their way to the Hotel Moscow on arrival. Tell them to ask for the Seraphim party, and they will be shown to a room until I am able to speak with them. If they are going to work for me, they will be taken care of while under my employment." Xen paused before he got too far away, looking back to Jade with his face masked in the same sad smile. "And thank you, Jade. Order anything else you like. I need to take a walk." And with that, he took off to see more of the ship and distract himself from the darkness eating away at his very soul.
 
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#5
Zeke Remmington, Destructive robot at large... it had a nice ring to it, though was a bit dated for his taste.

He smiled as he neared the Spaceport, his logic attacks had already crumpled any semblance of defense or offense. His broadcasts of what the government of Murrulk had done both to him and to the civilians was working like a charm. People were actually leaving the planet, as was the only option left to most of them to get away from the force destroying them. He'd already left a moderate trail of destruction on his way here, and now he'd managed to reap such fear that any police or special forces and even civilians simply ran from him now. All attacks against him had ceased, and now he was simply driving along. They had made the wrong move in coming up against him, thinking they could over power and eventually destroy him to develop technology like his for themselves.

Big mistake from a bunch of wealthy idiots. Granted, he'd slipped up himself in order to be found in the first place. And even then the ferocity displayed to obtain him one way or another had been appalling. No regard what-so-ever for the lives around him that might be lost, and had been at first. Zeke couldn't be more grateful for their bogus defense grid protocols. There were planets where he couldn't even hack a coffee machine.

"Just more lives on my hands..." he muttered, his memories of the special forces bursting through the shopping mall walls and crushing people beneath them, just to get at him. They had killed their own people first and without any warning. Now this planet would take years to recover, if ever. The people were better off anyway somewhere other then where their government disregarded them as peons to obtain something. Those innocent civilians had no clue what was going down and now they were gone. Men. Women. Children. This planet had underestimated him and discounted her own people, and now the government was paying dearly.

Zeke sighed as he pulled his bike up to a vacant shuttle. Using his innate robotic abilites, his eyes glimmered slightly as he forced the hold bay doors to open and for a loading ramp to extend down. He was already accessing all of the data for the shuttle. Fuel capacity versus amount of fuel available, star maps, food storages, Universal Positioning Systems, spaceport lockdown protocol overrides, all of it. The fuel was nearly at a quarter amount, enough to get him to one more planet provided he was thrifty about it. And even then, he might have to coast part of the way there. As Zeke managed to make his way to the cockpit, he felt a little weirded out by all the empty passenger seats. These things were never meant to be going out on solitary cruises.

He eventually sat down at one of the cockpit seats, and let his abilities take the helm. The Net was bubbliing with images of a red haired woman with chiseled abs and red eyes attacking militant forces on the planet Murrulk. Zeke smiled faintly as he started pulling at his neck. Little by little, the skin began to peel off, revealing his true flesh beneath. Suddenly he pulled the entirety of the female face and cascading red hair from him, revealing much shorter but still vibrantly red hair and a more decidedly male face. His eyes faded from their mechanically glowing sinister crimson to his more natural green. As a finishing touch, he pulled fake breasts from under his vest and sat them on the next seat rest to watch them jiggle with the vibrations of the ship. He still couldn't believe they'd thought he was a girl. He thought he looked too masculine in his musculature to ever pass as a woman. But, apparently, the rich were not only idiots, but stupid too.

But as the shuttle began to rumble down the runway, he focused again on the Net. Something else was causing a stir as well. Seraphim Industries was hosting... something. Zeke began navigating his way through the complex maze of Net traffic to get to the source of such commotion. Apparently, Net points across the universe were getting linked invitations to join a Seraphim sponsored inspection and salvage operation. As he accessed the invitation itself, he found more information as to the mission details.

"Death planet Falo..." Zeke's cyber lobby began to bring on the hunt for information on the planet. Falo had been a thriving City Planet, meaning that her wilderness was considered to be more of a park and recreation series of zones. It was also a man-made planet. Images of the planet began surfacing, and even Zeke was taken back by the horrible scarring of the planet. Images of the before and after were startling to say the least. Zeke watched the satellite footage of massive reddish orange cracks spreading across its surface, spider-webbing out from sudden glowing indentations on the surface. He watched the clouds fade from white to a sickly yellowish hue, signifying the toxic gases being released into the atmosphere from the exposed mantle. Rolling plains, thick with vibrant plant-life faded from a life-giving green into a dirty muddled brown. Vibrantly blue waters turned into a greyish teal. Very, very few ships fled from the Spaceports. If the gravity bombs had not been defective, then no one would have. Hundreds out of billions survived. And not just humans, but all of the races in the Federation. Time passed rapidly in the footage, recording the seismic magnitudes of the shifting crust. They were alarming, to say the least, and by all means the planet should have broken up or stabilized. But it hadn't. Enter the present day, 500 years later. The imagery hadn't changed much, the magma within the cracks and craters was still terrifyingly visible in some places, and the atmosphere looked like it had tamed somewhat. Green plants were coming back, especially within the old residential areas. The seismic activity on the planet was surprisingly mild in a lot of areas, major portions of several population data heavy hubs were still completely in tact, while others were nothing but overgrown rubble. Power was still running in certain sections as well, given the monitor readings of the planet.

Zeke shoved the images away, and returned his attention to the invitation proper and all its detail, bare-bones as they were. Zeke flexed his arm, knowing surviving in such a place would be child's play. An easy enough job, Zeke was smiling as he responded to the invitation, hailing the colony Endor as his point of origin. Now the trick would be to manage to get there in the next few days to look legitimate.
 
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#6
The moonlight brightened up her room. Vivenne lay on her bed, tears running down her face. She felt useless and stuck, not sure what to do or where to go next. She had her radio blaring music as she cried in the darkness.
The music was interrupted by an ad for an exploration: “Seraphim Industries is looking for a group of people wanting to leave their normal lives, or who are looking for a job opportunity. If that sounds like you, please sign up at our website!”
Vivienne wiped the tears from her eyes and went to the website on her laptop and signed up.
Meanwhile, Jade got an alert of someone that signed up for the job. He scrolled through the application. "Hmm. She seems capable. She's also an Osc, interesting." He sent an email back giving instructions and a digital ticket to board onto a shuttle.
Vivienne waited a few minutes for a reply. She got notified of the reply and instantly packed up her important items and necessities. She walks out her door and makes her way to the location of the shuttle.
 
#7
Ms. Doyle has requested I post this for her, as she's currently locked out by accident to her account. As such, this post was sent to me via-e-mail for this reason. Sorry, mods!


Yuriko did not get much sleep that night. Many thoughts rambled around in her head, fears she dared not bring up in front of her conscious son. While she waited in bed sitting beside her son, she emailed their resumes to the email on the poster. Her son shifted slightly in his sleep, and groaned softly. The android shifted her attention to J, and ran her fingers through his hair. She vowed to give her life to make sure her only real love stayed alive.
The sun shone between the spaces of the smog that drowned the city as the two emptied out of their tiny abode. A large bag hung on both of their backs, and were also at their most cautious, having been drawn into traps in the past.
“Alright. Let’s get to the station and board a shuttle. You know the code to hack them, so have your tablet ready.” Yuriko pulled her hood up and almost instantly, she seemed to disappear. The only clue of her being there was a shadow from what little light there was. J followed suit and began the trek to the shuttle station all the way across the city. J pulled out his hoverboard and activated his cloaking bubble around it once his mother stepped on behind him. She never truly liked that machine, but it was the fastest way.
“Alright mom. Hold on tight.” A small smirk twitched at the corners of his invisible lips and they burst off into the air, leaving a dust cloud behind them. The air traffic in this part of the city was tame, and the ships were easy to avoid. Other citizens often flew around hoverboards in these parts, and a male Arak Miir flew by casually wearing loose dreads in a ponytail his coak flapping in the wind behind him leaving his bare pale chest visible. The gills on his sides opened and closed rapidly, taking in the city air with a struggle.
The traffic soon rapidly increased and they had to begin the bullet hell. J’s body professionally maneuvered the machine in the air, calculating the best routes around the incoming aircraft. A small private machine soon flew in too close and the bubble around them burst, sending them both spiraling to the ground. J grabbed his board and landed skillfully behind a large storage container that was waiting to get filled with goods to be shipped to another planet. People crowded the entrance of the station, going every which way. Yuriko landed behind a large shipment of microchips that was one of Seraphim Industries necessary components for their products. The two snuck behind the building, quietly dodging a couple of guards patrolling the area. The docking area was rather baren of life considering the foot traffic at the entrance.
“Okay, we are looking for a ship that is assigned to Seraphim industries.” J whispered to his mother. Her eyes scanned the area, reading into the owners and sponsors, and found a small private ship lounging next to a few others with Seraphim Industries written in silver on the sides. Yuriko nudged her son to follow her and they both snuck over to the ship with butterflies starting to flutter in their stomachs, removing their hoods. A hand scanner was presented to them and they both looked at each other nervously before Yuriko pressed her hand to the pad. Her scanned fingerprints was essentially her ticket to board, and the door opened quickly for her, a green light shining at the top of the door. As she passed the threshold, the doors closed behind her, showing a red light now. J admired the simplicity of the entrance, and could not wait to get ahold of some of the Seraphim Industries tech. He imitated his mother with a large smile on his face and entered the lounge. It was luxurious and had three seats waiting for them.
“Maybe there is one more,” J inquired as he took a seat closest to the large screen. Yuriko inspected the logistics for any familiar code, but it was all new and highly protected. She was nervous about a third person, but perhaps it would make the trip less grueling.
 
#8
Zeke's devilish smile was bright against the dim metallic hold of the shuttle. The red beauty he was oh so very proud of sat quietly, almost like she was just waiting to roar to life. As if knowing her time to shine was coming quickly. Zeke's eyes glimmered in the darkness as he watched the shuttle's external cameras from his cyber lobby. Endor was looming into view from the starry abyss.

Endor was no planet, but a space colony turned way point in the cosmos. Those who made a life there were always dealing with guests, as Endor was situated near intergalactic traffic routes. It had become something of a shopping center, industrial complex, residential, theme-park, and truck stop, all in one. Only 300 years had passed since its founding, and to behold it today from its humble beginnings was nothing to snub.

Endor-1 as it was officially listed, was a massive space station hovering in the midst of the camera view. The bulk of her flagsteel hull rotated along a central spire, separating the mechanics of artificial gravity from the more civilian aspects. Though it was obvious industry had its sway everywhere; Zeke could see the thick smog blanketing portions of the many zones of the colony, even from a distance. They were like thick, grey fog clouds roiling around the industrial complexes and all of the surrounding areas. Attached to the underside of the massive rings were several collected asteroids, each housing its own gravity generaton and impressively large themselves, but minuscule compared to the sheer size of the colony proper. Many of these were docks for the various craft that came to port that were simply too awkward or too large to accommodate readily at the space port proper.

Zeke revved the bike up, and pressed a button on a touch panel on the bike near the digitally rendered speedometer. Instantly the tire treads on his bike began to glow an iridescent blue. He knew the time to bail was coming. As the shuttle burst into the shields keeping the atmosphere in, the shuttle trembled violently. and was suddenly travelling much more slowly. As he'd predicted, the shuttle would crash in a sparsely populated area. Zeke adjusted the shuttle as best as he could, though burning through an atmosphere at completely wrong angles had crippled it. He started erasing all flight data, and then furthermore scrambling all systems, while retaining control. How the shuttle had gotten here would be a complete mystery. Watching the news on this colony would be entertaining later.

He readied the bike, gripping the throttle tightly. If he didn't time this properly, he'd be burning along with the ship or worse yet, discovered again because he was picked up on monitoring scanners while bailing. He needed to do this under a mere 200 feet above the surface, where monitoring scanners were generally useless.

"Steady, steady... NOW!" He gunned the bike forward as the bay door suddenly dropped pressure and completely blew away. Zeke was suddenly a hundred feet in the air and hurtling towards the sculpted 'wilderness' park. He floored the thruster boosts, slowing his decent nearly completely. The shuttle sailed behind him directly into a lake, as he had hoped. There was a wicked, gut-wrenching noise as the shuttle collided with the surface of the water. Zeke watched it sink beneath the waters as his bike drifted lazily down to hover above the paved road adjacent to the lake. With a sigh of relief, he gunned the engines again and shot off toward the spaceport.

His trip was uneventful til he got into populated limits of the spaceport. It was a madhouse in traffic, and he was somewhat confused by all of the traffic. He really hadn't expected this on a colony. However, as he was surveying all of the incoming and outgoing signals, he felt another peculiar code. It was a small glimmer in the sea of data, but it was there, and it was directly behind him. It seemed to be invisible, though with his eyes, he could easily see it was an optical camouflage trick with a cloak of some kind. But it was moving with him, shadowing his movements. And it wasn't the cloaking bubble attracting his attention, but the someone using it.

That code.... That... person.... wasn't human. They were like him. But not. Zeke began feeling a burning sensation in his cheeks as he began to suspect he was already discovered. He couldn't make a scene now with his face uncovered, nor had these people around him ever offended him in the multiple times he'd been here. He'd always enjoyed Endor.

Zeke slowed his bike, allowing it to drift down towards some grounded parking spaces, and began to look at UPS navigation maps, and the cloaked figures hovered on ahead, though seemingly at a slower pace now, waiting for him to decide if he was continuing along.

But it was that code. Something was not right about that code. A counterfeit ZX-04 was in his midst, and it had been tailing him. Zeke suddenly gunned the engine, whipping past the two and sending them to the ground. He gunned it again, and this time sped off to lose his potential tail. On finally arriving at the Spaceport, he smiled as he informed some airport robots that came to inspect his presence that he was here for the Seraphim shuttle. The droids bowed their heads and directed him around to the other side of the port terminal. As he pulled up, a man presented him with a hand scanner, and Zeke smiled, placing his on the presented tablet. After a check light flashed, he was instructed to pull his bike up next to the shuttle, and the hold would be opened for him. Obliging, he slowly drove into the rather ornate hold. It housed several crates and many tarped bundles.

And suddenly, that very same code he'd sensed earlier was nearby again. and was mere feet from him, moving from the side of the shuttle to just above him.

This settled it. This was no coincidence.
 

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