Be sure to read Anxiety 1 before continuing!
Back on Safeharbor - The Archives"Prove it," the archivist said. Invicta stopped just before reaching the door. She hid a smile as she replied, "Excuse me?" "Prove to me that Caydie is alive. How do you know?" She reached into a pouch at her side and pulled out a small data vault. She held it out, making her way back to the center of the room. The archivist took it without hesitation. He scanned its contents, tapping into the device. It was unlike him to hope for so much despite how impossible the truth may be. He found a message and casted the feed from a nearby projector onto the far wall. Caydie's face appeared. She was crying, and likely had been for some time. "My name is Caydie Meredith Kines and this is my…" she paused, her eyes breaking from the camera as she sighed, "tenth attempt to send out a message. I'm running out of food. I'm running out of supplies." She let out a whimper, burying her face in her hands. "I don't want to die out here." She sniffled before raising her head, moments away from uncontrollable sobs, "Dad, Lorne, I'm so sorry." The archivist stared in shock, pausing the message. "Yes?" Invicta asked. "That girl needs help." He replied. Invicta crossed her arms. "Yeah? Damn, I didn't realize." "Deirdre, please." "I'm sorry. What?" She said, the smile clearly heard in her voice. "Are you asking for my help?" "No, I…" the archivist paused and looked to the image of Caydie on the far wall, "Yes. Yes I am." "Then put your processing power to better use," She said, pointing to the data vault. "In that vault is all the data we've collected. She'd be nowhere near where the message originated. We need to narrow down our search. Space is kind of big, and we don't have access to the wayfarer zodiacs." The archivist stood silent for several moments. The task was far from simple. By measuring the trajectory of the vessel in relation to where Caydie's ship was destroyed, one could infer which direction the vessel was going. Referencing the star charts provided by the wayfarers could fill in the blanks. It was a long shot, to be sure. Invicta knew there was no way to determine how old the message was. For all they knew, Caydie could be dead already. The archivist sent his calculations to the data vault, and scoffed. "You intended to help whether I asked or not. This was the goal all along?" Invicta laughed and nodded. "It's the least I could do for an old friend. Couldn't help but knock you down a peg. Sometimes I wonder if the reason you never leave this place is cause that ego of yours can't fit through the door." The archivist shook his head. "This doesn't change anything. I can't forgive, nor forget what you've done." "And not once did I ever ask you to." She replied, turning and making her way out of the archive. "I'll be in touch."
Space - Three days later
Invicta sat in her quarters, slipping into her suit as the chlorine gas surrounded her. They found the ship drifting in empty space, a hole indicated someone boarded it. It didn't take long to narrow down a list of those willing to board a plague ship. With no human body on board, Invicta assumed someone took Caydie with them. After referencing the data given by the archivist, they located a space station in a nearby system, the closest signs of life from where the ship was found. A man stood behind her listening to every order as she spoke. "Raise colors. We can't have them knowing who we are. Have a shuttle prepped, one we can afford to lose. The girl needs a ride home after all." "Understood captain. We're nearing the station now." He replied. "Good." She said as she held out her arm. A black mass writhed from her bunk, a ball of tendrils latching onto her arm. Gibraltar lifted itself up and nestled into a hole in the suit, a single tentacle writhing out of the hole to make a seal. "Keep an eye on the horizon. We dont want any unwelcome guests." She turned around and followed the winding hall of the ship to the CIC. When she entered, the crew immediately turned and acknowledged her presence. "Have they hailed us yet?" Invicta asked. "No, captain." A woman said, her eyes scanning the screen before her. "Well, let's say hello, then." Within moments, Invicta heard the twisted speech pour from the speaker of the communications panel, her translator struggling to identify the right dialect. "Unidentified vessel. This is station 65837. State your intent, or be fired upon." Invicta turned to the officer at her side. "Did you set up a transponder? What name are we using?" "We pulled one off a ship we boarded a few weeks ago, The KIC Tilmith." Invicta nodded and replied, "Station 65837, this is The KIC Tilmith. We have some goods to trade and could use fuel." "Stand by," the voice said. After a brief silence, the voice spoke again, "Unidentified vessel, your ship reads as human in origin, is this correct? The KIC Tilmith is not a human vessel and was destroyed according to our records." Invicta signed and turned to the voice of an officer on the other side of the CIC, "Readings indicate the station has primed weapons." "Now see here," Invicta said, her voice low. "This is The Sea of Names. Stand down, or we will open fire. Our business is our own. Don't worry, we aren't here for you." "Sea of Names, I ask again, you are a human vessel, correct?" Invicta stuttered in reply, "I… what?" "We're requesting medical aid. We have a human aboard and lack the expertise to handle the situation. Is a medical officer present in your crew?" Invicta narrowed her eyes, unsure if it was a trick. "Yes, permission to dock with an on board shuttle." "Granted. When on board proceed directly to medical bay 5. You're cleared to make contact at dock 12." Invicta turned away and rushed to the hangar where a shuttle was already prepared for launch. She pondered the possibilities as she boarded the station. She followed the signs to medical bay five, and stepped into the waiting room. The eyes watched her in fear, unaware of who or what she was. She followed a nurse and when she stepped into the operating room, she let out a sigh of relief. A man sat in a chair on the far side of the room while Caydie laid unconscious on the table. She didn't make the connection until she saw Caydie. Her pale skin and gasping breaths confirmed it. "Evening," Invicta said as she reached into one of several containers on her suit. "I'll be looking after our friend here." He glared at her as she pulled a syringe from the container and stepped forward. "Let's have a look." She injected the solution into Caydie's arm, a general antitoxin of her own design. She took a scalpel from a counter nearby and wasted little time. She lifted Caydie's shirt, sprayed a disinfectant on the area, and made her first incision. She folded the layers of skin back and laughed. "Those bastards." "What is it?" The man asked. Invicta reached in, cutting away the grafted tissue and removing a metal device from the gaping wound. "Our friend was a prisoner on a siliue ship. They have a habit of implanting a kill agent." "Why?" "Leave the ship's proximity, and the device injects a deadly poison into the bloodstream. Wasn't expecting that, but I always come prepared." Invicta turned to the nurse who watched in horror. "You don't have any kind of scanner on board? What kind of station is this?" She turned back to Caydie's body and proceeded to close the wound. She folded the skin back, retrieved a small metal tube, and pressed a button on the end of the tube. A clear gel emerged, placed along the incision where the folds of skin met. Within moments, the gel dried, sealing the wound. "Done," Invicta said. "It will take a few days for her to be back to normal. How long has she been like this?" The nurse replied, "We stabilized her a few weeks ago, but couldn't do much more than keep her alive." She gave a sigh, "Our equipment is outdated and it breaks constantly. The scanner has been out for months. We couldn't even figure out what was killing her." Invicta nodded and turned to the man. "What's your name." "Mute. I already know who you are." He replied. "Is that so?" She asked. A voice interrupted, coming from the speaker in Invicta's helmet. "Captain." Invicta felt a sudden panic. He sounded scared. "What's wrong?" "They're here. They tracked us down. We're reading black sails." Invicta felt her body tense up. It was a struggle just to move. How did they find us? She thought. She replied with urgency, every word spoken clearly and in haste, "Prepare to escort the shuttle out of the system. If the station gives you grief, send a pulse and knockout the power. We don't have time to dance around protocol and everyone's dead anyway." She turned to Mute, "Can you carry her?" "To where?" He replied, lifting Caydie and following Invicta out of the room. Invicta pushed the nurse out of the way, drawing her pistol. "To my shuttle." "Why should I trust you?" He asked. "No idea, but you're dead if you don't." "What about my things?" He asked. Invicta shook her head, "No time." They rushed down the corridors and when they reached the shuttle, the doors opened to welcome them inside. Invicta began hauling large steel canisters out and onto the station. "What's going on?" Mute asked, setting Caydie down on the floor of the shuttle. Invicta didn't respond, her mind focused on the task at hand. "Is something coming?" He asked. "Yes," she said, not bothering to look up. "What is it? Do you need help?" "Offering aid to humanity's greatest enemy?" Invicta said. She gave a laugh. "That's a rare blessing indeed." "I really don't want to die, is all. Don't care much for your wellbeing. I grew up hearing about what you did." Invicta smiled as she counted the canisters. When satisfied, she stepped into the shuttle and grabbed a rifle leaning against the pilot's chair, and stepped out of the shuttle. "You grew up here, right. You've never stepped foot on another world, have you?" "No." He replied. She spoke again after verifying the amount of ammunition she brought, "They told us not to go, you know. We had a choice. I'm sure you heard the stories, the countless theories of how we lost our home. The earth was special. We didn't realize it until it was far too late." She sat on a canister, taking a deep, shaky breath. "And there it was: the moment they all warned us about. The earth died. She left her children without a home, forever drifting in the void between." She pointed to the stars outside the cockpit window of the shuttle. "Welcome to a world of tragic wonder, a world where calls of distress are met with nothing, but silence." She shook her head and laughed. "Sure humanity found a new home, but for many years, humans felt a nagging pain. With every stunning vista came a realization." She stopped to tap against the visor in her helmet. "We'd never experience it, but through a pane of glass." She stood up and pried the lid off the first canister. Green fog burst from the opening, filling the space with chlorine gas. Mute backed away, but the gas never entered the shuttle. Invicta spoke as she opened another, her eyes fixed on the vents as they carried the deadly vapor throughout the station, "We would never know the feeling of alien grass between our fingers. We'd never know what it is to kiss in the rain of more exotic skies. Humanity aches, a romantic vision of a pathetic species." She turned to mute and noticed his lowered brow, the frown he tried to hide as he came to understand her words. "Don't worry. It's not all bad. We found our way. We may be lost, but we're not alone. There are others out here. There are so many others." Invicta tilted her head as she continued, "course, you already know about that, don't you. They don't treat you well here." She leaned forward when he nodded. "I can fix that. I can get you out. We earthborn have a couple tricks up our sleeves. I can't go with you though. It's just you." She pointed to the shuttle. "That ship is earth tech, some of the last still around. Take it." He opened his mouth to speak, and she held out her hand, "Just take it. Don't worry about me. Don't worry about whether or not you can fly it. It knows exactly where to go." Mute nodded and Invicta raised her voice, "You'll see me again. I'll be sure to meet you when you reach safe harbor." Mute pressed a red button on the wall of the shuttle and doors started to close. "What's coming? You're terrified. I can tell. What's with the gas? What is it we're running from right now?" Invicta thought a moment before answering,"We broke into heaven and took everything that wasn't nailed down. You know how that ended." "Yes, and?" Invicta smiled, positioning the canisters in front of her and crouching behind them for cover. "You're running from the ones who broke into hell."