A few months after Charles’ passing, Raize and Zhair are in a slump. Their funds are low and their spirits lower. They trade in small goods and make port in small outlying communities or in unpopulated areas so as to avoid docking fees. Raize has spent most of his time in the hangar, working on the strike craft that have sat idle for some time or otherwise going through the motions. Zhair, seeing that the two are in need of some excitement and funding, finds a job posting from a Shen official regarding mercenary work attacking a “rogue enemy of the state.” After convincing Raize to take the job, the pair head into battle alongside several other small mercenary companies to bring down this enemy…
“…Remind me again, Zhair, why we took this job?!” Raize called out from the Lunar Crater’s commlink while swerving between stray shots from the bogey on his tail. A moment later, the shots stopped, and Raize detected a rapidly-dissipating energy signature from behind. The bogey was gone.
“It pays well and the Shen will owe us a favor. And besides, this is FUN !” Zhair enthusiastically responded from the seat of the Stellar Skimmer, which passed by from behind Raize’s ship with two more fighters giving chase. Raize locked on to one of them and fired, hitting their starboard thruster. The fighter broke off to retreat back to its frigate.
Fun, he says…he’s not the one sitting on the payload. And why do the Shen want us to attack another Shen ship? Can’t they handle their problems on their own?
Raize began to guide his bomber in line with the carrier and prepped to launch the payload into the hangar bay now opening to receive the damaged fighter…
“Wait for it, wait for it,” came Zhair’s voice through the commlink. “Just like in simulations, bro.”
“Yeah, just like in sims. Except for the fact that I didn’t have enemy fire coming at me!” thought Raize.
Over the commlink back at Zhair, “This is gonna be tight.”
His bomber, practically on a collision course with the Shen frigate, was trying fast to enter into the field of frigate’s defense systems following the ‘invisible’ trail from the injured ship. was completely foreign to Raize, but he had learned prior to this mission about the pherochemical trails. Every Shen ship excreted a pherochem trail, which allowed their ships to recognize friend from foe. Raize knew it dissipates quickly, so he was pushing his craft to ride the trail for as long as he could to get close enough to release the ‘payload’ his contractors had loaded into the launch bay behind him. He needed to release it inside the defense field, thus allowing it to not be destroyed by the Shen’s point defense system, which many experts believed teeters on near precognition.
“Ten seconds to payload launch.” Said the synthetic woman’s voice that Raize had installed to represent his onboard computer, which he had named YULIA.
“We have more fighters converging on our position, Raize.” Zhair warned over the comm. Just at that moment 3 blips appeared on Raize’s nav window.
“I see them.” Raize replied, trying to stay cool in front of his adopted brother.
“Just hold your course and stick to the mission…I’ll handle them!”
Raize knew Zhair was a decent pilot; but he also knew he was no Charles. A stray thought flitted through his mind, “Will he be okay? Should I break off and help?” he almost broke course.
“No! Like Zhair said, ‘stick to the mission’. I need to trust him; it’s what Charles would have done.”
Suddenly, a red relay light flipped on in Raize’s cockpit! “What the #@%$!? Why is the payload-release error light on? Not now!”
He quickly hit the auto-pilot, unclicked his harness, and exploded through the hatch behind his seat leading to the payload bay…he had seconds to fix the problem. It was a good thing Raize worked well Under the Pressure of a Possibly-Imminent Reactor Meltdown. But, he was pretty sure this was no reactor meltdown…at least 93.2% sure… this time.
To his suprise upon entering the payload bay, the torpedo payload was no longer in its cradle like it should be. The whole torpedo was disconnected, and at a jaunted angle to the harness.
Raize immediately heard and saw the sparks spewing from the robotic clamps that had been holding the hull of the torpedo. These robotic arms had been clearly damaged. Furthermore, it appeared like the torpedo was no longer in an aerodynamic shape that it was when Raize and Zhair had allowed the Shen to load it. It looked like the top was…open, like a pressurized can exploded in one direction. An ozone smell from the arcing wires filled Raize’s nose. Smoke from the damaged wires and hydraulic lines was accumulating in the corner of the payload bay. Something large was in the smoke.
It emerged. Raize saw a large Shen stumble into the light. It looked pale and dazed. It saw Raize, and spoke weakly.
“Habu…wedu’i Ayo?” Though this was the first time Raize had heard an actual Shen say it, he caught the question: “Where…am I?”
Nawahune’s Aspect: Lone Man in the Garden of Eden
“YULIA, Abort launch! Return to the Mirror!” The words came out of Raize’s mouth before he could fully comprehend the plan that had sprung to mind.
While YULIA announced compliance overhead, Raize quickly motioned to the Shen before him and asked tersely, “My name is Raize. Are you okay?” A slow nod was all the answer Raize needed before he sprung back to his cockpit, vaulting into the seat and grabbing the controls. He popped on the commlink to Zhair. “Change in plans, bro. Return to the ship. The Shen tricked us, and now I need to pay them in kind.”
“What?! What happened, Raize? All we had to do was fire the torpedo into the ship and we’d get paid big! We could even have gotten some upgrades with all that cash!”
“Get back to the hangar and I’ll explain there. And trust me, we’ll still deliver on the terms of the contract, if not quite as our employers intended.”
Zhair pulled into the hangar bay to his waiting brother and a Shen he didn’t recognize from the contact meeting or the loading crew. Raize filled him in on what had transpired in the launch bay of the Crater and his discovery of what — or rather, who — was in the torpedo. Zhair let out a long, mid-octave whistle at the end of this revelation. He then asked, “Okay, but then what are we going to do about the job? I mean, I know we can’t just shoot this missile loaded with her at them, that’d most likely kill her.”
At this point, the Shen spoke up. “Him. I am male. My name is Nawahune Bengwe, and I believe I have a solution to your problem.”
Zhair stuck his hand up at the elbow, “I’m Zhair. And sorry, I thought most Shen were a bit of both.”
“Most are. I am not.”
Raize meanwhile, was busy working at reattaching the Shen torpedo he was lowering from the Crater’s launcher. “Now that the introductions are done, you said you had an answer to this problem?”
“Indeed I did. As you informed me while waiting for your kin, the point of your mission was to launch that missile beyond the point-defense systems of the and it would detonate once inside, damaging or destroying the vessel…and myself as well, I suppose.”
“I propose the following solution: load the missile with your own munitions and we can reseal it. I will use my knowledge of pherochemical symbiotecture to synthesize a suitable mimic which we can coat your ship and the missile with so that you may safely pass through the point-defenses and launch the modified payload into the ship. Then you simply return to your ship and collect your bounty.”
“How long would it take for you to craft something like that, and what kind of resources are we looking for? I don’t think we have a whole lot at your disposal.”
“Leave that up to me, and I assure you it will be completed by the time you have the repairs and modifications complete. Now, then if you would lead me Zhair, I will begin.”
Sure enough, by the time Raize got the torpedo resealed, Nawahune came back with Zhair in tow, carrying a case full of vials of fluid which Raize could only think to describe as ‘green and smelling like a filthy fish tank’. While Raize could feel his face contorting, Nawahune remarked, “Be glad you can’t smell it in space. Also, you will need a new cooling chest.”
The mission ran almost impossibly smoothly once the Crater was coated in the false pherochems. The Shen were impressed at the success of Raize and Zhair where so many other mercenaries had failed during the mission. They did comment that the damage of the missile did seem to be higher than they had calculated, but Raize quickly brushed it off as him “getting lucky and striking a critical point”.