Earth, 2001. D-Day
The tour guide’s voice was sharp, cutting through the muffled silence like a knife through butter. Tíl Sarcoph trailed behind the rest of her eighth grade class, dragging her feet, hands stuffed deep into her jeans pockets. The trip to the Art Museum was a required expedition for all eighth graders, and not one that Tíl appreciated. She was bored out of her mind, and they had only been there for an hour.
‘Should have played sick today………’ she thought dully. All of the paintings looked the same to her, and she really didn’t care which artist had done them. Art was not one of her passions, that was for sure. Not that she had any passions to speak of. Computers made no sense, she couldn’t write a good story for the life of her, music was boring and sports required too much energy and commitment. Her parents had tried everything to get her interested in something, but she brushed off the attempts as one would brush away a particularly bothersome insect. Tíl didn’t like people, either. They were annoying, loud, troublesome and intrusive. She much preferred solitude to the company of others.
“Well, this is loads of fun.” She muttered. Usually she despised sarcasm, but today she was making an exception. She sensed someone coming up behind her, and she glanced over her shoulder. A short, pretty woman was standing directly behind her.
“Can I help you?” she asked in annoyance.
“Tíl Sarcoph?” asked the woman, her voice heavily accented.
“Yeeessss.” Tíl drawled.
“I have…how you say…a message? Note?”
“For me?” Tíl arched an eyebrow.
“Is right. The man wants to speak to you. I tell him I find you.”
“Well, now you’ve found me.” Sighed Tíl. “What message, and from what man?”
“I’ll take it from here.” A smooth, masculine voice from off to her right startled Tíl. Spinning, she saw a tall, well-built man in his early thirties, with short red hair and dark glasses.
“Who are you and what do you want?” demanded Tíl.
“My name is Jacque Roland, and I need your help.”
“He doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing,” Shard stated in disgust, staring through the mini camera directed at Jacque Roland and the girl.
“He knows exactly what he’s doing,” Ángel Rep stated firmly. “If he didn’t, I wouldn’t have sent him.”
“Ok,” Tamric cut in. “I know I wasn’t here when you guys decided to pull this kid, but honestly, why her?! And why from a backwater little planet like Mars?”
“First of all, we chose her because she is one of the least likely to be missed,” said Ángel.
“And secondly,” Jameson Richards called, strolling out onto the bridge of the Obsidian Fire, “Don’t insult Mars. I grew up there, you know.”
“I don’t believe this!” Shard glared at the screen displaying Roland and the girl. “Now he’s doing the whole ‘secret agent’ thing! That went out a long time ago.” The thirteen-year-old pounded her head back against her chair.
“He’s not actually doing ‘secret agent’, right?” asked Tamric, moving across the bridge to look over Shard’s shoulder.
“You’d better believe it,” The black-haired girl snorted. “Somewhere between James Bond and Men In Black.”
“Who?” Jameson looked confused.
“Twentieth century pop-culture.” Called Tamric. The two youngest members of the Fire’s ragtag crew, Shard being thirteen and Tamric twenty, the two had been very quick to bond. Soon, they had started to rub off on each other, Tamric becoming extremely interested in computer programming (something which Shard was quite good at), and Shard becoming fascinated with history (one of Tamric’s loves). Whenever they were faced with a situation that was in the least strange, you could be sure that one of the two would come up with some kind of historical reference. While meaning absolutely nothing to the other four members of the crew, the random jokes seemed to keep the mood light during otherwise dire situations.
“How is Xyalõr coming along with the time-machine?” asked Shard of Jameson.
“The Trans-Dimensional Temporal Operator is coming along quite well,” Jameson replied, leaning on the arm of Ángel’s Captain’s chair. “He said that he would be done within the hour.”
“Well that’s all well and good, but it’s going to take a lot longer than an hour to get this kid integrated into our lifestyle,” observed Tamric.
“That’s fine,” Ángel said. “We still have to get to the Carath system before we can begin the experiment anyway.”
“Why the Carath system, Fearless Leader?” asked Tamric.
“Because she never got this whole thing legalized,” Shard responded before Ángel had the chance. “The Carath system hasn’t been under alliance control for years. It’s safe there.”
“Damn telepaths,” Muttered Ángel under her breath.
Shard glanced up, mock hurt on her blue-skinned face. “You wound me!”
“I’m sure I’ve deeply damaged your self esteem.” Ángel rolled her eyes.
“They’re coming back,” Tamric announced suddenly.
“Everybody be nice to the new kid,” Shard sang. She fell silent very quickly when she saw the death glares directed at her.
“Prepare to open the shuttlebay,” Jameson called from his position at communication/sensors.
“Confirmed,” came Tamric’s response from control.
“Shuttle docking now,” Jameson informed the rest of the crew.
“Closing bay doors,” Tamric said.
“…And they’re onboard.” Shard finished the ritual docking dialogue from her place at the security/weapons station.
“Well,” Ángel said, rising from her seat. “Let’s go greet the guest.” She walked towards the doors, but glanced over her shoulder. “And everybody, be nice to the new kid, please?”
Earth 2001. D-Day
‘This is the stupidest thing I have ever done in my entire life,’ Tíl thought to herself as Jacque piloted the shuttle up to the small ship. It was painted black, with silver streaks shooting randomly through the otherwise plain exterior. Though the paintjob was definitely Hexary, the ship itself was decidedly Talosion, long, narrow and very lethal looking. Perfect for intimidation.
“So…now can I ask where you’re taking me?” she asked dryly.
“This is the Obsidian Fire. One of the fastest ships in the galaxy,” Jacque proclaimed proudly, maneuvering the shuttle into the small docking bay.
“Suuurrreeee it is…” Tíl rolled her eyes, and began unstrapping herself from the seat she had been occupying for the duration of the short flight up. “Let me guess, you’re the captain and you are off to rescue a princess from evil Storm Troopers. Where’s your little friend with all the fur?”
Jacque stared blankly at her for a long moment. “I have *no* idea what you’re talking about,” he informed her. “Come on, I see we have a welcoming committee. Tíl followed him out of the shuttle, and stared in mild shock at the group standing to greet them. In front was a tall Human woman, with short cut black hair, pale skin and bright blue eyes. She wore a tight black and green outfit, the shirt nothing more then mesh, which showed off all of her assets *very* well. To her right stood a roguish man, slightly taller than the woman, with dark brown hair, tanned skin and dancing green eyes. He was dressed casually, but one could see that he was very well groomed, even though he gave the impression that he could care less about his appearance. On the woman’s left stood a Hexary, with wide black eyes and shoulder length gray hair. His shoulders were held in the permanent slouch that all Hexary seemed to wear, however his clothing was surprisingly non-Hexary. Instead of the usual large, billowing garment of gray and white worn by all Hexary she had ever met, this man sported loose pants, a tight blue tee shirt and a black jacket.
Behind the three, stood another Human and a Talosion. The Talosion was no older than Tíl herself, however she looked much more experienced, and the normal youthful sparkle that stuck in most teens eyes was lacking in her red irises. She wore a black tank top, tight black pants and a strange piece of Talosion jewelry made out of a long strand of gold wire that crisscrossed around her neck, each end neatly twisted into the piercings at the top of each ear. Right beside her, a short young human, with mud brown hair, sparkling green eyes and a brightly colored tee shirt and shorts stood, bouncing a data cube in his palm.
“Ooo, look who’s home! We missed you ever so much, and we’re so glad you brought your little friend, too!” the young man crowed.
“Shut up, Tamric,” the woman in front said without even glancing back at him. He stuck out his tongue at her back.
“This is Tíl Sarcoph,” Jacque introduced her.
“No, really?” the Talosion shot back dryly.”
“Shut up, Shard,” the woman in front said dully.
“Tíl, this is the crew of the Obsidian Fire,” Jacque continued. “This is Captain Ángel Rep, Engineer Xyalõr, Science Officer Jameson Richards, Computer technician Shard Çðid, and communications officer Tamric Thorian.”
“…And those titles mean absolutely *nothing* in the daily running of this ship, by the way,” Shard cut in cheerfully.
“Yeah, I don’t think Shard could decode a Lumne freighter’s computer,” Tamric smirked.
“Yeah, and we’re just showing Tamric where the communications panel is,” Shard responded, punching the young man in the arm.
“Both of you shut up, please?” Ángel sighed. Turning to Tíl, the Captain smiled warmly. “Welcome aboard the Fire, Miss Sarcoph. I hope your stay here will be an enjoyable one.”
“Woe…hang on one minute! Who said anything about me staying here? As a matter of fact, I’d kind of like to go back to the surface now…”
“I am truly sorry, but we need your help,” the captain said gently. “Please try to understand, you’re very special, Tíl.”
“How! Cute!” Tamric grinned.
Shard put a hand to her chest. “I’m…dying…too…much…sugar…”
“Shut up, Shard, Tamric,” Xyalõr said. Tíl noted that he didn’t slur his words like most Hexary, but instead spoke in a low, quick voice, with no hint of an accent. The Talosion, Shard they called her, had a light accent, but not enough of one to impair her speech in any way.
“It’s a pleasure to have you on board,” said Jameson Richards in a smooth, cultured tone, extending a hand. She glared at him.
“Look, I just wanna go home, ok?!” she could feel the beginnings of panic rising up in her.
“Just calm down, please,” Jacque pleaded, resting a hand on her shoulder. She brushed him off angrily.
“No! I’m not coming with you! Just let me go!” she lashed out at the nearest person, which happened to be Xyalõr. The Hexary darted out of the way agilely, not looking at all bothered by her violent display.
“I knew this would happen,” Shard commented to Tamric, moving back with him to watch the action from a safe distance. Tíl glared at them both. Shard smirked back, and Tamric tossed her an apologetic glance. And that was when Tíl felt the needle at the back of her neck, and everything went black.
Earth, 2001. D-Day
“She’s never going to work with us!” Tamric exclaimed in frustration, staring at Ángel across the table.
“She has to,” Xyalõr replied, resting his chin on his folded hands.
“Well, that’s a wonderful sentiment,” Shard retorted, “But it’s not going to happen.”
“I say we send her back to the surface,” Jacque said quietly. “It’s not fair just pulling her out of everything she knows into our kind of life for some crazy trip into the past and the future that probably won’t even work.”
“News flash,” Shard shot back. “Life isn’t fair! The question isn’t if she likes it or not, it’s if she’ll even do it or not.”
“I’m voting not,” Tamric said immediately.
“Yeah, Tam, You’ve made your position *very* clear,” Ángel sighed.
“Then maybe you should listen to it!” Shard snapped at the captain. “He’s exactly right, but your too deep into your little dilutions of grandeur and saving the universe to notice or accept that, aren’t you?”
“We don’t have a choice!” Ángel exclaimed in frustration.
“There is always a choice,” Xyalõr said reasonably. Ángel spun on him.
“I thought you were on my side?!” she demanded, looking hurt.
“I am, I am,” he said soothingly. “I’m just saying—“
“I don’t care what you’re saying, I’m saying it’s not going to work!” Tamric exploded.
“Well we *know* that,” Shard sighed. “The question is whether or not we’re still going to try!”
“And we are going to try, and we are going to succeed!” Ángel cried.
“If everything works out, then we’ll definitely succeed,” Xyalõr agreed.
“Can’t we find someone else with Tíl’s gift?” Jacque asked hopefully. “I mean, she’s just a kid!”
Shard arched an eyebrow. “Oh, is that how you think of me, too?” she challenged the Martian.
He rolled his eyes. “Gods, no, you’re Talosion. All Talosions are—“
“We *know* what your opinion of Talosions is, Jacque,” Ángel cut him off. “That’s not the issue here.”
“Her family will definitely be looking for her,” Jacque tried again.
“Not our problem,” Shard said impatiently. “The question remains, will? She? Do? It?!!!!!”
“I seriously doubt it!” Tamric said.
“We’re going around in circles,” Jameson spoke for the first time, “Now, why don’t we ask her?”
"Because she’s unconscious, you idiot,” Shard retorted. Jameson sighed.
“Then, I suggest we wait until she’s awake. Until then, I think it’d be a good idea for everyone to just relax for a while, ok?”
The whole group looked at him. “Rest?” Shard demanded.
“And do what?” Tamric added.
“There’s nothing to do until we find out if she’s going to cooperate!” Jacque objected.
“He’s right,” Ángel sighed, holding up a hand for silence. “We’re just going around in circles talking this over. Everyone just go take a break for a little while until our guest wakes up, alright?”
“Of course you agree with him,” Shard said dryly. “You’re s…” Xyalõr covered her mouth, and pulled her out with him. The rest of the crew followed, leaving Jameson and Ángel alone.
“So, do you think she’ll cooperate?” the Captain asked.
Jameson shrugged noncommittally. “Who knows, Ange, who knows?”
“We were right,” Shard muttered to Tamric as they sat in the small galley eating a rich chocolate cake that Shard had slipped down to Mars to buy while Ángel was asleep.
“Mfermf,” responded Tamric through a mouthful.
“I’ve seen people like her before,” Shard continued, taking a gulp of her Kilma juice. “They don’t care about anything. They have no enthusiasm for life, and they don’t go out of their way to help people.”
Tamric nodded. “And somehow, I don’t think the fact that we practically kidnapped her will add to her interest in helping us.”
Licking some of the creamy icing off her fingers, Shard nodded her agreement. “I think…” Just then, a blinking red light flickered into action on a panel near the door, and a siren blasted throughout the entire ship. The voice of the computer intoned…
“Warning. Authority shuttle approaching! Warning. Authority shuttle approaching!”
Shard laughed, but it was tense and strained. “You do realize how pathetic it is that we’ve got alerts telling us when the cops fly by?”
Tamric shrugged, ceiling the cake container and starting towards the door. “Well, whatever keeps our hides out of the slammer is fine with me.”
Shard followed him out of the room, and down the short corridor to the ladder leading to the bridge. While Tamric scrambled down it rung by rung, Shard merely tucked her chin against her chest, bent her knees and flipped over his head, landing on the deck below long before he did.
“Show off,” he muttered when his feet touched the metal plating.
She shrugged. “Nothing wrong with using a skill if you have it, is there?”
He rolled his eyes.
“So, what’s up?” asked Tamric of Ángel.
“Hopefully nothing,” she responded, studying her monitor. “It looks like a regular sort of check, I think their just talking to random people to see if there’s any drunk flyers.”
“The chances they’ll pick us are minimal, to say the least,” Xyalõr said.
“Good,” Jameson said. “After the Caltak run, I don’t think it’s safe for any of us to be seen by the cops.”
“Thank Gods we didn’t use the Fire for that,” Ángel added, “Or we’d all be dead meat.”
“I think we already are,” said Shard suddenly, looking numb.
“No!” Ángel exclaimed! “You are *not* implying what I think you’re implying?!”
“Yep,” Shard said slowly. “We’re being hailed by the police shuttle…They want full visual communication…”