October 25, 2013

On the surface, there was little to distinguish the ship from the ones docked to her right and left. They might practically all vary in make and model, something commonly seen in the temporary docking of larger stations, but they all had sturdy metal hulls, most of them with some blemishes after close encounters with this or that free-floating desbris. None of the ships in this section were flashy, high-ticket rigs; anyone who had the money and the inclination to spend it on impressing people would pay extra for a better docking spot.

A casual visitor invited into the ship might start to realize that she was something else, led to that conclusion by glimpses of transparent tubes, filled with softly glowing liquid, organically-shaped capillaries joining and forming veins, converging into larger vessels as they approached the ship’s heart. But a casual visitor wouldn’t be invited to the bridge, this most vulnerable section of the deceptively-normal-looking ship.

Her crew knew her for what she was, and even among them, only a select few truly knew her. She wasn’t simply circuitry and metal, this ship, transcending the state of being a simple machine not as the advanced AI systems installed in top-of-the-line vessels did, but like those fitted with prostethics after violence or ill fortune had taken their flesh. Yet this, too, was a superficial resemblance, for they had been born flesh and blood. She was their opposite, a machine that had been given life, rather than flesh and soul that had been given new, mechanical strength.

A man approached the docked ship with the hidden secret, Captain’s insignia on his jacket, a quickly-schooled smirk playing with one corner of his mouth. A hatch sighed open, and he stepped inside, the smirk returning as the hatch closed behind him and his features blurred, the uniform becoming ill-fitting as his body changed. A faint line glowed in the floor, and, pulling out a small, concealed pulse stunner, the intruder followed it.

Laughter bubbled, bright as a child’s, through the ship’s strange tubing, as the stranger followed the line marking an emergency evacuation route backwards, closer to the heart of the ship. He didn’t take much notice of the sound, figuring it part of some ambience package that had been included by an upselling dealer when the vessel was new.

As another pair of doors whispered open, he readjusted his features to fit his assumed role, and found himself face-to-muzzle with a half-dozen energy weapons easily dwarfing his own compact model, wielded by as many disheveled, incompletely-dressed spacefarers, looking suspiciously like they had still been sleeping when he’d first boarded their vessel.

“Stand down!” he ordered in their superior’s voice, to absolutely no effect.

“Did you really think,” purred a petite, silky-furred feline woman from behind the wall of nude and half-nude defenders, “the Star Siren wouldn’t know her own Captain?” She came closer, her black coat clinging for a moment to her fellows with the static from their charged weapons as she passed between them. “If I were you, I’d tell me where to find him.”

He spent just a moment too long searching for an answer. A vice grip around his wrist sent his stunner, now seeming pathetically small, clattering harmless to the floor and caused his fingers to spasm painfully.

“Do you reckon,” the woman asked over her shoulder, grinding tendon against bone with her deceptively delicate hand, “station security strictly wants this scumbag in one piece?”

At that point, self-preservation won out.

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