Prologue

"Skirmishes on the outer frontier between the Voord Empire and the Confederacy of Frontier Worlds intensified in the Askay sector earlier today, when Voord forces launched a mass offensive against human defenders that has pushed back the frontlines several miles. Casualties mount on both sides, and amongst the fighting we are receiving reports of independent contractors working for both sides, as the drive for profit has only been increased by this conflict…"

Flames cast flickering, sporadic shadows over the many piles of stripped vehicles that littered the yard. Smoke plumed from a wreck beyond the perimeter, and white and yellow streaks shot across the night sky overhead: missiles and pulse weapons, going back and forth, an exchange of long range weapons fire. Galva Prime was a world that had been in a state of war for many years, its population centres reduced to rubble and its resource-rich deserts turned into crater-marked battlegrounds. The scrapyard had been in operation since before the war, and had since become a graveyard for armoured military vehicles and crashed spacecraft, mainly shuttles and fighters.

Were it not for the flames scattered about the place, the desert would be almost pitch black. High above, a pair of silver moons gleamed, placing the landscape under a subdued glow. Racing through the maze of rusted vehicle hulks and spot fires came a pair of tall figures, dressed in armour-padded jackets and vests, weapons in hand as they moved through the scrapyard. Their pursuers were not far behind.

Both were not human. Tall and broad-shouldered, with muscular frames underneath, they were both decidedly reptilian in appearance, at least at a glance: dark greyish blue skin covered in scales, and the one in front carried a pair of orange eyes with slitted pupils in each. His head was hairless, with only a few narrow spines protruding from his scalp. In one gloved hand he carried a pistol, a bulky model with a blue glow emanating from its barrel. Under the other arm he carried a small metal box, and his powerful legs worked quickly to carry him across the scrapyard. Faster than a typical human, and stronger too, this alien had a particular goal in mind, one that had become complicated when his shuttle had been destroyed only a few hours before. That had left him and his friend stranded in a warzone, leaving them with little other option but to run.

His friend was the same species, albeit slightly shorter with a lighter shade of skin and yellow eyes. He carried a bulky looking rifle, emanating the same blue glow from the barrel. He followed closely, able to keep the pace up with his friend in front, and occasionally he would swivel around to look for any trace of their pursuers. The trouble with the Voord was that they were especially good at moving unseen in the darkness, and the alien's sensitive eyes, although well-adjusted for the low-light, would find it difficult to make out a camouflaged Voord soldier. So, the pair kept running, hoping that their pursuers would not reach them. They would be outnumbered, after all, and the one in the lead had no desire to die on this barren backwater. They were both young, in human terms the one in the lead would only have been about twenty-five. As for his friend, he was twenty-two.

"Could you…slow down a little?" The one behind him asked, panting heavily. He stumbled against a rusted hulk for a moment, short of breath. The lead turned around, stopping for a moment as he shook his head and gestured for his companion to keep moving.

"They're right on our tail," he said. "Come on, Lasthan. We can't afford to stop moving."

"I just need a breather." Lasthan fell into a walking pace, trying to catch his breath. Somewhere distant, explosions sounded out as missiles struck their targets. Smoke erupted from the far western perimeter, a stray missile strike, one that sent the boom of the detonation flooding across the scrapyard. The ground rumbled beneath their feet, another sign to the eldest of the pair to keep moving.

"Where are we going, Spartus?" Lasthan asked. "We have no ship. We have no way off of this planet."

"We have to find somewhere safe. Now come on, they're right behind us." Spartus looked into the uneven darkness further back the way they had come. Shadows flickered and fires burned, but he could see no movement. He found it unlikely that they had shaken their pursuers. The Voord were determined sorts, especially when pursuing thieves. With the box under one arm, he considered simply throwing it to the ground and letting them have it back. Of course, this was only a fleeting thought, for he had no desire to throw away the one thing that had given this trip here purpose. They had come all the way here intent on taking this item, 'a simple job' their employer had told them, but he had neglected to mention that the planet was a warzone. He had also warned them against opening the box, for the item inside was apparently dangerous. So Spartus, like he often did, simply followed instructions and did not let his curiosity get the better of him. He had a job to do and he intended to do it, for if there was one thing he needed it was the monetary reward. He and Lasthan had been running on fumes for the last few years, as the work offers had dried up and so had their finances. They needed the money. And the reward for this 'simple assignment' would make them rich.

Spartus resumed running, looking back to ensure that his younger brother followed. Despite his exhaustion, Lasthan was doing his best to keep up, stumbling occasionally but moving along. He had asked a valid question: Where, indeed, were they going? There was nothing in this place but junk. And the dead, judging from the few charred corpses they ran by. The Voord had gone through here earlier, wiping out resistance with the brutal efficiency they had become known for. Spartus had little experience with their race, but what he had experienced so far had told him that they were bad news.

They kept running. The scrapyard was vast, perhaps a mile and a half in diameter, with a building dead in the centre. It was here that business would have been conducted, had the war not brought it to a halt. Now the building was a mess, its windows gone and pieces blown out of it by stray shots and grenades. Despite this, it presented the highest point in the scrapyard, and from the upper floors one would be able to see the entire compound. Sightinggthe building up ahead, Spartus knew that would be their destination. It did not appear to be occupied, as the Voord had certainly come through here but they had not stayed. Now a sizeable patrol was right at their backs, so a high vantage point would give the pair a significant advantage and increase their chances of survival. Clasping the box under one arm tightly, Spartus picked up his pace, rushing through a gate in a partially fallen wire fence that surrounded the central structure. Lasthan stumbled after him and Spartus, seeing his brother fall to the dirt, rushed to his side. Placing his pistol in its holster, he put his free arm around his brother and lifted him onto his feet. Potential safety was only a short distance ahead now, with the entrance to the main building about twenty metres in front of them. Spartus and Lasthan hobbled their way along the brief stretch of open ground before getting to the door, which Spartus crudely kicked open. Beyond it was a dusty, rubble-strewn corridor. He let Lasthan go, allowing him to stumble inside.

From somewhere distant, a white lance of energy seared through the air, striking the wall near Spartus. He ducked as part of the brickwork exploded and the heat of the energy beam washed over his left cheek. Any closer and he would have been burned and likely disfigured. Ducking down, his back against the wall, he turned his attention through the open doorway into the night outside. He pulled his pistol from its holster and raised it, scanning the darkness outside. A flash of movement up ahead made him fire, a blue bolt of energy leaving the barrel of his gun before it flashed off into the night, carrying with it a powerful wave of gravitational force that would have sent anyone it hit flying backwards several feet. Gravity-based weapons like that were illegal in most parts of the galaxy, but he had never been one to be much concerned with the 'legality' of the tools he used in his trade.

Another beam hit the doorway, splinters of wood exploding from the impact. Followed by another, that zipped by Spartus by mere inches before going down the length of the corridor. Lasthan shouted as it struck him in the upper back, and Spartus felt his hearts skip as he turned and saw his brother go down. Climbing onto his feet, he rushed to where Lasthan lay, a scorched black hole at his upper back, close to his right shoulder. Lasthan was still alive, groaning in pain, and Spartus grabbed him by the left arm and dragged him off into an adjoining room. He could hear the footsteps of his pursuers outside, no longer caring much for a stealthy approach. They knew that their targets were outnumbered. There was little reason to be careful.

"Las, look at me." Spartus looked down at his wounded brother. His eyes were glazing over, a tell-tale sign that he was going into shock. Dark red blood seeped out of the wound and spilled onto the floor. Harshly, he slapped Lasthan, forcing him to come out of his pain-induced reverie momentarily. They had no medical equipment with them. What first aid items they did have had been on their ship, a ship the Voord had rudely blown up.

"Don't give up on me," Spartus demanded. His hearts were pounding now. Easing his brother to the floor, he went to the nearest window. As he did so, he heard footsteps out in the corridor. Someone was rushing inside. Turning to the doorway, he watched as a Voord in all their black-armoured glory stepped into view. They were tall, perhaps seven feet in height, clad in sleek gleaming armour. Whatever they truly looked like was completely hidden underneath. The helmets for each one were unique for every Voord, and it was said that their masks were grafted onto their faces, essentially becoming part of them. Spartus did not think much about these finer details and he raised his pistol and fired, the force of the shot sending the Voord soldier flying backwards into the wall behind him. A gaping hole had been shot through his chest armour, spurting dark blue blood. The Voord lay motionless, slumped against the wall, his beam rifle falling from his grasp and clanking onto the tiled floor underfoot. However, this soldier had not been alone.

The window behind him smashed as a Voord soldier appeared in its frame, using the butt-end of his weapon to hammer away the glass. Spartus was up on his feet instantly, turning to face the intruder before firing his gravity pistol. The entire window exploded outwards, showering shards of glass and splinters of wood onto the ground outside. The Voord soldier's head exploded, splattering pieces of metal and blue blood and numerous meaty chunks outwards, some of which landed inside. The Voord's headless carcass flew backwards a short distance before slamming into the wire fence outside, causing it to rattle before his body hit the ground and came to rest upon the gravel below.

His brother was still breathing, but was only half-conscious. Spartus hefted up, putting an arm around his brother's shoulder. They were trapped inside, surrounded by a numerically superior force. As much as he hated to admit it, there appeared to be no way out. He liked to think he had been in tougher scrapes than this, but none came to mind. He was certainly not going to die here, and he sure was not about to let his brother die either. They had come here because Spartus had accepted the assignment and his brother had somewhat reluctantly tagged along, despite his misgivings. And in a way, it was his fault that they were both in this situation now, surrounded with no discernible way out.

He had to get them both out of here. He could hear more Voord soldiers rushing into the building. Whatever he and his brother had stolen from them, it must have been important. And the one who had hired them to steal it had expressly told them not to open the box that contained it. The more he thought about their employer, the more he realised just how little he knew about him. They had only communicated by audio, after all. Not unusual, as employers in the item-finding business liked to remain anonymous, but there had been something else about him that Spartus could not entirely put his finger on…

Another Voord soldier appeared in the doorway. Spartus blasted him, sending him landing into a heap on top of the one he had shot moments earlier. Both remained still, dark blue blood pooling around them. Stepping out into the corridor, with his brother hobbling along with him, Spartus turned and shot down another Voord who stepped into the building at the entrance further down the corridor. He went flying backwards through the doorway, as if hit by a missile, the front of his chest armour exploding into a mess of metal and meaty blue pieces. Two more came running for the doorway, keeping out of the line of fire. Spartus simply fired a shot into the wall to the right of the doorway, causing it to explode, knocking down the Voord on the other side and burying him under a pile of wood and masonry.

"Las, are you awake?" Spartus dragged his brother further down the corridor, taking him around a corner into a larger back room. Here, there were shelves covered with numerous spare parts taken from the many scrapped shuttles and ground vehicles within the scrapyard. Lasthan seemed to be awake somewhat, and he nodded his head in response to his older brother. Spartus kept an arm around him as they stopped in the backroom. Setting the box on a dusty table by the wall, Spartus popped it open. He was expecting some kind of rare gem or bioweapon, yet instead what sat inside was a bronze-coloured metal wristband of sorts, with an emblem on one side that appeared to be a seal of some sort, with intricate curving designs. There seemed to be nothing more to it and Spartus, in all his desperation, felt a spike of anger and went to sweep the box and the item it had contained off of the table. However, something stopped him. Even with the sounds of the approaching Voord encroaching upon the pair, he found himself strangely drawn to the large ring. Taking it up in one hand, it was warm to the touch, as if imbued with an energy of its own. Something stirred in his mind, and the world around him seemed to fade. Voord came running down the corridor, weapons raised. His brother's breathing was deep and ragged, blood seeping down his chest. As the enemy flowed into the room, Spartus found his gaze set firmly upon the ring.

There was something unique about it.

Where do you intend to go? Had he thought that? He could not be sure. Appearing in the doorway, the Voord Captain stopped, standing tall and broad, his silver armour gleaming in the uneven light of the fires from outside. The black slit on his mask that served as his eyes went to the pair of alien intruders, and then to the item held between Spartus' fingers. Slowly, he put out one hand, as if beckoning Spartus to hand it over.

Not that Spartus would. The other Voord levelled their rifles at him. There was no question what was about to happen. With death so close, Spartus found himself feeling oddly calm. A thought crossed his mind then, as if in response to the voice that had invaded his mind seconds before.

Anywhere but here.