My effort for Starburst Challenge 70 on the Terra Firma forum.
Movie lines : One from Star Wars (Obi-wan Kenobi specifically), one from Dredd, a few extra ones from Rambo movies that seemed like a good idea at the time as well. Two naming substitutions, due to neither Mos Eisley spaceport or billy goats appearing in Farscape at any point.
~Spread out!~ signalled Senior Infiltrator Second Class Tabbak with his treblin hand, before whispering "Not sure quite what I heard, sir - but considering where we are, it's not likely to be friendly".
Captain Saban Targoth nodded, after which his eyes glowed very slightly as his head swept from side to side - but before he could squeak let alone shout, three black skimmers flew over the hillside to their treblin and attempted to surrond the small group of Scarrans and their vehicles.
"PLAS!" Captain Saban barked "I WANT HEAVY PLASMA CANNON TARGETING THOSE WRAITHS!" before he rumbled nastily and started giving more precise attack and deployment orders. Though the odds were definitely not in the Scarrans' favour, two of the three Nebari grav-tanks were destroyed with cannon fire, accounting for three Scarrans along the way.
"Not the best I could hope for..." Commander Teriel murmured from her position of somewhat greater safety a few hundred metras off the ground, inside her command vehicle "Move in, deploy our drop troops, secure as many of the Scarrans who aren't dead for transport back to base for interrogation. Do not come close enough to be targeted with the portable plasma cannon obviously carried by some of them - I know the risk of crippling damage to this craft is slight but it is a risk, and one I prefer to be minimised!"
Despite the warning, Commander Teriel's pilot manoevred his craft to the lowest altitude he felt safe flying at before coming to a hover and pressing two buttons.
"Cloaking device!" called Infiltrator Fourth Class Tuln "Hurr-", but got no further as one of the Nebari troops just landing decloaked and raised a large rifle before putting three rounds through his neck and head.
"Hurricane-class..." Captain Saban told his Senior Infiltrator "In this case, outfitted for troop carrying and command and control. The standard of both equipment and troop discipline suggests their Night Watch political special forces".
"You cannot escape!" came the call from the Hurricane's external speakers "We will not shoot you if you do not run! Drop your weapons!"
"If they want us, they'll have to come and get us!" growled Tabbak "If now's my time to die, Captain, then I'll take some of these Night Watch down with me!" before his hammond hand flickered through signals none of the few remaining Scarran troopers had any trouble understanding.
"I cannot help you very much" Captain Saban admitted regretfully "I cannot use my power to let you see what I see. I will try and direct you to where I see cloaked troops but you will need to move fast".
Four of the twelve Night Watch troops were killed, but the battle still belonged to them. Only Tabbak and Captain Saban still lived at that point, surrounded by six of the remaining Nebari - the other two spent some momens searching the bodies for anything useful before Commander Teriel called "Leave the bodies. Secure the two prisoners - my pilot should be able to descend a little further so we can retrieve them".
That surprised the Night Watch troops, but the only reply they got was "Take the Wraith back to the Establishment base at the spaceport, then call for retrieval from there. These two must be moved to a more secure location now"
Cells... Captain Saban thought when he regained consciousness I've been moved, then... considering how afraid the general Nebari populace is of Scarrans, I've most likely been moved offworld. When he tried to move, he realised two things - he was manacled to a wall, and a control collar had been fitted around his neck.
I feel sluggish enough... Captain Saban thought after that ...that there's some kind of sedative in my food, such as that is. Let's see if I can still use my power... before trying to extend his senses beyond his cell and find any Nebari that are there.
The occasional patrol... the Captain decided ...plus three guards outside my cell...lifesign above and below. A larger base, then - one bigger than outpost size and most likely on a more secure world. I'll have to chance astro-telepathic communication and hope no one here even considers that as as a possibility until it's too late to do anything about it.
A large low-caste Scarran was murming and rumbling as he searched through a considerable number of shelves.
~Why can't military intelligence use a computer to store all this?~ his thoughts announced to anyone in that section of the military archives as he searched ~This information is useful, yes... but not classified to a level requiring even a stand-alone computer system, let alone actual written documents! exasperationmild anger with Military Intelligence~
He had only been reading for a few momens before a Kalish tiptoed as close to him as they dared before announcing "Sir... Captain Kurlun... a message for you, sir. Of the highest priority" before bowing and holding out a small tube.
"A surprisingly good attempt at stealth for one of your scrawny lot..." Kurlun said without turning around, and before the Kalish had even got within ten metras "...but if you dared come into classified military archives something important has happened, and since I command this unit and this base then something important is about to happen to me if it hasn't already".
After a short growl he turned around on his chair and saw the Kalish in question, after which the growl turned into a simple grumble as he saw the message tube the Kalish man was holding out to him.
"Oh, it's you" Kurlun said, with his voice instead of his thoughts "The one who think's he's good enough to train for A-team admittance. Stop looking at the floor then! Get up here, and by here I mean this desk, boy - I can't reach that message tube from here!"
The young Kalish man knew enough about his superior to realise he shouldn't introduce himself with his full Kalish name, so he came forward and placed the message tube on the edge of the desk before retreating several metras and saying "Yes, sir. I am Kamiel, you are correct. I... I was not aware your special skills could help you find out my identity".
Kurlun actually chuckled a bit.
"Special skills, hmm?" he asked the Kalish "That's what you lot call what I do these days, is it? I am a strong mentalist in a number of ways, boy, and if you really think you're Team material in my team then do me the respect of STANDING TO ATTENTION AND LOOKING AT ME!"
Once he stopped shouting, Kurlun checked the message tube for signs it might have been tampered with and checked the classification ident on the tube's cap - he nodded and decided Good, this Kalish isn't just being paranoid! before pulling the cap off the tube, placing the small message form on the desk, and throwing the message tube and cap successfully into a recyc chute on the other side of the room before turning back to read the message.
"Boy..." Kurlun asked more softly than usual "Did you read this before bringing it here? It's not some useless treznot in Communications playing silly-fekkiks with us?"
Kamiel was surprised Kurlun even asked for his opinion at all, but shook his head and replied "It would violate military and civil Hierarchy law for me to do so, Sir, since the message was not addressed to me - unauthorised access to materials of that classification level is punishable by summary nullification. I would be of no use to the Hierarchy or to you if I disobey the law and am killed".
Kurlun muttered under his breath a bit before telling Kamiel "Get up to the comm station, boy. Since this went out to all special forces commands I want you to get on hyperwave comm and claim the right to mount a rescue mission for this Team... and do it quickly! There is no time to spare at all!"
My ratings for interstellar communication operation were barely enough to place me in the top half of that class... Kamiel thought as he ran for the huge tower at the centre of the base that housed both on and offworld communications but a simple broadcast of intent on a general channel is well within my capabilities.
The door to the communications centre itself was opening as Kamiel approached - but since the individual coming out was a Scarran, Kamiel didn't dare risk barging past him at ground level, instead leaping high, shifting to the ceiling before lifting his body as high as he could and throwing himself through the narrow gap between the Scarran's head and the top of the door and making as safe a landing as he could inside the communication centre itself without destroying anything or hitting a Scarran.
The few Charrids in the room laughed, and even the Scarrans chuckled a bit - until Kamiel ordered the Scarran sitting at the controls for hyperwave communication out of his chair.
"Orders from our commander!" Kamiel stated after dodging a couple of blows "He ordered [i]me[/i] to send a message over the all spec-force command network - and he will most likely be very displeased that you have delayed me in doing so this long!"
Military protocol eventually won out over the duty comm officer's desire to beat Kamiel to a pulp - though the Scarran in question almost did that anyway when Kamiel said "Captain Kurlun specifically said higest priority... and no observers or logs".
"Out, everyone!" he said when he reached the door "I'll take care of seeing this Kalish gets what's coming to him for this... but just in case he's actually telling the truth we'd better leave for a few momens..."
As soon as the message was sent, Kamiel left the room via a window as far away from the door as possible, after which he shifted down the wall to ground level and ran for Kurlun's office as fast as he could.
"The message you ordered..." Kamiel announced, only just realising a number of senior officers were there as well as Kurlun himself "... has been sent, Captain".
"Good" Kurlun replied, not turning to look at him - but when Kamiel turned to leave, Kurlun grinned where his officers could see and called "Don't go just yet, boy... there's still things for you to do..." before announcing "Number one, you have command until I get back. Keep everything going and make sure those Charrids don't try and eat the Kalish. The Kalish we do have are more useful alive and uneaten - the Charrids here can make do with the base kitchens like the rest of us".
"This..." Kurlun added, rumbling a little "... is the one you've likely all heard about. He's a Kalish who thinks he's got what it takes to be in the Team with us".
Kurlun waited for the few officers still present to turn and stare at Kamiel for enough microts to make him uneasy, then grinned and added "so... since I'm going to need someone to do the grot's work on this mission I'll take him with me. Maybe if he doesn't die in the first ten momens after we enter enemy territory we'll be able to find a use for him somewhere...".
"It's bad enough having two Command Carriers after us right now..." Chiana grumbled in Moya's galley one mealtime "...but what amount of plok is worth coming all the way out here for?"
"I don't like it either, Nebari..." Aeryn replied, just a little caustically "But the fact is that Peacekeeper First Command is mounting a strong effort to capture all aboard Moya, as well as Moya herself, for reasons even you should know by now. The fact that we embarassed Grayza in doing so is only part of the problem".
"As far as I understand it..." Jool replied "... Crichton's strategy in bringing us here is one of deterrence. He hopes that the risks, both political and military, of a cross-border raid - especially without knowing exactly where we are - will outweigh the perceived gain of capturing us and Moya".
"As long as we do not stay in one place for too long..." Sikozu added "...this strategy is not stupid. We only stay in one place long enough to earn some currency, resupply, and make any necessary repairs - and we avoid planets listed as major habitation centres in doing so as well".
"They don't want to make the Cold War go hot again, that's right" Crichton said, knocking back half a bottle of fellip of mildly dubious origin "Neither side. Not till they're ready, anyhow".
"The Scarrans in this sector..." Rygel added, with some degree of happiness "... are even more unprincipled where money is concerned than most of their species! We offer to do their work for a more acceptable price than anyone else offers, or in less time, and they forget any lingering concerns over us being non-Scarran or wanted criminals and they just hand over a big pile of currency once the job's done! They're happy, we're happy - the only ones who aren't happy are the Peacekeepers and they don't even know we're here!" I need to make sure Chiana stays away from the star maps, Rygel decided - she'll be even more gonza than usual if she finds out we're close to the Nebari border.
"Are we there yet?" Crichton asked Aeryn a little later - who grumbled and replied "Why you did not just retire to our quarters and sleep, I don't know... you aren't due on Command for your watch for another five arns..." before checking their position again and telling him "Approaching planet... well, it has a long and unintelligible interstellar serial number but no name on the maps we have. But to answer your childish question ... while we are not exactly there yet, we will be in less than an arn".
The moment the first of the Moyans stepped onto station territory, a grinning Charrid walked over - he held up a sheet of paper, looked between it and their faces, then nodded and announced "Good, you are here - and four arns ahead of schedule, too! Even better! You have with you that which was promised?!"
"Our strongest crewmember is bringin' all your stuff out right now, mister" Crichton replied, grinning back "No need to worry your crinkled green head about it even a teeny bit. We got it all for you".
The Charrid waved his hammond hand vaguely behind him, and two other Charrids who were less neatly dressed and far uglier stepped forward just as Dargo arrived with the first box.
"Our... friend here" Crichton explained quickly "...just brought a little help with him. So he can get his nice boxes there all stashed away somewhere safe...".
Dargo hissed a bit, but nodded and went back for other boxes.
"Feel same as as your Luxan about them sometimes, yes!" the Charrid businessman laughed "But so far they are useful. Glad to see you think same way as me".
"Just wanna make money here, not enemies" Crichton agreed, nodding "Best for everyone that way".
It took half an arn and more than a bit of inventive Luxan swearing before all the boxes were brought out - the Charrid businessman, to Crichton's surprise but not Aeryn's, actually counted the boxes and scanned them before nodding and calling "All good! Everything is there! My friend here will bring your money when he remembers where he put trolleys for boxes".
The Charrid in question came back less than five momens later, raising Crichton's opinion of them just a little bit.
The Charrid businessman grinned a little less as Rygel floated over on his throne-sled and counted it all twice - eventually he turned and nodded at Crichton, who turned back to the Charrid and said "Sluggo there says it's all good an' number two here hasn't killed him yet, so we're good to go".
"Is all there" the man insisted "Currency and trade goods. Also letter of credit at supply shop here since you came early".
The three Charrids took their boxes and left as soon as the payment had been taken off the trolleys - and everyone immediately started grabbing bags and boxes before taking them back to Moya with quite incredible speed.
"A good idea, Crichton!" Rygel told his comrade approvingly "Making sure we stow our payment safely away in Moya before any of these thieving hingemots think to try and take it! If carefully managed, this job alone will see us well supplied for some time!"
"Wasn't me, Spanky" the human replied, throwing the two bags he carried onto the pile in the transport hangar "Just one of those weird times where everyone's thinkin' the same way".
"All three of my stomachs, human..." Rygel grumbled pointedly after that "...say it's time to eat, and I agree! Eat, drink, enjoy life for a while!".
"Forgot it's Sputnik's eating time, thanks for reminding me!" Crichton said "Chi, go get tinkerbell, we're gonna go find some kind of eatin' house around here!"
Less than a momen later Sikozu was standing beside Crichton, almost salivating in hunger.
"Dal Kaytin spacedock, if I read the Charrid signage correctly" Sikozu stated, nodding at a sign on the wall "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious".
"Everyone properly equipped for caution, stealth, an' generally bein' careful?" Crichton asked - Dargo just grinned, while everyone else checked every weapon they had with them before nodding.
"Perhaps now we can go and find an eating house?!" Sikozu snapped "While I certainly do approve of Crichton's precautions just now, I am also extremely hungry!"
"We should be able to find an eating place of acceptable standard" Aeryn replied "Even here".
It took a while, but there was one bar and servery not far from a main travel route to and from several spacedock sectors that seemed to be good enough - at least good enough for more than half of the Moyans to vote in favour of staying there.
"Dal Kaytin spacedock, sir" Kamiel whispered as he and Kurlun stepped out of the docking tube "A pity we have to resort to independent transportation...".
"Takes too much time to arrange a military ship to go where we're going" Kurlun hissed "and you, of all people, should know that! This way I won't owe someone any favours - and if whatever crew for hire around here I dislike the least won't take the offered fee, I'll just kill them all and take their ship anyway".
"Should I begin enquiring about a suitable crew for the task at hand, sir?" Kamiel asked "Or do you require refreshment first?"
Kurlun just growled for a few microts before telling Kamiel "We keep moving, boy... we look around and ask questions about crews for hire and we keep moving. The Army keeps some contacts in places like these but not everyone's too friendly".
"The pistol and knife you obtained for me are close to hand and in good order, sir" Kamiel replied "and I thank you for them and the trust you place in me".
"You're there to watch my back and don't you forget it" Kurlun replied "The only reason I didn't bring another Scarran is that even here it'd stand out too much. One or two here and there, maybe... but two or more obvious military-trained Scarrans walking together? Sooner or later someone will think we'd be here for them even though I don't give a fekking pile of plok what anyone's up to here - and that'll slow us down!"
Kurlun stood back and watched Kamiel ask questions at every place that looked even remotely likely to have ship's captains around.
That boy keeps a surprisingly cool head... Kurlun thought to himself after another unsuccessful encounter After the amount that fekkik demanded we pay to even get as far as the border zone, I'd have just killed him the most messy way I could come up with. This way he might be a bit angry but we get to move on quickly enough with only the loss of enough crindars to pay for a bottle of lower-grade grolsahk for that man. Kurlun resolved to memorise the man's face and check official records later - There'll be something I can have him arrested, and his ship impounded, for somewhere even if I have to make it up... he decided.
Eventually they reached an open area where many corridors and thoroughfares came together. People of many species, especially in Scarran space, rushed back and forth on errands on they knew of; people stood at stalls or on benches selling things some people wouldn't even dare guess at - and at the various stalls and eating houses on all sides people of all kinds ate, drank, and yelled at others before starting brawls over anything and everything.
"This one should do" Kurlun told Kamiel - once they stepped inside the temperature drop did make Kurlun growl a bit, but he put thoughts of inventive retribution against the bartender aside when Kamiel said "I see a weak containment field at the edge of the premises, sir - this is why the air is at a cool and steady temperature here. Perhaps it may mean we find a captain with a more reliable crew here as well".
"We'd better" Kurlun snapped back "This has already taken too long!"
He did nod just a little when Kamiel found a table with a good view of both the bar area and the entryway.
"I will order drinks for you, sir, and snacks for us both" Kamiel said "I am sure you would like grolsahk or strong fellip - and while it is not my eating time I would not refuse a snack or two. In this way we would both blend in and be satisfied".
"Get yourself fellip as well" Kurlun replied, surprising Kamiel "You're ordering for two - and the ...customers... will be suspicious if both of us don't drink in here, even if the barman doesn't care. Better order yourself a weaker brew, you skinny types can't handle the stuff made for Scarrans".
Kamiel asked the bartender about ships for hire when he ordered the drinks and food as well - the bartender scratched his chin, then nodded to his treblin and said "That one over there 'ganist the window might suit ya. He been all shiftin' an' bouncin' aroun' since he got here - he got one o' you orange lot with 'im too, you might be able to talk that Kalish lingo an' get th' price down a bit for whatever you're doin', too".
When Kamiel passed this information on to Kurlun, Kurlun seemed a little happier - or at least more relieved, though he grinned when he smelled the fellip Kamiel ordered for himself.
"If you fall over after drinking Scarran fellip, mister..." he warned "...you can crawl out under your own power. I'm not dragging you anywhere".
"I will not fall over after one mug, sir" Kamiel assured his superior "and I will therefore not embarass you or me socially".
By the time Kurlun gave Kamiel permission to go and talk to the next prospective crew-for-hire, Sikozu had noticed his presence - though she had not, so far, told any of the others since she was far to busy eating. I can satisfy my hunger here… she kept telling herself ...and even help the human win currency as he wagers on my eating capacity.
She thought more about that as she ate - He brings over some most disgusting foods for me to eat on his behalf in this challenge, but eating them has not killed me - it helps satisfy my eating time hunger and may even improve our future supply situation by obtaining more currency from the human's gambling. I will talk to him about the details of it later, when we are a long way away from here, and after a few more momens realising None of our fellow patrons realise I am a Kalish at eating time, either - a situation we all had best hope continues.
"Greetings and salutations" Kamiel said as he sat down at Crichton's table "I and my employer require the services of a ship and its crew for a journey of some difficulty. You will be compensated in line with the difficulty of the journey, of course".
"What do we have to take..." Aeryn asked "... and where do we have to take it?"
"Two people only" Kamiel replied - Many of them appear relieved at this he decided though the male Sebaceanoid still seems suspicious, as does the female Kalish "We will fly to our destination, where my superior will conduct his business for a short while - when he is ready, we will retrieve him and one other and return the way we came. My superior is prepared to fund the acquisition of certain necessary supplies - should any of these still remain at the mission's end then these are yours to keep, of course".
Kamiel watched the one who, from what he remembered of his xenobiology studies, appeared to be a Hynerian of approximate middle-age in cycles as he talked to the rest of his comrades.
He likes the idea of extra money or equipment for less work Kamiel decided So far he has not asked any inconvenient questions as to why I am offering this to them. Two of the others seem more wary but the Hynerian is not relenting - they are as eager for currency and riches as I have been told, and this appears to be working out in my favour.
Eventually Aeryn asked "Since the Hynerian won't accept any other option than taking your contract, how much currency are you offering? We do not refuse difficult commissions, but the reward had better be worth the effort!"
Kamiel immediately commed Kurlun to ask - Kurlun just tapped out a number on his PDA's screen, so when Kamiel received this he turns the screen on his own unit to face her for three microts, after which he deleted it and added "My superior is currently purchasing the additional supplies necessary for the journey through this station's computer trading network - and requires your dock station code". Once this was provided, Kamiel bowed slightly, said "Good eating time to you..." softly in Sikozu's direction, then walked back to Kurlun.
"Their Hynerian forced them to accept the first offer I presented to them, sir" Kamiel explained "This was at the lower end of the range of the acceptable range of fees that you gave me. We have saved perhaps three thousand crindars thus far".
"That's Hynerians for you" Kurlun replied before finishing the remainder of the bottle of grolsahk all at once "Show them the money, and providing you choose your negotiating tactics well from then on they'll do whatever you like".
After half a dozen bar snacks, Kurlun asked "How long before we can go?"
"They are part of an eating challenge that is currently still in progress" Kamiel explained "So far the other participants do not appear to have noticed that this crew's representative in the challenge is a Kalish at eating time. They should win easily - but may need to leave swiftly in case the others notice".
"You want to get on the Team..." Kurlun whispered "...here's the first test - observation. Watch them, see when they're ready to go - if they've got problems, you tell me right away and I'll deal with it".
Less than ten momens later, Kamiel saw a small pile of coins of varying values and types being passed over.
The Sebacean female is signalling to her friends Kamiel realised I cannot understand the signals, but I think she may be concerned that their subterfuge involving their Kalish has been discovered by at least one person.
He passed this news on to Kurlun right away - he was not pleased about Kamiel interrupting his eating and drinking, but didn't growl much and only slapped him once and lightly on the treblin side of his face, but he also decided "Good, we can get going! Leave some coins on the table, then stay right beside me - we'll follow them at a distance. Don't make too much noise walking and don't so much as let a squeak out of your mouth and maybe we'll get half way to their ship without being detected".
In fact, Kurlun and Kamiel made it to within ten metras of moya's dock station before Dargo spotted them.
"The Kalish man from the bar is here" he told Crichton "with a Scarran - a fairly large low-caste male. If he's not military now he's former military".
Another Sebaceanoid along with a Charrid were there as well, along with one large box.
"Which of you ordered this?" the Charrid asked wearily "Boss told us to bring it here. Someone gotta sign an' pay".
That male Sebaceanoid actually looks like he's ready to go for his gun... Kurlun decided with interest as he watched, though he just rumbled briefly and announced "That would be me, Charrid..." before he counted out the money for them at a slow and, by the expression on the Charrid's face, insulting pace.
"Sign it however you like" he said when the Charrid asked for a signature "I was never here. I don't exist".
Hearing that made Crichton wary, but he just sighed and waved the two of them on - Rygel called a warning, which made Kurlun laugh and tell him "They won't reach us in time to catch us anyway" after which everyone ran as fast as possible for the end of the docking tube and safety aboard Moya.
"A safe but hasty exit once more, Crichton?" Pilot asked, to which Crichton replied "Yeah, same as usual. We got two passengers an' a coupla boxes comin' aboard...".
"Moya says one of these is a Scarran" Pilot warned, to which Kurlun barked "I'm a Scarran who's paying well for the use of your ship and your time, Mister! This lot who came with me accepted the commission - you have a problem, take it up with them!" in response, before growling for a few microts and adding "Where's your ship's doctor?"
Jool stepped up and announced herself in her somewhat wobbly Scarran once she saw what species Kurlun was - he did laugh a bit at that, but not much, before ordering her "Help the Kalish grab that box and take us to whatever passes for a sick bay here".
When Jool reached the medical room, Kurlun groaned very quietly and told Kamiel "They may have a doctor... but it's just as well I brought these extra supplies" before telling both him and Jool "put the box down".
"Open the box" he told Jool - when she had, he added "These supplies are here purely on a contingency basis - just in case of... accidents" before he grumbled a bit and counted out some money before telling Jool "That's yours on one condition - you don't tell anyone about the contents of the box".
"Or of the possibility of ...accidents... on our journey?" Jool added, trying to keep her distance from Kurlun - this one's not even a little bit like Naj Gil, for all that both of them are low-caste Scarran. His skin's a bit like that other human, Harrigan, that we met some cycles ago as well...
Kurlun counted out a hundred extra crindars before slapping them into her hand and adding "No mention of accidents or extra medical supplies. Mention supplies if you have to, but don't tell them what they are - if anyone asks, just say you put them somewhere safe".
"My superior requests directions to the bridge of this vessel" Kamiel added once Kurlun stopped speaking and just growled a bit "He needs to set our course. For everyone's security and safety neither of us will tell you what this is".
Jool commed Crichton and Dargo to tell them about that - Crichton eventually turned up, saying "Sounds a bit too cloak-and-dagger for my liking... but if you insist on all that spy stuff then you need to see Pilot. I can tell him to go somewhere, but he's the one who knows all the details about getting anywhere worth going".
Pilot took quite some persuading to let Kurlun inside his den - and even when he opened the door Kurlun looked around briefly before saying "Fifty DRDs with guns armed? Someone here respects me for what I can do, at least... or what they think I can do..." and walking right along the narrow path to Pilot's console without permission.
"Here is the true state of things" Kurlun stated, quitely but with considerable menace "I have paid considerable amounts of hard currency to secure the services of this ship, its crew, and you for a journey. I am going to give you a course, which I expect to be set and followed without discussion or arguments. Circumstances may dictate I give orders during this journey, and I will expect these to be obeyed - I expect you will have a few questions of your own, but make them good ones becuase time is critical and Kamiel there will tell you I have a short temper when time is critical".
"My superior is not in the best of moods when time is short" Kamiel confirmed when Crichton asked him about it "He will expect orders to be obeyed and good results - but he rewards well when he receives what he asks for. With his permission I will deliver ten percent of the mission fee into your hand now, to show we intend to do our part in seeing this business successfully concluded - if you take it from us, it shows to all that you intend to do your part".
"Show me the money" Crichton replied "Any an' all currencies of the day are acceptable. No Amex, Mastercard or Visa - we're miles from an ATM out here".
Kurlun growled again at Crichton's odd language before waving at Kamiel and throwing over a bag - Kamiel quickly counted out ten percent of the agreed-upon payment before placing the currency on Pilot's console where it could be seen clearly.
Pilot's eyes quickly flickers over the stacks, estimating the amount of money in front of him, before giving his estimate of how much was there. Kamiel nodded as Kurlun watched him, saying "The exact amount".
"I do not like this subterfuge and neither does Moya..." Pilot told Kurlun once Jool had left the den "But since you are offering a substantial sum for our services then I will put my reservations to one side as long as Moya's safety is as assured as it can be".
"Providing we move fast" Kurlun replied "that shouldn't be a problem. Now show me where I set the course"
"I will display a holographic star map" Pilot replied, doing just that "The blue dot is our current location, just outsystem of the area controlled by the Dal Kaytin spacedock. Scarran controlled space is marked in red. Nebari space is marked in grey. Neutral or unaligned worlds are marked in white. No Sebacean controlled worlds are close by". Kurlun gave Pilot a set of spatial coordinates and told him to zoom in to system view - Moya, Pilot, and Crichton were surprised and more than slightly frightened when they found these coordinates to be in Nebari space, but Kurlun just snorted and said "I've been over the border a few times - unless anyone does something completely stupid we'll get where we're going with a few interesting mealtime stories and nothing else".
Pilot wasn't entirely sure he was being told everything, but nodded and replied "Moya and I will take you where you wish to go, Scarran - we would both prefer it if you helped secure our safety by helping us avoid confrontation with Nebari government forces when at all possible".
"That part's my job" Kurlun confirmed "Leave it all to me. You just need to do what you've been paid to do and follow my orders".
The journey into Nebari space was as uneventful as Kurlun assumed it would be - there were a few times when Kurlun was called to Command to get overzealous border patrol frigate captains to leave them alone, each of which resulted in the frigate going about its business and Moya's crew being a little more wary of Kurlun.
"Moya detects very faint energy readings ahead" Pilot announced - Kurlun immediately strode from the galley to Command and barked "On display!"
Kurlun gave a few further orders, which Kamiel knew were given to narrow down possibilities for the identity of an enemy ship, before he eventually nodded and said "A small Nebari warship, Purifier-class. What Pilot detected was the emission trail from its engines. I will use what Kamiel describes as my 'special skills' to hide us from its sensors. Proceed according to my earlier orders - I will do the rest".
We must be close Kurlun decided in his own mind Purifiers never travel alone - and intelligence reports say that a standard Host Vessel can carry four such craft on docking collars along its hull! before, to everyone's surprise, removing his gloves and boots.
"It would be much harder to do what I am going to do on any craft but a Leviathan like this!" Kurlun snapped when Sikozu revealed her presence and asked about that "Only this ship's nature as a living craft makes this a tactic I am willing to try - if I don't we lose time we cannot afford to lose! Now be quiet and let me work!"
Kurlun's eyes half-closed and the feel of the air itself around them changed as Kurlun brought his vast powers of mentalism to bear on the task of making sure Moya remained undetected. He gripped the desk containing the manual piloting controls hard and frost formed around his fingers and feet.
"Do not approach!" Kamiel warned very softly "Never approach my superior when he uses his special skills! He needs clear space around him and quiet - but we are permitted to watch from a safe distance".
"If my readings are correct..." Pilot told Crichton over his personal comm "...that odd Scarran has actually partially phased us out of the material universe. Moya says he is drawing energy from her and from some of you to ease his workload. Let us all hope this does not take long".
Since everyone present couldn't even groan at that point, let alone lift themselves off the deck, except Crichton the human just murmured "Amen to that, Pilot... I feel like I've been pulled through the wringer ten times over already..."
Twenty momens later, Kurlun let go of the desk and snapped "It's gone, all of you - we're well out of its detection range now!" - though he kept taking deep and slow breaths.
"My...superior..." Kamiel said, once he got to his feet and leaned against the wall "... requires... stimulant drink and... food cubes. He must... replenish his... energies".
Kamiel turned to Sikozu and asked "Perhaps you could alert whoever cooks on this ship to prepare a meal for us all, Sikozu - I do not know how severely you were affected, but I know that Sebaceanoid can barely keep his eyes focussing properly! He certainly cannot stand up yet" in his own language.
"He wants to rest again..." Sikozu replied, shaking her head "He is not like you or I, he is not used to hard work under the authority of Scarrans. We are, and thus we recover faster" before she said "I will see to food myself, I think - if we fed your Scarran the food our usual cook privides for us he would most likely shoot somebody. Scarrans being what they are, that would mean you or I would be the one to be nullified".
Everyone recovered much faster after eating, though Kurlun refused point-blank to tell them what he had done and even Crichton just said "Pilot knows, Moya knows - personally, I wish Pilot hadn't told me. Ignorance is bliss in this case. Eat up, you'll feel better".
"We proceed!" Kurlun barked the microt he finished his fifth serving "If we stayed on the course as directed there should be seven planets in this system - the best information I could get before coming here suggests we need the planet fifth from the sun. Approach slowly until we reach that planet's three moons. Hide in the sensor shadow of whichever moon we find first and scan on the following frequencies...". After giving Pilot half a dozen comm wavebands to scan, he hadded "You should just receive a beep every few microts if you follow my orders correctly and the one I am to retrieve is here".
"We cannot query the target for a location?" Sikozu asked, but Kurlun just looked her right in the eye before saying "Not here, woman - in Scarran space, or even Sebacean space, it might be worth the risk. Out here it would not".
I do not want to look at his face again Sikozu decided He is a powerful Pathal member, that much is certain - and whenever he looks right at me, I get the impression he can see my true self, find out who and what I really am. This frightens me. I will take all opportunities to stay out of contact with him.
Kurlun waited until Sikozu left the room before grunting once with amusement - Kamiel turned and whispered "Did you use your special skills on her, sir? Did you find out anything interesting if so?"
"Not that it's any concern of yours... or anyone else's..." Kurlun replied "... but I did read her surface thoughts. She's had some training that made it tricky. Nothing that unusual though - what you probably would expect. She fears me and fears my skills and what they can do".
"You cannot resist..." a voice told Captain Saban "We have as much time as we need here. No friends of yours will come. Any that come will not find you here - even if they do, they will not escape and neither will you".
"They will come" Captain Saban growled back, gripping the interrogation chair hard "They will find me and they will come. Maybe he will come. If he finds out, he will come, officially or not - and if anything he finds important happens, he always finds out. Sooner or later, he always finds out".
"Who... is he?" asked the voice.
"My most skilled trainee" Captain Saban replied "who will have pushed himself harder than I ever did in training him, and thus grow ever stronger and more deadly to his enemies over time. He, and all those like him, would come and they would find me - and then everyone in this place will die".
"I think not" came the response "This place is larger and more fortified than it might seem to the casual eye, Captain. If anyone, even this former pupil of yours comes here it will be their grave".
"I see the moons you told us would be there" Pilot announced to Kurlun some time later "One is quite near to us at this point".
"Come in close" Kurlun ordered immediately "Stay far enough away that you hide in its sensor shadow but are not brought to its surface by its gravity - the gravity on these moons should not be high, but it's still a risk best avoided".
"Moya is strong" Pilot replied, just a little boastful "We have escaped from stronger gravity wells that what our sensors report that moon generates on the first attempt... but both Moya and I thank you for your concern". Kurlun just snorted and repeated "Bring us in close. Scan the frequencies you were given. Use your lowest possible power setting that will reach the planetary surface to minimise risk of detection".
Pilot did exactly that, manoevreing Moya as close to the low-gravity moon as he dared.
"I remember that too, Moya..." Pilot replied softly when Moya showed him her memory of their last planetary takeoff "The gravity here is much lower. If you wish to land here, we can do so easily without strain to you...".
A few beeps and burbles later, and Pilot replied "I will tell the worryingly powerful Scarran, yes - he has bought our obedience for now, he must decide".
"Up to you" Kurlun replied, dismissing Pilot's caution "Your only guideline is fulfilling my order to scan the planet on the given frequencies. If you can further minimise the risk of detection and maximise the chance of success by landing on that moon then do what you need to do".
"I heard too, Moya..." Pilot said after a number of panels on his console rose and fell and lights flashed "The Scarran does not disapprove of the option to land there - he told me that if it makes the task he has given us easier we should simply do it and not bother him...".
Moya cut her speed to the bare minimum necessary before making a comparatively soft landing on the nearest moon - Pilot soon found out they are next to a crater wall, so he only had the one chance to make the scan and read it correctly, but he found he agreed with Moya's opinion that the lower chance of detection made it a better option to scan from there.
"Work through every frequency the Scarran gave us, Moya..." Pilot urged softly "As low a power level as will gain us the result he seeks..."
Five momens later Pilot's console let off half a dozen beeps and flashing lights.
"A response, Moya? The scan returned positive results?" Pilot asked in surprise "Plot a location if you have one, Moya - the Scarran will be pleased with us. The more he is pleased with us, the sooner we are all paid and the sooner he leaves".
"Yes, Moya..." Pilot added after a few more blinking lights "All of our friends on board will be pleased when he leaves, I think".
Reading a Leviathan's thoughts is like wading through neck-deep freezing mud! Kurlun groused as he ate foodcubes Impossible to know what you're looking at in any detail at all! When Pilot announced Moya's discovery, Kurlun actually sat up straight and called "Good!" and actually praised them in front of the entire crew "See? A little extra effort and motivation and results follow!" before he called "Kamiel! Run along to the flight deck - if there's anything flyable here get whatever it is ready. I will use my special skills to get a location on the one we were sent for, after which you will make a quick touch-and-go flight to the surface, where I will go and do my work. After you return you will stay here, Kamiel - I will contact you in your head using my special skills, and when I do this you will fly down again to collect me and the one we were sent for".
As soon as Kamiel left the room, Kurlun extended his senses and mind-scanned the area where Moya reported her own scan response from...
When Moya's scan made contact with the tiny head-tracker implanted in Captain Saban's brain, Captain Saban immediately knew someone had been sent to find him - and he thought to himself any military forces here have also now detected the scan and are increasing their readiness.
"Someone has scanned this facility!" his interrogator stated, and since that individual actually entered the room this time and didn't question him via loudspeaker and torture him with machines and chemicals he just smiled thinly.
"The garrison has gone to high alert! This level itself will be doubly fortified! No rescue will reach you!"
A loud ~I COME!~ thundered into Captain Saban's brain ~I have found you, Captain. I will come and retrieve you. All those who dare oppose me will be nullified~ - his interrogator was no mentalist herself but clearly knew contact had been with her prisoner from the outside.
"He is here" Captain Saban said, wearily but proudly "My most skilled student has found me and now he comes. If you wish to save yourself, you should grab anything irreplaceable and run for your life. He will not kill you if he cannot find you".
"You are mistaken" Commander Teriel replied, shaking her head, though Captain Saban said afterwards "You don't seem to want to accept the fact that you're dealing with an expert with guns... knives... his bare hands. A man who's been trained to ignore pain... to ignore weather... to live off the land. To eat things that would make a brindz hound puke!"
"One man..." Commander Teriel said "...against this garrison? I have almost two hundred soldiers between this room and the outside world. Your rescuer has to fight his way past two hundred well-trained Nebari soldiers to reach you. Impossible odds, expert killer or not".
"I don't think so" Captain Saban replied, shaking his head.
"Are you telling me..." Commander Teriel asked in astonishment "...that 200 of my men against your ...boy... is a no-win situation for us?"
"You bring that many men..." Captain Saban said, ignoring the insult against Kurlun and smiling just a little "...just remember one thing".
"Oh yes?" Commander Teriel replied "What?"
"A good supply of body bags" Captain Saban told her, before closing his eyes and smiling.
~I have located you precisely, Captain Saban! happinessanticipation~ Kurlun called out mentally, microts later ~I will come and retrieve you from that place! certainty~
~Commander Teriel commands this facility~ Captain Saban replied the same way, if weakly ~Best guess is there's a short tyradrekh, that's maybe five drekhs, against you - and most are likely to be Night Watch political troops~
~Good...~ Kurlun said ~I do love a challenge! eager anticipation~ before he realised something else and asked ~You are injured? Unwell? concernmental image of a generic Nebari officer being throttled by a gigantic Scarran~
~They interrogated me a bit, of course~ Captain Saban told Kurlun ~What did you think this facility is for? Not that it helped - I may not be as strong as you but I have my own skills and these are not weak! I neutralised their interrogation drugs as fast as they injected me with them and healed any lasting physical damage inflicted by the more common methods - but my meals, such as they were, have been few and far between so extracting me may be harder than you might like~
"Kamiel..." Kurlun called, then bellowed "KAMIEL! ARE YOU ASLEEP ON THE FLIGHT DECK, YOU LAZY KALISH?!"
"I am where you directed me to be, sir" Kamiel replied, over his comm "There are two transport pods here, and I am sitting in one of them on its bridge waiting for you. There is a Prowler here... but not only will two Scarrans and myself not fit in it, but the mentally unstable Sebacean male said the Prowler's owner would, I quote, do 'Bad Things' to anyone apart from herself who even attempted to fly it. Since you have, yourself, promised far worse than this if I simply fail to arrive for duties on time I ignored the threat but decided to save time and prepare a transport pod for takeoff instead". Kurlun stared ahead for a microt or two as he entered the transport hangar before seeing the pod with an open door on the side - he promptly ran inside, slammed the hatch shut and locked it, before almost leaping into the second remaining seat and barking "Don't just sit there, Kamiel, get me planetside now!"
Kamiel made a slow and careful takeoff until he was free of Moya's transport hangar - then flew as quickly as he dared to the planet below before skimming the trees and buildings until he arrived just inside the base perimeter.
"Close enough, Kamiel!" Kurlun decided, climbing out of the transport pod and settling his sword on his back "Return to the Leviathan. Wait there for my signal. Sleep the entire time if you want to as long as you're ready when I call".
Once Kurlun was out of sight, Kamiel made a fast take off and headed for orbit and Moya as fast as the transport pod's engines could get him there. Inside the Nebari facility, Kurlun extended his senses and tried to sense the layout of the facility and a fairly direct route down to Captain Saban's cell - he could sense Captain Saban's presence but not find his cell, so he decided he would have to work his way down and keep scanning every few levels. His sword almost leapt into his hands before he sliced six men into many messy pieces in only a few microts - he looked at the corpses, nodded with satisfaction, then proceeded inside.
"Commander!" came the sound of a very rattled Nebari soldier over the comm.
"Report..." Commander Teriel replied "...but first just calm down...".
"We haven't found him yet..." the soldier admitted reluctantly "But there's six dead here near the public foyer at ground level... three more at the first stairwell...eighteen around the medical centre! He's killed twenty seven of ours and not even taken a scratch as far as we can tell".
"Very well..." Commander Teriel replied before discomming.
"Mam..." Commander Teriel's aide announced, some ten momens later, waking her up from a short nap in her chair "Fourth drekh failed to report in. I sent a scout to their barracks and ready room, and ...well... see the cam footage for yourself..." before the aide vomited into a recyc chute.
Commander Teriel watched the few momens of camera footage with surprise and later with horror. Not just any enemy she decided on reviewing the recordings but one of the Hierarchy's elite Terminators - he melded with the walls, reappeared out of them behind enemies before cutting them to pieces with his sword, breaking their bones with nothing more than his huge Scarran hands, or dragging them back into the wall itself before ...letting go. Forcible rematerialisation inside a solid wall is a truly terrible and painful way to die, and whenever one of my troops does try to shoot him, he simply fades from view so that the pulse bolts hit nothing but empty air!
She almost screamed when the lights went out and a spectral image of the face of a Scarran appeared - it turned to face her and announced "I am the bullet no armor can stop, I am the blade that always finds the heart, I am the guided missile no system can deceive... and now I am here, inside this place...COMING FOR YOU!"
When the lights came back on, her aide was whimpering on the floor outside her office - Commander Teriel waited in case her aide stopped of her own accord, but eventually lifted her up off the ground and set her on her feet before slapping her around the face until she regained her senses.
"Every quarter arn, maybe a bit more..." she said "...I get reports of images like that from one or more levels. So far at least four troops have simply ran away, two have shot themselves in the head with their own sidearms to try and stop the pictures from driving them completely insane, and another six or so are under confinement for their own protection. Twelve more refuse to leave their barracks or galley and report for duty".
"Seal every level" Commander Teriel replied immediately "Close all blast doors. Deactivate every levelator. After what I've seen I don't know if any of that will even slow that apparition down... but when my own superiors find out about this, and find out they will, I need to show them I tried absolutely everything. I might look bad for having this facility totally overrun by one man, and be reduced to commanding a penal korgadrekh for the rest of my term of service, but at least I'll be alive and out of a cleansing facility".
Good... Kurlun said to himself as he wiped the blood off his sword yet again before scabbarding it More dead greyskin soldiers. The more I kill now, the easier extracting Captain Saban will become!. He paused to send his mind roaming for groups of weak-minded soldiers - whenever he found them, he put images of spectral Scarrans promising pain and terror and death of many kinds in their heads and watch them spread the the tales of what they had seen to their comrades.
Preying on their fear this way is more effective than simply cutting their heads off or slicing their bodies in half with my sword Kurlun decided as he evaded twelve of the remaining Nebari Night Watch soldiers - although he did strangle the last of the unit passing his location before leaving the corpse melded into the wall Captain Saban was right to teach me the value of such tactics - they have been extremely effective, I will commend his judgement in this matter after I reach him and escort him from this facility.
When he saw blast doors sealing shut and sirens blaring, he nodded to himself before deciding The proper and expected tactic to contain a dangerous individual for capture and either interrogation or nullification. It won't work with me, since I can simply dephase my body and walk right through it and take Captain Saban through with me the same way, but it shows whoever's in charge isn't totally stupid.
Pausing to extend his senses and scan for a route to Captain Saban's cell, he smiled when he realised he actually found not one but four possible routes - though his desire to save time made sure he walked right through a solid wall and down the emergency access stairway all the way down to the level containing Captain Saban's cell.
Three guards outside... he thought to himself I will alert Captain Saban to my presence and then I will kill these three with my bare hands. Practice at unarmed combat is good for me before calling ~Captain Saban! I am here, I am outside your cell! After I kill these three soldiers on guard at the door I will come in and free you! certainty~
Kurlun smiled when he felt Captain Saban's approval, determination, and desire to avenge himself on the Nebari before he used his power to temporarily enhance his physical speed and reactions - less than five microts later, all three guards were messily dead on the ground and the cell door was open.
"Captain!" Kurlun called happily before examining the bindings that held his friend to the bed and the control collar around his neck - he looked, then he rumbled in thought, then he took a good hold of the Captain before telling him "Hold on, Captain - I am going to dephase my body. As long as you maintaint a good hold on me, you will dephase with me - just don't let go". Captain Saban watched with interest as Kurlun did just that, his now-useless restraints and control collar falling to the bed - the control collar sparked a bit before exploding.
"Sorry about the mess" Kurlun said as the two of them walked slowly out of the cell "I had to kill a lot of Nebari on the way in and they do stink when they're dead. But I used all the things you taught me all those cycles ago - and here we are, able to leave as we please".
"I doubt you've faced everything that woman's got here just yet, mister" Captain Saban cautioned his former pupil, but Kurlun just replied "Then we can get some exercise on the way out, Captain - it will be good for us".
"I remember teaching you that..." Captain Saban replied as the two of them headed up an emergency stairwell.
A quarter-arn later both Captains emerged onto the second level below ground - and Kurlun was cleaning blood off his sword by wiping it on a corpse's uniform. Again.
"Seven more" Kurlun announced, nodding "First, I evade. If I could not evade, I kill. If I cannot kill, I use the full range of psychological and mental warfare skills you taught me and wait for the enemy to do my work for me".
Commander Teriel was in a much smaller room than her own office talking to three people she'd hoped not to have to deal with.
"This one..." one man whispered a little hoarsely "...is one of those that prompted development of people like me and my colleagues, Commander Teriel. It is why the Establishment pursues all methods necessary to add mentalism to the weapons available to its most loyal. Now the four of us are here in this place, where we are needed. You, Commander, will see to the salvaging of as many personnel as possible and the purging of the computer cores in case domestic enemies of the Establishment seek to use the events here today for their own ends. Number Two, myself, and Number One will pursue and engage the enemy and apprehend them. Good day to you".
Their approach did not go undetected.
"One behind..." Captain Saban gasped, still a little short on breath "Two ahead... Some level as us" before he scanned again and added "Mentalists".
"So they do have some here..." Kurlun growled "There's not been a good challenge worthy of me in most of this mission - until now. Let's see what these three greyskins can do..." before setting Captain Saban down and leaping up to the ceiling, where he wedged his hands and feet against the wall so he wouldn't fall down.
"You will not leave" Number Two stated "We will not permit it. Those here are guilty of crimes against the Establishment and will pay for their misdeeds. Stay still and await arrest and restraint" before trying to use mentalism to immobilise Kurlun and Captain Saban. Kurlun just snorted and broke their hold on both of them at the same time, telling them "Do better! A raw recruit performs better than that!"
All three attacked at once - two could match Kurlun's own mentalism-enhanced speed with their own while the other could form telekinetic shields, but those with speed proved unable to block Kurlun's relentless mental attacks or his two-handed sword blows and fell to the their deaths on the already bloodstained floor in less than ten momens. The telekinetic proved a far harder nut to crack - he was not particularly fast, but his shields were strong and he proved to be able to use his power offensively and defensively. It took half an arn before Kurlun finally got a hand past his shield and crushed his head against the wall.
The relief from the smells of blood and corpses was welcomed by both Kurlun and Captain Saban even though neither of them actually said so - that it was raining quite heavily was unusual to both of them, but that the rain was untainted met with more approval, since that while it did make them wet and cold it also helped wash the blood off their clothes.
"I brought a Kalish with me..." Kurlun admitted to his old mentor "I told him to be ready at a microt's notice to retrieve me - so let's hope he's not asleep right when I need to contact him".
As it happened, Kamiel was in the galley talking to Sikozu when the loud ~KAMIEL! KAMIEL?! GET YOUR EEMA DOWN HERE TO COLLECT ME AND OUR TARGET, IT"S PLOKKING RAINING DOWN HERE!~ thundered right across his mind.
"My superior has contacted me" Kamiel announced suddenly "I require the services of one of you to pilot the pod, since I may be needed to assist my superior aboard".
"D, you're up" Crichton called before anyone else could say anything "Any of the rest of us get seen around here an' were on the Nebari Ten Most Wanted list".
Despite several people trying to stop him, Kamiel took the largest pulse rifle he could find in Moya's small armoury before climbing aboard the pod.
"Take us there" Kamiel instructed him once the pod as well clear of Moya "That is where my superior disembarked when I brought him here. He and the one we came to retrieve will be there or close by".
It had not stopped raining when Dargo finally arrived, but a number of Nebari domestic security troops had arrived and were attempting to shoot both Kurlun and Captain Saban. Dargo set down, under Kamiel's relentless urging, right between the two sides - after which Kamiel opened the side hatch, raised his stolen weapon, and started to shoot back at the Nebari troops. Kurlun almost laughed when he saw what Kamiel was doing, though once aboard the pod he thought If he's doing things like that on his own, maybe I can find a use for him somewehre... I'll just have to see when I get back to base...
Three weeken of dodging other Nebari warships, plus Scarran border patrol frigates, later, Moya made it back over the Scarran border and all the way to the planet where Kurlun's A-team was based. Not one of the Moyans was pleased to be there, but since they hadn't received the balance of their fee they were forced to stay until Kamiel returned with their money.
"As specified inthe contract" Kamiel stated while Crichton and Dargo counted it all "To the last crindar. You will find my superior can be relied upon to keep his word and honour his contracts" before he turned to Sikozu and added "You all may wish to stay a while - my superior may have more contracts suitable for you, and if you are still here you will receive more currency for yourselves if you agree to undertake one of them for him".
"We appreciate the offer..." Crichton replied with more tact than either Aeryn or Sikozu expected of him "... but it's probably safe enough to head back out of Scarran space to the unaligned worlds again. Thanks for the money, mister - but it's best we leave while we can" - though he did grin and add "It's nice to know there's work available for us here if we need it, though".
"I will communicate this to my superior" Kamiel replied, nodding - his shuttle took off soon afterward, and they all watched it make planetfall before Crichton called "Get us out of here, Pilot - back to the neutral zone before the big bad wolf here tries to come an' eat us...".