STF

Tick Tick Boom... The Promenade - Rogan...when the past doesn't match the future or the present

Posted Nov. 8, 2022, 8:39 a.m. by Civilian Jessa Novar (Child) (Kate O'Neill)

Rogan felt his hands snap together no longer holding onto Jessa’s armor. Almost as soon as the lights faded, so did the slight sensation of falling. A series of curses spilled from his lips. The klaxons and red lights were only adding tension and fear to the situation. Rogan immediately raised his weapons as he took in his new surroundings. He was definitely not where he was a second ago. His anger boiled over at the use of the light weapon against them. For all their Tech, they were defenseless against it. The combat drug-fueled this sense of rage to almost homicidal levels. This escape was not an escape but more of a test. They had used Jessa to free them from the cells but also to lure them into a fight.

A quick scan of his surroundings gave Rogan valuable information. He was no longer in a cell but in what looked like an entertainment area with tables containing various gambling games, bars loaded with bottles, drinks scattered about, a stage, dimmed lights, and music fighting to overpower the ringing out of the klaxons. The inhabitants in the area were not dressed in the uniforms Rogan was used to seeing. This means they were either civilians or off duty. A large electronic sign hung near the entrance spelling out the words CLUB LUXE. Numerous curses sprang from his lips as he realized Jessa had been correct. The verbal language of this Federation was understandable but their written form was not. The Union employed the same techniques to control the population. Translate and scan Rogan spoke within his armor. Numerous holo displays began to process his request as data appeared indicating the probability of weapons, the makeup of the humanoids in the space, and the surroundings.

Weapons - 2% of the inhabitants are armed. Females 42% of the population. Males 58% of the population. The estimated age of the population sample is thirty-six with 0% of the sample being juveniles. Environment - entertainment complex. Threat assessment- moderate.

“Quad report,” Rogan spoke into his helmet trying to ascertain where the rest of his group was. “Jessa report,” he immediately called out the Guardian by name. He was not as concerned about being separated from the rest as he was being separated from her. One way or another Jessa was their way off the ship and the only way back to Vela Astria.

Raising his arms in front of him, Rogan unleashed a barrage of fire aiming at nothing in particular. He needed to establish control of the room and the easiest way to do this was through force. If someone died so be it. Many would die today. All attention would be on him. As the bolt tore through the space, several impacted the back wall and ricocheted back indicating some forcefield was in place.

Communication systems are currently disabled. Unable to translate written alien language at this time. Armor at 72 percent. Repairs in progress. The room appears to be shielded. The AI system of his armor responded.

The firing of the weapons increased the fear and confusion of the patrons in the space. It also put all eyes on Rogan which was what he had intended. “I am the Elder Rogan. You will submit to me. Bring me the Guardian Novar or I will begin to systematically slaughter you one by one.” As if to punctuate his command, Rogan randomly picked out a person and sent a bolt of energy into the crowd. The bolt impacted a woman’s chest flinging her like a rag doll across the space and into a table. The distraction of the attack allowed him to scatter ten small metal balls around him that rolled a few inches before seeming to melt onto the deck.

“Defend,” Rogan’s voice called out as the inky, metallic black pools multiplied exponentially growing into an elongated bullet-shapped device that rose to hover over the ground taking up tactical positions around Rogan. The command Defendmade the Mech’s react as it had when the Marines were attacked on the ship. A large red circle appeared that resemble an eye that pulsed as it scanned the crowd. “Now where is she,” his voice thundered in the space. The speakers in his armor projected it as a far deep and more menacing baritone. This was intentional. It invoked the feeling of power and authority in those that heard it.

Rogan

Heathcliff hadn’t gone ‘a clubbing’ for a long while. Well it wasn’t that long, but he never was the coolest kid in the club. Hiding behind a particularly sturdy section of the club, along a support column. He pressed his back against it, sweating uncomfortably. His bladder and his bowels both competing to which would betray him first.

In an act of pseudo-confidence, he pulled a discarded drink off a table and downed it. “I know you might have been lonely in your cell, but raiding a dance club isn’t the solution.”

“You know who this is ‘Elder’ Rogan. Three dozen hostages, a half a dozen robots, and body armor. I thought you were more… potent.”

Rinker

The comment shocked the alien and it took a moment for the armor to locate the trajectory from where it came. Unfortunately, the voice was hiding behind a large decorative pillar. It was not clear if taking it out would bring down the ceiling however, the speaker intrigued the alien. “Well, you seem like a brave soul with less than average survival skills. Come out. I am interested in meeting the individual behind it,” the voice said with a charismatic purr. While the sound of the voice was familiar to Rinker the cadence to which the tone was speaking was different. It seemed almost flirtatious and utterly unfamiliar with the person it was addressing.

Rinker couldn’t help but chuckle which might have revealed his position if he didn’t already know where he was. Rinker now tossed his empty glass across the room. “Less than average, well that generous. I appreciate it.” Less than average was probably right on the nose for a star-fleet officer. He was average for the common citizen.

“Foolhardy and gracious. This is an odd place,” the alien let out a small bemused laugh. It was far different than the thunderous command tone it used to secure the room.

Rinker shrugged “Near death situations can make for weird exchanges.”

“Near death,” the voice let out a soft, brief laugh. “I do not deal in halves of anything. It is all or nothing.”

Moving their hand to the side, the Mech’s separated and flanked the alien as they walked forward a few steps. The armored alien’s gait had a sultry pace. It was as if the individual inside was a patron walking into the bar for a night of fun. The mechanical eyes on the machines surrounding the elder no longer burned red but shifted to a soft yellow. The glow pulsed in a steady rhythm that felt almost like the machines were taking calm, slow, deep breaths. It gave a hypnotic feel to anyone looking at them long enough as if the machinery were trying to bring down the anxiety levels of anyone within visual distance.

Rinker tilted his head around the pillar. They were flanking him. Standard tactics were to attack into an ambush… well he wasn’t going to do that. “Rogan this seems quite unlike you?” Rinker raised an eyebrow. He hadn’t maneuvered from behind the column. Rogan was a murderer. He was certain of that and he would take a shot to kill the moment it was advantageous. Which might keep him alive for a while as there was no gain in killing a free prisoner, which was all Rinker was about now.

“And you presume to know me or who you are speaking to? Such impudence and audaciousness. First, you talk to me as if I am your equal then you presume to know my intentions.” The alien seemed almost irritated that Rinker was challenging their claim as Rogan or was it that Rinker seemed content to accept them as Rogan?

“Well, that’s what my information says…” He said as he slid one pillar over. It wouldn’t buy him more than a second or two. He felt like Bilbo Baggins negotiating with the Dragon under the Mountain, Smaug. He chuckled again, that was the book he offered to Jessa when she first visited him. Serendipitous that he was scurrying around like the Hobbit the book was named after.

“And what information is that?” The voice now seemed generally curious instead of authoritative. “Are you saying my reputation as Rogan the Elder precedes me?” Zala Tsu let out a derisive grunt. She was just as powerful as Rogan or Da Mu. The fact these people thought she was anyone but herself enraged her.

“Our scanner detected your movement, and given that assigned identities to each of you. Yours was Rogan. My close personal friend whom I spoke to in the brig.” Even another race could hear the sarcasm in his voice.

“Come out now and stop lurking like a molecat among the tall grass,” the voice spoke sounding like a parent at wits end talking to an unruly child. “Speaking to me is a privilege that you seem to be taking very lightly.” Zala Tsu did not make any more aggressive gestures but was still trying to coax Rinker out into the open.

“Why would I want to hurt you? You seem like you have a will to survive. You have my word that I will give you ample warning before I kill you so come out before you irritate me.” While the undying confidence was familiar in the tone, it was clear they had apparently no idea who Rinker was.

“Generous. But your body armor and score of Mecha suggest my safety is not your priority. Even temporarily.”

As if on cue, all of the monitors lining the walls of the casino switched from the warning sign staying calm to another message.

Attention crew of the Altantis. Four individuals have escaped the brig. They are armed and dangerous. Lethal force is authorized. Ian’s message was followed by frontal and profile images of each of the four aliens. As the images alternated only one brought out an emotional response by the alien.

“Why would you use that picture? It isn’t even my best side? Mech’s change the transmission,” the voice thundered. Ten of the fifteen Mechs zoomed across the space and covered the screen in what appeared to be a black ooze. Instead of Ian’s message flashing a new message seemed to materialize over the surface surrounded in a yellow boarder that matched the glow of the Mech’s earlier eye.

Rinker glanced at the screen, most mugshots were glamourous. “Well armor is flattering, broadens the shoulders. If that’s something you are into.” Rinker said with more confidence than he felt.

“Shut up,” the alien pointed their weapon at Rinker but made no move to actually fire or target him. The move was a conditioned one where the alien thought the action would bring about the desired effect instead of following through with the action. In fact, the alien was not even looking in Rinker’s direction. All he would have to do to avoid being in the line of fire was take a step to the right. The alien’s attention was fixated on the screens they ordered to be changed.

Rinker waved at the armored alien, but he did shut his mouth. Escape was not in the cards.

Citizens, do not fear. We are the light in the darkness. We are your saviors. Relax and rejoice for the day of your deliverance is upon you. Replacing the mug shots, new images of the four aliens adorned the screen. One was of an older man with a long white Fu Manchu mustache. One was a roguishly handsome man with a charismatic smile. One was of a young girl with a large smile, green eyes, and long long hair. One was of an icily beautiful woman with ebony black hair, flawless porcelain skin, and exotic lavender eyes.”

“Now that is better.” The alien looked at the screen with far more interest than controlling the room. It was obvious to anyone focusing on the situation, the alien cared more about how they were being presented to the masses than any actual message.

It almost appeared that the alien seemed to relax now that the security mug shot showed something far more appealing to them. The hand holding the weapon dipped some as if they forget they were attempting to hold someone at gunpoint.

Alien in Armor

“Flattering,” Rinker looked at the picture. He couldn’t resist a level of sarcasm. Perhaps he wasn’t as scared as he thought. “I don’t know why you’d care.”

Rinker

“Because I am far more beautiful than that,” the voice replied touching the side of its neck retracting not just the face plate but all the armor. It was almost mesmerizing how the metal plates recoiled upon themselves until they disappeared to the small button on the individual’s neck in almost a blink of an eye. Now standing in place of a non-descript automaton was a woman.

“True,” She was actually speaking the truth. Not that her attractiveness was something he was considered and the fact she was a murderer and a terrorist and had the blood of innocents and children on her hands… was pretty disqualifying in terms of determining attractiveness.

All cultures had a definition of idealized beauty no matter where they hailed from. While a person’s preference might stray from this idealized image, the classic definition based on that society’s standard of weight, hair color, facial ridges, length of a tail, height, or musculature was ingrained in every culture for someone to appreciate the visual standard. The woman, hidden by the armor, at face value would be considered by the vast majority of humans as classically beautiful. Her long ebony hair was thick and long falling about her face and shoulders like a veil. Her eyes were a hypnotic hue of lavender that drew attention to her high cheekbones and delicately upturned nose. The rest of her body matched the almost Greek sculpture perfection of her face. Even the prison orange uniform she had been given did nothing to hide her perfect figure. She had a wide hip-to-waist ratio that was accentuated when she walked making it appear almost as if she were floating across the floor instead of touching it.

Well at least she was truthful about that. She was much hotter than her photo.

Walking up to Rinker, the woman stopped a few feet in front of him. “I am Elder Zala Tsu of the Galactic Union.” Her voice was an alluring soft soprano that most men dreamt of hearing whisper intimate promises in their ear. “I do not remember seeing you when we arrived on this ship which means you cannot be Captain Bordeaux.” Several of the Mech’s slowly closed around Rinker and Zala Tsu as she spoke. “So who are you besides a man whose arrogance to address me directly is only rivaled by his apparent lack of self-preservation?”

Zala Tsu

“You may not have met me, but I have heard of you. Zala Tsu, ‘stand before her and tremble in fear and desire.’ That is what the guards whispered to each other. I didn’t know it was true until I beheld your visage.” He wondered if this hobbit ruse was going to have any impact, but clearly she had a level of vanity.

His flattery brought at a flirty smile and sultry look indicating Zala Tsu liked and believed what he was saying. “Is that why your officers always entered my cell in pairs? To control each other.” Her voice trailed off as if she contemplating his words. Looking back at him, Zala Tus let her eyes take in every inch of his body. “So tell me about my visage Commander.....” She had no idea of his rank but clearly, he had to be in command of something to be standing in her presence.

“That and they wanted opportunities to see you. Two officers, instead of one, twice the eyes upon you.” He smiled, “Zala the Magnificent. I particularly enjoy the eyes of fire and ice, although I can not deny that my body finds yours distracting to the point of speaking gibberish. I hope I don’t bore you with adjectives of your beauty, intelligence and power.”

“You would not be the first man to do so.” Zala looked Heathcliff up and down. He was older than most of the playthings that threw themselves at her feet and professed slippery words to entice her and yet the man appeared to radiate a self-confidence that was intoxicating to her. He did not have the rippling body of one in the trenches but that of someone in command: firm, toned, but now more used to battles of intelligence than fists. “Eyes of fire and ice. Are you a poet,” she asked in a seductive tone.

“I am Heathcliff Rinker, humble doctor and purveyor of wisdom.” He bowed slightly as he moved from the pillar. That piece of metal wasn’t helping him anymore. “I surmise that people are frequently poetic when speaking about you whether intentionally or accidentally as one can not help doing do when looking at a beautiful sunset, or a fiery supernova.”

Rinker

“Purveyor of wisdom,” she flirted closing the space between them as if she were a fashion model on a runway. The way her hips swayed showed she was used to getting and keeping men’s attention. Looking around she let her eyes drift back to him. “I assume this is some sort of pleasure center?”

“Mostly alcohol, sometimes dancing, often sexual interaction.” He looked at her. “I suspect.” Rinker threw out the sexual reference. She seemed to be so oriented.

“You suspect,” she toyed with him. “You have not found a need to explore the hedonistic aspects of this space.” Zala closed the distance between them even further. She needed it to find out information and using her alluring looks and divination instead of her fists was always her first choice. Leaning in close enough to kiss him, she let her lips trail just over his, across his cheek, and to his ear. “Let’s see what kind of fun you and I can get into,” she whispered. Closing her eyes she began to emote feelings of desire and lust. This close to him, Rinker would be helpless to resist the sudden urge to sweep a table and take her regardless of whose eyes were watching them. The only reason he did not might have been attributed to the psionic blocker the psychiatrist had given himself prior to meeting with Rogan. The blocker would make any divination moot if it was still coursing through his body.

Taking a step back she waited to see Rinker’s reaction.

Rinker felt a pressure on his hypothalamus but it wasn’t actually affecting him as it probably was intended. It was like someone poking a numb part of your body. You could kind of feel it because it pulled and tugged at the parts of the body near it. “I don’t have to use clubs to increase my contact with women. Generally, I have repeat visitors.” He glanced about.

A slight flicker or anger or rage washed over her face as she listened to Rinker’s comment. It wasn’t the comment so much but the reaction. Subconsciously Zala Tsu touched a ring on her left middle ringer. The ring was as beautiful as its owner. Set in a gold filagree band, the workmanship of the intricate swirls of gold was exquisite. In the center of the ring was a sapphire blue crystal-like stone that looked almost liquid by the cuts of the facets. She rubbed the back of the band with her thumb with the flash of momentary anger melting into one of contemplation. The gesture was small like one performed to occupy their hands as their mind contemplated a deeper thought. The gesture was probably not something one would notice given the ample assets available for inspection and her almost mesmerizing face unless their profession tended to notice such action.

The calmness suddenly left the woman as she signaled the Mech’s to open fire on the masses. In the screams and chaos, Zala Tsu stood erect, her haughty gaze directly slightly up to lock eyes on Rinker. “You worthless varping troglodyte. How dare you be standing in my presence and associate with me as your equal.” Snapping her wrists together, a small jewel-encrusted gold blade appeared. With the grace of an assassin, Zala closed the space between them landing a kick to the side of Rinker’s knee. The blow crippled him as a loud pop followed by a crinkling was heard before the man screamed out in pain dropping to his knees since her attack shattered his left making it useless and unable to bear his weight. Fisting his hair she now jerked his head back so he was forced to look up at her instead of her looking up at him. Placing the blade against his throat she pulled it back slicing the skin of his throat so that a small line of red blood showed the knife’s path. The cut was not immediately fatal but deep enough to allow her several minutes to look into his eyes as he died. “Why were you not on your knees worshipping me?” Moving in close, Zala let her lips brush his as she stared into his eyes. “Are you divine? How are you here and triffing divine!” Her breath coursed over his face and down his neck as his vision grew bleary before winking out and assuming the glassy-eyed stare of the dead.

Blinking once Zala snapped out of her strance-like daydream stare she had fixated on Rinker. Why the man was not falling to her beauty or her divination for that matter, perplexed her. While the urge to kill him simply for not being more enamored with her tugged at the edges of her rational thought, the mystery of why he seemed not at affected as the others in the room would keep him in the world of the living a bit longer. If there were others like him on the ship, it was information she and the other Elders needed to know. Her delicious fantasy of being the last vision the man ever saw would have to wait. Sending out another wave of emotional divination she watched Rinker carefully with an almost quizzical expression.

The other people in the room would not be so lucky. As her divination pulsed through the space like a heartbeat, the first individuals it encountered were a table of twenty-somethings already hopped up on adrenaline from her arrival. The larger of the males at the table did not wait for his buddies to speak.

Raising a fist he uppercut his friend’s jaw causing the man to slump limply in his chair now unconscious. Turning to his right he slammed a fist into his other buddy’s gut causing the man to drop to his feet retching. Now with his competition eradicated he could continue. “Or I could get you a drink,” the winner of the unfair fight approached her with the swagger of one at happy hour and not in the middle of an invasion. He only took two steps before a Mech blocked his path. The group of men was only about five to eight feet from Rinker. Whatever caused the reaction in them seemed to have a radius no further than that.

“Seems someone will be dreaming of me later,” she leaned back in still watching the men reacting to her Divination over Heathcliff’s shoulder. The sense that she was enjoying the spectacle came off in waves from her body creating an almost palpable wave in the air. “If you are lucky it could be you and I could be one of your…what did you call it…repeated visitors.”

“It wouldn’t be luck,” he paused. Zala had quite the ego he needed to feed it primarily, but a little doubt would probably be helpful. Letting the pause become pregnant he finally continued. “It would be a blessing.”

Zala savored his words on so many levels. It confirmed what she knew for one. A conquest of her by this Rinker would be a memory he would savor forever. No matter who he bedded after her, the man would be haunted by the single greatest rapture of his life. The idea Heathcliff Rinker would spend his life pining for the object of his desire yet never attaining it was like fuel for her soul. The second reason was far more malevolent. In the few moments, she had had alone with her Pet, Jessa not only spoke of this man but called out for him. That insinuated they had formed some sort of bond, a bond Zala would shatter into a million pieces. There was no one Zala could not possess or own. The fact that Jessa thought she could own something that was not discarded by Zala ignited a fire in her. She would not kill Rinker until Jessa could look at her and Rinker and know the man standing next to Zala only cared for Zala as his only point of devotion and concern.

“I am better than him,” the man on his knees, affected by her divination, shattered the mental image Zala was creating of Rinker putting the girl into her place.

“Said the man on his knees.” Rinker responded automatically. Sarcasm was easy and automatic for him. He partially regretted it. Shaming a person who was under the influence wasn’t something he wanted to do, but it was something he probably needed to do as he had to establish his dominance over every male.

His comment set Zala Tsu on edge. She was not emitting feelings of aggression which typically provoked the dominant type of behavior, she was witnessing now. Rinker should be oblivious to his surroundings focusing only on his insatiable desire to own and possess the woman before him. Lust was a powerful emotion causing people to give and take lives without thought or remorse. Rinker seemed too confident but not enamored which was causing her some degree of agitation.

Zala Tsu pulled back her lips from Rinker’s ear and flashed a look of pure malice at the man. “You were not addressed. Show penitence to your Elder and I might order a stay to your execution.” While the man had the physical characteristics Zala tolerated, he clearly was not as important or respected among this crew as this Rinker was. Zala Tsu might dabble with those of less power but she did not associate with them. The populace was beneath her and her status as an Elder.

“Your manifest magnificence,” Rinker spoke somehow both softly and firmly. “You do not slay a duck for quacking. How can anyone sentence a man to death for responding to your.... words do not do you justice… perfection.”

The man instantly dropped to his knees acting more as if enthralled by the woman than scared of her threat. Zala’s expression showed she enjoyed seeing the man on his knees eager to please her. She licked her lips moistening them wondering if she should flick her wrist and show the room her power over life and death.

“I would die for you. Kill for you,” the man on his knees bellowed out. “Give me the chance to prove my worth to you.” The man did not move from his spot completely mesmerized by the woman before him. Clenching his fists, he tried to work out the primal desire to eliminate anyone that might try to vie for his spot at Zala’s side.

Rinker glanced, he saw what the effect was heightened aggression, compliance, sexual desire. He would mimic being affected, but not significantly. That may titillate her. “I have a number of paraphilias but blood sport and necrophilia aren’t two of them.”

As furious as she was with Rinker not trying to kill the man vying for her affection and attention, Zala Tsu was too intrigued. “I just have a way with some men it seems.” Why are you not on your knees? His resistance was not ever encountered before by here. Some men with superior intellect and emotional control could resist her divination but the chance that this was occurring was slim. Zala rarely left anything to chance. There was also the chance that Heathcliff was one of them. Bria had made her way here once so why could someone else not have done the same? “Shiv Anunna Mazda sees all and showers blessings on the worthy.” If he was one of them, he would know the name of the deity that showed light into the universe.

“Well Heathcliff Rinker, purveyor of wisdom and humble doctor I am thirsty. Serve me a drink?” She was used to men and women following her every command or desire. She did not wait or repeat her question but moved to one of the plush seats at the end of the bar.

The bartender behind the oaken counter looked nervously at Rinker for confirmation and help. He did not relish being this close to the alien and was trapped in his spot.

Zala Tsu

Rinker looked at the bartender and nodded for him to pour them drinks. “Maybe you should get us a couple of drinks and keep them coming. Make mine synthahol and her’s real alcohol.” He made a circular gesture.... “Fast and when you bring the refills be very deferential, scared will work too.”

Cmdr. Rinker

The bartender nodded and pulled out two glasses filling them with whiskey as he watched and listened to Rinker’s orders. His reaction was not like the man kneeling. There was no unfettered adoration of the woman. Setting the drinks on the bar the bartender let his finger linger longer on the real alcoholic drink as he whispered, “hers.” As Rinker reached for the drinks, the man held it a second. “Be careful Sir.”

“Fear is for the weak.” Rinker winked.

“It also keeps you from being dead,” the bartender shot back.

Zala spun her chair around and watched the two men a few feet away from her. “Is there a problem,” she snapped in a tone of authority as she raised one of her booted feet and pushed the chair back from the bar. She perched the tip of her stilettoed heeled boots on the edge and wiggled the chair slightly. “I have not waited this long for the company since I was my Pet’s age. Has your mind or your body receded from the mindless gibberish state you spoke of earlier? Come sit before you bore me and I find a more suitable company like my Pet.”

Zala Tsu

“I had to be certain that your beverage was ‘top shelf’ the closest alcohol is for the masses and is of inferior quality. The bartender has to go further for the superior drinks. I thought you should not soil your tongue with things beneath you.” He glanced to the burly fellow on his knees.

“Well that is more like it,” Zala purred liking the sudden change in Rinker. He seemed more doting, more with the program. “I am pleased you are suddenly realizing what a gift I am granting you with my presence. You may sit,” she gestured to the chair opposite her. His demeanor was more akin to the politicians of the Galactic Union than the populace which for now let her push some questions from her mind. She would test him more.

“I am wondering if there are other gifts you might share with me.”

“You are the eager one,” she smiled at him. “Perhaps…if you please me I might be inclined to grant you my attention for sweet words or more athletic activities.” Seeing movement out of the corner of her eye caused a flash of anger to roll over her face. She came from a place where all wants and needs were met before she had to ask for them. The bartender should not be attempting to leave. Zala raised her fingers and snapped. The action spurred a Mech to hover menacingly over the man at the end of the bar who was not immediately servicing her need. “If I snap my fingers again, I will replace you with the creature on his knees,” she threatened. “If this does not please me maybe he can do better.”

The man at the end of the bar looked up and took a cue from Rinker’s previous comment. Pulling out a bottle of wine slowly, he set it on the bar trying to ignore the machine hovering two feet from him. “This needs to breathe. I was preparing the bottle in the chance your palate wanted something different.” He sauntered over with a bit more swagger and confidence than Rinker’s more reserved form demonstrated. On his way over he pulled two champagnes glasses off the wall. Setting Rinker’s down, he twirled Zala’s with a well-practiced flourish meant to charm the patrons. It was a little trick he picked up and tended to impress the fairer sex.

Rinker gave him a sidelong glance. It was a poor effort to escape and while he understood it. It made the whole situation more dangerous for everyone.

As he popped the cork, the Champagne spilled with the icon overflow. The bartender grabbed a flute and began to pour as he spoke. “The 1907 Heidsieck was found almost four hundred years ago off the coast of a place called Finland. The ship carrying it was sunk in a great war however the champagne remained intact and is considered one of the rarest bottles of Earth wine. It was destined for the imperial court of Russia however maybe it was fate that it was to be delivered to you instead.” Sliding the glass over, the bartender looked at Rinker. “Sir if I may go to the back. It seems Jeff Tube has spirited a few bottles away from the chaos.” The bartender did not know if Rinker was aware the security forces were arriving now through the Jefferies Tube access in the back and taking out the civilians as surreptitiously as they could however the man was smart. It was a better chance than average, Heathcliff would at least notice the odd verbiage in the riddle.

“That was a completely fortunate series of events for the champagne and us.” He presumed the bartender was speaking of using the Jefferies tubes to slide the patrons away, but that wouldn’t work well unless Zala was sufficiently engaged.

The bartender was a standard fixture in Luxe and his personality seemed not to be affected as was the other men in the bar however Zala did not seem to be paying much attention to him past the threat. It was only when Zala seemed to gaze at him with did his demeanor alter with his shoulders rolling forward and all sense of anxiety wash away as he leaned on the bar. “Or I can stay here and anticipate your needs before you want them.” Zala never took her eyes off the bartender as he continued to become more aggressive in his words and action.

“Do you have the 2024 Bourdeau in storage.” He looked over at Zala conspiratorially.

“That vintage,” the bartender looked at Rinker, “has been known to be unpredictable at times.”

“Unpredictable how,” Zala Tsu glanced between the two men. “Your captain has a wine named after them?” Instead of being more on edge, her arrogance bled into her assumptions of what she felt she knew. Her society came from a populace with a fanatical allegiance to the Galactic Union and those that ran it. Gifts such as children all bearing the names of their leaders regardless of race or culture, monuments created for their glory, and suicidal loyalty to the path of enlightenment were common. Having a wine named after one was insignificant but she did not have that much experience with the Federation. Maybe this was commonplace. Looking to Rinker, Zala Tsu waited to gauge her responses to his.

“The rumor is that is an aphrodisiac and one of the most rare and most expensive drinks in the galaxy.” He looked at the bartender. “Get it… quickly. We shouldn’t deny our mistress… and hopefully literally, anything.” He reached out to clink the glasses together.

“Is this…or you… that much more superior for my palate,” she purred out each word.

“Ditch the stiff and find out,” he cast a side glance at Rinker. “I can make you things that will make your toes curl and beg me to,” he let his words trail off as Rinker spoke.

“Quality sometimes takes a little time, and of course isn’t as manipulable as lesser creatures.” Again, he looked at the man and reminded her that whatever was done was not affecting him nearly as much.

Rinker

The comment caused her to lower her hand as a wrinkle of confusion marred her perfect features. The fact this Rinker was speaking and not groveling was starting to perplex her. Waving a hand, a Mech moved between the bartender and her forcing the man back farther down the bar.

“Are you referring to me as a lesser creature,” she let out a flirty laugh. In any other situation, her reaction would blend in with any other woman being pursued by an eligible man.

“Certainly not, I was referring to him.”

“Tell me what is this,” she raised the drink to her lips that Rinker initially served.

“Champagne refers to a beverage of fermented grapes that come from a particular region of Earth called Champagne in France. It’s a sparkling white wine that gains its carbonation from the fermenting process.”

“Good champagne is both rare and expensive.”

The moment was disturbed momentarily by the muffled sound of an exploding or weapons fire. Zala’s reaction was not of fear or concern but more annoyance.

“Tell me Rinker, do you think that commotion is from the Elders or my little lost pet?”

Zala Tsu

“Probably the Elders. Your powers are difficult to match, but the others have numbers so there likely would be a lot of weapons fire… for naught.” He looked at her. Could he actually try to bed her. She seemed interested, but that was odd. Rinker was a handsome enough fellow, but he certainly wasn’t a Helmsworth. Women weren’t actually knocking down his door like he implied.

Rinker

“Powers,” she dragged her teeth over her lip and reclined back in the chair slightly placing a booted foot between his legs, wiggling the toe of the shoe. “It is my divination. Do you know what that is? It is the gift from God that allows me to lead the populace to enlightenment. Unlike the others in my quad, mine is not as crass or useless. Mine can bring love.” Leaning forward she stroked his cheek with a lacquered nail tracing the line of his jaw until she was midline on his face. “Or fear.” Gripping his chin with her thumb and forefinger, she poured out feelings of terror. Looking into his eyes, she waited to see what nightmares he kept hidden and begin to reflect back to her in Rinker’s gaze.

There was a squint in his eyes as he fought back the darkness grew in his corners of his mind to fill his thoughts. Much like the wave of lust she had previously used his neuro-blocker protected him from the overwhelming majority of the effect. “I wouldn’t know beyond what you have told me.”

The man who was previously on his knees begging for her attention began to cower as if begging for his life. Excited jabbering filled the room with white noise as people began to panic.

“But you knew that I was divine as is my Pet. Tell me what did she prattle on about with you? What secrets and lies dripped from her lips.”

Zala Tsu

“Is that what you really want to talk about.” He leaned in slightly. “Are you just interested in the little girl, or are you interested in a challenge? Perhaps why I’m not as affected by your divination as others.”

“Have you found a challenge, a competitor, hmm, at least more than what you might have expected.” He looked at her body lustfully.

Rinker

Tapping her wrists together, the armor produced a blade she instantly brought to Rinker’s neck directly below his Adam’s apple. Pushing hard she pressed it into his skin not caring if severed the delicate skin or not. “You are not a challenge. There is one reason you are still breathing and it is because you have a purpose. You should be on your knees, bleating out gratitude that I understand your place so do not call my Pet a little girl. She is ours, not yours. She is one of us, not you.” Zala Tsu dropped any pretense of finding a sexual attraction with Rinker and laid bare her use for him.

Standing up she kept the pressure of the knife on Rinker’s throat so his only option was stand up and move back with her or slice his own throat. “Who or what are you,” she pressed the tip of the blade into his soft flesh nicking him slightly. The injury was small, like a nick from a razor but produced a fat drop of blood that bubbled to the surface. “Scan him,” she screamed out bringing a MECH to Rinker’s side. A long arm extended scraping up the drop of blood which was retracted into the silvery hull.

A few nano’s were injected into Rinker’s wound during the procedure which was standard practice in the Civil defense mode of the MECH’s. Their job was to control the populace and not attack unless someone attacked them directly. Their job was also to provide medical assistance to anyone hurt in the disturbance. Rinker would not feel anything directly associated with the nano’s healing him except for the wound suddenly not hurting. While Zala might have not noticed this mode enabled, she would the second she ordered the MECH’s to fight on her command.

The MECH’s glowing red eyes swiveled to the entrance of the space and pulsed as if they were a timer counting down to some hidden preset timer. The commotion was getting louder as the noise was now turning into the sounds of battle with the classic explosions and familiar pew pews being only slightly muted to Luxe’s left. Zala Tsu’s actions and the battle sounds had pulled attention off of the back of the room allowing most of the patrons of Luxe to slink out and others to slide in.

“You hurt him or anyone else on my ship and I will put you down for good,” Ian walked into the space locking his eyes on Zala Tsu and never breaking his stride. While he was no more responsible for the actions of the aliens and Jessa, the fact she was his daughter did weigh on him. Normally one got nine months to prepare for the responsibility. Ian had had ninety-eight hours roughly but that did not change the fact he was now responsible for Jessa and her actions from this point forward.

“And you are,” Zala gave Ian an icy glance.

“Captain Ian Bordeaux. The man you came to see,” he replied casually as the MECH began spitting out the results of Rinker’s scan.

Alien life form is Human. Composition…oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorus.

Zala Tsu’s eyes darted to Ian with a predatory gaze as the MECH spat out useless information. She wanted to kill Rinker out of spite however right now she had no idea which man meant more to the success of the mission. They came looking for Ian and yet no one seemed to be able to control Jessa which until they found the Prism, was problematic. Feelings of rage streamed from Zala like a pot overflowing on a stove. It bubbled and covered everything in its vicinity causing the MECH’s to swivel their attention back and forth between the entrance to the door and the room filled with security officers. Previously the effect seemed to be only a few feet into the room but now it washed over the space like a tsunami. The normally calm and focused security officers that took up positions the civilians had vacated felt their hands tremble, fighting the urge to fire and kill everything and anything in the past. Several officers turned their weapons on fellow officers as minor grudges suddenly became raw blood feuds that needed to be dealt with on a primal level.

Zala’s eyes narrowed staring at Ian and back to Rinker. Her divination was affecting everyone in the room except for these two men. It was time to find out why. Fisting the man’s shirt, Zala screamed into Rinker’s face, “why are you not affected?”

Her rant was cut short as a large series of explosions erupted just outside the doors of Luxe. From the right angle, one could see an armored alien firing round after round into the forcefield as if desperately trying to break through while the security officers fired round after round into the alien’s retreating back.

Zala Tsu


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