Light flared in Kayrin’s face and he closed his eyes quickly. A dizzying sensation caused him to fall on the ground, though it was hard to tell as his sense of direction was heavily skewed.


The world took longer to come into focus for Kayrin’s liking. His hands touched uncomfortably cold metal. There was a distinct chill in the air which his thin uniform did little to nothing to protect him from.


Once the fuzziness of his vision had worn off, he could see that he was in a large room covered in rectangular pods the size of a man, all of which were open.  Judging by the state that the room was in, they had been open for while.




A voice jolted him from his observation and he looked in its direction.


That was a relief, Rubicon was all right. His younger brother was sitting upright and wrapped his arms around his knees, a considerably more sensible position than Kayrin’s own.


“It’s about time you came to your senses, that man seems to be getting impatient..” Rubicon’s jet-black hair had flopped over his blue eyes, but from what Kayrin could see, he wasn’t terribly happy about their predicament.


Kayrin slowly got to his feet with considerable difficulty to face the aforementioned man.


He looked to be in his early twenties, with a tan that suggested that he spent a lot of time out in the sun and not on a starship. His shoulder-length blonde hair was tied back with a strip of cloth. His attire showed a lack of concern for personal appearance, or possibly the lack of a budget to worry about such things.


“Ditto to what the kid said, took you long enough.” he said, the comment sounded fairly good-natured. Nevertheless Kayrin kept his guard up. His attire was not government uniform, making Kayrin nervous.


“Where are we?” Kayrin asked. Of course he knew perfectly well where they were, but this man’s opinion ought to tell him much of what he needed to know.


He raised his eyebrows, “You don’t know? We’re in some dingy old government facility, Zerahn will probably be able to tell you more when he gets here.”


Kayrin tried to make sure his shock didn’t show. Old? The facility was brand new last he had seen it, but then, on the other hand, there was no one else there.  How long had they been in stasis? And where were the rest of the crew?


“What year is this?” Rubicon asked, seemingly reading Kayrin’s thoughts.


“53 PE.”


“PE? What is that? And who is the current king?” Kayrin frowned. Oh dear.


“You really have been in there awhile, it’s Post Exodus, and our king is Jallak the Third.”


“That old dinosaur is still on the throne?” Rubicon asked.


“He’s more of a fossil by now,” the man grinned.


And a good thing it was that Rubicon had spoken, Kayrin’s head was spinning, making him unable to answer.


Post Exodus must have referred to when the Kingdom’s people fled from the Lykosian threat, but it was only supposed to take a few years for the ship to get to the outer colonies, and they had been in stasis for fifty-three.


“Where is the crew?”


Might not have been the wisest question.


“It seemed to be largely abandoned aside from a few drones,” he shrugged.


That wasn’t good. Why had they been abandoned? His mind was still fuzzy with sleep, making it hard to put the pieces together.


“I trust you have been entertaining our guests adequately, Aacur?”


Another man appeared from the door, he was shorter than Aacur, but carried an air of confidence and charisma. His clear grey eyes darted around the room, taking everything in. His dark brown hair was slicked back, contrasting with his pale skin. He wore similar clothes to Aacur, except they were grey and he wore a blue cloak over them.


The man practically radiating vitality. He walked swiftly and with purpose as if nothing could deter him from his chosen path.


“I was waiting for you. You could have come sooner.”


Despite his statement, a warm smile lit his face, indicating a friendship with the newcomer.


“I apologize if Aacur bored you-”


Kayrin noticed Aacur rolling his eyes at the former statement.


“- My name is General Zerahn of the pirate clan Alverion, and you are?” He extended a hand.  Kayrin shook it reluctantly.

A pirate? That explained the getup of his comrade.


“I am Kayrin, and this,” he gestured to his brother, “is Rubicon.”


“It is a pleasure to meet both of you. Now, I have heard that you have been you for fifty-three years, is this correct?”


“You tell us.” Rubicon said, his eyes slightly narrowed.


“Are you aware of why you were kept in stasis for so long?”


They shook their heads, Kayrin had a few guesses but he didn't fancy voicing them.


“The government see you simply as weapons; tools to be used at will. They are afraid your kind would rebel without an enemy to direct your ire at.”


Kayrin raised an eyebrow, what was he getting at?


“Because of your status as human beings who have should have agency, I would like to offer you a choice. You see, the clan of Alverion is currently led by a lacerta named Khanir, a cruel old blighter, that is in no doubt. So, there are three options for you to take, you could side with Khanir and be a part of his pirate gang, we could toss you two out the airlock,” Kayrin shivered, neither of those sounded good, “... or you could assist me in taking over the clan and, if I succeed, I will grant you freedom to do with your life what you wish.”


“Those are the only options?” Kayrin inquired, his heart sinking.


Zerahn gave a solemn nod, “I am afraid so, there is nothing else I could offer you, not with Khanir in charge.”


Aacur put a hand on Zerahn’s shoulder, as if to console him that it was not his fault.


“Can I have a minute to think about it?” Kayrin asked.


Zerahn smiled, “Of course, we will give you two space, although we have to be back on The Ravager soon. As soon as Khanir’s men finish looting this base we will have to return.”


As soon as the two stepped away, Rubicon turned to Kayrin.


“Frankly, all of the options suck on multiple levels. What do you think we should do?” he whispered.


This was all so much to take in; he felt mildly overwhelmed.


Kayrin put his head in his hands, “I don’t know, Rubio, I just don’t know.”


His chest tightened, there was very little information to make the choice with, he wasn’t sure how much influence Zerahn had, and what would happen if he decided to join the current pirate leader… and he dared not even think about the airlock option.


Rubicon’s eyes widened slightly, “Uh-oh, I know that look. Calm down before you start panicking… well, any more”


Kayrin looked into his brother’s face, there was a softness in his blue eyes which he only got when he was trying to keep Kayrin from working himself up.


Kayrin took a deep breath to help himself relax, “Okay, we just need to look at all of the choices, bar the airlock one.”


“That leaves us with only two, join the nasty pirate gang, or the other potentially nasty pirate gang, except the latter will give us our freedom after we help them.”


He avoided Rubicon’s eyes, siding with Zerahn was probably the most logical option; but helping pirates with their infighting? It seemed wrong. On the other hand, there weren’t  exactly any other options. He held back from scoffing, agency indeed.


“Well, there is nothing to choose between them; except for the fact that one will set us free afterwards. We could also make a break for it, I suppose.” Rubicon pointed out.


“I don’t like our chances of escaping.”


“True.” He admitted.


There was a pause before Kayrin spoke.


“It appears we don’t have a choice.”


Rubicon wrinkled his nose, “Not to be the wet blanket, but I am I the only one that thinks that Zerahn knew we’d join him?”


Kayrin sighed.


Zerahn had been waiting expectantly. His eyes flashed with curiosity as they approached.


“Have you made your decision?”


“Yes, we have. We’ll join you.”


“You have made the right choice, trust me. Although, just keep this conversation between us, okay? Wouldn’t want it reaching Khanir’s ears… figuratively”


Kayrin struggled to keep his expression neutral.


Please let this not be the biggest mistake I’ve made in my life,” he thought.



The first thing that Kayrin noticed while boarding the pirate ship was the smell, it was a mixture of sweat, old food matter and things he didn’t even want to name.


It was very different to all of the other starships Kayrin had been on. They had all been clean, white, and had the strong scent of chemicals in the air. The Ravager was practically the complete opposite, with it’s brass colour scheme and it’s… organic smell.


“Welcome to The Ravager!” Aacur grinned, gesturing to the less-than-spotless corridors.


It was mildly disconcerting that that Kayrin felt nothing as The Ravager pulled away from the government facility which they had fetched Kayrin and Rubicon from. Although that was not nearly as unsettling as all of the choices he had made and all the things he had learned in the past few minutes.


Zerahn glanced over his shoulder, looking bemused by Rubicon gagging at the smell.


“You will have to meet Khanir, but first, I want to introduce you-” he stepped to the side of the hallway as a couple of pirates barreled past, carrying stolen government equipment, “-to your guide, she will be able to tell you all you need to know.”


A girl rounded the corner and saw them, “Present and accounted for, General!” she said with a little salute.


“Ah, speak of the devil! Kayrin, Rubicon, this is Cyra.”


Cyra was around the same height as Kayrin, that being short, and a similar age. She had brown skin and curly hair of a darker shade with a gold streak through it. It only reached her chin in length. She had quite soft, broad features and large gold eyes. She dressed in similarly messy clothes to Aacur.


Her expression was friendly and inviting with a twinkle of mischief in her eyes.


“Nice to meet you, and you are?” she held out her hand.


“Erm, Kayrin.” he shook it.


“Rubicon,” he didn’t take her hand and only acknowledged her with a nod.


She thankfully didn’t look offended. Kayrin shot a look at Rubicon, hoping that it would convey that it was not wise to be impolite to the people that hold the power of whether they lived or died.


Rubicon rolled his eyes at Kayrin. He got it alright, he just didn’t appear to care. Strange boy.


Cyra turned her attention to Zerahn, “So, you going to see our beloved captain?”


Zerahn nodded, “But could you follow us so that you can give these two nice people a tour after we’re done?”


“Of course;” before she left she looked at Zerahn out of the corner of her eye and raised an eyebrow, as if asking a question, he gave a tiny nod in response.  No doubt about his and Rubicon’s allegiance.


Kayrin tried to take in as little as possible about their surroundings as they walked down the halls, the crew seemed to consist entirely of huge, muscular men, many with missing limbs and all of them smelling about as pleasantly as the place they lived.


Aacur gave a running commentary the events transpiring as they walked past. Kayrin got the sense that the ship’s layout made little sense due to all of the twists and turns in the corridors.


Zerahn and Aacur talked at them almost constantly, making his head spin even more. Speaking of locations and people that he had never heard of. No doubt many of them had been alive fifty years ago, but Kayrin certainly hadn’t heard of them.


He had speculated that the government had not told him and Rubicon much about the outside world. It appeared that his fears had been confirmed.


It felt like hours before the group came on front of a large silver door.


“This is the bridge. Oh, and a few notes before you meet the captain. One, don’t look him in the eye. Two, don’t speak unless spoken to, and three, try to make your presence as small as possible.” Zerahn said.


The door opened into a large room with a high ceiling. The entire front hallways covered in a screen; showing what was on front of the ship and information about where they were. He didn’t recognise the system name displayed on the screen which they were in, no doubt somewhere on the rim.


The bridge itself was a shade of bronze and fabric-lined chairs were positioned on front of the screen. Bridge personnel tapped busily on their own holographic devices; they didn’t seem to notice the new people on the bridge.


A large, dark green lacerta sat on the largest seat, his legs folded. A broad-brimmed hat concealed his eyes, but the translator implant on the side of his head caught the light enough that Kayrin could see it clearly.


“Captain?” Zerahn waited for him to respond.


The lacerta cracked open a blue eye and observed the two newcomers, “So you managed to convince them, eh? I never doubted you would.” The sound emitted from the device on the side of his head. Lacerta were unable to speak without them due to their reptilian mouths.


As a result, his voice was lovely to listen to. It was deep and rich and no doubt made people want to follow him. Narcissist.


“Yes, Captain.’


“Super soldiers should be of great help to our clan,” Khanir barely seemed to acknowledge Kayrin and Rubicon’s presence, “Arm them and make sure they know how to fight.”


He opened his other eye and took a better look at the brothers, “Teenagers? And barely so with the younger one to boot!”


“From the research we did, Captain, they were in training by the time of the Exodus,” Aacur piped in, “But they have still no doubt been trained from a young age and are probably competent.”


“‘No doubt?’ ‘probably?’” Khanir growled slightly and looked at Zerahn.


“They are, trust me. I dug through the footage.” Zerahn assured him.


“Hmph, I hope they are; for your sake. The next raid is in a week.” the lacerta pulled his hat over his eyes.


Aacur and Zerahn ushered Kayrin and Rubicon out the room and closed the door behind them.


Aacur sighed, “That went worse than how I had expected it to…”


Zerahn smirked, “Really? Khanir is so predictable I could probably have told you how that would have gone almost exactly.”


“We are trained in martial arts, tactics, and pretty much any weapon you could think of,” Kayrin said “Well, that is, if no one has thought of some wacky new weapon in the last fifty years.”


Zerahn nodded, “And you are very impressive. Especially due to your age."


Cyra poked her head around the corner, “I can probably take it from here, you two have stuff to do. General Zerahn, I was just talking to Skia and she wants to ask you about something.”


Aacur pouted, “What about me?”


She patted him on the head, “You had better go with the the general, make sure he doesn’t say anything that would cause an explosion large enough for any government ships in the system to see in perfect clarity.”


Zerahn looked unconvinced, but evidently he decided to humor her request.


“Okay, Aacur, you had better come with me.”


As soon as the two rounded the corner Cyra rolled her eyes, “I thought they’d never leave, you two seem to have barely gotten a word in this whole time.”


“Nope.” Rubicon said flatly. Kayrin elbowed him.


“And you?” She said to Kayrin, “I haven’t heard a squeak out of you since you told me your name.”


“I haven’t thought the need to,” Kayrin replied, smiling nervously. This was true; but also casual conversations had never been something he specialized in.


“Sometimes one can just forget my brother exists, I can testify, the first few years I knew him I sometimes forgot he was in a conversation. He just sort of… vanished.”


Cyra cocked her head, “I didn’t know super soldiers had siblings,” then she reddened, ‘Sorry! Insensitive!”


She was actually right, it really came from, at first at least, the fact that they looked similar, they had the same wiry, slim build, black hair and similarly sharp features. One of the few ways they differed was that Rubicon’s features were harder and his eyes were a pale blue as opposed to Kayrin’s indigo.


In time Kayrin had found that Rubicon really needed someone for support, and vice versa, so they just stuck together and thus considered themselves brothers; and they were in all the ways that mattered.


Rubicon summed it up nicely to Cyra, “We value each other's safety more than our own and we stick by each other no matter what happens, I would say that makes us count.”


“Well-said, Rubio, well-said,” he smiled.


“Ah, so family by choice?” she looked almost wistful before evidently snapping herself out of it.


She changed the subject quickly, “So… should I show you a map of The Ravager? It’s faster than a tour.”


“Yes, please. It would be more efficient that way.” Kayrin replied.


“Don’t want any more of the smell and pirates? Totally understandable.”


Kayrin opened his mouth to protest that that was not why, but she had already pulled a battered infopad out of her satchel and drew up a map of the ship. She pressed a button and it projected a hologram, giving a three-dimensional view of the ship.


The Ravager was a rather oddly laid-out vessel, as Kayrin had guessed, it was as though parts of it had been tacked on as an afterthought. It seemed around mid-sized, the map confirmed the length as two kilometres.


Cyra grinned from behind the holograph, “Total piece of junk, right?”


Rubicon shrugged, “I was thinking ‘tin can’, but yours is close enough,”


“Both of those seem a little too mild. Space-borne junk-pile seems more appropriate.” Kayrin commented, joining in.


She laughed, “It’s served us this long.”


Something seemed to occur to her and she glanced up from the map, “Do you two have infopads?”


They both shook their heads. Kayrin had had one before they were put in stasis, but he had no idea where it was.


“I don't have any new ones on me, though I’ll be sure to get you both ones as soon as I can. The ship can be very confusing and you need some way to get around. I, truthfully, got lost a few times before Aacur remembered to get me one,” she grinned before carrying on, “I could bring you to your quarters and bring you the pads later?”


Kayrin nodded, “That seems like a good idea.”


After many twists, turns, ladders and corridors, they arrived at their quarters. Cyra tapped the control panel beside the entrance and the door slid open.


Their room consisted of two bunk beds and a cupboard built into the side of the wall, it was bare in terms of decoration, which Kayrin was honestly fine with, he was used to it. Fresh clothes had been placed on both of them along with other necessities. The clothes were similar to that of Cyra and Aacur’s, but less elaborate than Zerahn’s.


“I’ll pick you two up for lunch in a bit, okay?”


Kayrin nodded and Cyra closed the door.


As soon as the door was closed, Kayrin sank to the floor and sighed, his back to the door. He had had no time to process and reorder his thoughts since he had woken up. What had happened to the rest of the super soldiers? Were they still out there? If so, where were they?


Kayrin looked up and saw that Rubicon had crouched beside him.


“KayKay? I know this isn’t the time, but I’m sorta maybe a bit worried about the uprising,” he looked at the ground, “For you, of course, I don’t want you getting hurt.”


Kayrin furrowed his brow, Rubicon was normally so self-assured, how could he have forgotten that he was only thirteen? Kayrin mustered his best smile before responding.


“We’ll work it out, one way or another. And you are the most talented at fighting of any of the soldiers your age, I think you’ll do just fine.”


Rubicon seemed to get his emotions under control again and he got to his feet, “At any rate, we’ll still do our best.”


But Kayrin knew Rubicon too well to not see through his calm demeanor, the boy was very nervous. The problem was that Kayrin didn’t know how to comfort him. If he called Rubicon out on it he would deny it and Kayrin would have embarrassed him in the process.


Kayrin himself was not particularly worried about the uprising, he was more dubious about serving pirates, and how much was there to choose between the two groups?


Zerahn and his faction seemed to be more outwardly polite and friendly, but that said very little about what they were actually like. The fact that Zerahn treated them like equal human beings won him some favour from Kayrin; but that would be the perfect ploy to get them on his side.


Kayrin ran his fingers through his hair, trying to think. There was very little he could actually do to change their situation, he was completely powerless, this was not exactly a new feeling but nevertheless an unpleasant one.


“Oh, and KayKay?” Rubicon was climbing into the bottom bunk.




“Rest now, fret later.”


Kayrin smiled, “Sure, Rubio.”




Several days passed, Zerahn hadn’t said anything more about his plan for the uprising, and Kayrin started to get a better hold on the ship and the two groups and who held what post, and what role him and Rubicon played.


A knock on the door disturbed Kayrin from his dozing in the morning.


“Cyra, is that you?” he asked.


“Yes,” came the muffled response, “be out here in a few minutes, Zerahn has called a meeting.”


Finally. Kayrin hopped out of bed and partially opened the door.


“Zerahn is calling a meeting about his plans.”


Rubicon staggered out of bed, his hair was sticking up even worse than Kayrin’s had been.


Kayrin smiled over his shoulder, “We’ll be there soon.”


After they managed to make themselves look presentable, with much grumbling on Rubicon’s part, Cyra led them down increasingly darker and less well-worn corridors and they descended several floors.


“It’s close to the engines,” Cyra explained, “Not many people except the engineers come down here, which makes it a perfect meeting place as none of Khanir’s lackeys are ever in the area. Zerahn has also bribed all the engineers to not speak of whatever we do here.”


The lower decks were less smelly but more dark and less well-cleaned, relatively-speaking.


By the time they reached the room, Kayrin could feel the faint hum of the engine, making the floor throb gently.


The meeting room itself was quite a small room some distance from the engines, inside sat presumably most of Zerahn’s top allies, it was a bit squashed as there were over twenty of them gathered around a table, talking amongst themselves.


Zerahn sat on the table himself, and he smiled as he saw them approach and waved them over.


“I am sorry to have to send Cyra after you so soon, but this is important, you three are the last to arrive.”


As if that was a cue, Cyra drew them back as Zerahn stepped up onto the table, all chatter in the room immediately silenced.


“Greetings, I am glad all of you could make it. This is a very important meeting, it is regarding Khanir and his leadership of The Ravager, he has not exactly been fair, treating androids,” the few androids in the room nodded, “and other subspecies as lower than pureblood humans and lacerta, and this is simply not true, we are all sentient, are we not? He also brings people into the fold whether they desire to work with his group or not-”


Cyra nodded fervently, this caused Kayrin looked at her, wondering how she came to The Ravager and why.


“- and his main lackeys consist mainly of the absolute scum of the universe, he disregards competence, honor, and subtlety in favor of putting himself on the highest pedestal he can find.”


Everybody in the room cheered in agreement.


“It is time for this to end!”


If it were possible, the cheers got even louder.


“Excuse me, sir” a high, nasal voice said from the back of the crowd.


“Yes, Akren?”


The speaker was a deathly-pale man in his late thirties who somehow looked somewhat like a snake, he wore a cloak with a hood and his face was covered in intricate blue and red tattoos.


“How do you plan to do that? Khanir is guarded very heavily and you will have to take out the other high-ranking officials at the same time.”


“I am glad you asked,” Zerahn turned the hologram projector sitting on the table on.


It showed a map of the vessel, Zerahn pointed to a room in the centre of the ship.


“As you all no doubt know, this is the meeting room. All of the high-ranking officials will be gathered here at once to discuss an upcoming raid, that is our time to strike. The takeover will have to be fast and shed as little blood as possible, the fewer people we alienate, the better.”


Another person spoke up, this time a thin hybiri woman, “When is this meeting?”


“It three days away, so prepare yourselves.”


“Now,” Zerahn tapped several rooms and they highlighted red, “We need to take the command center and all backup command rooms, but we need to do it quickly and carefully so no one can sound the alarm. I have managed to get a few of my agents in the rooms at the time to make things mildly easier. Once my soldiers are posted at enough positions, we attack the meeting room and I will then challenge Khanir to a duel once we are on even ground.”


Akren spoke again, “Would it not be easier to just shoot him?”


“Easier, certainly, but much less effective. What would it look like? Just one leader usurping another, not a mark for a change for the better. I have to show that I am more willing to risk myself than he is.”


Murmurs of approval rippled throughout the room.


He started listing off the people assigned to each operation, Kayrin noted that Cyra had been assigned to take the main control room.


“... Aacur, Akren, Kayrin and Rubicon will accompany me to the meeting room.”


“Wait, what?” Rubicon said, Zerahn didn’t seem to notice.


Ditto, Rubio, ditto,” Kayrin thought. Why assign them? He hardly knew them!


“Now, I shall discuss the various parts of the plan with their leaders.”


Zerahn jumped down from the table and blended quickly into the group as people bunched around him.


Cyra turned to Kayrin, her eyes sparkling with excitement, “Isn’t this great? We’ll finally be rid of him!”


“Yes,” Kayrin said, slightly absentmindedly, “but why did Zerahn put us in his group?”


“What, do you think I haven’t told him how good you two are?”


Cyra had watched him and Rubicon practice but he hadn’t realized that she had been telling Zerahn of their abilities.


“Won’t people notice if we waltz around carrying guns?” Rubicon asked Cyra.


“It’s not exactly unusual, people often bring guns along just so that they can shoot the news screen if it annoys them. Plus, you’ll be carrying axes, not guns.”


Rubicon grinned, “Fair point.”


Kayrin would have killed to see the news, just to see what was going on currently, but the two times he had been to the mess hall the screen had been shot. This gave him a pang, he still had very little idea of what was actually going on, none of the pirates had been very helpful.


All he knew was that King Jallak was still in charge, which, honestly, didn’t surprise him in the slightest, even before he was put in stasis the king was over six hundred years old.


“What’s bothering you, Kayrin?” Cyra’s voice shook him out of his thoughts.


“I’m fine. What weapons will we need?” he added, changing the subject.


“Just a fractal-edged axe and some armour should be fine. I’ll arm you closer to the day.”


“Oh, and, I know it’s unrelated, but would you like to join me and Aacur in the mess hall later?”


“Oh, um, sure!” That was new. Nobody ever invited him to just talk to them before…


She smiled, “Great! I’ll see you later, then. I’d better go talk to Zerahn about my role in the plan.”


Rubicon looked at Kayrin as soon as she left, “That was odd.”


“I would say nice.”


“Nobody’s ever done that before, y’know, just asking you to chat with them.”






Kayrin and Rubicon whirled around to see Akren standing behind them.


“So you are the two Cyra talked to Zerahn about.”


“I suppose so.” Rubicon folded his arms and watched him with narrowed eyes.


“Hello, Akren, was it?” Kayrin bit back all of the remarks which were bubbling at the back of his mind.


Intelligence operator Akren.”


“That’s a mouthful. I.O seems a little more appropriate” Rubicon put in.


Akren showed little emotion, “A smart one, aren’t we?”


“Rubio, stop it.” Kayrin said. In his opinion, Rubicon was perfectly justified in his attitude, but that did not protect him from the consequences of his actions.


He could apologize for Rubicon, but he refused to stoop that low.


“I should like to see your supposed abilities play out.”


“You won't have to wait long, you’ll see them in the mission.” Kayrin replied.


He raised one eyebrow, “I hope they are all they crack up to be, for your sake.”


“Akren, stop bugging the newcomers,” Aacur said, emerging from his group.


“Oh, how unprofessional, interrupting me, I would expect better from you, Aacur.”


“I could say the same to you.”


Aacur folded his arms, “Don’t you have something better to do?”


“Hmph, as a matter of fact I do,” Akren spun on his heel and walked away.


Aacur glared after him before muttering, “I can’t believe we’re related.”


He turned to the brothers, “I’m sorry about my cousin, he is… not the most polite to newcomers.”


“We noticed,” Rubicon growled.


“You’re going to have to work with him on the mission, unfortunately,” Aacur said with the same attitude as one would telling his friend that a shared friend had died.


“I think we’ll survive,” Kayrin said, smiling.


“So, you two will be free to go once we overthrow Khanir, huh? Where are you going to go?”


Kayrin was not sure, he had had very little time to think about it.


“You don’t know, do you?”


“Not at present,” Rubicon supplied.


“Ah, I suppose you wouldn’t know, what with being in stasis for fifty years ‘n all, do you want me to explain the state of things later?”


Kayrin nodded vigorously, “Yes, thank you!”


“Okay, we’ll tell you then.”


Rubicon poked Kayrin in the side and pointed to the table, Zerahn had climbed back on it.


He raised his voice so that everyone in the room could hear, “This meeting is adjourned, we will meet again tomorrow night to discuss the plans further.”



Kayrin hadn’t been to the mess hall often, he didn’t like the smell or the noise, but since it was between supper and breakfast, the hall was relatively quiet. Only a few pirates sat at the tables, hunched over rather large containers of various alcoholic beverages.


Cyra waved him over from her and Aacur’s table. He sat down next to her, looking forward to learning more about the time period he had found himself in.


“Hi Kayrin, where’s Rubicon?” Aacur asked.


“He’s resting, he had an early morning,” Kayrin replied.


“Ah,” His expression sobered, “So, I promised you to tell you about what happened in those fifty years.”


Cyra looked at him in mild surprise, “You did? I was going to tell him now, too.”


Aacur grinned and put his feet up on the table, “Great minds think alike, I suppose.”


“So?” Kayrin prompted.


“Oh, right. After the Lykosians invaded sixty-odd years ago the king called a retreat to the rim, since then, the authority of the central government has broken down, there are only a few bastions which the king actually controls, and the rest devolved into warlordism. It’s a bit scary when you think about it, how quickly society breaks down once we were hit by an external threat. Wow. That’s deep.”


“Aacur, get back to the point.” Cyra rolled her eyes at Kayrin and pointed at Aacur, her expression screaming ‘can you believe this guy?’


“Aw, spoilsport.”


“Actually, I kind of agree with her,” Kayrin said.


“I’m surrounded by spoilsports! Anyways, super soldiers like you were put in obscure government facilities so that they could break you guys out if the lykosians ever invaded. The old order has steadily been receding, having less and less control over the rim, and pirates, like us, get the lion’s share. Which is great for us, not so much for them. Privateers make an absolute killing, though, I heard some of the king’s youngest relatives are privateers.”


“They can stoop pretty low,” Cyra commented.


“Cyra, we’re pirates, we’re not the people to talk,” Aacur pointed out.


She did not look amused in the slightest and dropped her gaze.


Kayrin stared at the table, the old kingdom had always been the only constant in the turmoil that was the galaxy, but it was failing? He knew enough about history to know that every society was destined to fall at one point or another, but it was still a shock.


“Did that come as a surprise, Kayrin?” Cyra asked gently.


He shook his head, “Not entirely, but it is still a blow to hear it.”


Aacur smiled brightly, trying to lighten the mood “So, who’s up for food?’




Cyra threw a shield to Kayrin, he barely caught it in time.


She was pacing back and forth in the armoury, practically buzzing with excitement.


“... and here’s a fractal-edged axe…”


Kayrin raised his hands, “Please don’t throw that one at me, I may not survive the ordeal.”


She turned crimson and laughed nervously, “Of course I wasn’t about to do it subconsciously, what makes you think that?”


“Your reaction, for one thing.”


“Ugh, sorry. I’m just excited for tomorrow, and nervous. Like, really nervous.”


“Completely understandable, you were put in charge of the group to take the take to the control room, that is one of the most important and delicate operations in this whole uprising-” he paused, “I’m not helping, am I?”


Cyra laughed, “Not even a little bit.”


Rubicon sat unusually quietly in the corner, polishing his new weapon. When Kayrin noticed, he turned to Cyra.


“Give me a moment.”


She gave an understanding nod, “Sure.”


Rubicon looked up as he approached, then looked back down at the rifle.


“What’s wrong, Rubio?” Kayrin asked.


“Nothing’s wrong, I’m fine.”


Kayrin raised an eyebrow and Rubicon relented.


“Fine.” he lowered his voice, “I don’t trust Zerahn.”


“Why Zerahn specifically?” He asked, there were a lot of untrustworthy people on the ship, Zerahn seemed only mildly dodgy.


Rubicon frowned, his expression deeply troubled, “I don’t know, KayKay, there’s just something… off about him. He just reeks of ambition, I don’t think he’s going to stop at taking over The Ravager.”


“It won’t really be our problem, we’ll leave the ship as soon as possible.”


“I suppose so,” Rubicon muttered.




“I told you you’re right. Issue resolved.” he waved Kayrin away and got back to polishing the gun.


When Kayrin turned around he saw that Cyra had occupied her time with making mock swiping gestures with his axe.


Kayrin smiled, these were people he could work with.




Kayrin took a deep breath. This was it. After all that preparation, this was the night him and Rubicon earned their freedom.


They had been ordered to hang out in one of the corridors close to the meeting room with Aacur, pretending to be casual; easier said than done when one was covered in armour and holding an axe.


Zerahn walked towards them, that was the cue, they broke away and followed him slowly. More and more groups joined them, keeping separate enough so as not to be suspicious.


Kayrin struggled to keep calm, he had never been in actual combat before, only simulators.


They drew closer and closer to the meeting room, Kayrin’s heart pounded faster and faster as they approached the room. Rubicon looked up at Kayrin, his blue eyes cold.


“We can do this, KayKay,” he whispered.


Kayrin gave him a small nod in response.


Zerahn held his hand up from ahead, they stopped just before a turn. Zerahn gave a signal for them to get their weapons at the ready.


Kayrin clutched his axe tightly. Everyone armed with axes and shields crowded to the front to protect the people with rifles.


Zerahn gave the signal.


The next few minutes went in a blur, Kayrin’s training and instincts took over, and he was only aware of blood, the clanging of axe against axe, and screams of pain on both sides. He lost track rather quickly of how many men had attacked him, and how many casualties were on both sides. Only when things quieted down did things come back into focus. His axe was embedded in one of the guard’s heads.


The sight probably should have sickened him, made him want to throw up. It didn’t, and this disturbed him even more somehow.


The rest of the soldiers moved forward, but Kayrin hardly noticed. Shaking himself to his senses, he pulled the axe out, it made a sickening wet sound. Someone grasped his arm.


“Hello, anyone in there?” Rubicon looked concerned, he thankfully wasn’t injured, but his armour was spattered in blood and his axe similarly so.


Kayrin nodded and turned to Zerahn, who was getting some information from the comms device attached to his ear.


“Cut open the door,” he commanded, stepping aside so the armoured men could do their work. And work they did, cutting through the door in a matter of minutes. By the time Kayrin had gotten through the door, the people meeting and their bodyguards were up in arms.


“What is the meaning of this, Zerahn?” Khanir snapped, a rifle slung over his shoulder.


“You are a sharp wit, Captain, I think you can guess. We have taken control of all of the command rooms, nobody knows we’re here. Now, I could just shoot you here, but in the interest of sportsmanship, I am going to offer you a chance to win your ship.”


“Delightful. How so?” he bared his sharp teeth in a growl.


“I challenge you to a duel!” He said grandly, before adding  “ceremonial blades, not fractal edged ones.”


Khanir looked at the other high-ranking members of the ship, as if for help, but they all watched impassively.


His pupils narrowed to slits, “Very well, Zerahn, we will have it your way.”


A finger tapped Kayrin’s shoulder, he turned to see Aacur.


“Kayrin, I need you to watch the door in case anyone tries to flank us.”


Kayrin nodded and fell back to the door, yet remaining close enough to see what was going on.


“When does this duel take place?” one of the generals at the table asked.


Zerahn smiled, “Immediately. We wouldn’t want anyone to disturb us, now would we?”


Khanir looked like a cornered animal, Zerahn had outmaneuvered him soundly and he clearly didn’t like it one bit.


“I don’t have a blade on me.” he said, seemingly stalling.


Zerahn clapped his hands and one of the soldiers came forward, carrying a intricately-decorated blade.


“I have arranged for that,” Zerahn held out the sword to the current captain.


He took it grudgingly, his eyes flaring with outrage.


“Now,” Zerahn turned to the other generals and officials, “If I win this duel, then The Ravager belongs to me, and if our esteemed Captain wins it, then all will remain the same.”

The two stood facing each other on the table, Kayrin’s attention was drawn away he heard footsteps from the corridor.


“Rubio, do you hear that?” Kayrin asked.


Rubicon nodded grimly and pulled his axe out again.


Kayrin waved Aacur over and explained what he had heard.


Aacur called some soldiers to the door, “Thanks, Kayrin. I can see why Zerahn wanted you two on our side.”


A bunch of heavily-armed pirates raced down the corridor.


“What is going on here!?” The man at their lead demanded, but when he saw Zerahn and Khanir about to fight, his eyes bulged with rage and he charged forward, yelling battle cries.


Kayrin was vaguely aware of Zerahn calling the start to the duel, but he was preoccupied, once again things faded into the battle haze. His axe cut through armour and flesh with similar ease, but everything screeched back into focus when he heard a cry that he recognized.


Rubicon leaped back from his opponent, his axe clattering to the ground. He covered his left shoulder with his right hand, blood seeping through the gaps in his fingers. His expression a grimace of pain.


Though Rubicon’s adversary never got a chance to attack, his expression behind the transparent visor indicated surprise as his axe was cut cleanly in half, although that expression lasted less than a second before slackening to dull shock as he fell to the floor.


Kayrin pulled Rubicon behind his shield and retreated to the other side of the door.


As soon as they were  through the door, Kayrin quickly glanced at the duel to see what was going on. Zerahn seemed to have the upper hand, but that could change at any second.


Kayrin turned his attention to Rubicon, who had sat down, gasping with pain.


“Rubio, let me see it.”


He shook his head, “Carry on fighting, I’ll live.”


The attackers were driving Zerahn’s men through the door; they couldn’t hold out much longer. But they didn’t have to.


Zerahn knocked Khanir’s sword back with a parry and drove it into the captain’s chest. Panting, he dislodged the sword and raised it in the air. The other leaders looked on in notable shock.


“Enough!” Zerahn’s voice rang out through the room.


“It is done. Listen to your new captain and stand down!”


He looked at the leaders below him, “Unless anyone else would like to challenge me?”


They shook their heads vigorously, to that Zerahn smiled.


“Akren, I want to broadcast something over the ship’s intercoms."


“Yes, captain.”


A girl approached Kayrin and Rubicon, she had quite sharp features with a wiry build to match, her teal hair fell around her face, reaching the length of her chin. Her green eyes had a certain hardness to them.


“I’ll tend to that wound of yours, ” she held up a hand when Rubicon opened his mouth, no doubt to say he was fine, “Don’t bother. I’m tending to that whether you like it or not.”


“Thank you, erm…” Kayrin said, ignoring Rubicon’s glare.


“Skia,” she supplied, pulling out bandages, “It shouldn’t need nanotherapy, it’ll just take longer to heal is all.”


“Crew of The Ravager, I defeated your former captain, Khanir, honorably in single combat. This ushers in a new era, no longer will you feel the negative ramifications of an unfair and self-serving leadership. I will make us formidable, known throughout the rim, not just as a footnote in history books, but as one of the most respected pirate forces ever known! Anyone who refuses this idea is welcome to leave, I do not want disloyal crewmembers who might usurp me,” he cast a distasteful look at Khanir’s body, “but only the ones who are ready to commit to my cause; so are you with me, or against me?”




Kayrin noted that the other pirates attitudes changed towards him and Rubicon in the weeks after the uprising, more grudging respect than anything else.


The ship was already seeming cleaner and better-organized ever since Zerahn had gotten in charge, the television screens were all repaired, and the weapons jammed less.


Kayrin walked down a hall near the engines, finding comfort in the rhythmic thrum that they emitted. There was also no one else there, which gave him space to think.


Kayrin had been waiting for Rubicon to recover before leaving The Ravager, and in that time he had been thinking hard on what to do next, he knew so little about what was going on outside The Ravager that planning was almost impossible. Cyra had provided him with more information since the uprising; but how would he and Rubicon survive? It was a large, harsh world, and no one was going to welcome super soldiers with open arms.


They couldn’t go back to the military, not after associating with pirates.


Kayrin sighed and put his head in one hand.


“I thought I might find you down here,” Rubicon, who was standing in the doorway, looked around the hall, “It reminds me of the engine room in the old base, I used to find you there all the time.”


Although he was mostly healed, Rubicon still looked a bit pale and tired, he hadn’t slept well after he had been injured. The axe had cut into the bone, but he had kept a brave face throughout all his treatment. His shoulder was wrapped in a white bandage, which was replaced every day, nevertheless, it still brightened Kayrin’s mood to see him.


Kayrin smiled at him, “I remember that,” he wrinkled his nose, “It was less dingy than this.”


Rubicon laughed thinly, “Too right.”


“Why are you here, Rubio?” Kayrin asked.


“I wanted to ask if you thought of any options for us.” he sat down in the doorway.


As soon as Rubicon asked, his mood darkened significantly, and it must have showed in his expression.


Rubicon raised his eyebrows at Kayrin’s silence, “That bad, huh?”


“You have no idea.”


His eyes lowered, “Oh.”


Kayrin pulled himself together with some difficulty, “I’ll figure it out.”


The statement seemed hollow, and Rubicon knew it. He knew Kayrin too well.


“We have no place in this time.” Rubicon sighed.


Kayrin wanted to assure him, he wanted to tell him that everything would be okay; but that would be a lie.


“I’m sorry, I don’t know, I just don’t know…”

Kayrin poked absentmindedly at his food with a fork.


Cyra looked up from her own meal first, her brow furrowed with concern, “Are you okay?”




Aacur frowned as well, “You’re not fine.”


“Is it to do with what you’re going to do now?”


“How did you guess?” Rubicon asked, a note of sarcasm showed that he was still the Rubicon Kayrin knew and loved.


Skia, who was also at the table, scoffed, “I’m sure a bunch of pirate groups will be scrambling to get ahold of two super soldiers such as yourselves.”


“Yippee.” Rubicon muttered.


Cyra looked at Aacur, as if for confirmation, and he nodded.


“Um, Kayrin, Rubicon? We were thinking… Would you like to join our group?”


Kayrin had to admit, the thought had crossed his mind, but he had always dismissed it, they had only worked for Zerahn to get away from him, after all. But the option was seeming less and less unthinkable every minute.


Rubicon immediately looked to Kayin and shook his head ever so slightly.


Kayrin forced a smile, “We’ll think about it.”



“We aren’t going to think about it, right?” Rubicon said once they got to their quarters.


When Kayrin didn’t answer, he repeated his question, a little more uncertainly.




“Shouldn’t we at least consider it?” Kayrin suggested.


Rubicon sighed and sat on his bed, “I knew this was coming.”


“That is why you were so upset? Surely it isn’t that bad?”


“Look, Kayrin, I don’t know what Zerahn is up to, but it’s big. Did you think I have just been lying down this whole time? No. I’ve been watching what has been going on. Zerahn is retraining all of the pirates… he’s training them like how we were trained! Like military personnel!”


“That might simply be a case of pragmatism. Military personnel perform better than goons.”

“And,” he added, “It isn’t exactly the worst option, we get bed and board, and Zerahn’s people don’t seem that bad.”


Rubicon sighed, but Kayrin could feel that he was relenting.


“I’m not even sure we’ll survive on our own; we’d have no money, nowhere to stay and nowhere to go.”


“We are perfectly able to survive! We are trained to survive on a desert planet with little food or water for pity’s sake!”


“Are you wanting to join another pirate gang? That’s our only option other than joining the captain’s group.”


“No, I mean on our own. Not being pawns in someone else’s game. We’ve been juggled our entire lives; and now we have a chance to break off from that.”


He made good points, but was it worth the risk? He would have done exactly what Rubicon suggested had he been on his own; but he couldn’t risk Rubicon like that.


“I know what you’re thinking. Stop worrying about me, this is getting tiresome.”


“I am responsible for you, I have every right to worry!” Kayrin replied, struggling to keep his temper from exploding.


Kayrin took a deep breath, “I need some time alone.” he walked out of the room and into the corridor.


At the risk of being predictable, he went down to the engine rooms, trying to calm himself down and keep a level head. He had always had to do that; in that, he was unlike the other super soldiers, who all had notably tempers and made no effort to control them.


Kayrin sat down in the one furthest away from the rest of the ship and sat down. Rubicon was acting insanely; they had to join Zerahn. He knew that was the right choice now. It was their only choice. But a hint of doubt still lingered.


He didn’t like fighting with Rubicon; he never had and probably never would. It was deeply unpleasant and when they did do so, it left scars and took a long time to be resolved.


He wasn’t sure how long he sat down in one of the hallways surrounding the engine. But he was jolted from his thoughts by footsteps.


Kayrin looked up, it was Rubicon.


“Hey, KayKay, I just want you to know, that whatever potentially brain-dead decision you make, I’ll stay by you. Now, stop lying there, it doesn’t befit you.”


Kayrin raised him eyebrows in surprise before smiling warmly and answered Rubicon’s request.


“I talked to Cyra about it, and she says that we just have to ask the captain about it,” he said.


When Kayrin looked at him in surprise he smirked, “Hey, just because you want to make a decision I think we’ll regret; that in no way means that I won’t help you out.”


“Thanks, Rubio. You didn’t have to do this.”


“Eh, it’s alright. Don’t worry about it.” Rubicon grinned, but there was a certain uneasiness about it. Kayrin shook it off, perhaps he was just paranoid.



“I want to welcome the new members of our crew, they played a pivotal role my plans, and I want to congratulate them on their decision!” Zerahn didn’t seemed terribly surprised; had he planned this all along?


Kayrin looked at Rubicon. The younger boy flashed him a smile but didn’t quite meet his eyes.


Kayrin looked at the crew below him, ruffians, goons, and a few friendly faces.


Rubicon was right that Zerahn was ambitious, but perhaps that kind of ambition was just was the rim needed. Perhaps the old kingdom could use people like Zerahn.


And maybe, just maybe, him and Rubicon could be happy there.


Well, Rubio, there’s no turning back now, let’s see where this path takes us.