Menagerie, On Automatic

Previously.

Watching her ship break slowly break apart, the brief flare of fire and electricity, the smaller pieces flaking off and floating away, before the larger pieces cracked and finally snapped separating from the remains was frustratingly beautiful. As she drifted farther away, beauty became simply frustrating.

An hour earlier, another day on patrol over Ison VII. Her job, ensure traffic flowed smoothly, any distress calls were answered quickly, and keep an eye out for raiders. Not that traffic did not flow smoothly due to the automatic navigation controls. Not that anyone ever found themselves in distress on the way in or out of Ison VII. Not that raiders had attacked in over three years. Nothing ever happened and Amiri was fine with that.

Everyday, wedge herself into the cockpit built for a bov, not a rhino, push a key for the same old patrol route she was always assigned and sit back for her shift. Boring. Boring was predictable. If the cockpit had room for anything other than her she would have brought something to occupy herself. She knew most of her fellow pilots took hobbies on patrol with them. Just thinking of WhiteTip reading her books on her back in her spacious cockpit made Amiri jealous.

Reaching into a cargo pocket she pulled out her latest attempt to counter the long boredom, a portable hologame console. Gingerly setting the unit on the top of the dash, Amiri gently pushed the power button with a large toe. Immediately the cockpit lit up as the company logo accompanied by the three note jingle filled the cabin. Amiri smiled as the console successfully connected with the datastream her home screen appearing in front of her.

Amiri laughed when her favorite game character, a little monkey appeared on the tip of her horn. She pulled the menu of games down and spent a few minutes deciding which to play. Off to her right, a large pachyderm tender floated by on automatic navigation; she paid the tender no mind, the automatic routes ensured near misses, but no collisions. Inspired by the “near miss,” Amiri touched the icon for her favorite platform game, Simon Simian.

Totally engaged, Amiri guided Simon the Simian with some success through various levels for the forty-five minutes. Nothing broke her concentration, not the blinking commlight. Not the insistent tone of an urgent call. Not the more insistent tone of non-standard traffic.

The bright flower of an explosion outside her window, caught her attention a second after Simon disappeared without warning when her console lost connection.

“What the hell,” Amiri shouted.

A knife edged ship flew through the explosion, blasters firing, impacts seconds later. Her patrol ship shook and rattled. Warning lights flashed. Her beloved console crashed to the floor. Confused and panicked comms from all over the system filled her cockpit along with the warning tones and emergency tones.

Stabbing manual, Amiri engaged the engines in time to accidentally maneuver out of another attack pass by the knife edged ship, unfortunately not fast or well enough to avoid the follow-up attack. Her ship, automatically ejected the cockpit lifepod, shooting her away from the impending destruction and combat.

On automatic, the cockpit lifepod rolled over obscuring her view of the remains of her ship and accelerated for Ison VII below.

 

Menagerie, Easy, Like I Said

Previously.

Easy, Like I Said

Sisters, as Yoshi expected, was a brothel. Unexpectedly, a brothel that catered to all species and genders. Instead greeting by catcalls from the “girls of the house”, catcalls from just about everyone directed at both of them. Walking through the door two Sisters approached them, wrapping themselves around Yohsi and Caesar, whispering the delights of the establishment.

Yoshi spotted Hook Beak and his crew across the room playing cards. Drinks, cards, and a table full of animals, not the ideal situation Yoshi thought.

“I’m here for a drink,” Yoshi said to the Sister as she shook him off her arm, “Maybe later. Let’s get to work Caesar.”

“Really, that much,” Casear said to the Sister holding his hand.

“Caes,” Yoshi said with some irritation.

“Let me take care of something and I will be right back,” he said to the Sister.

Yoshi and Caesar approached Hook Beak’s table from opposite sides. Hook Beak, large for a scav, continued to play cards unaware of Yoshi and Caesar. He slapped down a hand of cards causing chips and a few of his feathers to scatter across the table.

“I win again,” Hook Beak said in a raspy voice

“Just deal them,” another scav ordered.

Yoshi stood behind Hook Beak, looking at the back of his baldhead. She nodded at Caesar who took position between two scavs.

“What are you doing back there, hopper,” Hook Beak said loudly.

Sudden silence as everyone at and around the table became interested in the confrontation.

“I said, what are you doing back there, hopper?”

Two of the scavs at the table reached under the table. Hook Beak started dealing.

“We have a bounty for you and your crew,” Yoshi replied. “Come along nicely and nobody gets hurt.”

Hook Beak started laughing, followed by his crew, “Hop along and you won’t get hurt.”

One of the scavs pulled a large knife from under the table. Animals backed away from the table, two bovs sitting at the table left. The scav with his wing under the table stood and flipped the table. Hook Beak dropped to the ground and the table, cards, and chips flew past him. Yoshi, surprised, dove to the left. Caesar drew his stun stick, jamming the tip in the long neck of the scav with the knife. He let out a loud, piercing screech as he fell to the ground.

Table flipping scav spun, swinging at Caesar, forcing him to hop back. Hook Beak stood up, reaching for a knife at his waist. Yoshi bounced forward jamming her stun stick into his chest. Hook Beak squawked loudly. Up against Hook Beak, she kicked his left leg out; together they crashed to the floor among the cards and chips.

Ducking under another wild swing, Caesar smashed his stun stick into the scav’s wing and followed through with another stun stick smash to the gut. The scav squawked loudly as he fell to the floor.

“Yosh, you alright?” Caesar asked while putting cuffs onto both of the scavs at his feet.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” she answered with a smile. “Told you this would be easy.”

“They were drunk and we ambushed them.”

“Easy, like I said.”

Menagerie, Sheriff Justice

Previously.

Sheriff Justice

“Are you sure?” Sheriff Justice asked in a slow drawl drawing out each word to ridiculous lengths.

Caesar took a sip from his iced juice drink, watching Yoshi’s reaction. The furrow between her eyes deepened, she stopped drumming her right foot against the ground, her paws clenched and unclenched, she’s going to blow he thought.

Standing up, Yoshi walked to the back of Sheriff Justice’s cramped office, making a show of looking at all of the holo-wanted posters. Stopping in front of a cluster of red-bordered wanted posters the images leaning forward to her challenging her.

“You seem to have a problem around here,” she said to the wall.

“No more than any other jurisdiction,” he replied.

Turning, while gesturing over her shoulder at the wall of wanted posters, “I beg to differ. We’ve been around and this is the most unclaimed bounties we have ever seen in one place. I think you need some..,” she put a paw to her chin before finishing, “assistance. So yes, I am sure.”

Caesar watched Sheriff Justices’ chest inflate in pace with his anger, heard the snort, watched his tail slash through the air, and immediately after he put his hooves on his desk to make a show of standing up, interrupted.

“Here are our credentials,” he said sliding the ident-tablet in front of Sheriff Justice.

As expected, the action of sliding the ident-tablet across his desk caused him to pause and look down, distracting him.

“As you can see,” Caesar continued, “we have claimed many bounties, are rates are reasonable, and we are more than ready to start working here, once you give your approval.”

Yoshi, sat down, took a sip from her ice juice drink, and winked at Caesar. Picking up their ident-tablet Sheriff Justice flipped through their credentials and records. Leaning against the wall, he looked over the tablet at them, his nostrils flaring.

“Says here,” waving the tablet, “you two have never tackled a red-border before.”

“That is true, but that is only because where we came from competition was fierce, red-borders went to more experienced crews,” Yoshi replied.

“You do have a lot of high marks,” Justice said thoughtfully.

“We aim to please,” Caesar said with pride.

Sheriff Justice walked around his desk, handing the tablet to Caesar as he walked past. Standing next to his wanted wall, he put one hoof to his chin, his tail moving in a lazy pattern; he looked over the wall for a minute.

Pointing at a scav wanted poster, “I’ll approve your credentials.”

“Great,” Yoshi exclaimed.

“After…”

“Oh.”

“…you show me you work. You’ll get paid if you bring in this bounty,” he finished. “Right now he and his crew are at Sisters. You bring them in and you’ll get all of the work you two can handle.”

Caesar pulled the wanted information to his tablet, reading while the Sheriff talked. Hook Beak and his crew were wanted for illegal salvage, disabling ships and holding the ship until the crew turned over their cargo, not known for violence, the armed and dangerous warning was prominent at the bottom. Caesar handed Yoshi the tablet.

“We bring in Hook Beak and his crew and you’ll approve our credentials?” Yoshi asked.

“Yep.”

“Great, point us to Sisters.”

Standing next to his front door, Sheriff Justice pointed across the street, “Look for the lights, laughter, and trouble,” he said with a laugh.

“Let’s go Caesar. We got work to do,” Yoshi said eyeing the sheriff on her way past.

“See you in a few,” Caesar said with a smile, checking his weapons as he followed Yoshi out of his office.

Menagerie: Bov Space

Previously.

Bov Space

“Three,” Yoshi counted down excitedly.

“Two.”

“One.”

“And pop!”

“Don’t say that,” Caesar complained, face turning a unique shade of green.

Transition to real-space was always a bit jarring for most animals; Caesar unfortunately was part of a small sub-set of animals who found transition extremely jarring. Yoshi found his reaction amusing. Bolting out of his cockpit seat, Caesar hopped to the back of the ship holding both his paws over his mouth. Yoshi could hear him retching over the sounds of the real-space engines engaging pushing Lucky Foot towards the bov station in the distance.

Caesar hopped back to his seat, less green, “I hate that.”

“Nothing you can do about it.”

“Doesn’t change that I hate it and you and your and pop, doesn’t help,” he said shooting daggers at me.

With a big smile, all front teeth, “I’m sorry Caese. I won’t do it again.”

“Choke on a carrot,” he retort with a laugh, “yes, you will.”

“I know. Send our information to the station please.”

“Information sent. Waiting for confirmation and docking information.”

Each of the larger Confederations developed a look or style to their stations, Bov stations always reminded Yoshi of old images of cattle milking operations, row after row of stalls designed for the maximum number of cattle at one time without any personality at all. Zooming, Yoshi counted ten ships from small guncutters like theirs to larger cargo haulers in a row with a few empty bays here and there in front of the barn shaped station.

“They are slow responding,” Caesar commented. “Probably typical Bov redtape.”

“Any info on the station?”

Caesar entered a request and waited for the information to scroll across his holo-screen before responding, “Three Bar Station Number Two, twenty docking stations, reasonably good reviews from various ships, a constables station, a couple of restaurants, and three bars stand out.”

“Sounds,” pausing for a moment, “normal.”

“Just smelly.”

“Caesar, really.”

“Look, right here on this review, entire station smells.”

Yoshi shook her head, her ears flopping about.

“Lucky Foot, Three Bar Station Control.”

“This is the Lucky Foot,” Yoshi responded.

“Data confirmed. Dock bay 19.”

“Thank you Three Bar Station Control.”

As soon as the docking clamps engaged, flashing green lights across the docking control panel, Yoshi and Caesar hopped out of their ship into Three Bar Station Central Dock. Caesar wrinkled his nose immediately, but did not say anything, instead looking around the dock noting the age and condition of the machinery; most meet his approval. Yoshi, straightened her jacket, and headed for Three Bar Station proper taking note of the various animals along the way, as she expected lots of herbs; bovs, ewes, and the like.

The transition from the constant mechanical noises of Central Dock to the quieter Station was surprising. Once the sliding door closed the only noises were animal, a quiet song playing over the station com-system, and noises associated with lots of animals packed into a small space. Caesar was not surprised at the rustic design, a general impression of a barn and open fields created by wooden fixtures and a holo-environment display on the outer walls.

“Not what I expected at all,” Yoshi commented as she stood at a crossroads attempting to determine which direction to go.

“Really?”

“Yeah. Based on what you’ve been saying I expected piles of hay, troughs, and the whole place to reek.”

Nudging her, Caesar pointed, “There is a trough.”

“Come on,” she with a laugh said taking a right turn, “let’s find us some work.”

Menagerie: Negotiations

Previously.

Negotiations

“Bov space?” Caesar asked incredulously. “Are you serious?”

“I am,” Yoshi replied deadpan. “Just look at all of these bounties.”

In the cockpit of their shared gunrunner Lucky Foot, Yoshi displayed all of the available bounties filling the cockpit with holoimages of wanted criminals and their data. Walking around the cockpit she pointed to a few.

“This one here, this Hardnose, is wanted for flight,” pointing at another, “and that one uh, Goldcap is wanted to robbery,” pointing to another, “this one in front of you, The Twins, wanted for robbery and flight. See lots of bounties and not one of them dangerous. We could make a killing.”

Caesar stared at Yoshi for a moment before standing up, “Okay. You have a point, we could make a killing. But,” holding up a furry digit to stall Yoshi’s inevitable response, “it’s Bov Space which means boring, dull, slow, dim witted, bureaucratic mess, and it stinks.”

“Not all of Bov Space smells,” Yoshi retorted with a huge smile her two front teeth shinning.

Both of Caesar’s tall ears folded down, his left foot pounding on the deck, staring her down, with a stab of his paw he brought up a set of new bounties. The light blue and orange-bordered bounties instantly replaced with red-bordered bounties.

“This is why you want to go isn’t it?”

Yoshi’s smile wiped off her face and replaced with grim determination, large eyes narrowed, ears leaning back, and no nose twitch at all, Ceasar knew he’d hit the mark.

“Possibly,” she replied coyly.

“Don’t hand me that.”

Yoshi stared at the red-bordered, dangerous, bounties for a second before responding.

“Truth?”

“Truth.”

“I’m tired of running down canines. Low risk means low profit. I want to take a chance to earn some big money. Don’t you want more?”

Caesar’s foot paused, his right ear straightened, and he sat down.

“I do,” holding up the same digit that stalled Yoshi’s earlier response, “but, I don’t see the need to go chasing these type of bounties.” Flipping a bounty around to face Yoshi, “This lady is wanted for multiple murders. Sure her bounty is large, but have you wondered why no other bounty hunters have caught her yet? Cuz I am.”

Sitting down across from Caesar, Yoshi sent the bounty spinning in place, “I have and I don’t want to go after the likes of her, yet.” Yoshi pulled three bounties together and tossed them over to Caesar’s side, “These three I have looked at. A crew of raiders. They are violent, but mostly they hit unarmed ships and make off with the loot. I think. No. I know we could catch them.”

Caesar spent a few minutes reading each bounty while typing inquiries into the system. With a satisfied grunt, he tossed the bounties back to Yoshi, as they spun around to face her she saw their Lucky Foot emblem stamped on each one.

“Before you get too excited,” he started, “I agree to do these three. If this goes off like you think then we can discuss more. If this goes off like I fear, we can stick in smelly Bov Space collecting all of the other bounties. Deal?”

Unable to contain her excitement Yoshi beamed a smile across the table, “Deal. Now let’s get started.”

Menagerie: Yoshi and Caesar

Previously.

Yoshi And Caesar

Yoshi coughed twice. Waving her thick paw to disperse the smoke gathering around her face, Yoshi looked around the bar for the third time hoping to catch a glimpse of her quarry. Across the table her partner, Caesar said something that she could not hear over the music. Leaning over the table, she aimed both of her long ears towards Caesar.

“What?”

“I said,” Caesar shouted, “have you seen them yet?”

Yoshi shook her head, causing her long ears to wave through the smoke, the effect putting a smile on Caesar’s face, his long front teeth showing prominently for a second before his work face returned.

A dead space between songs caused the various animals on the dance floor to stop dancing. Most of them unsure what to do stayed on the floor, but a few headed to the bar. Focused on the rest of the bar Yoshi, missed their mark exiting the dance floor, but Caesar did not.

“What the hell Caesar!” Yoshi exclaimed when Caesar stood up knocking her drink over on the table.

Turning to her, he pointed to their target exiting the dance floor. Yoshi strained to see where he pointed, spotting their target when he shouldered several ewes aside. The music picked up, the bar resumed the normal flow.

“Put your work face on,” Yoshi said as she stalked down to the bar.

Caesar, knowing Yoshi’s plan, circled around towards the most obvious exit, his long ears flat against his head. Sliding through the crowd returning to the dance floor Yoshi kept her eyes on her target, the canine making an ass out of himself, at the bar. Without disturbing the flow of the bar she moved behind him, she spotted Caesar near the door ready to go. Yoshi tapped her target on his shoulder with her paw.

As expected, the wolf turned around and looked over her, some of his drink splashing her. With a growl, he looked down, Yoshi was positive she heard his irritated growl over the music. The ewes grabbed their umbrella drinks and moved away from the impending confrontation.

“What do you want hopper?” Steel Eyes growled at her, inflecting on the hopper insult.

“Just checking that you are Steel Eyes,” she said loud enough for him to hear over the music.

“Hop along rabbit, I’m having a good night and you don’t…”

Hopping off the floor, Yoshi jabbed her concealed stun stick into Steel Eyes gut ending his sentence with a howl that caused everyone in the bar to stop. Holding onto the back of his head, Yoshi rode Steel Eyes to the floor. Caesar pushed his way through the crowd pulling out cuffs as he approached.

“What happened?” he asked slapping the cuffs onto Steel Eyes.

“He insulted me.”

“Let me guess, hopper?”

“Yeah.”

A quick flash of their bounty hunter licenses ended any conversations with the bouncers and bar owner about the violence. A quick trip to the local police station to drop off Steel Eyes filled their bank accounts.

Menagerie: Twins, Cargo, and Leftovers

Previously.

Twins, Cargo, and Leftovers

Long Tongue stalked through the bov cargo ship looking for bovs to kill or the engine room whichever came first. Passing through an abandoned mess hall, Long Tongue kicked over a table with large bowls of hay. A few minutes later, figures, he thought standing outside the sealed engine room. Flipping open the keypad, he entered a few codes common to bov ships, nothing.

“Status!” Wheez shouted over the comm.

“Locked out of the engine room, working on a bypass. Send the twins if you want it done faster,” Long Tongue reported.

Rummaging through his cargo pockets, Long Tongue assembled his lock scrambler. Setting the lock scrambler against the bulkhead, he busied himself untangling the cords and smashing the keypad off the wall. A scratching sound approaching was his only warning when the Twins arrived. Twin One, pushed Long Tongue aside, while Twin Two turned in a circle looking around the door and corridor.

“What you looking for?” Tongue asked.

Both Twins ignored him. Twin One spun around thrusting Tongue’s lock scrambler into his gut. Scrambling to catch the lock scrambler, he lost sight of Twin Two. With a clang, a vent cover landed next to Tongue causing him to jump and almost drop his scrambler.

“What the!” jumping back Tongue exclaimed.

But the corridor was empty, the end of a pink tail disappearing into the vent.

****

Twin One knew she did not need to check behind her to know Twin Two was there. Only when there was “special” need did anyone on the Cackle pay attention to them, otherwise they did what they wanted, mostly worked on upgrading the ship, keeping the engines running, and practicing their unique skills. Crawling through the ductwork of a bov ship could be one of those unique skills, they thought.

Looking down on the engine room, the Twins searched for the bov crew. If this ship had an engineer, they would be here with their beloved engines. Five minutes of sweating in the heat, nothing. One handed Two the tools and resumed watching while Two removed the vent cover.

Dropping to the floor with only a soft thud, One drew her hooked knives and rolled behind a control station. A twitch of her tail and Two dropped down beside her. With a nod, they moved around the engine room in opposite directions, searching. The engineer must have sensed something, but too late; One dove over the top of a console as Two rolled past, two clean cuts neck and gut.

****

“Twins are doing their thing, nothing else to report,” Tongue reported.

“Bridge secured. Tusk is checking systems files. Update me when you have something.”

“Affirmative.”

A hiss announced the engine room doors opening. Tongue twirled claw on his weapon, as the Twins strolled by dragging a dead bov.

“All clear!” he shouted at the Twins.

No response, as he expected from them.

“Wheez engine room is ours.”

“Excellent, now let’s loot some cargo and eat some burgers.”

“See you in cargo hold one.”

****

“Pack it up,” Wheez commanded as he threw a bone to the back of the cargo hold.

Affirmatives sounded across the hold.

“Should we pack up the leftovers?” Tusk asked walking by pushing several cargo crates.

“Waste not, want not,” Wheez replied.