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This article, What if Keith T. Maxwell..., was written by XenoDarth. Please do not edit their fan fiction without their permission. Thank you!


Keith T. Maxwell

"He was a brave soldier, not hesitating to jump into action and danger."

Before we begin...

Please read everything in this section for the disclaimer, links, and the prologue. Thank you.

Disclaimer

This is a work of fan fiction. I do not own any of the objects associated with Fishlabs or any other company. This does not reflect my opinion nor anyone else's opinion on how the story should go. This is simply made for fun.

Links

New Characters New Factions Other
Misho Copley The Midorian Alliance for Countering Hostiles Author Notes
Bruce Copley The Executioners of Baltone Part 2: Valkyrie
Jane Barad Pirate Pursuers Part 3: Supernova
Amaror Benggansa Part 4
Leon Koenig Kapayapaan
Borsul Orquat
Choker
Konrad Hollister
Nguyen Shephard

Prologue

We all know that Keith T. Dangerous Maxwell saved the galaxy three times: from the Voids, from Alice, and even from a supernova. He advanced through trading, destroyed countless pirates, and even "allegedly" had sex with Carla Paolini.

But as I was reading many of the articles of this wiki, I asked myself the ultimate question...

What if Keith T. Maxwell really did die at Dareius Asteroid Belt?

Chapter 1: Our Story Begins

Eden Prime Space Station, 3598 A.D.

Keith T. Maxwell is, once again, looking for another mission to undertake. With his trusty vessel, the Phantom, he is ready to take on anybody, possibly another Vlad Borsikov.

Keith's Phantom fighter is similar to other ships of the same model, yet it easily stood out in a crowd. With battle scars Keith stubbornly kept on his ship as trophies and the new weapon equipped, the Nirai Charged Pulse, and several homing Edo missiles, Keith's ship is a menace to all pirates and Vossk alike. He smiled as he took a good look at it, which holds the blood of countless pilots, metaphorically speaking, in its hands.

Keith walked around the station, looking for work; rumor has it that some sort of jump drive far more advanced than a hyperdrive is under construction. This could possibly shift the political borders of the galaxy, or even extend the universe's known limits.

As for Keith himself, he wished that he would make enough money to purchase such an innovation, since it costs him tons of Credits just to move from one system to another. Keith hoped that the jump drive would allow him free travel throughout the entire galaxy. The possibilities are endless!

"Keith!" a voice suddenly yelled from behind. The sudden yell made the war hero jump in surprise out of his daydream. He turned around, seeing Admiral Smith himself in person. He quickly stood upright and saluted in respect, and he also hoped for something dangerous. After all, "Dangerous" is his second middle name!

"Yes, admiral? Anything wrong?" Keith asked.

"Yes," the admiral replied. "Remember those notorius pirates you've been chasing around for the past few weeks?"

"Yes?" Inside, Keith kicked himself for not remembering about the pirates he's been hunting down for quite some time. He leaned in closer, hoping that he would finally get a lead.

"I've found them! They've been spotted at Dareius' asteroid belt!" Smith practically screamed, as if all of his excitement just exploded right there.

Before he knew it, Keith was out the door.

Dareius Asteroid Belt

As Keith entered the orbit of Dareius, he realized a pattern among all the pirates he has fought.

"An asteroid belt," he said to himself. "Perfect hiding place for pirates."

He smiled to himself, knowing the first place to look for the pirate scum. He searched slowly but carefully in the asteroid belt, examining every detail.

"Now, where are those pirates..."

Knowing these particular pirates, they're bound to hide somewhere after finding that Keith T. Maxwell himself is looking for them...

Meanwhile, three pirates stayed at a safe distance after spotting Maxwell. One of the pirates let out a groan before opening a secure channel to his colleagues.

"What are we gonna do boss?" he asked. "This guy will be chasing us forever."

It's true. Keith has been chasing these guys all over the galaxy, driving them out of the Baltone Quadrant all the way here to Dareius.

"That's Maxwell," another pirate informed, "stubborn as hell. He's after the bounty that's on our heads."

The pirate boss is deeply annoyed. Not only that his lackeys are at the point that they're stating the obvious, the deadly mercenary Maxwell found him this quickly!

"Quiet, now!" he barked. "Engines off and await my command. We'll let him pass by and attack him from behind."

The trio quickly stopped to a standstill and waited patiently as Maxwell moved past them. The pirate boss waited for a moment, making sure that he didn't see them and waited for them to be flushed out. This has to go exactly as he planned earlier, using his secret "surprise" built just for Maxwell himself.

There he goes, right in the exact spot the pirate boss expected him to be in. Checking his readings, he found that the weapon is fully charged and ready to fire. He imagined his lackeys smiling with anticipation. He smiled too, believing that this was the end of Keith T. Maxwell!

"Now, attack!"

The three pirates activated their engines and charged towards Maxwell. The Phantom's computer quickly detected them as its pilot maneuvered around to face his enemies.

"Okay," he said. "There they are."

Inside, Keith kicked himself again for letting the pirates ambush him from behind. Again.

Keith and the pirates exchanged fire as they charged closer towards each other. Both sides knew that someone has to die. Keith strafed to the left, avoiding being peppered with laser fire. He locked on to one of the pirates and fired an Edo at him. Direct hit. The pirate's ship is heavily damaged and ready to fall apart any second.

"Damn you, Maxwell! I'll kill you for that!"

Keith ignored him. He gets death threats like this at least three times a day after Borsikov's death. Actually, this is probably the sixth one today. He dodged a steady laser that fired from the pirate boss. Apparently, this is the "secret weapon" Keith's been hearing about lately. What a total waste of anticipation.

"ARGH! Maxwell! You bloody coward! Face me like a man! I'll rip you to shreds!!!"

Make that seven.

Keith's reply to the pirates' threats was several laser shots at one of the pirate's engines, causing him to spiral down toward an asteroid and disappear in a flash of light. Keith activated his booster and swerved around behind a second pirate, but was shot several times from behind. He fired another Edo at that pirate, causing a huge pop in the underbelly of the ship. That could only mean one thing: Keith hit the pirate's life support systems. Leaving him to suffocate in his now-coffin, Keith focused on the pirate boss.

"This is too easy," Keith said to himself. His happy moment was interuppted when the pirate boss attacked him from behind.

"How do you like them apples?" he taunted. "Been itching for this moment ever since our first encounter!"

Keith stayed silent, swerved around, and fired an Edo at him. The pirate boss attempted to dodge to his right but his attempt was futile. Keith simply blasted him away into oblivion.

Okay, not into oblivion. The pirate boss managed to jump into hyperspace intact, but Keith confirmed that he hit his life support systems as well, meaning that guy's a goner.

"That's three less rogues roaming the galaxy," he said to himself. "I've definitely earned my money on this one. Now, back to Eden Prime to collect my reward."

Keith thought about the new jump drive, and how it could potentially change his entire life. Suddenly, he realized how empty his life was without Lieutenant Christine Hammond, his first love in quite a while. Or his first love, period. He secretly wished to himself that he will see her, soon. But for now, Keith decided to take his mind off things and try to earn as much money as possible.

"Computer, activate the hyperdrive. Set a course for Eden Prime."

"Activating hyperdrive," the computer responded.

The ship shuddered and slowed to a stop.

"Hmm... They must've hit the engines."

As the ship shook violently, Keith could've sworn some sort of wormhole appeared in front of him.

"Hey, what's happening? Purple fighters?"

The strange alien-like fighters jumped through the wormhole like an assassin's knife slicing through a heart that just realized that it's doomed. As soon as they did, Keith was bombarded with laser fire.

"AAAARRRRRRGGGHHHH!!!!!"

Chapter 2: The Nivelian Civil War

"'He was a brave soldier, not hesitating to jump into action and danger. It was no wonder why his second middle name was 'Dangerous.' In my eyes, he is the perfect soldier, just like the heroes of the movies since the twenty-first century. I dreaded the day he wanted to retire since minute one. But now, I dread the day that I sent him to Dareius Asteroid Belt. I've been living with guilt ever since. Rest in peace, Keith T. Maxwell."

"Rest in peace."

Eanya System, several years later

"For freedom!" "Fight the tyrants!" "Defend this position!" "Charge!" "For the Confederation!"

"I want those rebels dead." "You heard him. Take them down!" "For order!" "For the Republic!"

Lasers, missiles, mines, and fighters dotted Eanya space. Recently, some Terrans, who are similar to humans of the 21st century; and some Nivelians, which is a race of reptilian-like egg-laying beings, have broken away from their respective factions to form the Mido Confederation of Planets. Based on the Mido system, an isolated system that has yet to join the jumpgate network, the Midorians tend to avoid any contact with the other factions as possible. They do their best to make the best of their situations.

"Midorian reinforcements. Get them!" "Missile! Break away!" "AAAGGH!" "No!" "Destroy them! Avenge his death!"

Recently, the Terran Federation saw no future in fighting the Midorians, and officially recognized their independence. However, the Nivelian Republic still claims Midorian space as their own, and set up a military junta with crackdowns and curfews since the start of the war to prevent further rebellion.

"Suur, target that transport and take it down. They're transporting Nivelian fighters and pilots as reinfocements."

"I'm on it. Scanning... Missile launched."

"Nice work. Another victory for the Midorians."

Eanya's residents are slowly breaking away from the Nivelians and joining the Mido Confederation, much to the dismay of the Nivelian Republic. As more and more Midorians poured into the wargrounds, the Nivelians were forced to retreat, but not without prisoners caught during the battle.

"We can't keep losing pilots!" "Sir, our supply lines have been cut." "There's no way we can survive much lon- GAH!" "Don't even bother. Retreat. Let that scum lick their wounds. We'll be back for Eanya soon enough."

This is the story of one of those prisoners.

Hamina Station, Nesla System, one day after the Battle of Eanya

A Midorian found himself in a Nivelian holding cell, which he can easily tell by the blue shades of the interior and the Nivelian insignia on the other side of the room. He sustained many serious injuries during the Battle of Eanya. His vision is blurry; he could barely make out two people in the distance. Possibly Nivelians.

"Hey, he's awake," one of them said.

"Well, well, well," the other said upon seeing the prisoner, "What do we have here?"

Definitely Nivelians.

"His name's Gunant Breh, according to this report."

"Hello, Midorian," the second Nivelian greeted coldly, ignoring the first and coming towards Gunant, "How are you today?"

"My head hurts and I could barely see your toad face," Gunant retorted, "What's it to you?"

"Ah, a feisty one," the second Nivelian cooly replied, taking a step back.

"Tell me, Gunant," the first person said, "Is it true that you are working on a powerful drill prototype?"

Gunant didn't answer.

"He is," the second person answered for him. He leaned closer to Gunant until his face is mere inches from Gunant's with the cell's bars separating them. "And I'm sure that you know that the Nivelian Republic would benefit greatly from the extra ore mined from your drill."

Gunant didn't reply, knowing where this is going.

"Simply give us the plans and the prototype, and we'll send you on your way."

"Not interested."

"I can persuade the Republic to grant you one million Credits as well as your release."

"No."

"How about your injuries? There's some Terran doctors waiting in the next room. Give me the plans and the prototype, and you can have it all."

"Still no."

"Do you even know what you're getting into?"

"Try me."

"That's enough!"

Everyone looked to see one of the Terran doctors standing in the open doorway.

"Let me in, now," he requested, determined. Several armed Terran soldiers, Gunant noticed, came in through the doorway after his statement. That guy means business.

The Nivelians hesitated. One wrong move, and they're dead meat.

"Fine," they said, "Go on ahead."

"Thank you."

Terran Battle Cruiser, two hours later

Gunant didn't remember much during the procedure. His memory started coming back while he was in a Terran Battle Cruiser.

"Ohhh... my head," he said.

"Oh! He's waking up," a Terran Officer stated.

"Greetings, Gunant," another Terran warmly greeted, "Feeling better?"

"Much. Thank you. What happened at Eanya? I don't remember."

"You don't? Well, apparently you were captured just before the end of the battle. It seems as if the Nivelians were planning to retreat at the time, and decided to make the best of the situation by capturing several Midorians such as yourself. Don't worry, we've liberated each and every one of them from Hamina. They'll be fine."

"Thank you so much. And where are we going?"

"Well, according to the reports, most of the Midorians on this ship lived in the Mido System in various stations. May I ask which station you are bound to?"

"Var Hastra Mining Station."

"Mido System?"

"Yes."

"Alrighty, then. We should be arriving soon. Take a seat in the Lower Deck, Gunant, and get comfy."

Terran Battle Cruiser, Lower Deck

"Is this seat taken?" Gunant asked.

"No, not yet at least,"  a Midorian answered, "Go ahead."

"Thanks. My name is Gunant Breh."

"Oh, so you're the miner who's developing the new drill."

"Yeah! How did you know?"

"Rumors of your story is spreading like wildfire. Name's Bargand Surr." He held up his hand, which Gunant shook. "It's an honor to meet you, Gunant. With your drill, the Mido Confederation will prosper."

"Thanks. Wait a minute. Bargand Surr?"

"That's me."

"Aren't you that leader of the splinter group of freedom fighters that led to the breakaway of the Midorians?"

"The same."

"Wow. You're a legend throughout the Mido System. Where are you stationed at, if I may ask?"

"As of right now, Eanya. But there are rumors that there are two star systems very near Eanya. I've heard that explorers are looking for them as we speak. In fact..."

"Alert!" a Terran Security Officer announced, "Void fighters are attacking the transport! All hands to battle stations! All hands to battle stations!"

Chapter 3: The Voids

"I need a status report, now!"

"Admiral, the ship is taking heavy damage, but if we keep moving and shooting, we'll make it."

"I hope so, Snocom. The Voids are a ruthless species."

"They are indeed. Times like this makes me wonder why are they doing this."

"And why they killed Maxwell."

Terran Battle Cruiser, en route to Mido System

Gunant Breh and Bargand Surr rushed to their ships as alarms blared throughout the entire cruiser. Or at least Bargand did; Gunant wasn't sure if the Terrans brought his ship with them, let alone repair it. Luckily, Gunant's trusty Berger Cross XT is in the cruiser's hangar, ready for combat. After thanking the stars and the Terrans, Gunant took off to face their foes.

They were nothing like Gunant has ever seen.

Void fighters rushed in through a bright white wormhole. The cruiser's turrets are doing a good job, but more and more fighters poured in as the turrets are being destroyed one by one. No wonder the Terrans needed the Midorians' help. Gunant made a close obervation of the damage on the cruiser. Glowing purple marks showed where the cruiser was hit, especially where the turrets were.

Gunant snapped back to attention as two Void fighters are chipping away at his shields. He quickly turned around and opened fire, destroying one of them. The other fighter swerved to the right to avoid a collision. Five more fighters zoomed in, boldly attacking his front. Gunant pulled up, and saw several Terran and Midorian fighters decimate the Voids.

"Damn," Gunant called to Bargand, "How many Void fighters are there?"

"I don't know," Bargand replied, "I've never heard of a Void attack of this magnitude, let alone fight one."

"We have to get out of here! Cover me while I make contact with the cruiser."

"I see you. Don't worry."

After destroying two more Void fighters, Gunant hastily made contact with the cruiser.

"We're doing our best," a Terran Officer said, "We're plotting a safe course to the Mido System. It's the closest star system from this location. Just hold off the Voids until it is done."

"Make it quick!" Gunant yelled with a panicked tone as a Midorian fighter exploded just behind him, "We don't have much time!"

Gunant signed off as he helped Bargand destroy another Void fighter. But it seems as if every time a fighter is destroyed, two more take its place. If this keeps up...

"Course is set! We're charging the engines," the Officer said, "It will take us two minutes."

Gunant isn't sure why the engines needed charging, but now is not a good time to ask.

"Copy that," Gunant replied, "Bargand, we can't let the cruiser be destroyed while it's charging its engines. It will take them two minutes. Do you think we can survive for that long?"

"I'm not sure. But we have to stay alive. This is the largest group of Midorians in one area in the entire galaxy. If we die, so will the Confederation."

Gunant signed off. "Great. No pressure, then," he said to himself.

"One minute and thirty seconds," the Officer announced.

Gunant and Bargand lured the Voids away from the cruiser but between it and the wormhole. It's a big risk, but at least the cruiser isn't in the middle of the battle. Now they and their allies are able to focus on what's in front of them instead of the cruiser. Hopefully they could survive.

"One minute and counting." "Keep fighting!" "There's more of them!" "Incoming!" "Two more, right behind you!" "I see them." "Got 'em." "Three more, 9 o' clock." "Taken care of." "Whoah! Watch where you're firing!" "Eight more, coming from the wormhole!"

Bargand welcomed the newly arrived Voids with a Tormentor on their faces. Gunant did the same as well as soon as he got a clear shot. They did their best to avoid getting hit; their shields are out of energy. Several Void fighters pursued Gunant's ship, and more of them closeed in on Bargand Surr.

"Don't bother staying around," a Terran called to the damaged Midorians, "You're lives are important."

"Everyone," the Terran Officer announced, "Fall back to the cruiser. Thirty-five seconds remain, and I want everyone on board as soon as the engines are ready."

"You heard what he said," Bargand yelled, "Fall back!"

Gunant finished off his current target and fell back to the cruiser with Bargand right behind him. Three Terran fighters detonated EMP bombs near the wormhole to hold off the Void fighters. They are all destroyed soon after by the remaining Void fighters.

Gunant and Bargand were the last ones on board the cruiser. As soon as they safely landed, the Terran Battle Cruiser rocketed off to the Mido System, leaving the Voids behind to lick their wounds.

Chapter 4: Hellos and Goodbyes

"You will be missed, Admiral."

"Don't call me that anymore. I'm retiring. I'm getting too old for this."

"I know... Smith. It's just that... I've never seen Space Fleet without you at its helm."

"Don't worry, Snocom, you'll make a fine leader. Space Fleet will prosper with you as in command."

"Of course. Goodbye... Former Admiral Smith."

Kernstal Station, Mido System

"Ah, the Mido System," Gunant said, "Never thought I'd be glad to see this place again."

"Hello, Gunant," a Midorian greeted, "Welcome back to Mido. I imagine Hamina was a rough time for you."

Norris Bernard is a good friend to Gunant. Born in a travelling carnival family, Norris met countless alien creatures and learned many lanuages. His linguistic skills got him into the Monguska planets of Outer Biseria. It was there that he met a Monguska princess, who desired him for marriage. However, per tradition, Norris had to be bethrothed and the devoured by an 800 kilo coleoptera. Horrified, Norris jilted her, becoming a fugitive. He ran towards pirates, where he served as their chief navigator and interpreter, and he took any and every opportunity to alter his appearance so that he would never be recognized. Eventually, Norris joined the Mido Confederation, where his linguistic skills will prove invaluable to the Midorians. His friendship with Gunant Breh will last until their deaths.

"Norris! Long time no see!" Gunant warmly replied, "And yes, Hamina was rough, but it was the trip back here that blew it all away."

"And what might that be?" Norris asked.

"Void fighters, of all things, attacked the Terran Battle Cruiser en route here. Me and Bargand Surr himself..."

"Did I hear my name?," Bargand said as he helped unload the cruiser's cargo, "Oh, it's you, Gunant. Hello."

"Bargand Surr?" Norris asked, "Wasn't he the freedom fighter leader..."

"...that helped the Confederation break away," Gunant added, "Yes, he is that leader."

"A pleasure to meet you, Mr. ..." Bargand began, shaking Norris' hand.

"...Norris Bernard," Gunant finished.

"It's an honor to meet you, Bargand Suur," Norris greeted.

"The same. Well, then. I'm afraid that I must be going now. I'm bound for Eanya, which recently joined the Mido Confederation."

"Take care," Gunant and Norris replied as Bargand left them.

Chapter 5: The Mido Confederation of Planets

"First Keith Maxwell, now Former Admiral Smith. Two of the top people in Space Fleet."

"Well, we still have some left. Lieutenant Roger Baffour, for example, and there is also Thomas Boyle..."

"What about 'good' ones?"

"I'm not finished yet. There's also me and you, Snocom, and also Paolini."

"Carla? You mean that scientific prodigy, Khador?"

"Yes. Ah, here she is now! So, how did the petition go?"

"We did it."

3624 A.D. Var Hastra Station, Mido System

Gunant is on a routine mining operation at Var Hastra when he saw a fighter floating in the distance. Curious, he ventured closer. A closer look told him that the fighter is a Phantom, a ship used about 35 years ago during the Terran-Vossk War.

"What a beautiful old ship!" Gunant said to himself, "And it seems to be intact."

He observed and scanned the ship, but found something familiar that made him stop in his tracks.

"Wait a minute. Those scorch marks... Could it be? Well, that's another good reason to take it home for closer inspection."

Inside the station, Gunant confirmed the scorch marks' origin.

"Voids," he said, "And there's also a large hole on the cockpit's window. No wonder the pilot's dead. Poor guy."

He inspected the ship even closer. If this was an original model, Gunant could sell it for double, or even triple the market price. Eventually he found the date panel after oberving that the engines are out of order.

"What's this? 'Last startup: 3598 A.D.' What the hell?! That's nearly 35 years ago!"

He then took a look at the engines. Maybe they will reveal the ship's history.

"The whole perpulsion system is beyond repair," Gunant observed, "Seems like he had quite a party out there. Now let's see, 35 years ago... Wasn't that the time when hyperdrives were used?"

Gunant then inspected the hyperdrive engine. And it didn't take too long; hyperdrives are a rare sight in these times.

"It must've malfunctioned," he concluded, "This might've cause some sort of jump in time, maybe even space. This system's only recently been discovered, after all."

Gunant saw the pieces falling together. The ship must've taken heavy damage during a Void attack, and caused the hyperdrive to malfunction. The malfunction caused a jump in time and space, and here it is. Gunant then reclled the news study that proved that hyperdrives are dangerous, and it aired 35 years ago.

Definitely not a coincidence.

Only one question remained: What is the identity of the pilot? Confused, Gunant decided to show the Phantom fighter to Norris Bernard, who might shed some light into the situation. He used his heavy tractor beam to haul the fighter with him on his way to Kernstal. He moved quickly, though, because a pirate is in the area.

Kernstal Station

"Gunant? Hello, old friend," Norris warmly greeted Gunant as he entered the station, "What brings you here on this fine day?"

"Listen, Norris," Gunant explained, "During a mining op, I've stumbled upon this Phantom fighter. She's not flying anywhere by herself, that's for sure. The pilot's dead too. See these scorch marks? Definitely a Void attack."

"Phantoms are a rare sight lately. Why would its pilot want to venture in such a dangerous place like Mido just after he was attacked by the Voids?"

"I don't think he intended to go here. You see, the date panel shows that this fighter was last started 35 years ago. There's no way that could be possible, unless its hyperdrive engine malfunctioned. Did you see the hyperdrive?"

"Yes, I see it. It definitely malfunctioned. But why did you bring it here, other than to show it to me?"

"Don't you see, Norris? This could be evidence that hyperdrives are dangerous! It could also be vital data to Terran scientists! This is a scientfic breakthrough just waiting to happen!"

"I see your point, Gunant. We have to get to Terran space with the Phantom and its pilot. By the way, have you figured out his identity yet?"

"I'm afraid not. Perhaps someone of his own kind might recognize him. But how are we going to get to Terran space? We're not even connected to the jumpgate network!"

"Perhaps there is a way. A Terran military convoy will pass through here. That could be our best, or perhaps our only chance to get to Terran territory. But it will take a while. In the meantime, why don't you investigate Vrdal Gedal Station? They haven't been responding for quite some time."

"Nivelians?"

"Perhaps."

"Count me in. I have a bone to pick with them for imprisoning me just after the Battle of Eanya. But just in case, could you send in an escort?"

"I suppose it never hurts to make sure. I'll send them right away. Safe travels."

Chapter 6: Meet Mkkt Bkkt

"Welcome to Deep Science, Dr. Paolini."

"Doctor? I'm going to have to get used to that from now on."

"Ah, Carla! Finally, you have arrived! How do you like the station's exterior? It is a work of art, I must say, and I am honored to have contributed to its design."

Vrdal Gedal Station, Mido System

Upon entering Vrdal Gedal, Gunant nearly turned around on his heels at the sight of a lot of pirates. In reality, those "pirates" are actually the Midorian escort that Norris sent earlier. How they got here so fast and so stealthily remains a mystery to him.

"Gooo... Nat Bweh?" one of the Midorian pilots asked.

"It's 'Gunant Breh,'" he replied, "And yes, that's me. Norris Bernard sent you here, right?"

"That's right. We arrived just before you did, and are awaiting orders."

Orders. Gunant wasn't all that used to giving out orders. He would welcome them in emergencies, but other than that, he handled local affairs that had to do with him locally. That, and the mysterious danger that may await at Vrdal Gedal made Gunant hesitate in deciding what to do. Finally, he came up with a plan.

"Alright, everyone," he commanded, "There's no sign of combat, and the station appears intact. Let's board it, but stay alert."

"Got it." "Roger." "Stay alert." "Alright." "Go."

Gunant and his Midorian escort moved cautiously, expecting a surprise attack. Nothing appeared to come after them. After circling around the station to make sure nobody's hiding, everyone boarded the station one by one.

"Ok," Gunant ordered softly once everyone is inside the station, "Nobody seems to be here. Not even Nivelians. Alright, you three, come with me. The rest of you, guard the ships."

Gunant walked around the station, trying to look casual. He spotted a Multipod in the distance, and decided he should ask him why the station is not responding.

"Hey," one of the Midorian guards said to the Multipod as they approached him, moving ahead of Gunant, "I know you! You're Mkkt Bkkt, aren't you?"

"Have we met before?" he asked, "Ah, Misho Copley. Is that you? Long time no see! You're just in time for our little party. I managed to ship in a load of premium neuro-algae from Apocce. The crew here can't get enough of it!"

Gunant was taken aback, but managed to hide it. This Mkkt Bkkt had the guts to smuggle neuro-algae here and slip them to Vrdal Gedal's crew! Looking behind Mkkt, Gunant could see the crew, but with...

"Sounds interesting," Misho said, "Hey, doesn't this stuff have any unpleasant side effects?"

"Not really. Some people have reported a bit of tentacle growth, but that's more of a benefit than a side effect."

"You mean tentacles on their face?"

"Yeah! How did you know?"

"Just a wild guess, I guess."

"So then, would like some for you and your friends?"

"I'll have some. How about you, Gunant?"

Gunant is probably sure Misho was just being polite to Mkkt, and accepted it for the same reason. Mkkt happily handed the neuro-algae to each of them, free of charge thanks to Misho.

"Thanks, Mkkt," Misho thanked, "But I'll save this for later."

"Alright," Mkkt replied, "But if you're taking this stuff off-station, you might want one of these containers." He pulled out four more small containers similar to the one he used himself, one for Gunant, Misho, and the other two guards. After thanking Mkkt, they motioned for their departure.

"Oh, I almost forgot," Mkkt called out as he stopped them, "If you ever need something special, you can find me on Kaamo in the Shima system, Misho. I'm moving my nightclub there. Here are the coordinates."

"Thanks again, Mkkt," Misho said, "See you."

"Take care."

"We used to be partners before I was drafted into the Nivelian military during the war," Misho explained to Gunant at their ships, "But I broke away soon after. Ever since, I've been working for the Midorians and I hardly was able to make contact to Mkkt Bkkt."

"I see. And I'm assuming that you've never heard of him bringing this algae here, right?"

"Yes. We should report this to Commander Bernard immediately. I'm sure he'll deal with it."

Chapter 7: Misunderstanding

"Ah, it's Doctorious Paulina! To what do I owe the pressure?"

"Moonsprocket, you're little 'party' at our space lounge has caught the attention of many notorious dealers, including Mkkt Bkkt. They're hunting you down to sell their wares to you as we speak, and it's only a matter of time until they find out you're here."

"But..."

"Please don't take this personally, Moonsprocket, but your presence here alone compromises the security of Deep Science. Perhaps when this dies down we will let you back to Thynome, but in the meantime, you have to..."

"Please, Carla..."

"You have to leave. Me, Khador, and several other important people in Deep Science have already discussed this."

"But, Carla, I..."

"Go. Now. Please."

Kernstal Station, Mido System

"Gunant," Norris greeted as Gunant exited from his ship, "Good to see you again. What did you find out?"

"Looks like the entire crew of Vrdal Gedal is completely wasted," Gunant said, "Thanks to a certain Multipod named Mkkt Bkkt."

"The dealer?" Norris was shocked. "Unbelievable! Is it serious?"

"I'm sure they'll crawl back to normality," Misho answered for Gunant, "But I suggest you take them to a detox center after they're back on their feet."

"Or maybe a fish tank," Gunant added.

Everyone made a suppressed chuckle.

"Well then," Gunant began, changing the subject, "What about the Phantom fighter and getting it to Terran territory?"

"Yes, ahem, of course," Norris replied, "A Terran military convoy should arrive here soon. That would be your best option."

"Sounds good."

"I'll contact you as soon as the convoy reaches the system. In the meantime, you might want to get yourself ready for anything...unusual."

"Yeah. With Nivelians, pirates, and Voids running amok throughout the galaxy, I'd better be prepared. See you soon, old friend."

"Good luck, Gunant. And I think I'll go and have a chat with our friend Mkkt Bkkt."

Var Hastra Station, Mido System

Long story short, Gunant prepared the necessities. In the case of weapons, Gunant gathered two Nirai Impulse EX 1s, a Micro Gun MK I, a Luna EMP Mk I, and a Mass Driver MD 10 he found "lying around." He also purchased 10t Amour Rockets and 5t Edos. As for equipment, Gunant gathered the essentials: some armor (E2 Exoclad), a booster (Linear Boost), a repair bot (Ketar Repair Bot), shields (Riot Shield), and his prototype drill (Gunant's Drill). He also brought along some of his blueprints for special types of equipment that might come in handy someday.

As Gunant loaded all of these items (with the help of a Shrinker BT he also found "lying around") into his trusty Berger CrossXT, he got a call from Norris.

"Gunant? I have a report that the Terran convoy has entered our system. It's heading for Kernstal now. Good luck!"

"Wait a minute," Gunant replied, "You're not coming with me?"

"I have many duties to attend to as Commander of Kernstal," Norris answered quickly, "All I can do is talk to them and load the Phantom on board, which I did just before I contacted you. I'm sending the escort team that was with you at Vrdal Gedal right now, at the request of Misho Copley."

"Alright, Norris, I guess I won't be seeing you for a while. Good luck."

"The same goes for you, old friend."

Kernstal, Mido System

As Gunant entered Kernstal space, he found the Terran convoy very easily. However, he also found it attacked by pirates. Remembering that he is well equipped, Gunant opened fire at them. As he did, he noticed the Midorian escort team hauling the Phantom fighter into one of the Terran Battle Cruisers.

Terran Command Cruiser, Kernstal

"There's too many pirates!" "What a perfect time for most of our turrets to glitch!" "There, another pirate ship!" "Anoher one?!" "Shut up!" "Ready the EMP blaster!" "Preparing EMP blaster." "Standby." "Firing... now."

BOOM.

"That should take care of them."

Kernstal Space

Gunant was furious. He was mistaken for a pirate, of all things! Yes, the pirates' ships were Bettys (only the Goddesses know why), but Gunant's ship is way different! How could they mistake them for a pirate?

"HEY!" Gunant yelled to his mic, "What are you doing? I'm trying to help you!"

"Surrender!" a Terran Officer ordered, "Your ship has been disabled and you're under arrest. Prepare to have your ship impounded."

Chapter 8: The Terran Federation

"So, Khador, any updates on the new jump drive you're working on?"

"There is not much to report, I'm afraid. Nearly everything is working in perfect order, but there seems to be something missing. It's as if there is just this one vital part in this machine, possibly at the atomic generator or maybe even at the proton transmitter. And with this component, the 'Khador Drive,' as its official name, could possibly work."

"Huh? What? Oh, sorry. One vital part, huh?"

"Yes, I've acquired everything else. From the ionic reactors, the energy converters, the energy catalysts, th..."

"Why do I even ask?"

"Oh, did you say something, Carla?"

"Um, no?"

Terran Command Cruiser, Detention Level I

"..attacking a Terran military convoy, impersonating Midorians. Do you know how much trouble you are in ri..."

"Hold up!"

"What? What do you want, Copley? Can't you see that I'm in the middle of an interrogation here?"

"Barad, I spoke with the Midorian squad and they said that they want to see him, now. I have their statement here."

"Give me that! Oh, alright, here you go. Just don't let me see him attacking Terran property ever again!"

"Didn't you read the statement at all? The Midorians said that it was all a misunderstanding!"

"Get the f..."

Terran Command Cruiser, Passenger Cabin No. 4

Gunant didn't remember that much in the detention level. All he knew was their dialogue and what Bruce Copley, Misho Copley's stepson, told him.

"I've talked with Misho," Bruce said to Gunant, "You were trying to come aboard with the Midorians and the Phantom, right?"

"Yes," Gunant replied, "But only for scientific purposes, in case you get any ideas, like that one woman down there. What's her name, anyway? Just so that I don't forget."

"Her name's Jane Barad. She's a strict officer. You definitely don't want her to interrogate you. Trust me, take my word for it, or remember what happened down there."

"Bruce, my boy!" Misho called out from across the room, "Finally, you've got Gunant! Come here, sit down with us."

"Thanks Misho, for clearing everything up," Gunant said upon sitting down next to Misho and Bruce, "So, how's the Phantom?"

"It's in the hangar," Bruce answered, "Platform... D4, I think."

"No, that's where we docked," Misho corrected, "The Phantom's in Platform B4. There's a big difference, you know."

Gunant, Misho, and Bruce talked amongst one another, including the fact that Bruce has been assigned to be the Terran representative in the Midorian force, until the Terran military convoy arrived at...

Alioth Station, Augmenta System, several hours later

"So, what's this?" a Terran asked.

"Who's he?" Gunant asked.

"That's Lieutenant Commander Brent Snocom," Bruce answered, "Chief of the Interstellar Security Agency. Very important guy."

Almost immediately upon arrival at Alioth, the damaged Phantom fighter was presented to Snocom. Misho explained to him that Gunant found it at Var Hastra and brought it here for further investigation, mentioning the fact about the theory of a jump in time and space. Snocom didn't seem interested at first, until he found...

"Is that... Keith T. Maxwell?"

Chapter 9: The Void Siege of Alioth, Part 1

"[My Queen, we have perfected the use of wormhole travel. Now we may enter the prosperous world and take whatever we want.]"

"[Excellent. I have been informed that the only time before now that we have used a wormhole was several years ago. Give me the exact details.]"

"[Your Majesty, we had arrived at a place the primitives called 'Dareius Asteroid Belt.' One of them was in front of us as soon as we jumped in. We dispatched him immediately, but he somehow made some sort of jump in time and space, according to our sensors. Nobody in the attack force believed that it was intentional.]"

"[I see. Did you get a good look at the primitive?]"

"[I can still picture in my head, my Queen, but I'm afraid that I could not describe it in words.]"

"[No matter. As long as you still remember and you don't die, I don't care. Investigate this matter, immediately.]"

"[We are already on it as we speak, my Queen. We will use a wormhole to jump to the area as close to the primitive's ship's signature as possible. Sensors indicate that it jumped to this time.]"

"[You know your orders.]"

"[They will be followed to the word, my Queen.]"

"[Then go. Dismissed.]"

Alioth Station, Augmenta System

"You know him?" Bruce asked Brent in disbelief.

"I ought to know," he answered, "His name is Keith T. Maxwell. Nobody knows what the T. stands for, in case you're wondering. His last assignment was to take out the pirates at Dareius before he was never seen again until you guys found him. Witnesses reported that they spotted Voids in the area after seeing a wormhole and bright flash of light nearby. Now that I see his corpse in person, he didn't seem to have changed a bit. Literally. This definitely means that he did jump in time and space. How this happened is still a mystery..."

"Alert! Void fighters located in Alioth orbit," a Terran Security Officer interruppted, "All hands to battle stations! All hands to battle stations!"

"What's happening?" Gunant, Misho, and Bruce asked in unison.

"What the... I never expected them to come here, too," Brent said, "I'll explain later. Prepare your ships, everyone!"

Outside the station

Dead ahead of the station's hangar was a wormhole with Void fighters blasting a Terran convoy to pieces and taking the shipments. Gunant was horrified; he knew all too well about the Voids.

"weofhesbbges seogihseugsbgsuieg seighoseingoirngsbngbosebg esiognsoeingesngsngeb esgne," babbled a Void.

"[Primitives! Draw them away from the station; the signature is in there. Remember, they're too stupid to understand us,]" was what the Void actually said.

As both the Terran and Midorian forces closed in on the Voids, they destroyed what's left of the convoy. Three of the fighters swooped in and took the cargo as the other seven covered them. The wormhole closed soon after. These fighters charged toward the Terrans and Midorians until three of the Void fighters dispersed.

"What's up with those guys?" asked a Terran, "Scared?"

"I don't think so," Gunant answered, "Look! They're heading for the station!"

"Take out the Voids in front of you!" Brent ordered, "We'll defend the station!"

Misho launched a nuke at some of the Void fighters as Gunant used the opening to boost ahead and began to chase down the fleeing Voids.

"Another wormhole," Gunant said. "They're trying to escape!"

"Stop them!" Misho replied. "Don't let them get away!"

Gunant tried to do so by launching an EMP bomb towards the wormhole. The bomb and the fighters closed in on the wormhole, getting closer, and closer, and closer to each other, until...

Boom! The Voids suddenly lost power due to the EMP bomb's detonation! Gunant nearly celebrated, but to his, Misho's, and every non-Void in Alitoh's dismay, the wormhole pulled the Voids into it and disappeared.

"Damn it! They're too close to it when the bomb detonated! Did you see that, Misho?"

"I'm not blind, Gunant. You got them, though. Well, I doubt that they'll forget you anytime soon, at least."

Void Mothership, Communications Sector

"[Sir,]" a Void said, "[The primitives are setting up strong defenses. The squad managed to get back with the cargo, but they are heavily damaged. Only three fighters remain in the prosperous world. What is our plan of action?]"

"[I don't like the sound of this, Komunikasyon,]" a much larger Void answered. He paused, deep in thought. "[Send in a full attack force. In the meantime, tell the strike team to regroup until reinforcements have arrived, then the strike team can get the ship.]"

"[Yes, sir.]"

Alioth Space, Augmenta System

"[ Welgista,]" Komunikayson said, "[You are ordered by the Commander himself that your strike team must regroup. The primitives are setting up strong defenses. Wait until reinforcements have arrived. Then, you can get the ship.]"

Welgista hesitated for a moment, but then ordered his team to regroup.

Inside the station, Platform C5

"The Voids are falling back," Brent said, "What's going on? Did they find out that we're setting up defenses?"

"Possibly," Jane Barad said through Brent's communication systems in his ship, "But how did they figure that out so quickly? Are they listening to us?"

"I don't like the sound of this. I'm signing off, Jane, just to be safe."

"Take care, Brent."

"Alright, everyone," Brent called to the Terran security force in the station, "Expect a lot more Voids. Strengthen the defenses. I'm not sure what they're after, but it can't be good if they already destroyed the convoy and launched an even larger attack."

Chapter 10: The Void Siege of Alioth, Part 2

"Breaking News: Void fighters send in a full-scale invasion force. Terran Space Fleet reinforcements expected to arrive soon. +++ This could be your advert. +++ Poll: 78% of Terrans..."

"A Void invasion? Interesting."

"But why?"

"I don't know. Get back to work."

"You got it, boss!"

Alioth Space, Augmenta System

Gunant and Misho fought their way through the Void invasion force. Their plan was simple: plant several mines and launch EMP bombs near the wormhole, then run. Meanwhile, Bruce went off to nearby planets to gather Terran forces, and Brent called out SOS signals all over nearby systems. He even asked the Vossk for help. Word spread like wildfire; now Brent could hear the breaking news through the Terran government channels.

"We're closing in, Misho," Gunant said, "Ready the mines."

"Already ahead of you," Misho replied as he maneuvered his ship to the wormhole's flank.

"Are you crazy?!" Bruce practically screamed to Gunant and Misho as he arrived back at Alioth, "You're going too close to the wormhole! Are you trying to get yourself killed?"

"If this works," Misho replied, "We can deal with less Voids at a time."

"If," Gunant said to himself.

He had every right to say that. Gunant was getting peppered by Void fighters and blaster fire. It was a miracle that his shields didn't run out. Misho, on the other hand, faced minimal opposition because he was closing in on the flank. He boosted ahead, releasing some mines in his wake, then looped back for another run, releasing the rest of the mines. The Voids who were chasing Misho and the Voids jumping in to Alioth found themselves blown up by the mines, leaving Gunant the opening he needs. He quickly launched several EMP bombs into the wormhole, then turned around to meet up with Misho and the rest of the defense force Bruce brought in.

The plan worked; no more Voids got in through the wormhole. For now, at least.

"No time to rest, buddy," Misho said. "We gotta support the others."

"Right."

The two of them swerved around to meet up the rest of the Terran and Midorian forces. Alioth space became a massive battlefront, where not only laser fire is the main threat, but also debris and asteroids. Most of the asteroids fell apart due to Void, Terran, or Midorian fighters crashing into them. The debris from them became a threat to anyone who didn't pay attention to their surroundings.

Gunant made sure that he kept close to Misho. He's the better fighter, not him. Gunant, on Misho's command, launched an EMP bomb on the Voids, ensnaring them into Misho's nukes. Several Void fighters closed in on Gunant's behind until Misho launched mines at them.

"Hey! That nearly killed me!" Gunant complained.

"You're welcome."

Inside the station, Platform C5

"Alert! Alert!" a Terran Security Officer alerted, "Voids have entered the station! Repeat: Voids have entered the station!"

Sirens and alarms blared throughout Alioth station; Brent could barely hear himself when he issued his orders. He was horrified at the fact that the Voids themselves are boarding the station! No one has ever seen a Void in a station before now. The Terrans fought bravely, cutting down most of the Voids as they exited their ships. Brent could see a Terran Battle Cruiser in the distance with orders to cut off the Voids from the station. He looked down from his position at Platform C5 to see Platform D4, where Gunant, Misho, and Bruce had docked earlier. Now, most of the fighting in the station took place there.

"This isn't your ordinary pirate attack," Brent said to himself, "This is a full-scale invasion! But why?"

He looked up to see the Phantom fighter sitting in Platform B4.

"Of course. They must be here for the Phantom fighter. So why do they want it, and how did they find out this quickly?"

Alioth Station, Platform D4

"[The signal is getting stronger,]" Welgista reported to Komunikasyon. He looked up to see the Phantom fighter. "I can see it from here.]"

"[What are you waiting for? Retrieve it, now!]"

"[The primitives are putting up a big fight! There's a huge ship outside the station, and it's certainly not one of us!]"

"[Get moving! If it gets to the hangar, you'll be cut off from the rest of the invasion force! I will order them to destroy or disable it, but you're on your own should things get bad.]"

"[I understand. Signing off.]" Welgista then turned to his strike team. "[Move quickly, everyone!]" he barked, "[Fight through the defenses! We don't have much time!]"

Alioth Station, Platform B4

"Alright, everyone," Brent ordered to the Terran forces stationed at the platform, "I have reason to believe that the Voids are coming for the Phantom fighter on this platform. Defend it. It holds major scientific value, and we can't afford to let it fall into the Voids' hands, assuming they have hands. Does everyone understand?"

"Yes, sir!"

"Then get ready for a huge fight here. I can feel it in my old bones."

Chapter 11: The Void Siege of Alioth, Part 3

"What is this, Tenner?"

"It's the plans for a new turret prototype, boss. We're trying to develop its mass production. We've got most of the materials already."

"Finish your operations quickly. You and I both know of the Void attack not too far from your location. That last thing I want is them to interfere with my plans. Do you understand?"

"Yes, boss! We're almost done."

Alioth Station, Platform B4

"Here they come!" "Open fire!" "Turn those Voids into Swiss cheese!" "Yummy!" "Shut up, Baffour!"

The Terrans fought bravely, but more Voids managed to slip past the blockade outside the station as the Terran Battle Cruiser moved closer and closer toward the station. The Terran security force was forced to fall back. Brent was right; the Voids are going for the Phantom fighter. He himself tried to get its engines running again, but it was no good. Instead, he used a nearby crane to move it to Platform C3, where a Terran freighter was awaiting hull repairs just before the invasion. Hopefully its hull wasn't that damaged...

Both sides fought fiercely, with neither side backing down. However, it became clear that the Terrans have these Voids trapped in the station. The Voids there are doomed.

That didn't matter for Welgista.

"[Hailing Mothership,]" Welgista whispered into his communicator, "[Komunikasyon, I've snuck around the primitive forces and nearing the target.]"

"[Good,]" Komunikasyon replied, "[Hurry up; you're running out of time.]"

"[Got it. Signing off.]"

Welgista stealthily neared the Phantom fighter, ready to seize the fighter. Climbing aboard, he figured out the controls relatively quickly. Despite this, he was unable to start up the engines.

"[Damn,]" he said to himself, "[Did we really damage this thing that much, or was it the jump that wrecked the engines?]"

He decided that it's a bridge he'll cross when he gets there. He paced back and forth, wondering how to get this to the Void Mothership. Then he remembered his personal scanner that he personally built and came up with a better plan, one that involves an ancient Terran method.

He was abruptly interruppted by Brent's crane taking it away. Barely keeping stability, Welgista quickly scanned every inch of the Phantom fighter, inside and outside. The Phantom fighter was just hovering over the Terran freighter as Welgista bailed. However, he accidentally fell into the transport. Knowing that he is done for, Welgista transmitted the data to the Void Mothership through a secure Void channel along with a farewell message and the blueprint for his scanner. After destroying the original, he welcomed death at the hands of the Terran forces already in the freighter.

Outside the station

The Terran Battle Cruiser has been disabled via the destruction of its engines. Void fighters closed in on the bow of the cruiser, vaporizing it in one attack run. Another squad peppered everything that is now exposed in the bow of the cruiser, causing the entire ship to destabilize and chop off one of the spires on the hangar section of Alioth station by colliding with it. The vibration can be felt by everyone inside the station and the cruiser. Yet another squad of Void fighters peppered the cruiser's command bridge with laser fire as well as decimating some of its turrets.

Despite the destruction of the cruiser, the Terran and Midorian ships managed to keep most of the Voids away from the station. Pursuing Gunant, the last of the Void fighers near the hangar circled around the structure, blasting more at the station than at Gunant's ship. As soon as Misho, who is flying just behind the Void fighters, locked on to a Void fighter, it didn't last much longer. After a little while, the Voids found out that Misho is chasing them simultaneously, so the rear guard turned around and opened fire at him. Misho quickly swerved around, deploying mines in his wake. The Voids chasing him fell into his trap, but the hangar is damaged even more by the explosion and the destroyed Void fighters.

Gunant had to lure the Voids to the other section of the station. There, everything in the station was evacuated. One freighter remained, and a squad of Voids closed in on it as some Terrans and Midorians opened fire behind them. However, they dismally failed in protecting the freighter. Gunant responded by launching a nuke at them, forcing them to disperse. The second section of Alioth station was obliterated soon after in the crossfire in the dogfights that followed.

"[It wasn't what we're expecting,]" Komunikasyon called to all Voids at Alioth, "[But ultimately it's what we came here for. Fall back to the Mothership! That's an order from the Queen herself!]"

Even hardened veterans such as Brent and Bruce couldn't believe how quickly the Voids evacuated after the order was given out.

Inside the station, Platform D4

"And just like that, it's all over," Misho stated when everyone gathered together.

"It was so abrupt," Bruce said, "The invasion just, ended."

"We get the point everyone," Gunant said, "Brent, please tell me the Phantom is safe and still in our hands."

"It is," Brent reassured Gunant, opening up the freighter's door to show him proof.

There it is, the Phantom fighter. It looked as if the Voids didn't even touch it. However, Gunant took a look closer, and, to his horror, noticed...

"Is that... a Void?!"

Terran Freighter, docked at Platform C3

"We found him next to the Phantom as soon as it was loaded into the freighter," a Terran Officer reported, "He was killed as soon as we found him. He didn't even fight back, or even tried to hide."

"Strange," Brent said, "Inspect him. He can't have just jumped down here with the Phantom sitting right next to him and not fight you guys."

"We already did, sir. It seems as if he scanned the Phantom and transmitted the data to their base, wherever it is."

"Well, he still looks he could be preserved," Misho suggested, "I mean, he doesn't look all that damaged, aside the headshot."

"I suppose we could send this specimen to Deep Science as well," Brent said.

"What's that?" Gunant and Misho asked.

"It's a top secret scientific organization based on the planet Thynome, which is in the Wolf-Reiser system," Bruce answered before Brent could reply.

"The system's not on any standard star maps," Brent said, eyeballing Misho, who was checking his star map, "You'll need to get the coordinates from Lieutenant Thomas Boyle. He's expected at Suttnar Station in the Union system before travelling to Deep Science. You should meet him there."

"Sounds like a plan," Misho said.

"Thanks for your help," Gunant thanked.

"No problem. I'll tell Boyle to expect you. Goodbye."

Chapter 12: Kidnapped

"H-hey, whuh-what are you doing?! Get off!"

"Quiet, you! Stay there and stay silent!"

"So let me get this straight. You're taking this guy to the boss so that she can get the jump drive plans from him?"

"Shush! And yes, that's the plan. Our part is to get him to the boss and get paid. End of story."

"Alright. Crew, prepare the handoff at..."

"AARGHH!!!"

"We're under attack!" "Watch out!" "Incoming!" "AAGGH!" "Get down!" "He's heading for the prisoner!" "Stop him!" "Grenade! Duck!" "He's getting away!"

"Let him go. The ship's going down. We'll have to evacuate, then we'll try to get the prisoner back."

Alioth Space, Augmenta System

MACH (The Midorian Alliance for Countering Hostiles), which its members finally agreed on its name since they confronted Mkkt Bkkt at Yrdal Gedal, consists of Gunant Breh, Misho Copley, and Bruce Copley. Bruce joined MACH as the Terran Space Fleet's representative, symbolizing MACH's alliance with the Terran Federation. As MACH exited Alioth Station, they took account of the carnage that was left behind during the Void Siege of Alioth.

Alioth is a complete mess.

Glowing purple marks scarred the Terran Battle Cruiser and the station. The cruiser's engines are down, and most of its turrets are officially decommissioned. The entire front of the cruiser was annihilated--all exposed corridors and cabins glowed purple in the darkness. Equipment was scattered everywhere and tangled in every way possible--or seemingly impossible for that matter. Inside, space troops worked to rescue any surviving but trapped crew. The heavily damaged command bridge looked like it was actually painted purple instead of its usual colors. The dead cruiser floated among the remains of destroyed starfighters, Terran, MACH, and Void alike. It was a miracle that the cruiser itself wasn't blown up. In fact, it looked like it was ready to just fall apart at the slightest touch.

The station itself is an even bigger mess. Inside the station, equipment and debris was piled in so many places it was impossible to stand inside the hangar. Most of the escape pods were used to move Space Loungers and the hangar's shops' merchandise to nearby freighters, where a large escort will relocate them to nearby stations--some people were too drunk to realize what's going on. The star map that was usually bright in the hangar glowed dimly and barely keeping itself online. Most of the security force was deployed during the invasion, and the ships on sale were personally evacuated by their respective sellers as soon as the Void attack was declared a full-scale invasion. The remaining ships were A) glowing purple, B) peppered with holes by blaster fire, C) in a dead heap among the debris, D) completely destroyed, or E) some or all of the above. Anything left behind during the invasion was impossible to find in the mess.

Outside the station, the link between the two sections of the station is obliterated; the second section was so destroyed that it looked as if it was a part of the nearby asteroid field. Much of the hangar section of the station was torn apart as well. The two spires above and below the hangar section looked like they were ripped off by giant hands and used as chopsticks to pick up the hangar section. Space troops and large ships worked hard to remove the debris that blocked a large part of the hangar entrance--who knows how MACH got out of there. Two more Terran Battle Cruisers, which inconveniently just arrived in the area, had to use their tractor beams to keep the hangar section from falling down to the planet below. The station was so wrecked, Terran workers had to build a brand-new one, much to the dismay of their Lieutenant Commander.

For the first full-scale Void invasion in recorded history, it sure made a huge mark.

News of the battle spread so quickly, pirates from all over the galaxy travelled here to take advantage of the situation. Other than to keep the station secure from the Voids and to assist in repairs, that could be the reason why the two Terran Battle Cruisers are orbiting Alioth, an extremely rare sight to see. Every member of MACH was speechless except for one.

"Wow," Misho said, summarizing everybody's thoughts in one word.

MACH took a moment a silence for the brave Terran and MACH pilots who were lost in the Void Siege of Alioth. It was only a moment, though, because pirates are arriving very quickly.

Gome C Space, Augmenta System

"So Bruce," Gunant began, "What do you know about this Boyle?"

"Lieutenant Thomas Boyle is Deep Science's courier and analyst," explained Bruce, "He's usually the one who ventures outside from Thynome to perform specific tasks, though Deep Science hires trusted mercenaries to do more dangerous work through Boyle."

Dis Space, Magnetar System

"Bruce, my boy," Misho began, "I've been sitting in Mido for a very long time. How long have the Voids been attacking us?"

"A very long time," Gunant answered for Bruce, "I oughta know. I've survived a Void raid during the civil war."

"Yeah, but there's more to it. As you guys saw earlier, the Voids possess the technology to open up wormholes to jump into anywhere in the galaxy," Bruce added, "Now that I think about it, they probably came to Alioth to take the Phantom fighter because they want to study it as well."

"Speaking of which," a MACH pilot interuppted, "Didn't we leave it in Alioth?"

Everyone facepalmed.

"This is Terran freighter Delta IV," a Terran Officer called to every MACH pilot's communications, surprising them, "Requesting accommodation in your mission, MACH. We have the Phantom fighter."

"This is Bruce Copley, Delta IV. Permission granted."

"This is Gunant Breh. Permission granted as well." Gunant wanted to make sure that the Midorians also allowed Delta IV to come forward.

"Well, this is embarassing," Misho said as Delta IV caught up with them.

Suttnar Space, Union System

"Here we are," Gunant announced, "I hope Boyle's still on board."

"Yeah," Bruce replied, "Let me do the talking, though."

"Go ahead."

"Ahem. This is Bruce Copley, representative of the Terran Federation of the Midorian Alliance for Countering Hostiles. Do you read me, Suttnar Station?"

"This is space station Suttnar," a female Terran Security Officer hailed, "What can we do for you, Copley?"

"I'm here on behalf of Commander Snocom. I'm scheduled to meet Lieutenant Thomas Boyle."

"Ah yes. Unfortunately Lieutenant Boyle's ship hasn't arrived yet, but I have a message for you from Commander Snocom. He asks that you contact you immediately."

"Well, that's a good start. Computer, open a channel to Brent Snocom. Broadcast it to all MACH pilots."

"MACH, bad news!" Brent said as soon as the channel was opened, "I just recieved a report that Lieutenant Boyle was kidnapped near Kappa. The kidnapper is asking for a five million credit ransom. We have to find a way to save him. Boyle is irreplaceable to Deep Science."

Gunant groaned.

"Alright, Brent," Misho replied, "We'll find a way to rescue Boyle safely. What's our plan of action?"

"We're still developing the plan. In the meantime, head for Kappa as fast as possible."

Chapter 13: Rescue Operation, Part 1

"Heh, heh. We got away. Got the prisoner, Amaror?"

"Yes, sir."

"Ow! H-hey, watch it!"

"Shut up, Boyle!"

"H-how did you know muh-my name?"

"We just know. You're being held for ransom. Whoever you're working for, we know that they want you back. We're gonna get rich off of you."

Kappa Space, Union System

"Guys, we're in luck!" Brent called to MACH, "Kappa Station picked up a signal from the kidnapper and was able to track his ship, so we know where Boyle might be."

"Great!" "So how we can get him out of there?" "Alive, perhaps?" "No..." "Well, that's just..." "Sarcasm." "Oh."

There's a small reserve of EMP bombs in the Kappa Station hangar," Brent said to Gunant, Misho, and Bruce, ignoring the rest of MACH's pilots' arguments, "You're going to deliver something different than what they're expecting."

Inside the station

MACH easily located the reserve stash of EMP bombs in the shops. Apparently, someone was kind enough to give them away for free. Gunant, Misho, and Bruce each took 4t of EMP bombs, and the other MACH pilots shared the remaining 13t.

"That's the EMP bombs installed," Misho said.

"Yeah," Gunant replied, "Let's get moving before we're too late."

"Agreed," Bruce agreed.

Kappa Asteroid Field

"Everyone," ordered Boyle's hijacker, "Secure the perimeter. Borsul, deal with Deep Science and 'negotiate' the pay."

"Yes, sir!" "Alright." "Roger." "On it."

"Good," the hijacker said, "Now let's go."

Outside the station

"The kidnapper must be somewhere between the two waypoints," Brent reported, "Your scanners will tell you if Lieutenant Boyle is on board."

"You heard him," Bruce ordered, "Scan every ship. Kill anyone who doesn't have Boyle on board. Use your EMP bombs on the hijacker if you have any. If you run out, contact the others. Understood?"

"Understood," everyone replied.

Bruce smiled, knowing that MACH fights fiercely, as proven in the Void Siege of Alioth, and they also follow orders very well. MACH spread out widely around the first waypoint, leaving Delta IV and the Phantom fighter in the station. Their plan was to surround the kidnappers and isolate Boyle's hijacker.

Kappa Asteroid Field, First Waypoint

"Hold on," Amaror said, "Someone's coming."

Amaror, a Grey, is the newest addition to the notorius pirate squad, the Executioners of Baltone. Him; Leon Koenig, a Terran wanted criminal; Borsul Orquat, a former Nivelian official that betrayed his colleagues and banished to the Mido Confederation; and Choker, a cyborg that used to give out missions in Space Lounges but decided to join the Executioners; are among the most dangerous of the Executioners. Their leader's full name is unknown, though rumor has it that his first name is Brant. Whether it is true or not, he insists that the Executioners call him The Executor (though the name might change in the future).

As the name suggests, the Executioners originated from the Baltone Quadrant. They were hunted down and nearly killed by Keith T. Maxwell himself, but Admiral Smith explicitly ordered Keith to disable their ships so that he can "have a chat" with the Executioners. Unable to give out the order of execution (it would've been ironic), he ordered the arrest of the Executioners and sent to prison in Darmaque I in the Augmenta System. How and when the escaped remains a mystery to everyone; even the security officers of Darmaque I are stumped.

"It's definitely not one of us," Leon said, "Patch me through, Borsul."

The Top Executioners of Baltone, which consists of The Executor, Amaror, Leon, Borsul, and Choker, all have different roles in the squad. The Executor specializes in ruthless tactics and strategies, Amaror has proven many times over the years to be an excellent translator, Leon excels at stealthy attacks and ambushes, Borsul is the communications expert as well as an expert mechanic, and no one can match Choker in his interrogation and his brutality in space battles.

Together, along with a seemingly countless amount of pirates under their command, the Executioners managed to hold the entire Nivelian sector in their grip of fear. Soon, the Midorian and Vossk sectors will know true fear from them, which would explain why there are so many pirate attacks deep in their respective territories. By subduing three major factions, fear would be instilled in the Terran Federation as well. There, they would attempt to conquer it using stolen resources from every faction through blackmail, extortion, or theft. It is all a plan of revenge.

However, the Executioners recently found out that Deep Science is quickly becoming a potential threat to their plans. Boyle's hijacking is the first of a series of attacks on Deep Science to keep them down.

"Hey, you!" Leon barked to MACH, "What are you doing here? Buzz off before we get really angry!"

Much of the Executioners' fighters appeared out of the asteroid belt to show MACH that they're outnumbered.

"We're heavily outnumbered, Gunant," Bruce called out to MACH, "Fly around and head for the second waypoint. Misho, follow him. Everyone else, stay here and distract these guys."

Everyone did maneuvers to hide Gunant and Misho's departure for the second waypoint as Bruce and the rest of MACH closed in on the Executioners.

Leon was outraged. "These guys had the guts to challenge the Executioners," he said to himself, "Well, it's their funeral."

"If you don't wanna listen," The Executioner announced, "Find out the hard way. Take him out!"

Bruce could've sworn he heard that voice somewhere, somewhen. He pushed that thought out, focusing instead on his adversaries in front of him.

Kappa Asteroid Field, Second Waypoint

As Borsul Orquat negotiated Boyle's ransom, which took longer than what he expected, he found himself under fire from Gunant and Misho.

"What?" he said in disbelief, "How did you guys get here?"

"Shut up!" Gunant barked, opening fire at him.

"Wait, Gunant!" Misho yelled, "Boyle's on board his ship. Don't destroy it!"

Gunant stopped firing. Checking his scanners, Boyle really is on board the ship. He thanked Misho for stopping him from accidentally killing Boyle and instead fired an EMP bomb at the hijacker. Misho did the same to assure the ship's electronics' shut down.

"Damn!" Borsul cursed, realizing that Deep Science was stalling him all this time, "I've been set up! All systems are down!"

"Well that was easy," Misho said.

"Yeah," Gunant replied, "Hopefully Bruce and the others are having as much luck as we are."

Chapter 14: Rescue Operation, Part 2

"[So let me get this straight. Welgista is dead, but we have the plans for the primitive's fighter.]"

"[Yes, my Queen.]"

"[But have we suffered enormus losses to the point of having no army at all? Have Welgista's remains been left behind in the prosperous world? Does this let the primitives study our weaknesses?]"

"[Umm... Well, um, yes?]"

"[Remove him, Commander.]"

"[Right away, Your Majesty.]"

"[No, stop! Please! My Queen, have mercy on me! MERCY!!!]"

"[On the bright side, Your Majesty, we have devastated the primitives' fortress. They will remember this event, and fear our might.]"

"[Yes, but fear itself is not enough.]"

"[With all due respect, Your Majesty, what can we use against the primitives to get what we want?]"

"[Isn't it obvious, Commander? Terror. Deception. Rebellion. Destruction. And the list goes on...]"

Kappa Asteroid Field, First Waypoint

Bruce boosted ahead of the rest of MACH, opening fire at the Executioner pirates. He quickly dispatched two of them and stunned a few more. Nine pirates counterattacked at Bruce, closing in on him until they were either blasted away or stunned by the other MACH pilots. However, everyone had to disperse because more pirates attacked from their rear and Choker pushed through the left flank. Bruce boosted out of the area. Laser fire peppered the area where he was a split-second ago.

The battle reminded MACH of the carnage at the Battle of Eanya.

"I've never seen such organization in pirates," one of the MACH pilots commented.

"There's something wrong indeed," Bruce commented. He opened a channel to Leon Koenig. "How did you organize this many pirates? Not even Loma's pirates had such organization. Just who are you?"

"Oh, we've got ourselves a questioner, eh? We are called the Executioners of Baltone. Name's Leon Koenig. I'm sure you've heard of us at some point."

"We haven't."

"Too bad. You'll never get to know, anyway."

Leon performed a loop, confusing two MACH pilots who were persuing him. They did not live much longer. Bruce responded by unleashing a barrage of laser fire and launching an EMP bomb at him. Leon dodged most of the attacks, but an EMP bomb managed to detonate close enough to paralyze his craft. Bruce and three more MACH pilots closed in on him, ready to finish him off, until Amaror, The Executioner, Choker, and several Executioner pirates intercepted them. Two MACH pilots were killed, and Bruce and the remaining MACH pilots suffered heavy damage. Bruce could hear a chuckle from Leon, knowing that Bruce would die.

"See ya later," Leon taunted.

"No!"

Misho bodly boosted into the fray, catching everyone by surprise. Most of the pirates were killed; the rest dispersed to avoid getting hit. Amaror and Choker attempted to at least kill Bruce, but took an EMP bomb to the face from Gunant, who held Borsul Orquat hostage. The Executioner attempted at Misho's life, but was eventually stunned with Misho's ship ready to fall apart any moment. Every Executioner pirate fled the scene, leaving the Top Executioners' fate in the hands of MACH.

"Wow," a MACH pilot commented, "That was easy."

Suddenly, single-man escape pods ejected out of the stunned Inflicts and zoomed towards the jumpgate. Some of the MACH pilots reacted in time and chased the fleeing Top Executioners, but their ships are too slow.

"Too easy," another pilot said.

Bruce had the only ship capable with high speed chases. Using his booster, Bruce managed to catch up and launch an EMP bomb at Leon. He missed. He prepared another bomb, but realized that this was his last one.

"All or nothing," he said to himself.

He boosted one more time before launching the bomb. As the other Top Executioners fled the system via jumpgate, Leon took a direct hit from the bomb.

"Dammit!" he said. "How did you go this fast? And how did you stun me?"

"And yet you call me a 'questioner,'" Bruce retorted as the other MACH pilots seized his ship.

Chapter 15: Interrogation

"How could you let them get away, Tenner?!"

"I'm telling you, Boss, it's the Executioners of Baltone. We've confirmed that it's them only moments ago."

"That stuttering Deep Science employee is very important to our plans. Get him back, now!"

"But..."

"But nothing!"

"Boss, he's just been rescued by a bunch of Terrans and Midorians who call themselves MACH."

"MACH? What the hell is that?"

"It's a long story, according to this captured pilot."

Inside the station, two hours later

"The Deep Science employee has been rescued the the brave space squad MACH. In related news, witnesses have reported a large space battle at Kappa's asteroid belt. It has been confirmed that the Deep Science employee was held hostage in the vicinity. +++ The first pilot..."

"It's amazing how fast news spreads around these parts of the galaxy," one of the MACH pilots said.

"Yeah," another pilot replied. "How did two people die if someone collides with himself? Wait a minute, how does he collide with himself?"

"Well, isn't it obvious?" a third pilot answered. "Its all in the..."

"Oh, great," Misho whispered to the MACH pilots around him, including Gunant. "He's at it again."

Everyone softly groaned.

Outside the station, Terran Battle Cruiser, Detention Level III

Bruce called his friend and colleague Jane Barad to help him interrogate Leon Koenig, who was captured by Bruce himself. Leon struggled so much, Jane shoved him into this room; she even had to paralyze his body neck down to get him into a chair.

"Now then, Leon Koenig," Bruce began, playing as the good cop, "please tell us why and how you managed to kidnap one of our men."

"I have no idea what you're talking about, Federation scum," He retorted.

Jane, obviously the bad cop, flipped the chair over in disgust, then held two electric torture devices inches away from Leon's neck.

"Tell us now!"

"Oh please. The Top Executioners are trained for tor... GRRAAAAAHHHH!"

"I said tell us NOW! How did you bozos find out about Boyle?"

"C-can't... m-muh-mak-ke.. m-me...t-t-ta-alk..."

Bruce walked over to Leon and set his chair upright as Jane let go of her shocking grip on him.

"You'd better do what she says, my friend," Bruce stated. "Piss Jane off, and you'll regret it." He looked away, as if he was going through inner turmoil. "I oughta know."

Jane shot Leon a dirty look to seal the deal. He said nothing at first, but after a moment has passed...

"No, I'm not telling you anything!" he exploded, "You can't make me talk!"

Jane finally had enough. Out of anger and pent-up frustration, she pulled up a blaster, ready to execute him.

Bruce slapped it away. "No, I have a better idea. Let me talk to him, alone."

"But..."

"Go. Now."

She hesitated for a second, but decided to trust Bruce and walked away.

Bruce walked closer to Leon. "You made me say this. I've done my research on the Executioners of Baltone. You guys held the entire Nivelian sector in your grip, right? That means your little ragtag group of pirates would've ran off to Nivelian space."

Leon didn't respond. Bruce knew that he got him. "I have good relations with the Nivelians. Terran forces have blockaded all Nivelian jumpgates, trapping the rest of the Executioners. It would only be a matter of time until the combined forces of the Terran Federation and the Nivelian Republic would find them."

Leon was taken aback, knowing where this was going.

"Okay," he finally said. "You win. What do you want to know first?"

Bruce smiled, but instantly went back to his no-nonsense face. "Before you tell me how and why you kidnapped Boyle, answer the following question. Just before the battle outside at the asteroid field, I could've sworn the person that ordered you guys to attack us sounded familiar."

He leaned closer, squinting his eyes to bring his point home.

"Was he my long-lost brother, Brant Copley?"

"..."

Chapter 16: A Flood of Recruits

"What do you know about this... MACH?"

"..."

"Still no answer, huh? Tenner..."

"You got it, Boss!"

"Okay, okay! You win! Don't... please... no more..."

"Don't worry, we'll make this short and sweet. Tell us everything you know, and you'll be on your way."

Kappa Station

"...but the quantum physics required were not discovered until about thirty years ago, give or take. Also..."

"My Goddesses. Shut up, Yror!" yelled Stu Adlam, a new recruit to MACH.

"What's going on... Oh, great. He's at it again," said Leah Dubois, who just arrived at the scene.

"Is he... Oh, great," whispered Bruce, who also just arrived.

"S-seriously, how long is he gonna buh-blabber on and on and on and on?" asked Boyle.

"I... have no idea," replied Sheimam Theor.

News of MACH's existence spread like wildfire throughout the station after Boyle's rescue. Next to the Voids, the Executioners of Baltone have been raiding stations all over the galaxy and a force to be reckoned with. The successful assault on the Executioners with minimal losses on MACH's part proved that they are not invincible after all. Keeping this in mind, many sober Space Loungers and mercenaries throughout this sector of the galaxy saturated MACH's ranks; even a few Nivelians joined as well.

Yror, an easily excited Grey; Stu Adlam, a Midorian Security Officer who spends his free time in Space Lounges; Leah Dubois, a female Terran who also often hung out at Space Lounges to give out random missions to random people; and Sheimam Theor, a Nivelian diplomat who respected the Midorians and deplored the war, are just four of the countless individuals who joined MACH.

"Let's just ignore him. So, ahem, Lieutenant Thomas Boyle, I believe?" greeted Misho, who also just arrived. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

"T-the pleasure is all m-mine," Boyle replied. "And t-thanks for rescuing me."

"Calm down, boy!" Gunant exclaimed. "I know you've just been rescued from a kidnapping but seriously!"

Misho and Thomas ignored him.

"So Boyle," Misho said, "Brent told me you're in need of pilots? Look around. Problem solved."

"Indeed. Now I've seen you in action, would you be i-interested in a j-job? We need experienced pilots for some very, very, very..."

"Geez." "Save some very's for everyone else." "You're still studdering..."

"...very dangerous missions. Of course the p-payment will be adequate."

"Sheesh. I hope so. Anyway, Brent said you'd know the way. I can offer you a lift, as long as you have the navigation data to get us to the Deep Science Station."

"Deep Science?" "What's that, some sort of extreme scuba diving team of researchers?" "No idea." "Me neither."

"Guys, shush!" Bruce said.

"Deep Science is some sort of top secret science organization that primarily does research on the Voids," explained Gunant as Boyle is transferring the coordinates to the Deep Science Station in Misho's star map, which automatically synchronizes with every star map of every MACH pilot. "Details will come once we get to Homebase."

"Homebase?" "Okay, what's Homebase?" "Some terminology you've got there." "So many secrets... I like it."

"That's a long story. I'll tell you on the way to Deep Science. Let's just say that it contained a lot of convenient moments."

Another batch of ships entered the station. Everyone knew who they were; all MACH pilots have the same insignia: a Grey gray "X" with a Nivelian Blue and Multipod purple background. The center is colored Midorian black, and the "X" is sitting on top of a hollow Terran yellow circle. This represents MACH's extent to all species except Bobolans and Vossks. Every pilot who wanted to join had to have this symbol painted on their ship where it could be easily seen.

Much of the veteran members processed these new recruits and checked their backgrounds to see if they were trustworthy enough to join. So many pirates and wanted men attempted to join that MACH had to make a new rule that banned all members who had extremely bad standings with the factions they encompassed. Due to the fact that there are no Vossks in MACH, most of these recruits were wanted men in the Vossk Empire. Everyone agreed that these people can stay even if MACH gained Vossk members.

Misho noticed that most members of MACH consisted of Midorians and Terrans. Fine by him- he didn't really like Nivelians and Multipods, and those Greys tend to jabber on and on and on forever. He's pretty sure that Gunant and most veteran members had similar views.

"Attention! Attention, MACH pilots!" Gunant announced. "I am pleased to announce that as of right now we have over..." He paused, letting the moment set in. "One hundred thousand members!"

The news came to a shock to every member of MACH, especially Misho, considering the fact that the events of the Void Siege of Alioth and the rescue operation here at Kappa happened literally hours ago. He knew that there were so many pilots who wanted to join they had to go to countless other stations around the galaxy. Then again, there are billions of people living in the temperate planets, and millions more on small cities in the skies of volcanic, oceanic, and gaseous planets. Compared to all these people, a simple hundred thousand isn't really that much.

What worried Misho was how MACH is able to operate without their own base. Sure, the Terrans are happy to let MACH use their stations as a base of operations, but they needed a permanent base. Perhaps Gunant already has the answer in this so-called "Homebase."

Chapter 17: Homebase

"Hello, ladies! How about another drink?"

"Ohhhhh... Yoouuu shouuulldn't haaaavveee..."

"Thanks, B-UUCH-t. 'Scuse meh."

"Hey, while you're here, why don't you view my collection of... pleasurable goods? You're going to love..."

"Mr. Bkkt! Sir! We're under attack! It's... those pirates!"

"What?! They've come already?! Tell them that the 30 million will come soon!"

"They won't listen to reason anymore! We've intercepted a transmission that they're trying to take over!"

"Damn! What a guy would give for a miracle every once in a while..."

Kaamo Space, Shima System, sometime during Yror's blabbering

Gunant needed some time alone to think; he was so distracted, he didn't even realize that he passed through Nivelian space only moments ago.

All he wanted was to study the Phantom fighter and possibly sell it to some collector for millions of Credits after telling about its potential to travel in time. And look how that escalated! He didn't mind this change of pace, but he was really only a miner; he didn't seem built for this type of thing.

Gunant took another look at his cargo hold, congratulating himself again on finding 50t Buskat on one of the Executioners during Boyle's rescue operation. After his interrogation, Bruce turned Leon Koenig in to the local authorities for a whopping 60-million-Credit reward; that proves once and for all how notorious the Executioners really are. Bruce, Misho, and Gunant agreed to share the money on anything that would greatly benefit MACH at their approval. Gunant didn't want to abuse such a privilege, but he's also getting a little edgy, knowing that he's gotta spend it soon, especially with an additional billion Credits raised chiefly by the Terrans (the Mido Confederation couldn't spare that many, and the Nivelian Republic didn't give so much simply because of the high number of Midorians in MACH).

Gunant was abruptly interuppted at the sight of a cluster of Pirate Outposts and a swarm of pirates hovering over a Midorian-looking station like a swarm of agitated hornets patrolling the perimeter of their hive. The station has three neon signs; the first, directly below the closed hangar doors, depicted buskat; the second, on the hangar's left, depicted an animated electric guitar; and the third, which sits above the hangar, said, "Join the Kammo Club."

Gunant instantly retreated into the nearby asteroid field when an SOS transmission reached him. Checking its origins, Gunant realized that it came from the station. He patched it through, but only after making sure that he was safely cloaked with a Sight Supressor II.

"Hello? Who is this? Are you really a Midorian?" asked someone with a familiar voice. He seemed panicked, though, whoever he is.

"Hailing... Kaamo Station," Gunant hailed, "This is Gunant Breh..."

"GUNANT?!" the transmitter practically yelled, as if overjoyed all of a sudden, "It's me, Mkkt Bkkt!"

Gunant could've sworn that he had heard the name before.

"Remember me?" Mkkt asked. "I was the one who brought neuro-algae at Yrdal Gedal back at Mido!"

It clicked.

"I remember now! Wait, didn't you say earlier that you've set up shop here at Kammo? I was... wandering."

"Yeah, that's right! But you've gotta help an old friend, Gunant. These pirates are really getting on my nerves, blockading the station. My friends here have drunk almost all of my Buskat supply to comfort and distract themselves. I can't get more; nobody would dare come near with all the pirates in the area. You've gotta help me! Business could be sunk if someone doesn't get rid of these ba****** soon!"

"Don't worry, Mkkt Bkkt! I'll help you. But not right now."

"What? Why?"

"I'm vastly outnumbered. Wait until I call in reinforcements."

"Hurry back! Please! Don't tell anyone, but I'm on my tentacles begging for help!"

Pathetic, thought Gunant. It wasn't necessary; he was already on his way to Kammo's jumpgate.

Kappa Station, Union System

"Yes, Gunant?" Bruce asked.

"Bruce, with the sudden wave of recruits, we should establish a more permanent base," Gunant replied.

Bruce liked it when people got to the point, but Gunant seemed a little edgy, for some reason.

"Is something the matter?"

"Well, I've got the perfect place. It's at the Shima System, not far from the Union System."

"There's a catch, isn't there?"

Opportunites like this always come with a catch.

"Right. The station is completley surrounded by pirates. I'm hiding in the asteroid field. You can figure out the rest."

Bruce started to say, "I'm on my way," but he was cut off by...

"Deep Science?" "What's that, some sort of extreme scuba diving team of researchers?"

"Guys, shush!" Bruce said.

"Deep Science is some sort of top secret science organization that primarily does research on the Voids, Gunant explained. "Details will come once we get to Homebase." He turned back to Bruce. "Let's get going, old boy."

Kammo Space

"Mkkt! I have good news for you!" Gunant said.

"Great! What is it?"

"I've called in reinforcements, and they will arrive shortly."

"Perfect! I'll be waiting over here, cheering you on!"

Gunant and Mkkt didn't have to wait long as MACH forces arrived at the scene, ambushing the pirates. The strike team of both Terran and Midorian fighters focused their fire on the Pirate Outposts before they realize what's going on. By the time they did, two outposts were already destroyed and the rest heavily damaged.

"Gunant! I've sent in a large strike team to assist you in liberating the station, including myself," Bruce called. "The rest of MACH will arrive shortly."

"Thank you," Gunant replied as he emerged from his hiding place and joined the battle with his own strike team. He focused his fire on the smaller dispatches of pirates, hoping to stay out of as much action as possible.

Some of the Terran fighters broke off from the main strike force and destroyed another one of the outposts. Two remained. Gunant joined the Midorian fighters as they cleared a path through to one of the surviving outposts as a Terran Battle Cruiser emerged. Surprised, the pirates scattered at the sight of the Terran Battle Cruiser in all its glory. The cruiser obliterated the outpost with no opposition at all; Bruce and his team of Terran fighters did the same for the other.

"Wow!" Mkkt yelled to MACH. "I just blinked and nearly missed it! I've just opened the hangar doors. Please dock so that I can reward you."

Gunant hoped that the reward is the station itself; he noticed a broken yet seemingly brand-new "Going out of Business" neon sign that drifted behind the station, as if it was just deployed moments ago.

Inside the station MACH was amazed at Mkkt Bkkt's taste in interior design.

The station was obviously of Midorian-origin, but a large collection of shiny, expensive-looking starships lined the hangar. Neon lights and advertisements were everywhere, yet they were arranged as if they were specifically designed to appeal to potential customers. The paintjobs of Kammo look brand-new compared to the crude, battle-worn hangars in the actual Midorian stations. Crates containing various liquids of all kinds of colors dotted the hangar. People of all species flocked back and forth, as if it was a hastily-planned evacuation drill, though it seems that most residents of Kammo station are attractive-looking Terran women.

The Space Lounge, on the other hand, were almost unrecognizable. The huge fan that was usually in Midorian Space Lounges was removed; Gunant noticed several vents around the walls instead. The colors of the lights were changed to a soothing shade of purple with a just a hint of Midorian redhere and there. Instead of the bar, a platform with several poles attached to it and filled with sexy female Terran dancers teasing any male that dares come close takes up the center stage; the bar was moved to the far side of the Space Lounge. There was a higher concentration of people in here, though most of these guys are Multipods.

Everyone gawked at the dancers, including most of the MACH strike team, as if it was their last performance. Gunant noticed one of the Terran MACH pilots drooling, and he shut his mouth to save him the embarassment. He also noticed Bruce muttering to himself, something about having a wife already. He tried not to look at the dancers, knowing that he was likely to be entranced by their performance. He instead went to Mkkt Bkkt after dragging Bruce over to him.

"You like this place, don't you?" asked Mkkt.

"Tell that to our friends here," Bruce answered, pointing to the MACH strike team, obviously entranced by the dancers.

"Yeah, well, actually, I've had enough of this neighborhood. I'm actually planning to move out. Don't ask why."

"So what will become of the station?"

"I'm thinking of selling it to you guys, as thanks for saving me. Of course, I still need something to reestablish myself."

"Of course," Gunant muttered to himself as he opened a channel to Misho, who, according to Bruce, was introducing the new recruits and organizing MACH the whole time.

"What do need, then?"

"30 million Credits for the station, and another 20 million to let you guys keep everything that's already inside the station, including the dancers, but excluding the customers. They come on their own free will, obviously. Also, I need 50 tons of Buskat to replenish my supplies. I would ask for more, but you guys are my best friends."

"Some friend he is..." Gunant mumbled to himself as Misho gave his approval to use 50 million of the 60-million-credit reward for the capture of Leon in order to buy the station from Mkkt.

"Well," Bruce began, "we do have the credits, but..."

Gunant opened his cargo bay doors to reveal the Buskat.

Chapter 18: Counterattack at Homebase

Kammo Station, Shima System

"Everyone, take cover!" "AARRGH!" "Get him to the sick bay, immediately!" "It's a counterattack! All hands to battle stations!" "Bombing run! They're performing a bombing run!" "Shields up!"

The counterattack hit Homebase like lightning; nobody bothered to check on the planet Kammo below. A bunch of bulky fighters added on to the counterattack, but who knew where they came from?

"Defend the station!" ordered Bruce, who is already leaving the station.

Outside the station

Jane had already arrived in the battle with two more cruisers to add on to the one already there. Each one dispatched much of their fighters to ward off the attack. Both Jane and Bruce noticed that the bulkier fighters are heavily armored, yet they fly rather quickly for some reason. In fact, it seemed to have better handling than all Terran fighters.

Bruce ignored the laws of physics somehow being broken and focused instead on breaking these strange fighters. The Terran Battle Cruisers are doing a good job on destroying the pirates, but little by little the turrets are being destroyed by the bulky fighters.

Inside the station

Gunant, Misho, and the strike team prepared to exit the station when all of a sudden the power flickered off.

"Cruds," said Misho, "this isn't good."

"The shields are down!" a MACH pilot reported. "They can board us at will!"

Acting on instinct, Gunant asked, "Mkkt, the hangar's gonna be messy soon. Isn't there a place where Kammo's residents could take shelter in?"

"Of course! I feared a pirate attack the moment I bought this station. The Space Lounge and the penthouses can lock down in such emergencies. We took shelter there when the pirates took over before you guys came along."

"Then why are you still standing here for?! Calm everybody down! Make them think it's a training exercise and that these enemies are just drones! Move!"

"Gunant!" Misho yelled. "They're entering the station!"

"Hold the line, everyone!" Gunant ordered. "We need to hold the station until the rest of MACH arrives in force!" He turned to Leah Dubois, who became one of MACH's communications officers. "Please tell me that you briefed everyone not in the Shima system about the situation here."

"Just did, sir," she reported, saluting whilst doing so.

"Good, now take this, and open fire at these pirates!"

Outside the station

"We're gonna get overrun!" "Razor squadron, pull up!" "Boom! There goes the pirates!" "I believe the correct term is: pulverized!" "Seven bogies, right behind us!" "Missles! Pull up!" "They've almost got us!" "They're coming around. Evasive maneuvers!" "I'M HIT!"

Commands, mourning messages, short farewell statements, and other noises flooded the channels if MACH communications. It took much of Bruce's flight training just to avoid his own fighters in midst of the chaos. The pirates fell very quickly, but the bulky fighters that backed them up are the main reason this fight's still dragging on.

Several pirate outposts appeared before the Terran Battle Cruisers. Their unique design gave Bruce the gut feeling that they were manufactured in nearby Loma, a haven for the pirate scum. Some of the amaller outposts were vaporized by Jane's cruisers' sheer firepower. The larger ones have heavy shields, so MACH has to board the outposts and take them down from the inside. When doing so, Bruce stressed multiple times that any and all pirate outposts taken over be used against the pirates.

None of the MACH fighters dared to venture far away from the cruisers and Homebase. The bulky fighters quickly dispatched any Rambos. Due to the destruction of Homebase's shields and overall power, most of the MACH fighters nearby retreated into the station to reinforce the forces left in its hangar. Two heavily-shielded pirate outposts managed to break through the blockade and hold the hangar hostage. The MACH forces in space couldn't destroy them- Jane's cruisers can't penetrate the shields, and the the bulky fighters' muscle and the pirates' numbers kept the fighters away from the outposts. On top of that, those two particular outposts look much different from the others, and each of them is equipped with a menacing cannon that appears to be a superlaser.

Gunant and Misho are trapped.

Inside the station

With the hangar entrance being held by the pirates, Gunant, Misho, and many other MACH pilots are forced to hold the hangar long enough until the MACH forces outside the station can get reinforcements and destroy the pirate outposts.

As Gunant held the line, Misho managed to cut down the pirates surrounding his brand-new ship, a Berger Cross Special, and started it up.

"Misho!" Gunant yelled. "Are you insane?!"

"Don't worry! I got this!"

Misho powered up his new weapons, Mass Driver MD 12s, and turned much of the pirates into Swiss cheese. However, he also wrecked much of the hangar as well.

"Whoops."

"Did you really have to do that?!" Leah scolded. "I was just about to activate the defensive turrets!"

"You fixed them that quickly?" Gunant asked. "They were blown up as soon as they showed up!"

Before Leah could open her mouth in response, more pirates boarded the station.

"Sir! More pirates!" "Incoming!" "What're you waitin' for?! FIRE!" "Take them down! Take them down!" "Open fire!"

Gunant hid under the cover of Leah's defensive turrets with an overheated blaster--who knows how she got them back online amidst the chaos so fast. While waiting for it to cool down, he assessed their current situation. Looking out the hangar, pirate outposts, swarms of pirate fighters, and the bulky fighters seem to just keep Jane's and Bruce's forces away from the station, not destroying them. Gunant noticed that the pirates avoided using any explosives to break through MACH's lines--unusual since they ofen use whatever tactics and weapons necessary to get what they want, and it usually involves explosives of some sort.

It was then he figured out their intention--to take over the station.

"Leah!" Gunant ordered. "It's no use trying to kill these pirates in the station at this rate! Even with your helpful turrets, we can't hold out for much longer! Our troops are getting tired! We have to finish this battle! We need to take out those outposts so that the fleet can mop things up!"

"Roger that! But... how, sir?"

Gunant is still trying to get used to the word "sir."

"We're going to have to break through this wave and board those outposts! Hold the line while I get to Misho and have his team out there!"

Before Gunant could leave, though, Leah shouted out, "Wait!"

"What now?" Gunant's getting impatient.

"With all due respect, sir, why not destroy these outposts? Even we have the firepower down here."

"These outposts are unlike anything I've ever seen before," Gunant replied quickly. "And I've seen so many of them it's not funny. Besides, we need to know where the hell these guys get these bulky fighters. They've been hitting the fleet harder than the pirates- both fighters and outposts."

"Got it."

Outside the station

"This is crazy, Gunant. Just crazy," Misho said.

"Yeah, but if this works, we can win this!" Gunant replied, heading for the other outpost.

"If."

"Look out!" a MACH pilot yelled over communications. "Enemy fighters!"

"Punch through them!" Misho ordered. "We gotta board that outpost!"

"Everyone, out of the way! I'm launching an Extinctor!"

The announcing MACH veteran then fired said projectile straight into a wave of bulky fighters. The ones that were already damaged and the ones that were directly hit crumbled easily in the blazing ball of fire. Without the bulky fighters, the pirates fell quickly by the combined force of Misho's team and Leah's turrets.

Everyone witnessed powerful superlaser cannons firing towards the fleet. The cruisers were barely agile enough to dodge the blasts, but the nearby asteroids were not so lucky. The explosion that followed made Gunant and Misho realize that the fighters stand no chance against these cannons, so per Gunant's suggestion, Misho and his team kept their advance aligned with the outposts and Homebase. The pirates couldn't fire the superlasers because the fighters are much more agile than the cruisers despite the decreased distance and the station would be obliterated if they did fire the superlasers.

Kaamo Space, Pirate Outpost (Misho), Hangar

Misho's team managed to board their respective pirate outpost and cleared the hangar easily. Apparently, the pirates thought that their forces up in space could keep any MACH forces out of their outposts.

"Clear!" "Clear!" "Clear on my side!" "No walking pirate 'ere!"

"Nice work, everyone," Misho congratulated. "Let's head on up to the command bridge and locate their comms sector and superlaser controls."

"My squad, stay here and hold the hangar!" a MACH veteran ordered. He turned to Misho. "All you, sir."

Misho nodded as he and his squad hunted down the command bridge.

Kaamo Space, Pirate Outpost (Gunant), Hangar

Gunant wasn't as lucky as Misho.

By the time Misho cleared the hangar on his outpost, Gunant's team was just boarding theirs. The bulky fighters caught wind of MACH's plans and kept Gunant's team out of the outpost long enough of the pirates to reinforce the hangar. The team can hold out, but now they're pinned down in the hangar.

"We're going to have to blow a few things up here, guys," Gunant said. "The hangar will survive a couple of grenades."

It was clear that Gunant's team fared better with explosives. It seems that most of Gunant's teammates are used to such skirmishes, so they can easily avoid grenades and blaster fire. Gunant wasn't as experienced in fighting, to be honest, so he hid beind the front lines well-behind cover.

"Hawkeye to Bulkhead! Hawkeye to Bulkhead!" came an encrypted voice through Gunant's comm link. In the short period of quiet after MACH liberated Kaamo from the pirates, MACH agreed to use codenames for the major figures of the alliance. Misho's codename is Hawkeye, Bruce is Sirius, Jane is Vanellope, and Gunant is Bulkhead.

"I read you Hawkeye!" Gunant replied. "We're pinned down in the hangar, but we're holding for now! What's your status?"

"We just cleaned out the Living Room and found the Eyeball. Any suggestions for Breakfast?"

Gunant kept on reminding himself over and over again that the Living Room is actually the command bridge, the Eyeball is the outpost's superlaser controls, and whatever Misho's having for Breakfast is what he's going to fire the superlaser onto should the situation demand it. Before Gunant could forge a response, though, the lights flickered and dimmed.

According to Gunant's gut, that meant the outpost's superlaser is charging up.

Kaamo Space, Pirate Outpost (Misho), Command Bridge

"Hurry up and find something that can poke out the other Eyeball already!" came an encrypted voice from Misho's comm link.

"Roger that." He turned to the MACH officer manning the superlaser controls in this outpost. "Charge up the laser. Standby for the target." He paused, thinking. "...Target is..."

"Wait a minute!" a MACH analyst interrupted. "Copley, sir! You really need to look at this!"

"This had better be good." He peered over his shoulder to see what the analyst is desperate to show him. He blinked twice and turned his full body towards it.

"We should fire the superlaser here. It'll..."

Kaamo Space, Asteroid Belt, Jane's Terran Battle Cruiser, Command Bridge

"Just what the hell Bulkhead and Hawkeye are doing?!" Jane asked with a hint of disgust.

Lately, the space just outside of Homebase became a galactic fireworks show. For some odd reason, she's been getting bits of static and encrypted mumbo-jumbo through her cruiser's communications, indicating that the pirates are calling out to each other. As the blabbering continued, it seems that much of the pirates and bulky fighters peeled off from their current positions in the asteroid belt to the two pirate outposts orbiting the station.

Jane tried again to make contact with the MACH forces stranded in the station, but to no avail. The outposts are definitely jamming their communications to and from the asteroid belt and the station.

And... look at that! The outposts seem charge up their superlasers! Perfect timing! Jane nearly called the order to increase her fleet's shields (for whatever good that can do) when she realized that they seem to be firing at each other. What has the world come to?

One of the outposts fired its superlaser first. The other, Jane couldn't tell in the huge explosion that occurred upon impact of the superlaser. When the smoke cleared, the outpost that was hit at first looked unscathed, save for the area below that outpost's superlaser cannon.

"Wow. He missed." "Yeah, I would've gone for the superlaser cannon as well." "What's goin' on down there?" "I hope Gunant's okay. He seems to be a nice guy." "Where's that blasted salami?!"

"Everyone, focus!" Jane shouted. "Look what's goin' on!"

The outpost that was hit be the superlaser suddenly sparked in the area of impact. The entire structure soon became electrified as all the lights flickered off and stayed off. Slowly, the outpost's engines failed, and it's close enough to the planet to be influenced by its gravity. The outpost would've crashed onto the planet below if a huge neon sign protruding from Kaamo station didn't catch it.

Without warning, the surviving outpost orbiting Homebase turned its superlaser cannon towards the asteroid belt. Jane instinctively ordered the forward and side shields at full power and prepared the cruiser for evasive maneuvers.

A blinding flash of light streaked across the battlefront, and it slammed straight through one of the pirate outposts MACH has yet to confront directly. All the pirates and bulky fighters stopped attacking and watched it all happen. Behind Jane's fleet, MACH forces have arrived in force. Jane noticed that communications have reopened between the fleet and the station. After finding out that the two unique outposts are under MACH control, she designated the outposts still under pirate control as targets.

Knowing that the battle is done, the pirates quickly regrouped back into the remaining outposts. Some are already held by MACH, some turned into clusters of debris, yet others managed to escape. The surviving bulky fighters, though, just... disappeared, as if they were never there. Just like that.

"Aw man," said a MACH pilot, "We missed all the fun!"

Chapter 19: Welcome to Deep Science

"Fifteen outposts. Hundreds of fighters, including our new ones. One station. HOW DID WE LOSE ALL OF THAT TO A SMALL BAND OF FREEDOM FIGHTERS?!"

"I... I don't know, sir. They just came in so quickly. We... couldn't react in time."

"Y-yeah. W-we didn't see them c-coming."

"..."

"Sir?"

"Boss?"

"Esha aogisoes, oheoignhas. Aeigohn oeaiog."

"W-what did you just say? Wait, what's that guy doi... AAAARRRRRRGGGHHHH!"

"N-no! Please! Have mercy on me! Goddesses, help me! HEL- GAACK!!"

"[Change of plans, Komunikasyon. Tell your team to make finishing my ship's stealth generators first priority and have it ready as soon as it's done.]"

"[Understood, my Lord.]"

Kaamo Station, Shima System

"Welcome to Kaamo, MACH," Mkkt Bkkt greeted.

To say that everyone's amazed at the station, inside and outside, which Mkkt Bkkt renovated specifically to suit MACH's needs--and wants, was an understatement.

"I see you guys need a proper tour of the station before I shove off. First off, I'll show you the secret hangar just above us. Between you and me, I primarily use it to smug..., er, I mean..., transport, erm, very important goods in and out of the station. Would you like to see it? Come with me, and I will show you the grand..."

"Sweet place," Misho said to Gunant, staying behind in the main hangar.

"Tell me about it. This place is perfect for MACH's headquarters, not to mention most of Kammo's asteroids are literally goldmines," Gunant said with dollar signs on his eyes.

"By the way, where's Bruce?"

"I sent him over to the Deep Science Station with Boyle. I'm sure they won't be kidnapped. Don't worry."

Meanwhile at Thynome Space in the Wolf-Reiser System...

"Here we are--finally! Dr. Paolini is expecting us. I've already notified her of our arrival," exclaimed Boyle.

"Her?" Bruce asked. "You mean Paolini's a girl? A Terran girl?"

'Um, yeah," Boyle answered. He paused. "Why did you ask?"

"No reason," Bruce said, trying his best to hide a smirk.

Inside the station

Bruce easily singled out this Dr. Paolini. It was pretty easy since she was the only female Terran that greeted Boyle as he exited his ship. The others consisted of two Greys, two male Terrans, a Multipod (Bruce always felt edgy around Multipods since he learned the hard way that Multipods are not always to be trusted), and a Bobolan.

Paolini was exactly how Bruce imagined. She has a slender body, a rigid yet soft face (if that's possible), and long hair, which Bruce prefers no matter the hair color so long as it looks good on her. Her voice sounded soothing, if not angelic. So much, in fact, that Bruce was entranced by her stunning beauty; he was glad that he stayed behind on his ship or else everyone would've seen something they shouldn't see. Snapping back to attention, Bruce stood back up and saw the two Greys and the Bobolan leaving as he "casually" exited his ship.

"And that's Mr. Bruce Copley," Boyle introduced upon noticing his arrival. "He's my ride here."

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Copley," Dr. Paolini greeted as she shook hands with him, trying to maintain formality and suppressing laughter. "Commander Snocom speaks very highly of you and MACH. Welcome to Deep Science."

"Thanks. Call me Bruce," he said smoothly.

"As you wish, Mr. Copley," Paolini replied, completely ignoring his request as Boyle and the others talked amongst themselves. "I'm Dr. Carla Paolini, head of Deep Science. Has Commander Snocom briefed you about the research program and the Voids?"

"He told me about the Voids, and I've seen them in action already, obviously. Aggressive bunch. Now what exactly do you want me to do?"

"Our first objective is to find out more about their technology. I'd like to capture a Void ship, or at least parts of it to analyze. Deep Science will provide you with 20,000 Credits so that you can equip your ship properly. A tractor beam and a scanner will be required."

"20,000. Not bad, I suppose." He could use the extra credits. Sure, he's got millions behind him, but none of that's truly in his pocket. To be honest, he's broke.

"Good. As soon as you're ready I'll accompany you to Sahi in the Weymire System. We've recently detected Void activities there."

"You want to accompany me on the mission? With all due respect, I think this might be a bit too dangerous, after the attack on Alioth. I'd better go alone."

"Mr. Copley..."

"Bruce, please." There are annoyance and a bit of anger in his tone.

"Bruce. I need to see the Voids with my own eyes. Theory and reality are two very different thingsm if you see what I'm saying."

"Okay, Carla. You're the boss."

"Good. We should leave immediately, or we might miss the Voids. Make room in your cargo bay and don't forget to install a tractor beam and a scanner. You can acquire both in the hangar. Tell me when you're ready to leave."

"Yes, ma'am."

As Carla talked with Boyle, comforted him, and escorted him back to his living pod, the two male Terrans approached Bruce. One of them stepped forward and cleared his throat.

"Hello, Mr. Bruce Copley," he said, "My name is Konrad Hollister. My friend Nguyen Shephard and I would like to offer our services in dangerous situations for 1,830$. Is tha..."

"Dude," Nguyen interuppted, "we agreed to join MACH for free."

"Yeah, I'm just messing with you. My bad. Anyway, we would like to join your group. Free of charge, of course, provided that we participate in any action you guys will be in on and also that we have good food and drinks. You know, like the Terran Navy guys."

"Of course," Bruce approved, "we always welcome new recruits. Ready your ships. We'll gather our forces for this mission. I have a gut feeling that we might see more action than meets the eye."

Both of them nodded as the three of them prepared their respective ships. With Deep Science's funds, the money from selling some of the loot Bruce managed to get his hands on during the rescue operation and the Void Siege of Alioth, and the Credits gained from selling his old Inflict, Bruce purchased a brand-new Furious as well as upgrading to a Nirai Charged Pulse, a better shield (Beamshield II), reinforced E6 D-X Plating armor, a gently-used Hiroto Proscan, and an AB-2 "Glue Gun". He didn't even bother to look at the mining laser because Gunant managed to produce several of his special drills for MACH use. He considered getting the Intelli Jet blueprint in the Space Lounge, but he'd rather stick with his nukes and his new loadout. As he left the shop to install these equipment into his new Furious, Nguyen suddenly popped out from behind his ship, surprising him and nearly making him drop the stuff he's carrying.

"Sorry," he said. "Look, we're big fans of you guys. What you did back at Alioth with the Voids was awesome; we saw the entire battle. Konrad's too manly to admit it, but he's one of those crazy fans who'd do anything for their idols. Please don't disappoint him."

"No worries. Knowing Homebase, he won't be disappointed at all."

Homebase

"Told you so."

Both Konrad and Nguyen stood wide-eyed as if they were both paralyzed by some poisonous or venomous creature. Even the debris amazed them as if MACH made a new neon sign saying, "Don't mess with us. We mean business." Mining ships fluttered between the asteroid belt and Homebase itself. Bruce knew the rapid advances in technology lately would force MACH to constantly upgrade their equipment, ships, weapons, etc. to keep up, and some MACH pilots, including Gunant, managed to get their hands on rare and valuable blueprints and are willing to share them among all MACH pilots.

Repair ships and Terran cruisers tended to the damage to Homebase and the outpost that crashed into the neon sign. MACH prioritized this over the floating remains of various ships (none of which could be recognized), other than clearing a relatively "safe" path to Homebase.

Jane took a squad of cruisers to reinforce Alioth, but she left a considerable amount of Terran security forces to keep Homebase secure. She promised to maintain communications with Homebase in case of another attack. Gunant oversaw the operations- primarily the mining operations- inside Homebase's executive suite. He left Leah Dubois, who he recently promoted to Colonel, in charge of the surviving pirate outposts to help keep Homebase secure from the surviving unique outpost that blockaded Homebase during the attack. Gunant and Bruce put Stu Adlam, a Midorian Security Officer, in charge of security inside the station; Yror, the extremely talkative Grey, in Homebase's own research facilities; and Sheimam Theor, a Nivelian diplomat, to further smooth relations over between MACH and the Nivelian Republic. Rumor has it among MACH pilots that Sheimam is planning to run for office in the Nivelian Republic government as representative of MACH in a few months.

Bruce explained to Carla that he had to make a side trip to Homebase before going to Sahi. With his connections to the black market, he made it to Kaamo after sustaining heavy damage from the pirates of Loma. Carla also seemed astounded at Kaamo's design, but her professionalism forced her to mask her enthusiasm. Long story short, everyone agreed that Bruce and Misho would take a small group of fighters while Gunant and the others would gather resources, though mostly from Kaamo's asteroid field, as well as overseeing repairs.

He looked back every once in a while to make sure that Carla is safe behind him with the hope that she's enjoying the ride.

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