*NOTE: If you have not read 'SALVAGE' I recommend doing so before proceeding.*
It hurt. Justin couldn't ignore that fact. Even with his suit's ionic defense shield, the force could still be felt throughout his entire body. The klaxon filtered through the audio of his helmet, the volume low but not muted. He had to ensure he didn't miss any important information, especially as the station fell apart around him. The visor was cracked, the HUD continuing to flicker as the system struggled to remain active. Even with his damaged sensors, it was clear there was no way to save the station. Now it was more a matter of salvaging what he could before it was ultimately destroyed. There was another explosion, this one further away. Given the suit’s current state, it was impossible to know how close it was, but he was certain it had to be within a floor or two.
Lying on his back, he could see into the level above him–rather what was left of it. The fire licked at the supports but they were designed to handle extreme temperature. It wasn't fire that worried him. It was the missiles being launched at the station that did. The suit was sturdy but not indestructible. The HUD, when it wasn't fritzing out, indicated that his combat suit was damaged from the torso down. Thrusters were offline and there were several breaches which meant space travel was impossible. Decompression—yet another worry. Ally told him that another suit was on its way, Goliath he thought, but with the battle that was raging outside, it would take some time. The pirates were shooting at everything that moved and the suit was off no exception. The pods that carried his suits were fairly large and would make for a clear target. Even his larger suits like Goliath, made for a very large target. If they didn’t shoot it because it was moving, they would certainly do it on a matter of principal; that being the item belonging to him.
Once again he tried to move the debris from off his legs but it was just too heavy. Even after shutting off the suit's limiters he couldn’t get any leverage. If he were standing, he may be able to lift it without a problem but with it on top of him, he was trapped. The only positive in all of this was that the suit kept him from being crushed initially. There were no internal injuries, no broken bones and he was grateful for that. Being trapped was on thing, being trapped and bleeding was another.
All around him he could see people running here and there, hoping to get to the escape pods as soon as possible. It was standard protocol for all space stations to have either escape pods that were designed to launch down to the planet the station may orbit, or have Skips— short distance ships that could go further but had less chance of survival since there was no guarantee you would make it to a planet or be found my a passing cruiser. On the upside they had their own supplies that would last several days. Justin had his own Skip but it was probably either locked down or destroyed.
Of all the people that passed him, none tried to help. That was understandable though. There wasn't anything they could do to lift the debris off and there was no way of getting anyone to stay in one place for much longer than absolutely necessary. To them he was just one more unfortunate statistic to pirate attacks. This would have been fine if not for the fact he was facing Aynoran pirates.
Aynoran Pirates were perhaps the worst sort of pirates to find their way to the Shuul Space Station. Tucked in the middle of the Terran Space, it was under the protection of the Alliance and the Federation so most pirates steered clear if they could. In Earth standards it would be like trying to assault the Pentagon with a pistol while wearing Kevlar. You might kill a few people but you would get mowed down before any real damage was done. Of course, the Aynoran's were not your typical pirates. Calling them psychopaths actually besmirched the good name of psychopaths—everywhere. Rapist, killers, sadists, pedophiles, and so much more was how a single Aynoran was described, and hundreds of those monsters were currently outside the station trying to get in. Or at least trying to destroy it in order to salvage what was left. Those who died from the assault were lucky. When the Aynoran's raped them, they wouldn't feel a thing. Those who tried to escape, however, one could only pray they died quick.
Justin had hoped this would be a simple trip, just another day. He only wanted to come by to purchase the star chart that Ally had told him about the prior week. He had credits, he had salvage, more than enough to barter for it. She told him there was no reason to come in with Warmonger or even Reaper with its collapsible plasma scythe but he wanted to feel safe. He always felt naked when out in public without some sort of armor. As a compromise, he opted to go with Ally's suggestion and take the Shepard. It was basic combat suit without any of the bells and whistles of his others. It certainly didn’t stand out against the standard space suits that were worn by travelers like him; at least not at first glance. The magnetic discs at his hips and back would have contained firearms but Shuul restrictions prohibited them from being brought into the station. Only the Federal police were allowed to be armed. This didn’t bother him because Shepard was fitted with a plasma blade in his gauntlet, one of the various modifications he made, but the suit was so banged up that it was hemorrhaging power. He wouldn’t have been able to cut through the materials that pinned him before it ran out.
"Ally, any ETA on Goliath?" Justin asked.
"I'm afraid I had to initiate Goliath’s defense protocol." Ally said, her voice calm.
"Damn it." He sighed. The defense protocol was meant to aid civilians who were under attack while the suit was unoccupied. Ally was capable of controlling both the suit and monitor the systems of the ship. However, unlike her, the suit could not be in multiple places at once.
"What does it look like out there?" He asked. The suit tried to switch displays but the system failed to bring up any other view. All he could see was what was in front of him.
"The Federation and Terran fleets are fighting against the Aynoran pirates but they are over five thousand strong." She relayed.
"Five thousand?!" Justin cried, "How is that even possible? They barely get along with each other on a single ship of twenty, how can an entire army be out there and not turn on one another?"
"You will not want my hypothesis." Ally told him. This immediately grabbed Justin's attention. Instantly the gears of his mind began to turn and memoires combined with ideas giving him his own theories.
"No…" He moaned, "You don't think…"
"You did kill the pirates’ captains."
"That was months ago, and they couldn't know it was me." He said, but immediately those same ideas and thoughts returned and he was struck with an uneasy notion. "But Juyan did."
"I believe that Juyan gave you up." Ally said.
"Oh that's just spiffy. So you think all of this is just for me?"
"I do." She replied, "Aynorans are not known as a forgiving type. If they want revenge, they will do whatever it takes to get it."
"Including blowing up a space station in the middle of Alliance territory." Justin said as everything started to make much more sense. The reason they were coming en masse was because they had a single, solitary goal: killing him. He would have found it flattering if he didn’t know what was in store for him. "Have they found Tianlong yet?"
"No, the ship is still outside of sensor range." Ally said. He sighed relieved at that notion. Justin didn't want to bring the Tianlong close to the station, instead using his own Skip to travel the distance. This he was grateful for because if they found the ship, there was no telling what they would do. While it had some defensive capabilities, it was never meant to be an attack vessel.
"Alright, well with Goliath acting as bodyguard for escaping citizens, what about M.A.F.?" Justin asked.
"M.A.F. has already been deployed but the defense protocol has already been initiated." Ally noted.
Just then, there was another explosion. The floor shook violently, but something happened that Justin wasn't expecting. The area underneath him gave way and he was no longer lying on his back but instead was in a free fall. The debris that had pinned him descended faster, slamming into the floor moments before he landed atop of it with a heavy thud. Justin was stunned for only a moment before he quickly scrambled to his feet. He was free. The suit was still badly damaged but now he was able to move.
"Sir, is everything alright?" Ally asked, the slightest hint of worry in her voice.
"I'm sore but alright." Justin said, "And I can move."
"Affirmative. Shall I send out another replacement?"
"You can try, maybe this time not a full sized mech.”
“Ally, where is the closest loading bay that is still usable?" Justin asked.
"Two floors down," Ally said, "It appears to still be intact and out of the line of battle. I can send the replacement pod around the station at a safe distance but it will take longer to get to you."
"Estimated time of arrival is 10 minutes." Ally said. It wasn't ideal and there was no knowing if the station would still be habitable in that time but he had no choice. There was only one way out and that was it.
"Do it." On the flickering HUD, a countdown appeared. Justin understood that there was a good chance that he only had ten minutes left to live, but he would make the most out of it.
Running toward the closest elevator he passed nothing but carnage. The once beautiful station was quickly being reduced to rubble. The floor he was on, one of the merchant levels, reminded him of a scene from Dawn of the Dead. Bodies lay here and there, the remnants of stores were either burning or were in ruins. He also noted that the pirates weren’t the only ones who were destroying the station. Looters were busy picking clean what they could. Justin watched as two men, Kern he thought given the long horns on their head, stole data pads and credit chips. Passing another shop he saw a man and a woman, Corsian and Drago respectively, stealing clothes and shoes.
He didn't bother to stop them. There was no point. The station was lost. The Terrans's wouldn't try and repair the station, at least not right away and so people like him, Salvagers, would come and pick it clean before they did anyway. Why not take what you could and damn the rest? Justin didn't stop to go shopping, but on his way to the elevator he paused when he saw an Federation officer laying on the floor, dead. That caught his attention.
Kneeling down he offered a quick and silent prayer hoping that this woman would find peace in whatever lay beyond. She was from the planet Coros in the Galahedrous system. Corosans were a peaceful race so it didn’t surprise him that she would become an Federation officer. What better way to help spread peace to others. Justin could see that she was pretty but the purple scales that covered her entire body removed any attraction he may have felt. He could see her beauty but she was certainly not attractive, not for a human from Earth anyway.
After his quick prayer, his salvager instinct came into play as examined her and saw the gun still clutched in her hand. It was TX-890 Kinetic Blaster. Like guns back home, it launched a small metal projectiles. However instead of gunpowder, it used highly powerful electromagnets. It wasn't the best against armored targets, certainly not against suits like his, but on a station where one had to worry about explosive decompression, it was a good alternative. It didn’t pack enough punch to rip through the hull.
"Sorry, sergeant," Justin said, grabbing the gun, "But I don't think you will be needing this wherever you are now." He looked her over once more and saw she had a single magazine attached to her hip. Taking it, he activated the mag-disk on his thigh and attached both the gun and spare magazine. With that, he started running once more.
The elevator wasn't working but this was to be expected. Standard emergency protocol would send all active elevators to the closest floor and then lockdown. This was meant to both protect anyone from getting trapped and prevent any intruders from using them to get to another floor. There were stairs, but it certainly was much slower.
Bringing his fist back, Justin unleashed the strongest punch he could into the elevator doors. With the suit's limiters off he could put as much power into this arm servos as he could muster. His fist burst through the doors, leaving a fist sized hole however at the same time his HUD reported a new hull breach in his right gauntlet. That was the reason for the limiters in the first place. To ensure the suit didn’t wind up killing anyone if he hit them or damaging itself if he didn’t something like punching very sturdy surfaces. This breach didn't matter though. His fingers were not broken, and now he had a way of pulling open the doors. Gripping one side, he pulled the elevator open, revealing a dimly lit shaft. The emergency lights cast away the darkness but the bottom was still thirty floors down. Fortunately, he only needed to head down two floors.
"Ally, where is Dami’s shop?" Justin asked, looking down the shaft.
"From you location it is one floor below you. Why do you ask?"
"Pit stop." He said with a smile.
Peering into the shaft, he found a ladder to his right. With all of the technology in the universe to aid him, he could not help but laugh at resorting to using a simple ladder to get around. It would have been funnier if not for the entire Aynoran army trying to kill him. Grabbing the closest rung he pulled himself on it and started his descent.
"Sir, wouldn't it be wise to go straight to the docking bay?" Ally asked as he went.
"I did not come all this way for nothing." Justin replied. As he descended he could feel the entire facility tremble as explosions rocked the station. The fact that there was still oxygen meant the shield generators were still sealing off any breaches but they wouldn't last long. He would need his suit as soon as possible.
"If I may object." Ally said, but Justin cut her off.
"Duly noted, but I'm getting that star chart." He said. For a brief moment as he reached the elevator door, he thought of his wife and their son who was already one year old. He imagined picking him up for the first time and holding him, never letting go. That was what drove him to find that chart. It could be the key to getting him back to Earth. He would not stop as long as he had breath in his lungs, he could not.
After punching yet another hole into the elevator, he used his leverage with the ladder and slid the door open. The plating on his gauntlet was starting to come off, exposing the servos and gears. Seeing this he knew it still had a few more hits left in it before it was completely unusable so he needed to make them count. He stepped onto the floor and looked around only to find more chaos. Like the previous floor, bodies lay were pieces of the station landed, crushing them. Not far from the elevator, Justin could see a hole where a section had been blown out, no doubt by a missile.
"Alright, let's make this quick." He said to himself. "Ally, where is the shop?"
"Approximately, two hundred meters from your current location to your right." She said, "I recommend once you have retrieved the star chart, to utilize a freight elevator at the back of the store. You can use that to access the loading bay." Justin attempted to pull up the internal map display on his HUD but as before there was a light buzz as the word 'ERROR' popped up into view.
"I guess I'll have to do this by sight." He muttered to himself. Removing the pistol from thigh, he took off at a run.
The Shepard suit wasn't made for running. Generally it was navigated by using thrusters or a fast walk. His gait wasn't the most graceful and certainly not the quietest, but he made good time. When he looked at the timer on the HUD, it was at just over four minutes. By the time he got down to the bay his replacement suit should be available and he would be able to get off that God forsaken station.
He ignored the carnage that lay at his feet, stepping over more than one corpse on his way to the market where his star chart was waiting for him. He was actually quite grateful, as horrible as it was, that no one else was alive. If they were, he would have stopped to help them. It was in his nature to help when possible and that was one of the reasons he got into so much trouble. Ally never understood this compulsive need though. As an AI she couldn’t quite grasp his humanity and empathy but he figured that's was one of the reasons she kept him around. She enjoyed studying and seeing what he would do next.
Justin was mere meters away from the store, Kindall's Charts, when he came to a stop. In front of it, pacing back and forth were over a dozen Aynoran pirates. Each was armed with rifles and pistols, some with heavy melee weapons. If he were wearing his stealth suit, Gray Fox, he may have been able to approach without them hearing. The suit lacked boosters and was less durable, but the feet were padded, much lighter, and possessed stealth camouflage. The Shepard was loud and obvious and as he skidded to a stop, all eyes were on him.
"Well tits." He sighed. Barely a second passed as he raised the pistol and fired a round, striking one of the pirates in the forehead and sending him to the floor. The others, taking Justin's cue, began firing. Their aim was off and only two of the countless shots struck Justin as he took refuge in an electronic boutique. The suit’s ionic shield was holding but just barely.
"Shields at 19%." Ally announced.
"Great, 85 to 19. The compensators must be shot." He noted. Popping out for a moment, he fired off two rounds, one striking a pirate in the chest, the other hitting one in the arm. It didn't down him, but he wounded his weapon arm. "Ally, is my suit in the bay?"
"I'm sorry, not yet." She said', "I had to reroute the pod again to avoid an incoming pirate cruiser." As she spoke the counter reset to an ETA of 15 minutes and 37 seconds.
"Oh come on!" He shouted. Poking out again, he took two more shots. One missed, slamming into the interior of one shop but the other ripped through the eye socket of a rather ugly looking pirate. He dropped but his spot was quickly taken by one still standing. The store behind Justin was exploding with flares and flashes as the plasma weapons and projectiles soared past him. The pirates, an impulsive type, weren't bothering to aim, simply firing randomly and hoping to hit something.
"Show your face, you piece of Latyran trash!" One pirate shouted.
"Nah, I'm good." Justin cried. He moved to take another shot but caught a plasma pulse in the chest. It was like getting struck with a beanbag shotgun round, something he actually could relate to. Back in college when he and his roommate were particularly drunk one night he learned his friend had a shotgun and beanbag rounds. One thing led to another and Justin spent the next four hours in the ER with a cracked rib. The force sent him staggering backward and damaging his chest plate.
"Primary Shields are down, unable to initiate auxiliary shielding." Ally informed. The HUD in his helmet flickered. The battery life of his suit was barely 30%. The suit was durable and could withstand more direct hits, but simply using it was draining whatever power he had left.
Returning to his position at the edge of the store, he fired two more round, striking two pirates directly in the chest. There was less than a dozen now, but his current magazine was empty. Unloading the spent mag, he slammed the last one into place. There were only eight bullets for the ten pirates left. It would require a 100% hit rate to leave only two left. While not impossible, it was unlikely. Even with his mods, he couldn't take all variables into consideration. He had only one other option but if it did work, it would leave him defenseless. If it didn't, he would be dead anyway so there was no reason not to try. Taking a deep breath, Justin calmed himself as best he could. There was no changing his mind. He had to survive, if not for himself then for his family. He firmed up his grip on the pistol and charged out from the store.
Firing as he moved, he took down four pirates with seven rounds. If they were stationary and clumped together he may have had a better hit ratio, but like him they were taking refuge in nearby stores. Aiming at the pirate that struck him before, Justin fired his final round. The slug hit one in the throat, blood gushing from the wound. The pirate dropped the T40 Plasma Cannon, gripping his neck but it did nothing to stanch the bleeding. The pirate was on the floor, dead, before Justin dropped his spent pistol. There were still five pirates left all shooting at him. Several round struck his suit, damaging it further but not slowing his pace. Swinging his arm out, the top of his left gauntlet split open and from the interior appeared a three inch long crystalline generator. With what little power his suit had left, the generator sprang to life materializing a three foot long energy blade.
Justin brought the blade down, slicing through one pirate's head. The flesh sizzled and burned, charring the flesh and separating the body into two pieces. Pivoting, not wasting the momentum, he sliced outwards catching one man in the throat, opening it up. While the blade cauterized the wound to keep it from bleeding, it also ceased blood flow to the brain. With a pirate now directly in front of him he kicked out with as much force as he could, striking the pirate in the chest, there was an audible crack as bone collapsed inward and sent him sailing to the back of the store. Justin deactivated the blade and snatched up the Plasma Cannon. The final pirate had been peppering his back the entire time, damaging but not penetrating the suit. Not bothering even to aim, Justin turned and fired a shot, splitting the man in half with a gut-turning splat.
"Suit currently operating on auxiliary power '' Ally announced.
"Figured as much.'' Justin said. Using the neural link, he activated the manual delinking procedure. Sliding off his helmet, the suit began to breakdown the limbs as he went. First pulling off the each arm, stepping out of the legs and finally slipping out of the torso piece as it powered down. Without his suit, Justin was left standing completely naked and completely defenseless. "Ally, can you hear me?" Justin shouted. There was no response. "Damn. The station's internal relays must be down. Well, I guess I'm on my own." Though there wasn't much he could carry, he picked up the Laser Rifle with the fullest charge and the Plasma Cannon, and ran into the store to find the star chart.
The store had been looted, which was no surprise, but the looters were no doubt looking for credit chips. Odds were they were not looking for charts. The computer systems were down so there was no telling which Data Disk contained the correct charts. He was fairly certain that Dami wouldn't have kept the black market charts with the rest of his inventory. Justin glanced under the counter and saw a small safe but it was empty.
He fought back a curse as he considered all of this logically. The safe would be the most likely place to hide contraband but if someone were to rob him, the safe would be the first thing to go after. So he wasn't convinced it was gone since he had worked black market dealers on a regular basis. If Dami was a regular seller he would not risk getting robbed of inventory and credit chips and his rare materials. That was just bad business. He had to have a secondary safe. Thinking of this, he glanced down and noticed the floor. The walls of the stores wouldn't allow a wall safe, but the floor was very thick. Stepping away from the register, giving himself plenty of space in case there was shrapnel, he slung the rifle around his back and aimed the Plasma Cannon.
"Here we go." He announced as he pulled the trigger. The metal plated floor ripped apart but underneath it there was a loud clank. In the hole was a safe, with a door that was barely on the hinges. "Sweet googa mooga." Justin laughed.
He was careful where he stepped, not wanting to cut his feet open. Kneeling down he saw a stack of Data Disks and couldn’t help but smile. It may have cost him his Shepard suit but if he had a chance of getting home, he would gladly pay that price. Seeing a small metal box under the desk, he snatched up the disks and tossed them in. Locking it, knowing he could easily smash it when he got back to Tianlong, he picked up the Plasma Cannon and made his way to the freight elevator in the rear of the store.
Like before, a blast with the Plasma Cannon opened a large hole, one big enough for him to slide through, the problem now was that he had no free hands to climb down the elevator shaft—at least not easily. Tucking the box under his arm, he descended the ladder slowly. One hand, the arm holding the box, gripped the side of the ladder while the other held the plasma cannon. He would have left it but he needed it to bust through the final door. The recoil would hurt but as long as it did its job that was all he was looking for.
It took over five minutes to climb down one floor. Of course the upside was that he was that much closer to getting a replacement suit. His optical sensors in his eyes still contained the countdown that Ally set, tucked in the corner of his vision. From what he could tell by the internal sensors within his body, he was still in nominal condition. That wouldn’t last long, though if he didn’t leave that station soon.
As he came to the elevator door, he braced himself as he lined up his shot. The only way to fire it, was one handed and the recoil from a Plasma Cannon was massive. If it didn't dislocate his shoulder, he'd consider himself lucky. He wasn't. The moment he pulled the trigger, the pulse went forward but the weapon went back and that was when he heard a loud pop as he felt a terrible pain rip through his shoulder. Immediately a notification appeared in his optics indicating the injury. Justin screamed, his voice echoing throughout the shaft. At the same time the cannon slipped from his fingers and moments later he heard it clatter far below him.
"Damn it." He groaned as the sweat and pain that surged through. Like glass stabbing into the joint, the agony never dulled. For all intents and purposes, his arm was useless until he could pop it back into place.
While this was a concern, a new problem appeared and that was he had only one hand he could use to get out of the shaft. However this did not deter him. Slipping his left leg through one of the higher rungs of the ladder, his legs held him in place. He gripped the box with his good hand, and with as much force as he could muster he slid the box through the hole. With that problem solved, he then moved to the next issue. Gripping the floor, he stepped off the ladder and placed his toes on a small ledge, barely half an inch. Using it as leverage, he climbed through the opening. He cut himself on the door and the fragments on the floor but he was able pull himself through and out of the elevator. Unfortunately, his relief was short-lived.
"Look at what we have here, a Latyran. And he's already on his knees." A voice crowed. There was laughter all around him and with it came a deep sensation of real fear.
"He looks good, very… fit." A deep voice bellowed, "I want to have a piece of that."
"Me too, we can tag team." Another voice cried, this one higher, more nasal.
Gripping his shoulder, coddling it, Justin fell back onto his heels to see over three dozen pirates staring at him. Weapons raised, they were all trained on him. At the center was a single man. Face scarred, he looked like a human, save for the pointed ears and the remains of a charred and burnt catlike tail.
"Shit." Justin muttered.
"Dornin Koe." The man said. It took Justin a moment to remember that was one of his aliases he used while dealing with dangerous individuals such as him. "Or should I say Kiran Kitra, Prince of the Kitran Empire from the planet of Verus." He spoke with a smugness only held by pirate kings; the very same pirate kings Justin thought he killed over two months ago.
"Oh, if you only knew the truth, L'tra." Justin said with a grim smile.
"Oh we do, Latyran." L'tra said eyeing him. "You're stronger looking than most Latyrans." The gaze made Justin uncomfortable. It was a hungry stare, not unlike a cat eyeing its meal. Of course most cats didn’t rape their dinner first.
"I like to lift things." Justin said. He struggled to keep from grimacing too much. He had faced many different enemies and threats during his brief stint in deep space. However the difference was that he never went unarmed. Wearing only a rifle and his skin with a dislocated shoulder, he never felt more naked.
"I can tell." L’tra noted.
"Tell me, do you talk to everyone like this or am I just special?" Justin asked.
"Oh you are very special." L'tra said, "Now I am an omnivore in so many ways. Man, woman, child, I will take them all, but you are so special. Not many have caused us so many problems and live to tell the tale. Because of that I plan on taking my time with you."
"You flatter me." Justin said with a pained smile.
"Oh I will do so much more than just that."
Justin watched as L'tra's smile grew wider. It was in that moment he realized that the fighting had stopped. He didn't realize it on his descent to the loading bay, but the missile fire had ceased and he could not remember for how long. It was a very distinct possibility the Aynoran pirates were the ones still alive in and around the station. If that were the case then all eyes were on the station and, by the small cameras mounted on some of the pirates, on him.
It was as L'tra licked his lips, taking a step toward him that Justin noticed something outside of the bay. Like the Tianlong, when not in total lockdown, the loading bays maintained atmosphere by raising a semi permeable ionic barrier. It allowed oxygen to remain in the ship but allowed matter to pass through undeterred as long as the ship or cargo had an ionic inhibitor installed into it. When the two systems connected, the inhibitor would temporarily disrupt the field and allow it to pass through without shutting off the entire field and decompressing the loading bay. On most fully manned ships and stations, the security crew monitored the cameras to ensure no random ships entered without permission and if any tried they would lock the field, negating the inhibitors effect. Since the pirates were inside that meant one of their landing parties must have taken control of the system. If that were the case though, then it was likely no one was watching the security feed. All eyes were on him which meant no one was watching for any incoming ships. This played to Justin benefit. He couldn’t have seen it with L’tra in the way but now that the pirate king closed the distance between them, unbuckling his belt as he went; Justin saw a pod rocketing toward them.
"This should be interesting." Justin said.
"Prepare to move." Ally called from within the cochlear implant. She was within com range, which meant she was relaying through the pod’s com array and that also meant Justin had about five seconds to move.
"Warning would have been nice!" He screamed. The outburst caught the pirates by surprise but none had any time to react. As he spoke, he rolled out of the way as fast as he could. The pod passed through the barrier, slamming into the army. At least a dozen pirates were tossed like rag dolls across the loading bay. Those that were missed ran for cover. L'tra managed to move out of the way before the pod reversed thrusters to slow down so it land properly.
"Bring him to me!" L'tra screamed, but it was too late. Three narrow poles slid out of the top of the pod and began rotating quickly, creating an impermeable shield. At the same time the pod opened revealing four mechanical arms that began grabbing pieces of a new suit. Justin dove into the shield, the pulses and bullets striking but never penetrating the field. Stepping into the boots, the arms went to work assembling his new suit. As one arm moved to attach the right arm piece, it actively popped the shoulder back into place. Justin almost screamed but the chest piece that had already been attached pumped an anesthetic, effectively numbing the area.
Within ten seconds the suit had been assembled and Warmonger had been activated. Stepping out of the pod, Justin grabbed a grenade launcher from one of the slots that were filled with ammunition and spare weapons. With a thought he activated the built in targeting system and the mounted shoulder turrets went to work fired round after round at any pirates the system could locate. Without bothering to aim, Justin fired a grenade into a group sending limbs and parts flying. One ship attempted to take off and leave the station, but Justin raised his arm. The panels around his wrist opened and firing ten miniature missiles, they slammed into the ship’s thrusters, destroying it. The pirates still standing tried to fight back, but the suit's defenses were at maximum and the only managed to reduce the shields down to 98%. If Justin didn't shoot them himself, the turrets did. It took less than a minute to reduce the army to only one: L'tra.
"Wait, wait!" the pirate king cried as Justin approached. "We can make a deal."
"Sorry," Justin said as he aimed the grenade launcher, "I only make deals with the devils I know." And with that, he pulled the trigger.
The pod slipped through space and back to Tianlong without ever attracting attention from any of the thousands of pirates that remained. The Aynoran pirates were dangerous and formidable if taken head on but their tech was old. The Tianlong still possessed the long range sensors it was built with. Since she couldn’t assist directly except by remotely controlling Goliath and M.A.F in order to assist the civilians of the Shuul station, Ally decided to be more productive while she waited to make contact with Justin. She hacked into the nearest ships and quietly took control of their systems. Using each one’s com relays she eventually took control of all ships. Once the fighting inside the station started Ally blocked any and all transmissions and cut life support. By the time they realized what happened, Justin had returned to Tianlong and were on their way back to a well patrolled shipping lane.
Sitting in the med bay as Virgil operated the diagnostic droid to ensure that Justin was healthy and relatively unharmed, he stared at the box of Data Disks. He had made sure to grab them before returning to the ship. He had a lot of work to do to fix Goliath and M.A.F. as well as three Squids that Ally sent out to help as well as over two dozen Drones; not to mention having to rebuild Shepard from scratch. By her count over two thousand people managed to escape to the planet. While this was positive, there were over 3,000 unaccounted for. Even so, Justin took it as a win.
"So what shall we do now?" Ally asked as he picked up one of the disks.
"We upload the files and see what we have." He said as the Med-Drone made another pass.
"All vitals are nominal." Virgil announced in his overly chipper manner.
"Thanks, Virgil." He said. "Alright Ally, let's..." Justin's words were cut short as an alert chimed overhead.
"Incoming message from Roderic Courtan, Royal Guard of the Kitran Empire." Virgil announced.
"Wait what?" Justin asked. There was a slight beep as his heartrate spiked, "Why are they calling us?"
"They must have intercepted a transmission indicating that Kiran Kitra was onboard the station." Ally said. As she spoke, Justin detected concern. This was uncommon for her and she only really spoke as such when things were taking a turn for the worse.
"And..." He asked.
"Sir there is something you may be unaware of and that you should know. Kiran Kitra is the prince of the Kitrian empire." She said, the words mirroring L'tra.
“Okay… you neglected to mention that when you gave me that name.” He said. “You said it was for my sake to have a new identity out here. Why did you give me a prince’s name?”
“I didn’t just give you his name,” Ally admitted, “I gave you his identity.”
"Because humans from Earth are not known outside of your galaxy and in order to prevent more questions, I gave you the identity of Kiran Kitra calculating this as a safe persona to adopt."
"Shall I answer the call?" Virgil asked.
"Not yet," Justin ordered, "Ally, what did you do?"
"I examined all the images and species to find one that best matched your appearance and genetic make up. Except for the musculature, you matched Kiran Kitra to a 98% degree. In addition to this physiological similarity, I thought he was the best person because he was labelled as missing for the past ten years. Since you have never been to Latrya, and we had no plans on traveling there anytime soon, I had no concerns." Ally explained.
"Wait, so they’re calling us because think I'm their missing prince?" Justin screamed.
"I'm afraid so." Ally said. Just then, Virgil broke in, speaking in his calm, pleasant voice.
"Commander, the Royal Guard has requested to dock. Shall I let him in?"
Justin paused, contemplating what may happen if they discovered who he really was and that he was not the prince they were looking for. Unfortunately he suspected the guard wasn't going to wait for an invitation. They were coming in one way or another. Looking at the Data Disk in his hand, he simply said, "Do it."
“Very well, sir.”
“Ally, just one more thing, what is the penalty for stealing a prince’s identity?” Justin asked.
Though never saying the words aloud, Justin could only think of two words knowing that his future was now in jeopardy. Staring at a console in the med bay, he watched as a Latryan cruiser pulled into the loading bay. With an internal sigh, he simply said to himself: Well, fuck.