Merry Christmas everyone! Here is a little present: The final chapter.
“Captain Locke! Wake up!” said someone over the intercom.
“Huh? What’s going on?” asked Jordan sleepily.
“We have the meaning of an intruder alert! Over a hundred of them! Korx and Drath, by the looks of them. I don’t know how they did it, but they got inside using the hangars, and they’ve been shooting everything and everyone up. I’ve got casualty reports coming in from all over the ship!”
“Shit!” said Jordan, now wide awake. “Get everyone to the armories to get weapons. Kill them all!” Jordan bolted out of bed, pulled some clothes on, grabbed his plasma rifle and armored vest, and ran out of the room.
“Jordan, what should I do?” asked Aelytha.
“Stay here and hide!” Jordan ran and joined a group of his crew, who were blasting at the invaders with guns from the armory.
“Good to see you, Jordan!” said Owen. “God knows how these idiots got aboard here. How could they control the hangars like that? And who are they, pirates or something?”
“I have no idea. How far have they gotten?”
“The bastards sabotaged the computers. We’re getting no feeds from anywhere. Engineering is working on it. We don’t know where they all are. We’re holding key areas, and waiting for them to come to us.”
Another group of invaders came, though they were quickly shot in a hail of plasma bolts. After the last one fell, the group quickly moved to find more.
“Jordan, over here!” shouted Bruce. His built-in arm guns quickly brought and end to a new enemy squad attempting to kill them. “I performed a scan of the ship. The intruders did not get as far as we thought. They went past your quarters, as well as those of Ordo’s but they apparently were driven back. I have created the most efficient plan to secure the ship. With your permission, I would like to perform it.”
“Go ahead,” said Jordan
At that moment, one of the invaders fired a grenade launcher, the round detonating over Jordan and his men. Something struck the back of his head, and he lost consciousness.
Clutching the back of his head, Jordan awoke in the medical bay.
“Good, you’re awake, said the medical drone that was tending to him. “Don’t worry, it’s not as bad as it looks. Something landed on your head, that’s all.”
“What happened?” groaned Jordan.
“The attackers blew open a roof panel with that grenade blast. Some of it hit your head,” said Owen, who had walked into the room.
“Did we get them all?” asked Jordan.
“Most of them,” said Owen. “The rest retreated to their ships and fled. The Royal Vengeance couldn’t get its weapons activated fast enough.”
“Who’d we lose?”
“We lost one hundred and twenty three men. Most were killed before they could get weapons.”
“Bastards,” muttered Jordan.
Owen lowered his head. “Jordan, I don’t know how to tell you this, but Zane and Ashley are dead. We found them shot up, their bodies surrounded by fifteen enemies. They sure didn’t go down without a fight.”
Jordan was silent.
Owen continued. “I know what it’s like to lose a buddy, Jordan. Zane was like you, Jordan, a warrior and a patriot. Going down and taking a whole bunch of enemies with you a pretty glorious end for a warrior.”
“He was so excited to return to Earth…” said Jordan, keeping himself from crying.
“I know, I know,” said Owen sadly. “Jordan, Ordo and Aelytha are gone. Not killed, gone. These guys must have taken them.”
“I know. We’re looking to into it.”
“Bruce said that they had gone by where they were. They must have been looking for them. That’s got be the reason why the computer was messed up. They hacked it so it would give them information. Anyway, we captured one of them, a Drath. We are ready to interrogate.”
“Let’s go.” Jordan got off the cot and followed Owen. The medical drone protested Jordan leaving, but it was ignored.
Jordan and Owen walked to where a large group of people surrounded a terrified Drath prisoner, which was restrained by Bruce.
Jordan approached the prisoner after being handed a rifle. “All right, time to talk,” he growled, pointing the rifle at the Drath.
The prisonder began to babble nonsensically, making Jordan realize that the Drath didn’t speak English. After giving the Drath a universal translator, Jordan repeated himself.
“Please, don’t kill me! I only did what I was paid to do!” said the Drath through the translator.
“You were paid? So I’m guessing that you’re not pirates?”
“Pirates? No. We’re mercenaries.”
“All right then, who hired you?”
“Some Altarian lady by the name of Tresia,” said the Drath, causing an uproar among the crew.
“The prisoner is telling the truth,” said Bruce.
That bitch… “All right, what did she tell you to do?”
“We were to kill you and your crew, capture a girl named Aelytha and a Yor named Ordo, which we did, and once that was done, self destruct the ship. You Terrans are tougher than you look. Then again, we had Korx on our side. Bastards are better bankers than they are fighters.”
“What are they going to do with Aelytha and Ordo?”
“I’m not entirely sure, but I overheard my leader. He was saying how this Tresia lady wanted Aelytha ‘reformed’ and Ordo to be given back to the Yor Collective. Why the hell do you have Yor on your ship?!”
“None of your business,” said Jordan.
“They’re heading for Altaria, but you won’t be able to catch them. Tresia, she’s rich. She supplied us with these boarding craft. They have the fastest warp drives yet.”
“How did you get aboard my ship?”
“She had Altarians come aboard your ship for some sort of celebration a while ago. They accessed the computer and got all the ship’s information. Maps, docking codes, everything. We accessed it again and found the locations of our targets once we entered, then sabotaged it.”
Shit! The ones that beat up Aelytha, they must have done it. Jordan had a feeling that he knew the answer to his next question, yet he still asked it. “Why did Tresia send you?”
“I don’t know! We’re mercenaries. We just do what we’re paid to do.”
“The prisoner is lying,” said Bruce.
Jordan raised his rifle. “I think you know more, Drath. Spit it out.”
The Drath took a long look down the barrel of Jordan’s rifle, then spoke, “I heard something about it. She wanted revenge. The mercenary captain said that you had killed some of her friends or something like that. Still, it seems like overkill to destroy an entire ship. You’ve made powerful enemies.”
Jordan rolled his eyes. “Now, it seems you’ve served your purpose.”
“Please don’t kill me! I’ll do anything. I didn’t even kill any of your men. Check my targeting visor. It records what happens during missions. It’ll show you I’m not lying. Please don’t kill me!” screamed the Drath, its large blue eyes widening.
Bruce pulled the visor off the Drath’s head, and configured the adaptable plug on his arm, forming it to fit the access port on the visor. After running through the footage, Bruce concluded that the Drath was telling the truth.
Jordan looked at the Drath. “I’m not sure whether to let you go, kill you, or take you as a prisoner.”
“Please don’t kill me!” cried the Drath.
“I’ve ruled that out,” said Jordan, “As much as I would like to, a friend taught me otherwise. You’d be worthless as a prisoner, though.”
Lee Taylor stepped forward. “Captain, one of the ships these mercenaries came on is still in the hangar.
“Yes, yes! That’s my ship! I password protected it so no one but me could fly it!” said the Drath. He tried to move, but Bruce grabbed him.
“Now,” said Jordan, “do you promise not to tell anyone about where I am or what happened?”
“Yes,” said the Drath.
“Good. Give up mercenary work that targets Terrans, Altarians, Torians, or Arceans. Return to your home. You’re a bit far from it, aren’t you?”
“I have no home! It was destroyed when the Dark Avatar attacked the Drath Legion. His forces destroyed everything!”
Jordan paused. “I see.”
The Drath continued. “I…I can help you, you know. You’ll need to replenish your crew.”
“No,” said Jordan, “Just go.”
The Drath left without a word and headed for the hangar bay. A few minutes later, his ship had left.
The crew stood around, silently mourning their losses. Jordan bit his lip, thinking about what had happened through the past year and a half. He thought about the interrogation that had just happened. Back when the Dread Lord War ended, he would have certainly ordered the Drath to be shot. But now, he had changed. Once someone who liked attention, he now ordered himself and his men to keep a low profile about what had happened at Toria. Altos, Aelytha, Ordo, and so many others had greatly altered him. He had come a long way from the cocky, action and attention hungry high school graduate who had stepped through the gates of the Naval Academy. Jesus, what’s become of me? I’m not who I used to be.
Jordan continued to think when Lee suddenly swore. “You’re not going to believe this, Jordan!”
Lee was watching the news on a handheld device, and showed it to Jordan. “…an arrest warrant and bounty for the capture or killing of the criminal Jordan Locke was issued today by the Altarian Foreign Ministry. Locke is accused of murdering many members of the controversial Uslynthinis movement. In addition to these actions, Locke is also being wanted for high treason. Locke is believed to have sold information about the Korath Clan to the Drengin Empire for personal gain, as well as maintaining contact and conspiring with a major commander of the Yor Collective.”
“What the-?!” shouted Jordan
The news anchor continued. “Tresia Kolonis, the leader of Usylnthinis who informed Altarian authorizes about Locke, issued a statement regarding the matter.”
The news feed then showed Tresia speaking to a group of reporters. “I am sorrowed at the loss of my fellow Uslynthinis members, and I hope that the foul man that is Jordan Locke will be brought to justice. Ever since meeting him for the first time, I saw his evil nature in full. I learned of his terrible deeds that threatened our great civilizations, and decided that it must stop! Let us hope that Jordan Locke will be caught and punished before he commits yet another crime. Our civilizations could be dependent on his capture! Terrans like this are why Uslythinis exists, to provide guidance and help to all Terrans that can be saved! Let Jordan Locke be caught or killed, and long live the Alliance and Republic!”
The news feed switched back to the news anchor. “The Terran Alliance has not issued a warrant or a bounty yet, though it will likely match the Altarian bounty of fifteen million standard credits. The Arcean Empire has not produced a warrant either. Neither government could be reached for contact, though Tlas Kzientha, the leader of the Torian Confederation has expressed outrage, calling Locke a hero, citing his rumored participation of the battle at Toria, details on which are still unclear.”
“This is ridiculous,” said Owen. “That women is not going to get away this.”
“She already has,” said Jordan.
The news continued. “Locke, a former Navy officer who vanished for a time when the Earth Shield was activated, is rumored to possess two stolen Vortex-class battleships, as well as a large number of henchmen. The Navy did not have a statement yet, though one is expected to be released. Both the Terran Alliance and the Altarian Republic advise extreme caution if he is located. For information and report placement, please contact your local military offices.”
The news switched to another story. Jordan stood there, seething. Owen swore under his breath.
“What now?” groaned Lee. “We go from being heroes to wanted men.”
“Blame Eleys Mue for her stupidity,” said Lee.
“Who’s that?” asked one of the crew.
“The leader of the Altarian Republic. That old hag probably manipulated her into putting a bounty on my head. Fifteen million credits! Every mercenary is going to come after us,” grumbled Jordan, making a mental note to promote Lee.
“Unless the Navy comes after us, or the mercenaries get their hands on a big ship, no one’s getting that money,” laughed Owen.
Jordan was silent.
“We’re not leaving you, Jordan. We’re a like a band of brothers these days. We’ll get this bounty off our heads, and keep doing what we do best: kill Drengin,” said Owen.
“Thanks, guys,” said Jordan.
“If Tresia is knocked from power and we somehow capture her, with your permission I shall cut out her black heart,” said Bruce.
Jordan smiled. “You have my permission.” The crew cheered. After thinking for a second, Jordan spoke again. “We need to keep out of sight until we explain ourselves to the Terran Alliance government, if Tresia hasn’t corrupted them either. We’re repaired, and we have fresh supplies. I say bring on whatever is thrown at us! We’ve survived countless battle and raids, and the Dread Lords of all things! Whatever Tresia throws at us will be pathetic shit!” The crew cheered, some raising their weapons into the air.
“All right guys, let’s get on it!” said Lee. The crew cheered again and moved to complete their tasks. Jordan, Owen, and Bruce were left standing alone.
“I thought they would all leave,” said Jordan.
“Fine little speech there,” said Owen.
“That was nothing,” replied Jordan with an eye roll.
“Jordan, I waited until everyone had left had tell you this, because I figured out that the crew really didn’t need any more bad news,” said Bruce.
“Ordo as we know him is no more. He has been reprogrammed by the Yor.”
“How’d they get him? Let me guess, Tresia,” said Jordan through clenched teeth.
“Yes. Tresia, or ‘the old hag’ as you and some of your men call her, sold him to the Yor. He erased his mind before the Yor could access it, so his sentience and spy programs are safe from Yor hands.”
“Well, I have them on chips he gave me.”
“Yes, he told me. Where are they? I wish to make copies in case something happens.”
“They’re in my room,” said Jordan.
“Okay,” said Bruce. “You know, Aelytha apparently didn’t go without a fight. I found your knife on the ground in front of your room. It was covered in Korx blood. It looked to be a serious wound.”
Jordan laughed. “Good.”
Bruce left to get the chips, leaving Owen and Jordan.
“I’m sorry about Aelytha. She was a really sweet girl. I hope nothing bad happens to her.”
“Me neither, but seeing how Tresia is, that may be wishful thinking.”
The two were silent. After a while, Jordan spoke. “Well, I’m going to make sure my crew didn’t screw something up. I’ll talk to you later.”
Jordan turned and walked away, but he looked back over his shoulder at Owen, who was looking at the space outside the Independence through a virtual window. He heard him mutter, “Cower in your corner, Tresia, you twisted bitch. You will feel Jordan’s revenge.”
TO BE CONTINUED IN PART 3