[ P | I | II ]


"It is my opinion that a man's soul may be buried and perish
under a dung-heap, or in a furrow of the field,
just as well as under a pile of money."

Black Hydra - Controlled Space

Dragon X/X 01
The Metsor System, Potter Quadrant, Gemini Sector
APR 21 2681/2681.111; 0405 Hours (CST)

Sweeping under and over the arcs and bridges of the transport convoy’s wiry superstructures, cloaking and decloaking like a banshee in the night, the unmarked Dragon-class Space Superiority fighter flew silently about the stars not unlike a raven over its prey.

The victims of the Dragon fighters devastation would not deem the fighter like a raven, though, but rather Death itself. As it skimmed over the hulls of each ship, surveying their states, they knew full well that death was a certainty.

My vision is clear… focused, and mine eyes will see the glory…

"Alpha Transport One to unknown fighter to: please cease and desist!" a desperate young male voice filled the cockpit of the Dragon fighter. "We have innocent children on board!"

… focused…

As Seether listened, his mind drifted from the present…

"This is Zephyr Seven to unknown fighter…"

"Unknown fighter, cease your attack or face lethal forces…"

"Dark One, I realize you are superior…"

All of them had fallen prey to Seethers hand, and Tolwyns agenda. Another related thought entered Seethers mind without permission…

"Tolwyns First Decree: No price, whether materialistic or moral, shall be placed upon the expansion and betterment of the human race, whether that goal may sadly cost one life or one billion, alien or human. All in the New Age are allowed, if not required, to remain vigilant against any forces not in the greater interest of Humanity. Upon notice of these groups, light must be made of their presence unless that act itself would not serve Humanity in the long run."

Seether had believed in the First Decree one hundred percent. Only later, after the Black Lance Incident, Seether had come to realize his role in that incident. He had not been a Hand of Power for Tolwyn; he had been a Hand of Tolwyn.

Now he was his own hand. As part of his genetic-enhancement he could never forget the decrees biologically installed into his psyche. They whispered beneath his thoughts and subconscious, almost controlling him. A constant war he fought with himself, but he would never let his past hold dominion.

Yet, at the same time, he could not escape it.

He was made for the Black Lance, and without the dark faction he was only a shell of his true purpose. He still believed in The Plan, yet he was only one man. Through the money and resources he had gained by becoming a mercenary, the Black Lance would have the means to resurface again, should it be necessary. For the time being the coming of the Nephilim aliens would make any Black Lance resurgence redundant as long as the Confederation was threatened it would remain strong and, as such, vigilant. Humanity would remain free and without the threat of extinction. It would persevere, just as Seether had.

The Black Lance would survive. Even if he was the only one, when need be, the Black Lance would sprout forth from his being, the lost seed.

Will is everything, and with enough will, even the moth defies the flame…

Seether would defy the flame of extinction that the Humans he protected sought for him. From that hunt, he would prevail. Even now, the humans were paying him to kill other humans. Seether didnt think it a moral dilemma, though… with the killing he did, in his own small way, he was simply weeding out the weak and supporting The Plan.

Helping him weed out the weak was his advanced Black Lance superiority fighter, augmented from the production line standards to suit his long runs in deep space. Seether never wanted to have his presence attract unwanted attention, and usually he slept in open space within his fighter on full alert and cloaked. The small design flaws had been corrected as well, as Seether had laser-sanded down the hull to allow faster speed and greater maneuverability with tweaked ramscoops.

Returning the methodical focus of his mind to the massacre at hand, Seether put the convoy flagship into his scopes. His reticule perfectly aligned, his targeting computer lined up on the civilian sections of the ship…

"How many times have I done this? Destroying my Human brothers?"

"Not enough, my son," Tolwyn answered. "Do it more; they are sinners to The Cause. Delete all of the sinners, cut away the dead skinthe cancer that is eating away at humanity and all we will have is tempered steel. All in the name of The Cause." Like a hammer, Father Tolwyn smacked his right fist into his left palm.

"In the name of The Cause… in the name of The Plan." Seether returned the salute known only between them.

Tolwyn smiled at Seether, as a proud father might of a son. Seether had heard both of Tolwyns boys had died in the First Kilrathi War… he often wondered if Tolwyn considered him a surrogate son. "You are excellence… personified."

"Please, unknown fighter!" The transport captain again. How he despised the weak. Their useless pleas, their frantic cries. They fell on deaf eyes. "We will heave to and prepared to be boarded."

Seether shut away the memories of glory and hopes of absolution not yet reached, and fired full salvos at the defenseless ship. With intensity brighter than Terras sun, the ship exploded.

He did not, however, pay any attention to the last casualty. In a procedure repeated enough times for it to become second nature to the man, he dropped a Flashpak, hit the afterburners, and cloaked.

Fleeing the scene without remorse as the burner trail ignited the Flashpak, releasing a shockwave of superheated plasma that would cleanse the battle scene, Seether made his escape.

Just another mission. Just another job. Seether found himself hungering for a true challenge.

… focused…

Centurion 33-X
En route to Junction jump point
The Pendar
s Star System; Humboldt Quadrant, Gemini Sector
APR 23 2681/2681.113; 1610 Hours (CST)

A pair of Centurion-class heavy fighters wove their skillful evasion through several hundred free-floating craggy asteroids in their flight path and reformed into flanking formation, evading several light blue energy pulses in doing so.

"Zutara nech! These hairless apes will not give up!" the pilot of the second Centurion growled throatily. "Human, break off while I take them!"

The low-toned, voice of the brown-haired man in the cockpit agreed, "You have no argument from me… but watch yourself. Meet you at the point." His midnight silver-black Centurion broke off from the fight and proceeded to the Junction jump point. It rounded a path on the rim of the field just exited while its dorsal rotating dual-turret laser guns fired upon the pursuers in retribution. "Theres a little going-away present, cause youre going away permanently!"

The Privateer had lived in Gemini Sector most of his life and he knew enough to know that it was a rough place, sometimes rougher than even the infamous Landreich, where he had done a small number of assignments in over the years and built up his reputation further. If a man, by killing a friend, supported his family then he would do it without hesitation and sometimes without remorse. That scenario fit the Gemini Sector perfectly.

The Privateer smiled. A Cat-eat-Cat sector… It was home sweet home to him.

While the aforementioned situation was fictional in many respects, presently it was all too true for the Privateer and his partner and friend, Khajja the Kilrathi. Those two, at the moment, had been evading, without using openly lethal force, the Merc flight determined to forcefully gain their recent and hefty profit from a lucrative contraband-smuggling mission for Ricaud Industries.

The Mercenary flight, however, had never been enemies before. Recently, they had been friends that had held escort patrol for them while they raided a small Varni colony of their precious foodstuffs in the distant Hari Sector across Kilrathi Assembly of Clans space.

That was in the past, and the Privateer had no time for the past. Not that he ever did anymore. He was too busy getting to the jump point intact.

Two of the thin-hulled Ferret mercenary fighters broke off from the onslaught, but the other two never made it away in time.

His strong laser pulses battered down the cross-winged pirates. Both ended in an explosive hush of a fiery death. Before those pyres burnt out, the two charred fighters impacted harshly against the jagged surface of a meteoroid, obliterating them.

"Nothing personal," the Privateer spoke into his comm, casually veering away from the meteoroid.


Centurion 33-Z
1620 Hours (CST)

The other Centurion, crimson like hot human blood, kept on weaving through the thick asteroid belt. The other two Ferrets followed right on its heels…

Without preview, the gruff-looking Kilrathi pilot flipped his ship end-over-end, bringing his scopes upon the two head-on aggressors. His clawed paws lifted themselves effortlessly over the proximity-sensitive controls of his customized heavy fighter, switching his weapons from guns to projectiles. With his other paw, the Kilrathi switched his communications channel to the enemy. "Harakhs, I command the darkness to take you!"

From the pilots warning the mercenaries begun to evade whatever their prey was planning. Sadly, it was all too late for them. Two Spiculum Image Recognition missiles burst forth from their bays, the first missiles breaking the ships shields, the second punching straight into their hulls and exploding. Without a tear, Khajja rounded his own vessel into a path toward the jump point and his human friend.

"Nice work, Furry," the Privateer spoke in his headset. His human partners visage appeared on Khajjas VDU. He was a brown-haired, light-skinned man in his thirties with a slight vertical scar over his left eyebrow. "It was a sad situation, but it was nice work on your part."

"Nothing the both of us could not handle, friend. Morals rarely pay in our line of work, I have come to understand. Status report?" Khajja asked, tired. Inside his cockpit it was roomy, yet somewhat confining. Such conditions were harmful for any pilot who had been flying for the past thirty-six hours nonstop.

The Privateer chuckled over the comm, probably remembering when his Kilrathi partner was classified Khajja "The Machine" by Terran Intelligence in 2654. Hed been Khajja nar Jatargk in those days; now he was just Khajja.

Khajja the pirate… Khajja the dishonored.

"I dont know about you, Khaj, but I could use a small tune-up when we get to Junction and Absinthe Starbase… itll cost me a mere thousand. Morals dont pay, huh? Even with all that Kilrathi Honor shit they raise you on from kittenhood…?"

"We have had this conversation before, friend. Sometimes profit can be more beneficial than honor. Many other deities beside Sivar exist, I hope you understand." Khajja paused, his deep voice breaking. "I no longer have a clan… my hrai that did not die with Kilrah have forsaken me. I might as well be a lowborn Kilrahra I may be a warrior that lives for glory, if a disgraced one, under Sivars watchful eyes, but predominately I… I like to make money while doing so."

It was his path.


Centurion 33-X
1629 Hours (CST)

The Privateer understood perfectly. Since the day he had made the decision to delay an arms delivery to an outpost of the Free Republic of Landreich on the fringes of the Border Worlds to save the Kilrathi from four Dralthi VIIs sent by the authorities of his own kind, the two of them had shared an unspoken understanding.

Two privateers. No family, no friends, no past. There was only money, bounties, and the need to be the best at what they do. Khajja would never admit it, but the Privateer felt the old Kilrathi considered him his Takhar, his "brother of equal rank." "I see what you mean," the Privateer spoke. "Hey, a few more missions like these and I could "

A high-pitched tone sounded in the Privateers headset. The Centurions were at least thirty seconds away from the nearest jump point, but by the sound they knew what was happening.

The purple anomaly in front of them dilated open from the void, rippling the fabric of space and time near the blossoming expanse. From the jump point spewed forth a gigantic ship, and from what the Privateer could guess it appeared to be a synergy of a carrier and a cruiser.

The Privateer broke left and Khajja broke right, the two of them breaking formation and taking opposite directions as they cleared way for the massive capital ship. As the ships port side brushed past him, he looked at the fine engineering of the vessel. It was what had been nicknamed in the Gemini Sector a "Frankenship": one or more ships of varying class and design pieced and welded together in a functioning collective, one made in order to serve as a mobile group headquarters for pirates and other ill-sorted groups alike.

The collective itself appeared to be made from several transports, an old Victory-class light carrier, several Caernaven-class patrol frigates, along with several escape pods made into weapon or docking ports.

A channel opened to both of them, riddled with static, "To the two Centurions located on our upper starboard and port sides… stand down or face destruction. Our ALS will bring you aboard."

The Privateer checked and double-checked his position, and realized several gun ports were trained on his position. He guessed that any sudden moves would bring him the same fate as the Ferrets he encountered…

"A Frankenship rushing out of a jump point hand picks us to board her?" Khajja mentioned. "This had better be worth it."

"Well, Khaj…" The Privateer leaned back as the Frankenships ALS took over his controls. "Were gonna find out."


POC Dræconica; Cargo Hold
1732 Hours (CST)

"This has got to be bad."

The Privateer felt himself being roughly strapped into a chair, but he couldnt see what was going on due to the black bag covering his head. It had been that way since he boarded the ship and jumped off his fighter. The red carpet had been rolled out, the welcoming party had seemed friendly, but with the pull of a trigger he was knocked out cold… The last sounds he heard were the guttural growling of his Cat friend and several men screaming in terror. He awoke only seconds ago, aching all over, his head especially.

Suddenly, light took him and he was able to see… not much though. A dark room lit with only one light source high overhead. Khajja was strapped in a chair directly behind him, their backs together.

The Privateer rocked in his chair, fighting against his straps as he tried to awaken his partner. "Khajja," he whispered over his shoulder. "Khajja, you awake, buddy? Khajja?" He was still unconscious.

"Ah, the fabled ‘Brownhair," a female voice echoed in the room. "Good day, young man. Welcome to the Dræconica. Your stay will be short." The voice only increased the throbbing pain inside the mercenarys skull.

"Thats too bad…" he answered, groggily. "I love the décor."

"I find it drawing also," the sensual voice, of deep-tone but not an overly serious one, agreed. "I had my best interrogators choose their surroundings."

"So I am being interrogated?"

"Oh, no, no, no," she answered without haste. "That wouldnt be proper procedure for a soon-to-be wealthy man like you and your Kilrathi comrade. Oh, that reminds me… he is quite the ruffian. He ripped apart a few of our men, and for that we would usually die, but we felt it would compromise our transaction with you. So he is safe, for now."

"Is this how you perform all of your transactions?" the Privateer asked seriously.

"Only with the people we like."

"Oh-kay." The Privateer winced around the room. The room was empty… the woman was talking to him over some kind of intercom or PA. "Ive dealt with some pretty shadowy fixers in the past, but at least they dont blast me unconscious when they want to give me their pitch."

"Perhaps you are not aware of who you are dealing with. Lets get down to business, shall we? Ah, which button? Oh, here you go "

With that, a few beams flashed out directly in front of the mercenary from the floor, which created the holographic, Tri-D image of a man with chiseled features and jet-black hair. Next to his profile spun an ominous-looking ship that bore resemblance to a dark bird of some sort, perhaps a vulture. The Privateer recognized it as a Dragon fighter (otherwise known as a "Lance" fighter), a fighter long since banned by the Admiralty Court and the Confederation Armed Forces Committee.

"Recently, 14K went on a market war with us," she explained. "Along those lines, they are attacking our shipping lanes and transport convoys, and sometimes our manufacturing depots."

"Hey, you guys are Black Hydra, arent you? Arent you?" the Privateer snapped, the pieces falling into place in his mind. "Your shipping lanes and transport convoys… yeah, convoys dealing and peddling that Nephilim crap thats in such high demand these days."

"Your observation skills do you credit."

"Im fucking flattered."

"Your manners… could use some adjustment, however." The woman paused, a new holographic image overlaying the first providing overview of the Gemini Sector. Black Hydras shipping lanes were highlighted. "We want you to patrol Gemini, escort designated convoys, and safeguard our shipping lanes."

"Babysitting work." The Privateer was less than enthused. "Great."

"Whatever maintenance or upgrades to your vessels you ask for, within reason, will be applied immediately without charge. You shall be paid six million credits when we are assured of your missions completion."

The Privateer fought back a joyous grin. Six million! He could buy a depot for that much! It was a place to park his ship, hang his hat… make a new business that wouldnt have the possibility of getting him killed. One thing bothered him though… the tight-lipped smile of the man in the profile hologram.

"So whos the man in the profile?"

The voice on the system hesitated, but then answered. "His name is Seether. The word is that he is some sort of programmed killing machine a title he has been known to succeed in upholding very well, I might add. He and his one fighter, seen there, are burning a path of mayhem right to Black Hydra HQ. Thats right, my associate, you are being employed by Black Hydra."

"So what? The name means nothing if that guy hits your Frankenfuck HQ… and who says Khajja and I will be able to stop him?" The Privateer was confident in his abilities as a pilot and mercenary, but when going up against a man so bent on murder like the man named Seether, with the reputation the guy had behind him as a G.E. lab rat, it could shake him.

The voice was suddenly filled with rage and determination. "An additional three million credits say you will stop him."

The Privateer paused. Well, they spoke the language. "Okay, you have my attention. But why us? Why me?"

"Our offer is to you alone, Privateer. Not your Kilrathi accomplice."

"Khajja is my partner. We do this shit together or it doesnt get done at all."

A pause again, the woman probably checking with her associates and superiors. It was a take it or leave it ultimatum, and the Privateer fully intended to refuse if his partner was not to be included. "We agree," the voice came back at last. "Just see that you keep an eye on your… partner. Black Hydra doesnt need a liability."

The Privateer harrumphed. "Shit… like Khajja cant take care of himself…"


He remembered his original query, still unanswered. "You never answered my question. Why me?"

"Because you are the very best at what you do." The Privateer looked over his shoulder again and found his partner stirring. The two privateers exchanged a measured glance, perhaps of kinship as the voice went on, "You, Mr. Privateer, are perhaps the most sought-after member of both the Merchants and Mercenaries guilds. Youre the man who single-handedly ended the Church of Man scourge in this sector. You killed Mordici Jones and decimated the entire Retro planetary HQ on New Eden. Word has it you even caught the eye of Admiral Terrell when you picked up a Steltek gun "

"It was stolen from me."

"Yes, thats what we heard. That was when you made first contact with the Steltek, another worthy feat in itself. But you never got the gun back, did you?"

"No," the Privateer sighed. He was getting irritated, though that was probably the womans intent. "No, I didnt, and it was a damned crying shame, too. Black Hydra did some digging on me, eh? I guess I really should be flattered."

"Oh yes, a little digging." The voice gave an enigmatic chuckle. "We know that you were once a member of the merchant vessel Scarab. We know that your colleagues and captain were killed in a Church of Man assault, that you were the sole survivor. We know that your inheritance from your grandfather, one Macaulay Christiensen, prompted your privateering career. We know your birth name. We know of your childhood, your family, how you were the — "

"That’s enough." The Privateer felt himself losing his cool, a tinge of anger coming over him. "The past isn’t important anymore."

"Good." The voice lowered in tone, satisfied in finding a tender spot in the Privateers cold, seemingly impervious front. "We are in agreement, then?"

The Privateer and Khajja nodded.

"Most pleasing."

"Im glad. Now can we have something done about these straps? Pretty please?"

"One thing, Brownhair. Understand that if you dont kill him either by failing to or betraying our pact we will hunt you down and systematically erase not only you, but also anyone who bares any sort of biological tie to you. You will find Seether, and you pile on! We are not interested in what you need to do or have, but make sure it happens. Do you understand?"

With the urgency and threat wrapped confidently in her voice, the Privateer understood.

He would need to pile on; the force of his abilities, his minds guile, all of it. Khajja and him would both need to pile on, or die.