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Newsletter Archive

FREELANCERS #30 - 05/17/24

Apologies for the late newsletter. Had some rough nights with a toddler unable to sleep due to nightmares that set me back. And the usual story of my idea expanding beyond something simple and short. But this idea got me excited, so I ran with it. I strive to be punctual, but I'd rather give you something worthwhile that I'm passionate about than just get something out on time. Enjoy!

Aj Atherii. Well met, Freelancers.


Captain Davius Tolvaren here with a juicy tip for you devilish pirates, you.


Though many would rightfully refer to them as a thief and kind of a dick, the eccentric collector, Loquazi Tuveek, has misplaced one of their precious treasures.


Likely a communique from a disgruntled or enterprising employee, word got out that one of Loquazi’s star yachts went missing somewhere in the northeastern section of Juno’s Heart. The ship’s manifest is reported to include some timeless artifacts taken from the ruins of my people, the Asaresh.


My guess is this ornery employee planned a heist with amateurs that went horribly wrong. Now that the ship’s gone missing, they put out a bounty with a finder’s fee for anyone bringing it in to cut their losses.


Contact your local fixer for more details, but move with haste before the trail goes cold for eternity.


I won’t post the reward for retrieving the relic in pristine condition on this open channel, but dare I say, it almost inspired me to hop behind the helm and chase after it myself.


Lucky for you all, I’ve grown beyond such things.


Tejyyr an vithrayo havajj. May the most cunning hunter win.

How Many Zeroes


The menacing micro-carrier, Wolf Mother, tore through the stars. On the prowl for a missing relic on the edge of Juno’s Heart, the mercenary crew known as the Howling Scars checked the least likely location on the list of possibles for the crashed yacht.


Sitting around the grungy table of their ship’s lounge, the mercenary crew known as the Howling Scars were locked in a tense contest.


A gruff Bosvin battle boar named Diesel, barrel-chested, musclebound and tattooed, leaned forward in his chair. The metal table groaned as he rested a meaty arm on it. “You calling me a liar, boss?”


Skara Vranig, a wolf-like humanoid called a vulfar with black fur, ran a clawed hand through her mohawk she never styled and licked a deep scar down the side of her snout past her lip. “Maybe I am, meat head. You wanna come clean on my Jardashi bacon you swiped from the fridge? They’re like cousins to you. It’s sick.”


The big man stroked his beard and picked something off his tusk. “Meat is meat, boss. Wasn’t me, but aren’t you the one always saying we’re a pack? Doesn’t that mean we’re supposed to share?”


Skara narrowed her eyes. “Yeah, we are a pack. And I’m the alpha. That means I get the best bits. Especially after I spent all that time and energy hunting them down. It was a gift to me from me. I work so hard. Don’t I deserve something nice?” She smelled the air and let out a low growl. “I can practically taste it in the air, and it’s driving me crazy. I know one of you is lying. Fess up before I go feral.”


Diesel laughed. “I bet you’ll be blaming that shifty mage, Mirage, next.”


The vulfar flicked a die off his forehead. “Don’t say that fucker’s name in here. He’s liable to crawl out of the shitter because you summoned him.”


Already out of the game, the team’s mechanic, a rodent-like humanoid karansi called Lucky, hopped in holding one of his cybernetic legs he’d been tinkering with. “Still with the bacon? Jeez, get over it already.”


Skara turned and raised her voice. “Get over it? Sounds like something a guilty person would say. You want to offer up any more limbs as compensation for your crimes, Lucky?”


Looking down at his body, only his torso, left arm, and half of his head weren’t cybernetic. He pointed the metal leg at her. “You know what? I wish I did eat your stupid salted pig. That’ll learn you.”


A sultry voice spoke from a darker corner of the room. “If only there was a way to solve this silly mystery without all the shouting.” The lithe form of Belladonna knelt under the flickering lights, painting a beautiful yet haunting mural that brought bright colours to the dank metal walls. The plant-like humanoid Zyldari looked over her shoulder with big eyes of pure midnight. Her skin, a deep dark purple with veins of blackened green contrasted with the gold and white flower peaking out of her long, leafy hair. 


Lucky said, “There’s an idea. Weaver!”


The speaker in the room lit up and a soft digital voice of the ship’s advanced virtual intelligence filled the room. “Yes, Lucky?”


The karansi hopped across the room while attaching the cybernetic leg he built himself. “Play back the logs and tell us who ate the damn bacon, will ya?”


The VI chirped back, “And miss this show? Where’s the fun in that?” 


Bell chuckled in the corner. Even her laugh dripped with venom. She couldn’t help it.


Skara rubbed the back of her neck and ran her claws over the table. Ever since she and the others went on a spiritual journey to find Lucky after an inebriated outing, tensions ran higher than normal on the ship. That escapade challenged their bonds and forced Skara to confront demons from her past. Something she worked hard to avoid. Whether or not the shotgun wedding of hers had been annulled or not was still in question.


Diesel pulled her out of the spiral by rapping his knuckles on the table, drawing her attention back to the game. “Call it, boss.”


Two upturned cups concealed the last two remaining dice in play. Skara locked eyes with her compatriot and let out a deep exhale. “I call bullshit.”


Diesel nodded, pulled a cigar out of his pocket, and put it to his mouth as he got up. He lit it, took a deep drag, then exhaled as he left the room. “Count it, Weaver.”


Skara reached forward and flicked his cup over. He had the one six he bet. She looked up to see the board of ship chores adjust at the VI’s command with the more unsavoury tasks in the captain’s column.


Bell finished the crimson garden she painted on the wall. “Better luck next time, boss.”


Skara growled, then swiped the cups and dice off the table to clatter across the floor. As soon as she passed Bell, the Zyldari’s face shifted from sassy to concerned.


Weaver came over the intercom. “Arriving at our destination. Exiting FTL tear.”


The crew braced as the inertial dampeners kicked in. Once they assembled in the situation room, Weaver populated the holographic imager with a full scan of the system.


Zooming in on the gas giant of Makmatar I, the room filled with a detailed rendition of a massive space battle occurring between a band of pirates and a duo of Apex Security vessels. The pirates outnumbered the ubiquitous military for hire, but Apex could do a lot with a cruiser and an escort carrier.


Lucky crossed his arms and stroked the hair on his chin with an over-sized cybernetic hand. “Well, shit. Would it be too much to hope this party is unrelated to our missing boat so we can look elsewhere?”


Belladonna leaned against the back wall. “The collector must have hired Apex to retrieve their goods as well. This space is unclaimed. No good reason an outfit like Apex would pick a fight with pirates unless there was something worth their while here.”


Skara said, “Sounds good to me. I’d rather slug it out with these fools than waste time trolling around the sector like an idiot.”


Lucky groaned. “I don’t know. This seems like a good time and all, but is it really worth the hassle and repair costs?” Skara brought up the full bounty for the relic in pristine condition on her wrist-mounted holopad and flicked it to the display in Lucky’s cybernetic eye. His fleshy eye opened wide, and he ceased complaining. “H’oh, mama. That’s a lot o’… wow.”


Their leader nodded with a big, toothy grin on her face. “Exactly. We can finally take that vacation we’ve been talking about for ages. Hopefully, without the existential crises this time.”


Belladonna tutted. “Promises, promises.” 


Skara sneered. “Shaddup. Weaver, prep our fighters. Considering the payout, I’ll trust the rest of you bacon-thieving scoundrels to not screw this up. You with me?” She offered a fist to Diesel.


The big man pounded his meaty mitt into hers. “Let’s get it.”




Makmatar I stood as the sole survivor of celestial objects other than the system’s star. The rest of the system was a planetary graveyard of asteroid fields and cosmic gas. Only the great giant, a swirling storm of muddy reds, blues and greens, remained.


A shot from the Apex cruiser’s main gun obliterated a massive rock a pirate vessel used as cover. The impact ruptured its hull, and the subsequent explosions of its core failing scattered the debris in all directions. A cavalcade of pirate missiles weaved through the periphery of the battle space, screaming toward the cruiser. Its point defence beams knocked out most of them, but several made it through. The Apex escort carrier launched fighters in regimented wings to clash with the cornucopia of pirate craft and boarding shuttles darting around for a better angle of attack.


Sat in his custom-built spacecraft’s seat on the edge of the battlefield, Lucky surveyed the chaotic scene. “Well, this is some kind of hot mess. What’s the plan, boss? Wait for these idiots to kill each other, then pick up the pieces? I don’t see a way in without getting blown up.”


Belladonna’s voice slithered through the comms. “Not surprised, considering how many times you’ve been blown up.”


Lucky’s craft shifted as dual rotary blasters extended and spooled up. He spun around, searching for his target. “Say it again, BD. I’ll turn you into mulch as nature intended.”


Her sleek and agile interceptor, shaped like a leafy dart of Zyldari design, danced out of his view. The stealth protocol activated, and she vanished from his sensors with a chuckle.


Diesel rolled forward, revving the mighty engines of his heavily armoured bomber. “I say we dive in straight for the target and blast anything in our way. Haven’t had a good scrap in a while.” The big man cracked his knuckles and rolled his shoulders as the rock music filling his cockpit amped up.


As Skara reviewed the battle map Weaver projected into her cockpit, Lucky said over the comms, “What? No. Boss… please… don’t listen to him. That plan is exceedingly stupid.”


The boss plugged in her attack plan and piped it over to their screens. “Straight for the target, yes. Through this mess. Not so much.”


The Howling Scars veered to the side, noting the path she laid swinging around the battleground using one of Makmatar’s blasted moons as cover to mask their approach. Then it was a short, straight shot behind pirate lines to reach the likely crash location.


Looking at the path through the jagged rocks of the moon’s ruptured core, Lucky rubbed a cybernetic hand over his face. “I can’t believe you’re making me reconsider just flying through the fight and hoping for the best.”


Belladonna said, “Aw, muffin. Want Diesel to tow you through the scawy wocks?”


Skara grabbed the controls of her rugged and versatile workhorse of a fighter. “Form on me, gang. Let’s get in and out with that fat bounty before they even know we’re here.”


With a howl from their leader, the four spacecraft rocketed around and dove headfirst into the broken moon.


The yawning chasms were easy enough to fly through at first, then they narrowed into tight caverns. The Scars turned on their floodlights to see in the darkness. Every so often, a loud thud of the Apex cruiser’s main gun would strike the moon’s crust. This unsettled its already fragile structure and loosed jagged spires of rock on the inside the Scars had to dodge.


As their space to maneuver grew ever tighter, Diesel opened fire with his cannons to clear a path.


Belladonna spun her barely armoured craft as rock splinters peppered its hull. “Hey, watch it or I’ll turn you into bacon!”


Lucky transformed his craft into a configuration with legs, allowing him to jump around the caverns. “Funny way to say that. Sounds like someone else has bacon on the brain. Seems a little suspicious to me, eh, boss?”


Diesel pushed ahead and fired more shots. “This is taking too long. We’ll miss all the fun by the time we get out the other side at this pace.”


Skara led the way through a crack barely large enough to fit through. “The plan is quick and quiet, big guy. They’ll pick up weapon discharge on sensors. Come on, we’re almost there. Think small thoughts.”


After Bell and Lucky squeezed through the gap, there was a delay before Diesel’s metal beast rammed through a weak section of rock to the side. He rarely thought small.


Passed the worst of their journey through the moon, the caverns opened up into chasms once more. The quartet hit the accelerators and coasted along the surface toward the looming gas giant.


As soon as they reached open space, they reconnected with Weaver. The VI said, “Good news, I’ve pinpointed a likely section for our crash site.”


Skara smiled. “Love to hear it. Is there bad news?”


Weaver said, “Yes. Evasive maneuvers recommended. You’ve got incoming.”


Several loose boulders around them got torn to shreds as a volley of jagged crystals fired from a pirate corvette locked on.


Taking some hits along her wing, Skara cranked the controls to the side. “Scatter!”


The crew spread out, forcing the pirate batteries to disperse their fire on multiple fast-moving targets.


Lucky shifted back into mech form and latched on the back of a bit of wrecked starship. He used it to flick off some of the offensive crystals lodged in his vehicle. “Damn it! We’re so close! I’d applaud the ingenuity of shooting sharp crap they found in space if it wasn’t aimed at me.”


Belladonna hit the gas to give the turret gunners a real challenge. “If they have a corvette back here, good chance they’re protecting a team already headed to the surface.”


After firing a few shots that didn’t make it past the pirate vessel’s shields, Skara let out a low growl. “Guess it was too much to expect these mutts to be stupid. Too bad for them, they’re in our way. Bell, scramble their sensors. Lucky, deal with those shields. Diesel’s about to get his wish.”


A toothy, tusk-filled grin creased the big man’s face.


Still drawing their fire in her speedy, stealthy interceptor, a tech drone plugged into Bell’s systems jammed the enemy’s ability to lock on. With their targeting computers having a fit, the gunner switched to manual. Still tracking the fast leaf, Lucky leaped off the wreck with a boost from his afterburners. By the time the gunners noticed him, his vehicle already had the shot charged and ready.


He fired a bright blue ball of energy that slammed into their shields. The electromagnetic pulse coursed over the surface, deactivating the barrier.


Skara rocketed in from the side, strafing their cannons with rockets as something large approached with the star behind it. A bay opened on Diesel’s bomber and released a torpedo painted like a hungry beast. With its target locked, the propulsion kicked in and it rocketed straight for the corvette. Klaxons flared as pirates abandoned their posts and ran for the escape pods. The torpedo slammed into the hull and detonated, blasting the ship in half.


Diesel flew straight through the bisected ship, and the quartet rocketed toward the surface.




Makmatar I looked tumultuous from orbit. In atmosphere, it showcased the raw wrath of the cosmos. Volatile elements radiating from its core created a planet-wide weather system of cataclysmic ion storms, raging infernos, and gale force winds of billowing smoke.


Belladonna flipped her craft upside down so she could marvel at the raging tempest beneath. Her breath caught in her throat and tears escaped her large black eyes to land on the canopy as she refused to blink.


Lucky whistled from his vantage point in the relative calm of their current altitude. “Don’t want to know what happens if you fall down there.”


Diesel reached a hand over to stop himself from diving in and testing his mettle.


Skara stablized her fighter as it ran into some chop flying through the strange dusty clouds that looked like islands. “How the hell did something survive a crash landing in this?”


Weaver came over the comms with a visual aid piped into their displays. “The chemical composition of the clouds solidify once they’re sufficiently cooled at high altitudes. Over time, their new density causes them to descend until they’re disintegrated in the storms below. By some astronomical chance, the target must have crashed on one of these clouds.”


Team leader tapped her clawed hands against her thighs. “If that isn’t some sign that the universe wants us to go on this vacation, I don’t know what is. I got what I’m guessing is a pirate signature on my sensors. Let’s back up a pinch. BD, follow them. I’m guessing they’ll lead us right to the goods.”


The colours on her leaf-like craft shifted as her interceptor entered stealth mode. While the others lingered out of sensor range, she ghosted the pirate shuttle to its destination. Sure enough, the clouds parted, and they saw Loquazi Tuveek’s crashed yacht, upside down and buried in the dirty yellow cloud that cushioned its impact like dense foam.


Once the pirates rushed inside, the others circled the wreck. Lucky watched some pieces falling off the cloud from underneath. “We sure about landing on this thing? Not sure how I feel about fighting on a gross-looking marshmallow sailing over Infernal storms like a campfire.”


Belladonna said, “If I go in alone, do I get the full bounty?”


Diesel chuckled. “I’d bet your skinny ass would blow away like a leaf out here.”


She tutted. “And your fat ass would drop like a rock straight to the planet’s core.”


Weaver chimed in. “While both scenarios are possible, my calculations project that this already compromised cloud will lose cohesion in under ten minutes. Less if it is further disturbed.”


Skara sucked her teeth. “You three, give me a loose patrol of the area and shoot down anyone who comes close. I’ll drop in with BD’s drone for tech support. Not like I can trust any of you salt-lipped goons behind my back these days. Before anyone thinks of trying something silly, we’ll split the reward evenly with the vacation fund. So think real hard about coming clean while mama brings home the bacon.”


Lucky shook his head. “There she is with the fucking bacon again.”


Skara flew in close to the wreck, slid back the canopy and leaped out of her seat mid-flight. Weaver took control of her fighter and circled the cloud at a distance. Bits of the cloud loosened and floated away as the vulfar landed with a tumble. The ground felt like dense foam under her feet. A shaky and uneasy foundation.


Once BD’s floating drone zipped over to join her, Skara drew her pistol and hustled toward the crashed ship. She was in such a hurry, she failed to notice the distortions of light around another stealthed craft parked on the cloud.




Though the passengers and crew fled in escape pods before the crash, the eccentric collector who owned the vessel had to leave many rich possessions behind. While one pirate worked a fusion torch on a reinforced door at the back of the upside down yacht, three others scrambled across the ceiling, collecting anything that looked expensive.


After carefully navigating through spilled cutlery and foodstuffs to not make noise, Skara pressed herself next to the door. She flicked a switch on her goggles to display the vision of Belladonna’s cloaked drone as it peered into the room filled with rummaging pirates.


Having spotted them all, Skara rapped her knuckles against the wall and whistled to get their attention. After they turned and drew their weapons, she shouted the universal greeting, “Easy now. Bawip granu. Parley.”


The pirates shuffled in place, looked at each other, and nodded. One pirate wearing a fearsome oversized headdress of some forgotten tribe he found shouted back. “Bawip granu, friend. Come out. We won’t shoot. Let’s parley. Maybe you help with the door?”


She readied herself and whispered, “Be right with you.”


As Skara stepped into the door frame, all four pirates opened fire, unloading their weapons at her. Once the smoke cleared, they looked at each other in confusion as Skara’s holographic display that BD’s drone projected stood in the blasted doorway and flipped them off.


The drone darted through the hologram into the centre of the main room and emitted a bright flash. As the pirates groaned and covered their eyes, Skara slid into the room.


Dipping under the blinded pirates’ fire as they continued hosing the door, the merc raised her plasma pistol to shoot one pirate in the head and double tap a second. She spun around behind a large, broken chandelier on the floor as the third disoriented pirate fired the last of his ammunition in her direction. The fourth pirate charged in and lunged at Skara with a wicked knife. The vulfar employed her brutal martial arts style that made liberal use of her sharp claws to disarm, slash, and break bones.


The third pirate dropped their weapon and raised an ornate antique axe off the floor. He bellowed a battle cry, then leaped over the broken chandelier and came down hard into the melee with an overhead swing. Skara spun her opponent around to get hewn by the axe, then shot the third pirate point blank.


After a quick scan, the drone chirped a happy all clear.


The ground beneath them shifted, and she almost lost her balance. Remembering she’s on the clock, Skara rushed toward the sealed door and picked up the fusion torch.


With everyone watching through the drone’s camera, Lucky came over the comms. “Definitely don’t have time to burn through that, boss. I can see the top of the yacht poking through the cloud’s underside. It wasn’t doing that a minute ago.”


Skara growled. “Well, come on then. Don’t tell me what I already know. Gimme solutions, people.”


Belladonna said, “I’ll get Colibri to hack it open. She’ll have it open in no time.” The drone chirped and buzzed over to the control panel without hesitation.


Skara asked, “Its name is Colibri?”


Bell said, “Her name.”


Skara put her hand on her cheek. “Cuuute.”


Lucky cleared his throat. “That might be your best shot, but you still have to find the relic. And who knows what other spooky shit that weirdo has inside.”


Diesel exhaled cigar smoke inside his cockpit. “No time, boss. I say blow it.”


Lucky gasped, then leaned into his comms. “Ooo… Scratch what I said, boss. Blow it.”


Weaver chimed in. “While the use of explosives would expedite the breaching process, there’s a very high likelihood of it further destabilizing the cloud, causing you to plummet into the firestorms below.”


Diesel pounded a meaty mitt on the controls. “Blow that shit up, boss.”


Lucky added, “Yeah, yeah, do it.” The karansi who’d grown far too entranced by explosions made kaboom noises.


Skara bared her teeth. “Shut it! All of you!” The ground shifted under her again. Her eyes went wide, and she held still. She whispered, “I have enough voices in my head without all this yapping. Shush your stupid faces and let this mechanical cutie pie do her work. I’ll think light thoughts while you fuckers keep the comms clear unless it’s important.”


The merc slowly backed up and held her tail to stop it from moving. She grabbed the breaching charge from a pocket on her hip, then tossed it in her hand until she had an image of that small bit of downward pressure being a bad idea in her current situation.


Watching Weaver’s estimated time tick down on her wrist-mounted holopad, her ear perked up hearing voices on the edge of her perception.


She spoke at a harsh whisper into the comms. “Stop it! I said shut up.”


After a moment of silence, Lucky said, “We didn’t say anything, boss? You finally lost your marbles? By the way, I’ve been thinking, maybe ghosts took your precious bacon. Now, hear me out…”


Skara removed her ear piece and focused on the whispers. A gravelly voice spoke in an arcane tongue as the room grew unnaturally dark. The merc backed up as shadowy hands reached out from the seams of the sealed door. She raised her weapon as shadows coalesced around the dead pirate bodies, causing them to gyrate and contort. 


Colibri booped in alarm and hid behind Skara as the door hissed open before it finished the hack. Wreathed in darkness that trailed behind them as they moved, five decayed figures floated into the room and fanned out around her.


They all pointed at her and spoke in echoes without discernible mouths. “We are harbingers of doom, Skara Vranig.” Behind her, the pirates rose to their feet and completed the circle. “The time of your reckoning is at hand. You must answer for what you’ve done.”


With her fight-or-flight instincts kicking into overtime, Skara tightened the grip on her weapon, unsure if it would have any effect. A thought hit her and she removed her breathing mask. The vulfar’s keen nose weathered the onslaught of strange chemical scents from this bizarre planet and found something familiar.


Eyes wide as the figures bore down on her in unison, she aimed at the one to her right and fired. The pistol’s spinning chamber hurled a bolt of green plasma through the air. It passed through the harbinger and slammed into the far wall.


Someone next to the impact point let out a high-pitched shriek. “Bloody hell! You almost shot me, you mangy mental case! And look at this. You burned the relic box! Did you see the payout for this intact?!”


The harbingers faded into dust and the room returned to the way it was. Skara turned to regard the strange human man in a faltering stealth suit becoming visible right next to where she shot.


Her eyes went wide as she recognized the voice. “Mirage! I knew I should’ve let you fall down that shit shaft on Kel Jira. What sort of sick trick was that?” She spoke with a quiver in her voice.


Mirage smirked and sauntered closer to the exit. “Got you good, eh? Not hard to get under your fur, old chum. And I told you before, they’re not tricks.” The mage tossed the singed relic box in the air and juggled multiples of it until he spun and extended his hand, the box nowhere to be seen. “They’re illusions.”


He screamed and dove for cover as she opened fire once more. The mage split into several images of himself and scattered about the room. “Oi! Careful before you damage the goods, love.”


She kept firing at as many as she could. “All of you, hold still, you fucking—“


They both fell over as the ship lurched, falling deeper into the dissipating cloud.


Now in cover and slightly askew, Skara stalked on all fours to cut him off with a wild look in her eyes. “This is a bold play, Mirage. I’m almost impressed.”


He threw his voice around the room. “Haven’t you heard? I’m very impressive.” He made one of the strange masks near her wink.


She paused and gasped. “It was you who stole my bacon, wasn’t it?”


“What in the Quali Qubbins are you on about?”


Skara snarled. “Of course it wasn’t you. It couldn’t be. If you were half as good of a thief as you were an illusionist, you’d be an even shittier thief!”


Mirage scoffed. “Guess not everyone’s sophisticated enough to appreciate the finer points of my art. But I’ve learned something new since last we danced, Skara, old girl.”


She prepared to pounce. “Oh yeah, what’s that?”


The mage dashed out of cover toward the exit screaming and opened fire with a submachine gun under each arm. Knowing he wasn’t aiming, but also not keen on catching strays, she scurried between bits of cover and returned fire. Her rage made reckless and some of his shots connected. Mostly in the few bits of armour she wore, but some bullets found flesh.


The thief tossed his empty guns aside and sprinted for the exit. He was almost home free.


Skara called out, “Hey, catch!”


Without thinking, Mirage caught the bulged palm sized disc she hurled at him. It took him a moment before realizing it was a breaching charge. He yelped and tossed it in the air before hitting the deck. She pressed the big red button on her holopad to detonate the explosive.


Spinning in the air, the shaped charge’s blast pattern was erratic. The yacht and the whole cloud shook as it blew a hole in the ceiling, which was a floor to them. Air from outside rushed into the yacht as the deafening crackles of the firestorm below filled the room.


Holding on for dear life to some furniture closer to the exit, Mirage noticed the relic wasn’t in his pocket. He and Skara locked eyes on it balancing near the frayed edge of the blown open ceiling. 


With a shaking hand, he pointed at her. “Y-You could’ve killed me, you bloody psychopath!”


On the lower side of the lilting vessel, she climbed toward him. “That was the point, you slippery, thick-headed—“


The ship lurched once more. They could feel the heat from the raging storms below through the wind rushing inside.


Mirage shook his head. “Sod it. I’m out of here. See you in the Infernal, Skara.” He rushed for the exit. She leaped to catch him, but her claws caught only an illusion of a rose that dissipated in her hands.


With her team shouting at her to leave in her loose earpiece, Skara looked between the exit and the relic jostling near the edge of the breach. She shut her eyes and held onto a broken light fixture as she tried to think. The whipping winds filling the room mimicked the thoughts roiling in her frayed mind.


The ship lurched once more, causing the relic box to roll over the lip of the breach. Skara clenched her teeth, hit a button on her holopad and dove out after it.


The wave of heat hit her immediately and the burning skies beneath her made it hard to see, even with the goggles. A moment of panic washed over her as she couldn’t see the small box. Something chirped over her shoulder. A still hiding Colibri, latched onto her jacket, piped the feed of its sensors into her goggles to find it through all the visual noise.


Despite the rising heat singeing the edges of her dark fur, Skara dove faster to catch up to the prize. When she got close enough, it danced on the end of her claws, just out of reach.


The others watched in silence as the storm’s interference cut their feed from the drone’s optics. The last thing they saw before it turned to static was small arcs of lightning between her fingers and the box as they fell into the storm.


Lucky stared at the monitor with eyes wide and mouth agape. Belladonna’s legs were crossed and her jaw set, but her hand clutched her chest near her heart and squeezed as her breath caught in her throat. Diesel’s cigar burned out and ashes fell on his broad vest. With a heavy sigh, the battle boar said a silent farewell and slammed a fist on the controls. Even Weaver, though not a proper AI, knew not to broadcast the infinitesimal probabilities of her survival to the team.


With the Apex cruiser exploding in orbit from pirate boarding teams, Diesel got on the comms. “No dice, team. Pack it in. Let’s head back to Wolf Mother. Where’s Skara’s fighter?”


Everyone checked their garbled sensors to no avail. They were so focused on the drone’s camera that they lost track of it. Belladonna turned her craft upside down once more. She gazed into the abyssal inferno below. The bright lights of arcing lightning and raging fiery winds danced in her big, dark eyes. They beckoned her to open the canopy and join them.


Through the growing tears, she saw something emerge from a plume of crackling smoke. “Look!”


The storms disrupted Weaver’s ability to fly their ships at this range, but the signal from Skara’s holopad was enough for her stubborn autopilot to zero in on her location once she called for a pickup. The vulfar used the last of her strength to pull herself and Colibri into her cockpit and close it. Her rugged body and ship scorched by lightning and flame with a burnt relic box clenched in her teeth.


Finally able to breathe, she got back on the comms. “Not getting rid of me that easy. We’ve got a vacation to go on.”


The Howling Scars laughed and howled as they rocketed home with their prize.

Hope you liked this fun story with the Howling Scars! It's a lot of fun to flesh out the characters who get a mention here and there.


Here's the link to the archive of newsletters in case you missed any.


Talk to you next month. Feel like this one will be at least a two-parter, but might expand into more or turn it into a novella. Have a good one!

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