My Ficathon Into A Bar entry – Singularities
I used to write a bit of fanfic, and when I heard this was going on, I figured what the hell, might be fun to do a bit of ficcing again. Their page is here, and my assignment was to have Captain Jack (from Doctor Who and Torchwood) and Commandant Grayza (from Farscape) run into each other in a bar. From there, the story was mine. So this is the result. (And Grayza’s exile is actually a reference mostly to the post-Peacekeeper Wars comics. I’m just assuming that’s in canon.)
Prompt: Captain Jack Harkness goes into a bar and meets… Grayza (Farscape)!
Fandoms: Farscape (TV), Doctor Who (TV), Torchwood (TV)
Word count: 12,833
Rating/Contents: PG – Some bad language. No warnings needed.
Summary: An exiled Grayza needs someone to help get her into an impossible area of space. Who better than Jack Harkness?
Jack was about to order a bottle of Icorian wine and take it back to his ship when he saw her at the back of the bar.
She stood out from all the Melcorians, Yuulan, and Shelex that seemed to take residence at Yvari’s Tavern, and not just because she was wearing a shimmering black hooded cloak. Her skin was so pale that what he could see of it glowed in thee dim lights, and while the hood of the cloak covered most of her face, he could see her lips were an ashy grey-black. Not too many life forms could claim that distinction.
So he grabbed his glass of Sontaran whisky and approached her table. He was sipping the dregs of his whisky when she lowered her hood and looked at him. Her eyes were as blue as Claridion plasma coils, and her short, close cropped hair was as dark as ink. “Are you the one they call Jack Harkness?”
He smiled and tipped his glass towards her. “And you’re the lady that’s been asking questions about me.” He nudged the chair beside him, and asked, “Mind if I take a seat?”
She didn’t exactly smile, but the subtle curve of her lips suggested she almost did. “Be my guest.” With her hood back, the cloak fell open, revealing she was wearing a blouse that was more theory than fact, with a neckline that plunged so deeply Jack was willing to bet it showed her navel. Wait – did they have navels? He didn’t have enough experience with Sebaceans to be one hundred percent sure. Her cleavage was impressive, though.
“I have friends in low places. It comes in handy. So, do you have a name?”
Her cobalt eyes scanned him coolly. “Mele-On Grayza. Perhaps you’ve heard of me.”
Jack pretended to think about it, rubbing his chin, but in all honesty he was lucky to know much of anything. After he left Earth to get back to wandering the stars, he felt into a bit of a funk – and a booze bottle – for a while. The problem with trying to be heroic was you made attachments, and sometimes you disappointed people, and sometimes they simply died on you. Before the Doctor, he was careful to keep his relationships casual, and never get too attached to anyone for that very reason. He forgot how much it hurt to lose.
But, he was still Captain Jack Harkness, and moping never really suited him. So he got himself a ship and had been trying to make up for lost time. The farther he got out into the wilds of space, the more he realized a lot had changed while he was attempting to play hero on Earth. That, and he kept forgetting what time period he was in. (The problem with being a former Time Agent.) “Sorry, I can’t place it. Should I know you?”
This made her frown. She was pretty in a harsh, dominatrix kind of way that he did find wildly sexy, but he suspected she was used to that reaction and decided to play it cool. “I used to be a Commandant of the Peacekeepers. I signed the peace treaty with the Scarrans.”
Jack had the vaguest knowledge of these races, as they were from the far quadrant of galaxy NC19283, and he hadn’t spent much time there. But he remembered a couple of things. The Peacekeepers put fascists to shame, and the Scarrans were as ugly on the inside as they were on the outside. Grayza was probably as dangerous as a Dalek, but slightly worse, because you’d probably never see the knife before she stuck it in your back. “What are you doing in a black market space station in the Unaligned Territories, Commandant, so far from home?”
Now her expression soured, lips thinning to a grim line, and she glanced around nervously, afraid of anyone eavesdropping. Was she wanted? Jack made a mental note to scan the recent bounty rolls as soon as he got a chance. “I was … expelled from the Peacekeepers. It was a coup, and it was ugly. And unjust. I gave my life to the Peacekeepers and they betrayed me, threw me away like garbage.”
That sounded exactly like the Peacekeepers to him, but he had a feeling saying that might not go down well. Not at the moment. Maybe later. “You didn’t have friends in the Peacekeepers, people willing to throw you a bone? So to speak.”
She closed her eyes, and was very still for a long moment. Jack waited, wondering where this was going to go. She finally opened her eyes again, and spoke. “I … tried to get my command back, with forces loyal to me. It … didn’t work.”
“Ah.” Jack could fill in the blanks himself. The Peacekeepers imprisoned or executed every one of her allies. Probably the only reason she wasn’t dead was because it would appear odd – and possibly politically inconvenient – if the Peacekeeper leader who signed the treaty with the Scarrans suddenly ended up a state sanctioned corpse. Also, to a career Peacekeeper, exile was far crueler than death.
The Shelex waitress came over, holding trays in four of her six arms. She refilled Jack’s glass without having to be asked, and burred a question at Grayza, who stared at her like she was a sentient waste product. Jack gestured for her to move on, and she did, Grayza watching her go with obvious distaste. She then shuddered. “This station is full of alien filth.”
Oh, right. Peacekeepers hated anyone who wasn’t them. They must have been a blast at parties. “You say that like it’s a bad thing.” He grinned at her before taking a slug of his whisky.
Her eyes coolly appraised him, and he had a feeling he was being both ogled and dismissed at the same time. It gave him a little tingle. Jack loved a challenge. “You don’t happen to be from Earth, do you?”
Jack grinned. She’d heard of Earth? “Nope. And I can’t help but notice you haven’t exactly gotten around to saying why you’ve been looking for me.”
“Word has it, Harkness, that there’s no place you can’t get into.”
He dipped his head, smiling. Jack did pride himself on going places people told him he couldn’t go. Hell, he even found a way to visit the planet Diaba, and that had a time field as part of its security. Saying no to him was kind of like waving a red flag in front of a bull, to borrow an old Earth saying he never quite figured out. (Bulls were colorblind. So why did the color of the flag matter?) “That’s true. Does this mean you want to hire me for a job? I’m not cheap.” Oh, who was he kidding? He was totally cheap. But haggling was the best part of all negotiations.
She sat forward, in a way that showed off her impressively deep décolletage. “I have a feeling, when I tell you where I want to go, you’ll want to go regardless of cost.”
He raised an eyebrow at that. Did she still have friends back at Peacekeeper command, perhaps ones in the research department? Or was she simply guessing? “I’m listening.”
Grayza glanced around once more. “Not here. Can we go someplace private?”
Was she trying to seduce him? It was all Jack could do not to laugh. “My ship’s nice and quiet.”
“Fine.” She stood abruptly, and raised her hood once more. The fact that she was eager to hide her face told him if she wasn’t officially wanted, at the very least she had some powerful enemies, and it probably wasn’t in his best interest to associate with her. But, then again, he hated be told who he could associate with.
Jack gulped down the rest of his drink, tossed a generous tip onto the table, and led the way to his docking berth, where the Ianto was waiting in low power mode.
The Ianto was an Icorian sabership, built for speed and maximum maneuverability, as well as general kickassedness (and if he had his way, that was definitely going to be a word in the twenty eighth century). He’d earned it in lieu of payment from a Hssurian trader who’d asked Jack to retrieve something from behind the At’Koartal blockade. It was also Jack’s home, at least for now.
The ship was coded to his DNA, so all Jack had to do was touch its sleek black hull, and it knew it was him. The main airlock cycled open before him, and lights came on as the computer, with its mellifluous male voice, asked, “What are your orders, Captain?”
“Lights at half-power,” Jack said, as Grayza looked around the guest compartment. Like most things on this ship, it was made out of semi-organic cerallic fibers, making all the consoles and furniture something that naturally grew out of the floor or walls, not separate pieces. Jack had programmed it so all the monitors looked like they were made of neon and Lucite, and the furniture appeared to be made of silks and velvet. None of it was real, mind you, but the closest equivalent. Last month, it had all been marble and wood.
She took it all in with arched eyebrows. Jack wasn’t sure if he should be offended or not. He thought it looked classy, in a retro-kitsch sort of way. “Can I get you a drink, Mele-On?”
“I prefer Grayza,” she said, an icy edge to her voice. Perching uncomfortably on the edge of the crash couch, she said, “I want to go Radulaan space, namely the Radulaan Institute of Science. Fifty two hours from now, a rogue Scarran General named Krenix will breach its walls and steal a prototype singularity weapon.”
Jack, who had been over at his bar, pouring himself a drink, paused at her words. He let them sink in to make sure he’d heard her correctly. “Singularity weapon?”
She reached into the pocket of her cloak, and pulled out a small device that fit neatly in her palm. She pressed a button, and a hologram of a typical star system was projected above it. “A special field contains a microscopic, artificially created black hole. This is fired within a special cesic container.” In the hologram, a tiny silver mote appeared, dwarfed by the immensity of the system’s class M star and enormous gas giants. “Once triggered, the field shuts down, and the singularity is released.” The little silver orb in the hologram disappeared, as if pulled into nothingness, and Grayza touched a control, speeding up the elapsed time of the display. It counted down in the upper right corner. At the thirty three minute mark, there was an obvious, huge black hole, and it had already pulled several small moons towards it. As Jack watched, rapt, the gas giants had started deviating from their orbits before one hour had elapsed. Before two, the sun was being torn to pieces, being swallowed in chunks, the event horizon littered with pulverized pieces of the former planets. She paused the playback here. “Because it is an artificial singularity, it is unstable, and most collapse in on themselves within five arns. But it takes less than half that time to destroy an entire system.”
“Holy shit,” Jack said, leaning against the bar and putting his drink down. He knew that people had tried to weaponize singularities in the past, but as far as he knew, most had been unsuccessful. Not only was it hard, but it was super dangerous. Just using micro-singularities as power sources was dangerous, and that was relatively commonplace in some societies.
But that’s probably why, if anyone could develop it, it would be the Radulaans. They were as xenophobic as the Daleks, but instead of concentrating on conquest, they concentrated their energies on cutting themselves off from all contact with any other alien race, and their entire system was concealed within an energy barrier that was almost impossible to penetrate. Almost. Very little was genuinely impossible to get through.
Jack held up his hand, and started counting subjects off on his fingers. “One: How do you know this? Two: Can Krenix genuinely get through the energy field? Three: What are you planning to do with the singularity weapon?”
Grayza gave him a self-satisfied smile as she tucked the holography device back in her pocket. “First things first, Mr. Harkness. Can you get me into Radulaan space?”
Jack gave her a lopsided half-grin, one of his most charming. “Does a Burrick eat fire?” She continued to stare at him, puzzled. He suddenly realized that she hadn’t encountered a Burrick yet. “That means yes, I can. Now what about my questions?”
She gave him a look he didn’t trust, a razor blade smile of a satisfied Gronat before it cheerfully slit you open stem to stern. “We Peacekeepers really don’t like dealing with aliens, but we’re not idiots. We keep secret lines of communications open, and nothing greases those wheels quite like money. While this territory is far from ours, we’ve had our eyes on the Radulaans for decades. Did you know there’s problems within the Radulaan government?” Jack shook his head, and she continued. “There’s a radical faction, mostly of young people, who don’t like their constant isolation, and hate the militarization of their sciences. They leaked the information of the singularity weapon. One of my old Scarran contacts told me about Krenix. Recently he was relived of his command because of a conflict with his superiors, and it’s believed that if he can give them the singularity weapon, he will not only get his command back, but he could lead the charge against the Peacekeepers.”
“In spite of the truce?”
“They hate it. And since Crichton’s been quiet for a while, they’re not concerned about a wormhole weapon anymore.”
Jack had no idea who “Crichton” was, but he had heard that the use of a theoretical “wormhole weapon” was the catalyst for the Peacekeeper-Scarran truce. What made it different from this singularity weapon exactly? Jack was curious, but decided, right now, it was irrelevant. “Are you planning to make up with the Peacekeepers by giving them the singularity weapon?”
She grimaced in a way that made it look like she was currently experiencing acid reflux. “Even if I brought them a gift wrapped wormhole, they’ve made it clear I’m not welcome in Peacekeeper space anymore.”
What had she done to piss them off? Must have been a dandy. “So what do you plan to do with it?”
“Destroy it.” At Jack’s raised eyebrows, she said, “I live in this universe too, and I’d rather dispose of such a weapon than leave it in the hands of the deluded Radulaans or megalomaniacal Scarrans.”
That sounded almost plausible. Jack almost applauded, but if he remembered correctly, Peacekeepers had no sense of humor.
There was like a million things wrong with all of this. Getting into Radulaan space unscathed wouldn’t be easy, and the security at their science institute was ridiculous. If he had access to a Tardis it wouldn’t be a problem, but he didn’t. Still, weren’t there ways..? Mostly dangerous, unsafe ways, but what was life without a little risk? It wasn’t like he couldn’t take it if he lost the bet. Of course, Grayza probably wouldn’t be able to take a mistaken gamble, but he was pretty sure he shouldn’t be worried about her. To rise to the top of the Peacekeepers, she had to been as cold blooded and cruel as they came, and while it was hard to believe she was too cruel for the Peacekeepers, the possibility existed. He didn’t trust her as far as he could sling a mountain made of molten lead.
“It won’t be cheap,” Jack finally told her. “And it comes with huge risks.”
Her dark lips curved up in that dangerous smile, the one that Jack could feel all the way down to his toes. He couldn’t help it. Danger was still sexy. “Life is risk, Mr. Harkness. I’m willing to gamble if you are.”
Oh yeah, this was going to be sweet.
They haggled for a bit, but Jack settled for twelve hundred credits, which was partial payment; he’d get the rest once the mission was accomplished.
He left Grayza snooping around his ship (the computer would keep her from finding anything he deemed important), and returned to the station concourse, to track down Xahda, a Drahvin black market weapons dealer.
Xahda didn’t just traffic in illegal weapons. She trafficked in tech, much of it experimental, almost all extremely dangerous. When he tracked her down having a meal before the Ood fights, and told her what he wanted, she eyed him like a suddenly sentient potato. “If you wanna die, Jack, I can make it quicker.”
He grinned at her. She was six foot eight and easily on the bad side of three hundred pounds, and nearly all of that was muscle. He’d heard rumors she was a genetically engineered warrior, and that was very easy to believe. Her neck was as thick as his thigh, and she could probably palm his entire skull in one hand, and also crush it. “Xahda, I’m touched. I didn’t know you cared.”
She glared at him with her eerie silver eyes, and he was very glad she wasn’t telekinetic, or his head might have exploded. “Meet me by docking bay four in an hour. Bring cash and something to hide it in.”
Jack gave her a salute. “Yes ma’am.” Like he’d be stupid enough to walk around with it? But Jack was aware Xahda thought he was a stupid Terran, even though he wasn’t exactly from Earth. But he let her believe what she wanted, because, as a matter of principal, he never discouraged any wild speculation about him. This was how he got such great rumors going.
That job done, he stopped by the office of the head of security on the station. It was true most of the security officers here were corrupt and easily bought, but the head of security, Stheluss, was above reproach. It may have helped that, as an insectoid Br-tk-kat, she had no use for most of the money or goods they tried to bribe her with.
Stheluss knew he was semi-legal at best, and usually up to no good, but she had a soft spot for him, possibly because he was the only mammal around who could genuinely speak some of her language without a translator module. (When he was a Time Agent, he spent some time on Br-tk-kata, because his supervisor got tired of him seducing the locals. But that was a failure of imagination on his part, as being insectoid didn’t mean you disliked having a good time.) Jack couldn’t do much of it, as it was hard on his throat. But she appreciated the gesture.
He didn’t tell her what he was doing, because he wasn’t that stupid. But he told her when he expected to be back, and gave her a password that he would use when docking. If it wasn’t used, his ship was to be trapped in a tractor beam and boarded. She thought it was an odd request, but it wasn’t the first one from him, and, with a bit of luck, it wouldn’t be his last one either.
With that out of the way, Jack hit the shops on the station’s main concourse, picking up a few necessary items before he went to meet Xahda by docking bay four. He paid her a lot more than the twelve hundred he got from Grayza, but to be brutally honest, Jack probably would have done this for free. If a singularity weapon did exist, no one should have it, and certainly not anyone as xenophobic as the Radulaans. Maybe he was taking a bit of a self-imposed vacation from saving the universe, but sometimes you just couldn’t get away from it. Or at least you shouldn’t. That last bit was what he was sure the Doctor would say.
By the time he got back to his ship, he could hear the slightly arrhythmic dance music popular on Rylos Four thrumming through the cabin, and found Grayza standing there, frowning sourly, her hands over her ears. “Your computer is a lunatic,” she said, shouting to be heard.
Jack tapped a nearby panel, letting the computer know it was safe to turn it off. That music was an alarm, which let him know Grayza had been trying to force her way into the cockpit. “That’s probably why it was so cheap,” he lied, putting his heavy bag down on the crash couch. “Now, I have a plan, but it has to be followed to the letter.”
Grayza smiled like he was a foolish little puppy. “You’re the leader now?”
He smiled back at her, and hoped she realized he was humoring her. If not, that was okay. He didn’t require her understanding. “You’re hiring me to do a job. It has to be done my way. But if you’d like to take a chance with someone else, that’s fine too, but I suggest you be on your way now.”
She put a hand on her hip, and the cloak slid sideways a bit, showing off most of her left breast. It was very nice, and completely deliberate. “There’s no need to be that way. I just wanted to make sure we understood each other. So what is your plan, Mr. Harkness?”
“We disguise ourselves as Radulaans, and as soon as we’re in the base, I’ll upload a virus that should make their own systems go haywire. In the chaos, we’ll steal the prototype. The virus will also wipe out their records of the singularity weapon, so they’ll really have to start from scratch.”
“How is that possible?”
“There’s a virus designer on the main concourse. Pay it enough, and it can tailor make a computer virus for you. It’s really good. You just need to say what species’ systems you’re planning to crash.” It felt funny calling Vlaarai an “it”, but it was one of the Dedoulas that didn’t have a gender, or at least one recognized by most species.
“And you trust it not to talk?”
“It’s a virus designer. If it talked, it wouldn’t be in business long.”
She frowned, not happy, but seemed to concede the point. “But how are we supposed to disguise ourselves as Radulaans? You have a make up kit in that bag?”
“Much better. I have a nano-polymer mask maker down in the hold, the same kind as the Time Agents use. I have no reference for their wardrobe, so we’re just gonna have to improvise. But this puppy will get us into their space.” Jack reached into his bag, and pulled out the biggest, heaviest item. It looked not unlike a metal garbage can flattened by a high speed impact, then turned into an object du art by combining it with some industrial machine parts and a few hydronic energy crystals. “Dimensional slipstream. We’ll target an area inside Radulaan space and just pop in. I’ll program my ship’s holography field to resemble a Radulaan freighter. I also have a transponder from one of their old ships. It’s probably a little used ID frequency, but it should still pass, since the Radulaans only abandon things when they absolutely have to.”
“Dimensional slipstream? Are you insane? Those don’t work, and they kill people.”
“I’ll make a few modifications. So it should be good for a couple of uses before it blows up.”
She stared at him like he was being the unreasonable one. Yeah, okay, they were mostly unreliable, but he’d learned a couple of tricks that helped stabilize them temporarily. Not that he was going to tell her that, or that there was any kind of certainty it would work. Sometimes it did, sometimes it didn’t. “I’m beginning to think you’re insane,” Grayza said, and it was the most truthful thing she’d ever told him.
“You’d have to be to steal a singularity weapon from the Radulaans.”
She opened her mouth to speak, but paused, and clearly thought better of it, as she closed her mouth without saying anything. It was true. Grayza considered a few moments before speaking again. “And your plan for our escape is what? Run for it?”
Jack shrugged. “Basically. The virus should be causing all sorts of chaos, and it’ll be easy to get lost in the fray. All our problems involve using the slipstream drive to escape. It takes a few minutes to drill a hole through dimensions, and I imagine the Radulaans will have dispatched some defensive ships by the time the virus takes over the lab.”
“Can this ship withstand any kind of assault?” she asked, looking around as if for holes in the fuselage.
Jack knew he couldn’t take this disdain personally, but he bristled a little at the implied insult. “He’s built for speed, but I assure you, the Ianto can withstand a lot more than you think. I just don’t know how many ships we’ll be facing. One or two, no problem. More … well, it’ll depend on what kind, and how many precisely. We’ll have to worry about it when he get there.”
“I find this far from reassuring, Mr. Harkness. What’s the point of taking the weapon if we get killed in the process?”
“As long as the weapon’s destroyed at the same time, I could live with that,” He said, heading back towards the engine compartment with the slipstream drive. “And please, call me Jack.”
“Fine, Jack. But I doubt you’d be able to live with your own death,” she called after him.
Jack was glad she couldn’t see him, as he smirked so violently it almost hurt. She had no idea … and that was his edge.
The thing about Icorian saberships was they were made specifically for racing. Sub-orbital and extra-orbital races that seemed to be the Icorian past time. Saberships were top of the line, made to take a lot of speed, heat, and inertia, and also had a modular drive system, allowing you to swap out parts quite easily. It allowed Jack to hook up the slipstream drive in almost no time at all. He also double checked the weapon systems and the integrated shield unit, which he picked up for next to nothing at a Vash’Shada market a couple months back. Could it take multiple blasts from a Radulaan ship? He contemplated what he could do to boost it for a few seconds, but that’s all the time he’d probably get. That might be too small to matter, although it depended on so many things, he couldn’t actually speculate. The odds, as he calculated them, were maybe 20.000 to 1 they’d get out of this alive, and to be honest, those were the best stats he had in a while.
For as isolated and fearsome as the Radulaan could be, they were very arrogant, and that’s where their weakness was. In seventy years, no one had tested them, and they’d taken on the features of a fearsome mythical creature. Having known actual mythical beings, he knew the Radulaans didn’t deserve to be in that category. They must have had some awesome hype men.
Grayza might have looked disdainfully at the ship’s interior, but she made herself at home readily enough. Or as readily as any Peacekeeper who hated icky aliens as a matter of course. When Jack was finished setting up the slipstream drive, he found her lounging casually on the crash couch, sipping some Nebari wine and watching a holoprojection of the current newsfeed. “How’d the Regulan Starfighters do?” Jack asked. Actually, he didn’t follow sports, but he did like looking at most athletes, so he could bluff his way through it. Of course, that was true of most things. Jack prided himself on his bluffing ability.
Those cobalt eyes flicked towards him lazily, holding the same kneejerk contempt of a Rizallian forest cat. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
The garment she wore was very interesting. Her hooded cloak with the very deep vee seemed to also be connected to a pair of loose pants in the same silky fabric, that clung to her skin and beg to be touched, a soft, shimmering synthetic silk. Only her footwear, kinky black Peacekeeper boots, gave the game away. But she was definitely one of his tribe, a professional seductress, and while it turned him on like crazy, he was aware he was dealing with a beast not unlike himself. She probably had at least one weapon on her too, but he would be damned if he knew where she was carrying it. “Too bad. The Starfighters have a center who’d make a bladderbeast go into heat. Anyway, you might want to strap in, as we’re ready to launch.”
That seemed to genuinely surprise her. “Already?”
He threw her one of his most charming grins before heading to the cockpit. “As hard as it is to believe, I know what I’m doing. Most of the time.”
The door to the cockpit unsealed and opened for him, and since he couldn’t see her doing any harm now, Jack made sure the computer left it open. Because there was nothing she could right now to interfere.
The cockpit was small, and really just a sop to nostalgia, as there was no real reason for the thing at all, You could fly a ship from anywhere in the vessel; there was no reason, beyond aesthetics and nostalgia, to have it up front. But Jack didn’t care. It was kind of campy.
The cockpit was small, containing a foamform pilot’s chair, and a bunch of sleek consoles displaying any kind of data you could want, up to and including all the single and searching people with a five hundred foot radius. There was what looked like a small wire diadem sitting on the arm of the chair, and after Jack took a seat, he put it on his head. “Request clearance to fly,” he said, as the wire activated, giving his skull a brief squeeze before settling into its usual shape.
The other thing about Iconian ships were they were all controlled with a type of mechanical telepathy. You didn’t need to touch a damn thing; you controlled ships by thought. This also allowed you to lock down controls completely, because if someone without your specific brainwave pattern tried to fly the ship, it wouldn’t obey a single command.
Flight control gave him clearance, and the ship engaged thrusters to move them closer to the exit. Like Jack thought, Grayza came swanning in to take a look around. “I’ve never seen this kind of ship before,” she said.
He wasn’t surprised. This wasn’t her native quadrant. “You won’t. This is a rare kind. Very few outside of the Iconian racing circuit have them.”
“So how did you come by it?”
“Let’s just say I did a favor for a guy who was super generous.” And wanted Jack to keep quiet about their little thing, especially since the guy was a member of the Iconian royal family. But she didn’t need to know that.
Jack was so accustomed to using the thought device that he didn’t even have to concentrate to run through the start up sequence, and Grayza leaned forward to look at all the data cascading over the consoles. Accidentally on purpose, he got to see just about all of her right breast. “This is amazing. How are you flying it exactly?”
“These have a special interface.” She had probably guessed the significance of the headset, but she was playing dumb. “And didn’t I tell you to strap in?”
“What, and miss the fun?” Her lips curved up, and she put a hand on his shoulder. His libido really wanted to fall for this, but he just couldn’t. Not right now, at any rate.
The docking bay opened, and the Ianto surged out into open space, like a thoroughbred eager to run. The mechanical telepathy link allowed the pilot to take in space without a filter. You could buffer it if you wanted to, you could go drown in a data stream, but Jack loved the feeling of flying through space like he wasn’t even in a ship. It was just him, moving through the blackness, feeling photons like a soft breeze against his skin. It was a magical high, one that no drug could hope to match.
He was so absorbed in the experience, Grayza’s voice came as a surprise. “Why can’t we do the jump now?”
“If you want any accuracy, you have to get within a few light years of your target. But I’m willing to do it earlier if you don’t mind the increased risk of failure.”
She was silent for a moment. “No, that’s all right. Stick to your plan.”
That was what he thought.
She could have gone back, into the main body of the ship, but she didn’t. She kept her hand on his shoulder, and seemed to study all the data flowing over the monitors. Was she trying to figure out how to commandeer the ship herself? The amount the data could help her was questionable, but Jack was sure this woman was smarter than he was. Luckily, in this piece of the multiverse, luck played as much a part as smarts, and this ship was paranoid about its own security. It cared, so Jack didn’t have to.
At some point, she started idly started running her fingernail tip up and down the back of his neck. It was extremely nice, and rather distracting. Before he could ask her to stop, she did. “I was thinking this ship was irredeemably small,” she said. “But it does seem very fast.”
“Fastest star drive ship besides a Zortonian scout ship,” he boasted. The ability to run was really attractive to him nowadays. Of course, it had been before too. He couldn’t help but think he never should have stopped.
Finally they hit the Cion system, which was his target. He killed the drive, and took off the mechanical telepathy link, setting it aside. “Okay. Let’s get ready.”
She gave him that look again, that one that suggested he was mentally unbalanced. He couldn’t truthfully argue with that, so he just motioned for her to follow him. She was reluctant, but eventually did.
They were pretty lucky that Radulaans conformed to the basic bipedal, mammalian type, and their various skin colors could probably pass as Radulaan. The thing was, they had no body hair at all – no hair on the head, or eyebrows, so Jack knew he’d be in for a quick bit of depilating on his arms. He wasn’t bothering with the rest of him, because it was unlikely he’d have time to hook up with anyone. Which was a shame. But nothing killed your boner more than knowing you could be executed any second. (Although sometimes it had the opposite effect. It depended on both situation and person.) It was lucky Grayza had such dramatically short hair too, as that was easy to cover with a cap of second skin.
The Time Agency nano-polymer mask maker looked like an electronic wand, which was what it was. Jack waved it slowly in front of her face, so it could measure everything, including the texture of her skin. To make a perfect mask, everything had to be matched.
Jack already had his details in the machine, so all he had to do was add a Radulaan template, and the masks were made. They felt like skin, with just a hint of stickiness, so it could adhere perfectly. Putting it on was weird, because it felt for a moment like it was pulling at your skin, but then it settled, adjusted to your body heat, and was all but ignorable.
As soon as he smoothed down his skin cap over his hair, he asked her, “How do I look?”
She grimaced, still putting on her own skin cap. “I think you need hair.”
“Yeah, I know. My hair is one of my top ten assets.” Although he liked her severe hair cut, she looked good bald. She had cheekbones you could cut yourself on, and having no hair just emphasized her icy, severe beauty.
“I’ve heard you were something of a libertine. I suppose that confirms it.”
“Are you really trying to tell me you don’t know your own assets? I don’t believe that for a second.”
She gave him a small, tight smile that didn’t quite reach her cobalt eyes, and he returned it. “I think my gifts are obvious. False modesty is disgusting.”
“Agreed. And we need to get you some colored contacts. Do you have a color preference?” He waved his hand against the wall, and a holographic menu popped up, showing the most prevalent eye colors amongst Radulaans. Jack could probably pass, but her eyes were too unique.
After a moment, she pointed at the ash gray. “Why not?”
Why not indeed? Her eyes almost matched her lips before she put on a little make up, tinting her lips a bloodless pink. She knew the color palette that best suited her.
Since there were no references for current Radulaan clothing or science uniforms, they had to go by what they did have, which was the bland, vague uniforms for Radulaan cargo haulers. They wore pale brown jumpsuits with forged genetic ID badges on their left breast pockets. She was Uhn; he was Aag. You had to love the onomatopoeia like sound of Radulaan names.
Once they were done, he returned to the cockpit and fired up the holoprojector embedded in the skin of the ship. He hadn’t used it in ages, but he’d gotten the illegal upgrade specifically for the purpose of making trouble. It was about time he used it again.
Jack then started the dimensional slipsteam drive, and hoped that it wouldn’t blow up the ship. Okay, it was a really tiny possibility, but still possible. Although there was a tense moment when the deck beneath his feet trembled like it shouldn’t have, it soon passed, and the energy build up in the projection disc began.
Grayza joined him again, and even though she was in shapeless worker togs, she looked super sexy. She was clearly a beautiful woman, in spite of being bald, but it all reminded Jack how much he dug androgyny. All lines were there to be crossed, including gender lines. “Was the ship supposed to be shaking?” she wondered.
“Oh yeah,” he lied, adjusting the control mechanism on his newly bald head. It felt very strange, and he was glad he couldn’t currently see his reflection.
“What about weapons?”
“You take yours, I’ll take mine, but only use them if necessary, and try not to kill anyone. You don’t want to know how Radulaan Prime punishes murderers.”
“Who says I have a weapon?” she asked.
Jack gave her a withering glance with just one eye. The other had a small cascade of data filling the view. “You may be an ex-Peacekeeper, but I’ve never met a single one who wasn’t armed, even when they weren’t supposed to be. So give me a little credit.”
The tiny smile she gave him this time seemed mildly genuine. “So you’re more than just a pretty face.”
He was so tempted to ask if she really thought he was pretty, but just smiled in return.
Finally the drive was ready, and he opened the slipstream, which appeared as nothing more than distortion in the data feeds. You couldn’t often see a dimensional rift with the naked human eye, except under certain circumstances. But through the sensors he watched it grow wider and wider, until the tunneling sensors could pick up what was on the other side. As soon as he got an affirmative reading for Radulaan space, he told Grayza, “I’m gonna have to insist you go strap in. Dimensional slipstreaming is … something, especially if you’ve never done it before. And you don’t want to die the second we drop into Radulaan space.”
“It’s that bad?”
“It’s a drop. If you’re not strapped in, you could hit the ceiling, and possibly go through it.”
“I’ll strap in then, shall I?” she replied, and left the cockpit. He kept an eye on her through the cabin camera feeds, so he didn’t launch until she was strapped to the crash couch. Only then did he initiate the jump.
It was like falling down and falling up at the same time. The sensors were useless, so he blanked them out as he felt the disorientation, which was not unlike being in two places at once, and about to die in both. His internal compass was reeling, and he felt dizzy and slightly nauseous.
Then the bottom seemed to fall out of gravity, and there was a violent jolt that would have shaken him out of his seat if he hadn’t been strapped in. The sensor feed came back up as his stomach did a slight barrel roll before stabilizing, and he could see black spots pulse before his eyes. One of the reasons slipstream drives weren’t widely used, beyond their inherent danger, was the fact that the trip beat the shit out of you. Only a sadist could find something to love in it.
As soon as Jack was sure he could speak without vomiting, he opened a comm. “You still alive?”
There was a long pause before Grayza said, “What the hell was that?”
“Nobody said cutting through dimensions was easy.” Sensors confirmed they were in Radulaan space, and he set a course for the Radulaan Institute of Science, which was a space station in orbit of a huge gas giant. It looked a bit like a giant’s Frisbee, a white disc hovering at the edge of oblivion.
They must have accepted his transponder signal, as there was no sign that the Radulaans had scrambled ships to intercept. He put aside the ship’s mental control interface and went into the back, where Grayza was still slowly peeling herself off the crash couch. She actually looked a bit greyer than usual, which he assumed was her version of pale. “Look on the bright side,” he told her. “We didn’t explode.”
The look she gave him could have drawn blood. And to be honest, he couldn’t blame her.
The computer already knew what to do. As soon as it was within hailing distance, it opened a channel between the space station and Jack. “What are you doing here?” an officious voice asked.
“I’ve got a delivery for a Doctor Ogg,” Jack replied smoothly.
There was some grumbling on the other end of the line, and finally the man said, “Bring it on in to docking bay four, and kill the engines. We’ll bring you in the rest of the way.” He then cut the connection.
At Grayza’s enquiring look, Jack said, “There’s always an Ogg. That’s why you gotta love Radulaan names.”
She was giving him that look again, that one that suggested she thought she had teamed up with a madman. And again, Jack thought that was fair. He wasn’t always certain he was sane, but then he realized it took more than wishing to make that so.
Once the station’s automated systems had the ship and was towing them in, Jack retrieved an electronic clipboard full of psychic paper. The Radulaan station master would see what he expected to see, and they’d get past the gatekeeper easily. Getting in was never any problem at all.
Getting out? Now there was the hard part.
It all went according to plan. The docking chief, a stern little man whose bald head was so perfectly egg shaped Jack wanted to bust it with a spoon, grunted noncommittally over whatever the papers were telling him, and told them the Doctor Ogg they wanted – there was more than one (of course) – was on level three, section five. Jack thanked him and they were on their way, with the Eggman ogling Grayza briefly. Like Jack had suspected, she was a very attractive Radulaan.
In the lift, Jack called up the station map, and figured out where the weapons lab would be. It was the part of the station not explicitly labeled. You’d think evil geniuses would’ve figured out if you wanted to keep people away from your super secret project, you labeled it “janitorial” or “museum of ancient farm equipment”. Nobody would visit, and no one would stumble upon your death ray. It was a win-win for everyone.
Now the lift only went up to level three, meaning no one could access the “blank” floor, so they’d have to get up to the roof of the lift, and then crawl up to the fourth floor through an auxiliary cleaner bot tunnel. Once they reached level three, Jack used his sonic lock picker to jam the door opening function, and opened the trap door on the ceiling. “This is really the only way?” Grayza asked, as Jack formed his hands into a step.
“Unless you want to do it from the outside, and hope they have an airlock we can use.”
She sighed, and stepped in his hands, so Jack could give her a boost up through the trap door. Once she was settled, she reached down, and helped pull him up. They could access the bot tunnel through the lift, but the access tunnel was so small it was a tight fit. To her credit, Grayza only complained about it once.
They came out of the access tunnel in a storage room, which also doubled as a bot retirement room, where the cleaner bots remained dormant until they were needed or their schedule came up. These were very basic bots, none with any kind of intelligence or awareness at all. They were programmed for their job and nothing more, which was good for them, as they couldn’t report their presence to their supervisors.
The corridor was blinding white, with rounded edges instead of corners. Jack couldn’t help but think it was kind of like being inside a catheter. Out of all the design choices available, why would anyone pick that? He honestly didn’t know what got into some species.
Grayza pulled out a small sensor device from her pocket, and while the writing and notations on the instrument seemed to be Sebacean, he could tell it was a particle scanner of some stripe. “What are you looking for?” he wondered. He could guess, but he had a handful of them.
“Gravitons and tachyon particles,” she said. Her voice had a dismissive edge to it. “Any singularity should have shed those in great quantities, even if it currently isn’t active.” Lights turned green on her display, and it let out what he took to be a positive bleep. It indicated the direction ahead of them, around the dramatic right curve. “And there it is. This way.” She tucked the scanner back in her pocket, and took off walking down the hall, without waiting to see if he was following.
Jack had to hurry to catch up with her, but they didn’t get very far before they almost collided with a scientist, who was so distracted by the computer display attached to his left eye he almost didn’t notice them.
When he saw them, he jumped back a step in surprise, and quickly looked them up and down. “You are not authorized -“ he began.
Grayza stepped forward, unzipping her jumpsuit a little, and talking in a higher pitched, breathier voice. “You wouldn’t be kind enough to point me to Doctor Ogg’s laboratory, could you?” She wrapped her arms around his neck, which startled him further, but then she crushed her breasts against his chest, and Jack could see in his eyes the exact moment he checked out of all his senses. Oh man, straight guys were hilarious. If he’d had a bucket, he could have caught the man’s brains as they flew out his ears.
Goddamn, she was good.
As the scientist struggled to remember how to speak, Grayza let him go, took a half step back, and threw a vicious right that sent him sprawling to the deck. She then zipped up her jumpsuit again, and started looking for a good place to drag his body. Jack saw a storage locker, and swiped the guy’s key card. He left Grayza to drag the body over, because she knocked him out, and also, Sebaceans were pretty strong. They looked relatively human, but they punched like they had fists made of rocks and evil thoughts. And he was pretty certain the militaristic culture of the Peacekeepers found offers of help an insult, like you were implying weakness.
Jack stripped the guy of his coat before helping Grayza stuff the guy in the closet, and put it on. It was a little tight – the guy had a narrower build than Jack – although Jack doubted the coat would buy him little more than a few seconds. Still, that could make the difference between life and death.
They continued down the corridor, Jack leading the way, and came to a lab door that was simply marked with a hazardous materials sign. They used the scientist’s key card to open it, and stepped into a low lit lab, where the hum of machinery was so loud, it was kind of amazing they couldn’t hear it out in the hall. They didn’t realize they weren’t alone in the lab until they were almost on top of them, two scientists working on computer models. Their backs were to them, and because it was so loud, they were currently unaware they were no longer alone. Jack and Grayza knew it wouldn’t last for long.
They looked at each other as they pulled out their weapons, and on Jack’s nod, they did the cowardly thing and shot the both in the back. They were only stunned, though, not dead, so that was something. He knew if Grayza had her way, all the Radulaans they encountered so far would be dead.
Since the computer terminals were open, it was quick work to look up where the weapon was (code name: open sky), and while Grayza went to look for it amongst a far stack of what ironically looked like metal caskets, Jack plugged the flash stick with the custom virus into the terminal. It worked quickly, and he was glad Vlaarai was still doing great work.
He was watching the hard drive begin the process of eating itself when red lights suddenly started flashing, and a siren began to sound throughout the station. Their breach had been discovered. Damn it, Jack had hoped they’d have more time, but he knew most of his plan was based on the fact that the Radulaans couldn’t have conceived of anyone having the audacity to do this. They were so complacent in their own isolation, they didn’t think they could be beaten.
From the barely audible sounds alone, a lockdown was taking place, and they were probably trapped in here. Luckily, that was part of his plan.
Grayza found the casket containing the singularity weapon (impressively small, all things considered), and he joined her as she grabbed anti-grav modules to move it. “What now?”
“Now we go to plan B,” he said. “How do you feel about free falls?”
Jack decided he was going to have to take a photo of her face as she eyed him like a madman. He loved it, and wasn’t sure why.
He left her to set up the modules on the casket while he went to a far wall, and started looking for a good spot to attach a little tool called colloquially a “cracker”. It was a mining tool used by some space pirates to breach hulls, and it was so small it was hard to believe it could do such a thing. But all you needed was a hole, and internal air pressure/outer vacuum would do the rest. It wasn’t pretty, but it was super effective.
Jack found a good spot for it, and once he placed it, he pulled two emergency helmets out of his pocket. They looked like nothing but small chokers, but they had nanocircuitry, and a nano-polymer helmet that formed when activated. The problem was you had maybe twenty minutes air, tops, but they didn’t even need half that. Assuming the virus had completely fucked all the station’s systems by then. If not, they were fucked.
With the anti-gravity modules attached, it was easy for Grayza to float the casket out of its rack, and she opened it to make sure they had the right thing. She then looked at the cracker where he had set it up on the wall, and simply said, “No. You have to have a better plan than that.”
Jack put the choker on around his neck, but didn’t activate the helmet yet. “This is our best option. If we try and go out the door, assuming we can get them open, we’ll be met by a firing squad. The computer virus will get rid of all the force fields and atmospheric shields, but it won’t do anything about the security team’s weapons.”
She grimaced, like she didn’t want to admit that was true, but there wasn’t anything she could say to the contrary. In fact, over the continuing humming noise, it was possible to make out what had to be footsteps in the corridor. In fact, if Jack were them, he’d be setting up a cannon to blast the doors open. He held out the other choker to her, and said, “It’s now or never, Grayza.”
With a grunt that was as must frustration as it was agreement, she took the choker and put it on. They then turned the floating casket in mid-air, and put it on its side as they crouched down behind it. He gave her a magnet glove, so they’d be stuck to the metal capsule no matter what, and once they were gloved up and settled behind their makeshift shield, they activated their helmets, and Jack activated the cracker.
At first, there was no noise at all. Then there was a faint, hard to describe noise, like someone dropping a coin on the deck. And then there was something like a pop, which Jack could also feel inside his head, and they were brutally flung into space, twirling like an out of control meteorite. Jack had had enough zero G training while becoming a Time Agent, and was able to put his feet on the casket and try and stabilize it. They must have trained Peacekeepers much the same way, as Grayza did the same thing at almost the exact same time. Working together, and using the anti-grav thrusters, they managed to slow the rotation down, and then surfed it towards the docking bays.
Luckily the Radulaans did stick to the basic safety feature of having a manual release outside the docks, and they were able to get back in, where Ianto was waiting for them. By the way the power and the gravity was flickering, the Radulaans were trying to isolate and wipe out the virus. But they hadn’t won yet.
The Ianto had just cleared the docking bay when the computer announced, “Warships closing.”
Damn it. Jack had been hoping they’d have more time. With just a thought he activated the shields (which would last maybe a minute under Radulaan weapon fire), and suddenly Grayza was standing by his chair, asking, “What kind of weapons do you have?”
“A plasma cannon and a type J particle laser.”
She seemed briefly flabbergasted. “A particle laser? Isn’t that mining equipment?”
“Yeah, but it cuts through most fields and hulls like they were made of paper.” It was amazing how many enemies lost their nerve when you suddenly decompressed their cargo hold or lower deck. Its main drawback as a weapon was it only worked at fairly close range.
“And it only works within spitting distance,” she snapped. Now how did she know that? Had she spent time at an asteroid mining colony? “We’ll be dead ten times over before you can use it.”
“Strap in,” he said, as the dimensional slipstream started warming up. “I think this ride is gonna be a lot more bumpy.”
Grayza made a noise of frustration, but left all the same. He couldn’t blame her. Fighting was the default response of all Peacekeepers, and as a Commandant, she was probably really good at it.
But even though he was probably looking at eminent death, and his skin was burning from its brief but unprotected romp in space (he knew from experience it would really hurt sooner rather than later, and slough off in great sheets), Jack couldn’t help but grin, a laugh burbling at the base of his throat. They had just pulled off one of the most brazen heists of the century. Even if they didn’t survive it, they were legends. It would be nice to survive to reap the benefits, though.
The ship shuddered as energy weapon fire slammed into the shields, and Jack could see the shields were already drained thirty five percent. They could take maybe two more shots before they were rendered space dust.
He initiated evasive maneuvers program beer, which was so named because he got incredibly drunk before setting it. On purpose. Drunk maneuvers were erratic and inherently unpredictable, and that’s exactly what he wanted. Confused the hell out of all his pursuers. Ianto began zigging, zagging, diving, and soaring, tipping and weaving occasionally as well. Again, as a flight pattern it was a godawful mess, and most computerized pursuit programs had no idea what to do with it. Extrapolation was impossible. Sometimes he just moved laterally, which made no sense at all, and it made Jack laugh when he thought about it. People just didn’t appreciate the ridiculous.
Another bit of weapons fire glanced off the shields – it was a lucky shot, and no more than a graze – but the shields dropped to thirteen percent. The slipstream drive was still warming up. He needed at least another minute.
An automated recording came over the comms. “Power down and prepare to be boarded.”
“You have to at least buy me a drink first,” Jack replied, finally powering up the cannon. He really didn’t want to shoot anyone, but he also wanted to get out of this in one piece.
The only problem with evasive pattern beer was it made it hard to aim. He had to leave it to the computer, because he had no chance at all. “Cripple, don’t destroy,” Jack told Ianto.
The ship’s computer simply bleeped at him. He gave it some personality, but not a lot, because he didn’t want to become attached to a computer program again. He had enough heartbreak in his life without manufacturing more for himself.
The ship shuddered once more, as an energy beam barely missed them while they had to vaguely stabilize to fire, and in the sensor feeds, Jack saw another warship swinging around the gas giant. “So, so screwed,” Jack sang under his breath to himself. He’d at least found the humor in the absurdly bleak.
Now alarms started sounding throughout the ship, and data flashed across his feed, all of it bad. The warships were moving into a formation Jack knew as “basic blanket” – the ships were spreading out in a formation so that a random spray pattern should vaporize anything within the “blanket”. You didn’t even need to aim, just fire.
Jack wondered if he could goad one of the ships into firing earlier. He turned his attention towards the nearest ship, and started strafing it as he swooped past it in a seemingly suicidal dive. He scored a direct hit on one of its starboard thrusters, and that did it. It opened fire on the Ianto as it drunkenly jagged and dipped, and just as Jack hoped, the plasma cannon fire just missed them and slammed into one of the other Radulaan ships. Jack cackled, so glad he knew the flaw of a basic blanket pattern: friendly fire.
He didn’t have long to gloat. The ship jolted, as if suddenly shoved by a giant hand, and the computer let him know, “Full shield collapse.” As if to add to his already voluminous problems, Jack’s skin had moved from the slight tingling to the definite stinging of vacuum and radiation exposure. And there might be more of that in his immediate future.
Jack checked the readings for the slipstream drive. It was useable, but there was a high probability they would end up in a random location. Still, anything was better than Radulaan space at the moment, so he punched it, and wondered if the Ianto would be able to withstand the journey without shields. He probably should have thought of that first.
It felt like he was turned inside out, used as a martini shaker, and then popped back into shape once more, but with his organs in all the wrong places. Like his stomach was where his larynx should be, and his brain was where his kidneys should have been. Also, he was reasonably certain his spleen and heart had not only switched places, but were trying to do each other’s job. Jack felt a stabbing pain in his chest every time he tried to breathe, so he stuck to shallow sips of air, wondering why the ship was still shaking. It was almost a minute before Jack realized it wasn’t the ship shaking, it was just him.
Sensors told him they were in the Atalan system, about ten parsecs from where they were supposed to be. Not bad, all things considered. The trip back to the station would be much longer, but hey, this wasn’t a highly populated sector. And, on the remote chance they ran into problems, they had a fucking singularity weapon. Check and mate.
It took several minutes for Jack to recover from the slipstream drive this time, and the ship was content to flash constant sensor warnings at him. The Ianto almost didn’t survive this little trip. At least his miraculous luck was still holding.
The door slid open, and Grayza strutted into the cockpit. She looked a bit more chalky than usual, which he took as a sign she was still recovering from the slipstream trip herself. “Any sign of pursuit?”
“Nope. And as a point of fact, they couldn’t. I don’t think slipstream technology has ever made it through the Radulaan cultural barricade.”
She attempted to study the data scrolling across the multiple consoles, but he wasn’t sure she could keep up with all the bad news. “Are we in danger of falling to pieces?”
“No. The computer can be a drama queen sometimes. We’ll make it.” The ship had self-repair nano-bots, but he wasn’t about to tell her that. Again, it was probably best he kept most things about his ship secret.
To Jack’s mild surprise, Grayza suddenly straddled him, sitting on his thighs and facing him. Her cleavage was on display as usual, just this side of decency, but by a crell’s hair. She gave him a sly, dangerous smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes, but that just made her more attractive to him. Jack smirked at his own tendency to be attracted to people who weren’t the best for him. “That was risky and deeply stupid. We shouldn’t have gotten out of there with the weapon and our lives.”
“I know, right? We should send the Radulaans a thank you card for being so arrogant that they never thought anyone could steal their stuff.” He put a hand on her back experimentally, just to see what she would do, but she didn’t react to it at all. She was watching him like a tiger observed a gazelle.
“I must admit, I never thought we’d pull it off. I’ve heard you were a hedonist, over-confident and foolhardy, but generally good at what you do. When I first met you, I thought you were possibly space mad. You seemed a bit unhinged.”
Jack couldn’t help but grin. He didn’t mind leaving that impression, as that meant the thuggish types steered clear of him. You never knew what the crazies would do. It was excellent camouflage. “I’ve been accused of worse.”
“I’m sure.” She lifted his chin with a single finger, and kissed him passionately. Like most Sebaceans, she seemed cold, but not in a bad, dead way.
He was just thinking she was really good when he felt the knife slide between his ribs, and then, after a sharp pain, Jack felt nothing at all.
Grayza got up off the pilot’s chair, and pulled Jack’s body out, letting it fall unceremoniously to the deck. She hadn’t been completely lying, he had been a very pretty man, but his use to her was at an end.
The fact that he managed to get her into Radulaan space and out again, with the weapon, skirted the edge of believability. He was a fool, and did things a saner being wouldn’t, but that’s why he was an ideal patsy for this mission. She didn’t even need to tell him her elaborate story about what she was going to do with the weapon.
She put the stiletto back in her boot, and pulled the mental command device off his head. As soon as she put it on, taking a seat in the pilot’s chair, she said as well as thought, “Set a course for the Prysao system.”
There was a long moment of silence before the computer responded, in an oddly accented male voice, “You’re not Jack.”
“How observant of you. There was a terrible accident, and he’s unavailable, so now I’m piloting the ship. Do as I say.”
“You’re not Jack.”
She rolled her eyes. Stupid A.I. – this was exactly why she preferred Pilots. You could force them to do your bidding, while machines could be perversely stuck in their programming. “Do you want him to live? Set a course for the Prysao system.”
“He’s dead. You think I can’t access my own internal scanners?”
Yes, she really hated this one. Who was crazy enough to program their computer with an attitude? You were just making things frustrating for yourself. “Are you going to obey me, or do I need to rip your circuits out by hand?”
“You’re not Jack,” the computer replied, and suddenly all systems powered down, even the lights.
“Oh, you goddamned machine,” Grayza said, tossing the useless drive interface aside. Clearly she was going to have to manually bypass the system, which could add hours to her timetable. At least Reegha was a greedy little Hynerian, and would probably wait a week or so for her to show up with the goods.
Grayza got up from the pilot’s chair and stalked over to the biggest console. She had to kneel down to rip off the face panel and get in the guts of the wiring. She wasn’t overly familiar with this layout, but wiring was wiring, and she’d figure it out.
Grayza was not a fool. She knew, even with a singularity weapon, she wouldn’t be allowed back into the Peacekeeper High Command. They were traitors, having picked political expediency above all else, and thrown her to the wolves like the cowards they were. But if she couldn’t return to her people, at least she knew of several ways to make her enemies pay. You just had to be creative, and willing to put up with some alien scum in the process. No one could ever call her a coward.
She had just gotten past the automatic locks on the engine module when she suddenly heard, “You know, I thought you were going to be more subtle about it.”
Grayza honestly thought, for a moment, it was the computer playing a trick on her, using Jack’s voice to unnerve her. But when she looked over her shoulder, Jack was standing there, a Melcorian blaster aimed at her, blood and a small knife slash marring his shirt. She stared at him in disbelief. Was this an adaptive hologram? “You’re dead.”
“Correction: I was dead. It’s not the first time, and probably won’t be the last.” He gave her that half-smile he probably thought was charming. “I’m a fixed point in the time continuum. I can’t be killed.”
Grayza studied that sentence in her mind, and couldn’t make any sense of it. What did that mean? “Do you have two hearts, is that it?”
“Didn’t you ever wonder why I didn’t care that I was risking my life a thousand times over with this crazy plan? It’s because dying isn’t even a crimp in my weekend. I’m half surprised you didn’t figure it out. I thought you were smart.”
She considered going for her knife, as she could throw it and nail him in the forehead – would destroying his brain kill him? – or try for her hidden energy weapon. But Jack shook his head, and thumbed the energy stud on the side of his blaster. If she was right, he’d just boosted the energy level to lethal.
So Grayza went for plan B. She smiled winsomely and shrugged, dropping the wire stripping tool she’d been using. “I’m a Peacekeeper. This is what we do. You know that.”
He looked at her dead eyed and serious. The flirting pretty boy was now gone, and she almost didn’t recognize this man. She had to give him credit. He was smarter and meaner than she thought, and she wasn’t easy to fool. But she didn’t even suspect the shallow libertine cowboy had any hidden depths to him at all. “What’s your real plan for the weapon?”
“I already told you.”
“No, you didn’t.”
The lights in the cockpit came on, and the computer said, “She wanted to go to the Prysao system.”
Grayza shook her head. Goddamn computers. She hated them.
Jack quirked an eyebrow at this. “Prysao? Isn’t that on the edge of Hynerian space?”
She simply glared at him. “That’s not even a question worth answering. You know.”
“So who were you meeting, Grayza?”
She crossed her arms over her chest, and Jack watched that movement carefully. “If you’re going to kill me, just do it.”
“I really didn’t read you as a mercenary, but I guess I was wrong. There’s a vast black market in weaponry over in Prysao, isn’t there? Were you really planning to sell it? This glorious weapon that could restore you as a Peacekeeper?”
She scoffed. “So you are stupid. The Peacekeepers wouldn’t reinstate me, not with that coward Truen in command.”
“Oh, so that’s it. You were going to use it to assassinate someone. Let me guess, Truen?”
She didn’t say anything. He didn’t need to know, he’d already guessed much of it anyway, “And what are your illustrious plans for the weapon, Jack? You never did strike me as altruistic.”
“Everything ready, Ianto?”
“Yes it is, Jack,” the computer replied.
“Then do it. No point in waiting.”
Grayza had no idea what he was up to, and waited for him to tell her, but he didn’t. He motioned with his blaster for her to stand up, so she did, and while doing that, something caught her eye outside the ship. She turned, and saw a familiar metal casket spinning away, as if it had been ejected from an airlock.
All thoughts of going for a weapon fled her mind, as she turned to him in shock. “What the hell are you doing?”
“When we’re a safe distance away, you know what to do,” Jack said, looking up at the ceiling. As if the computer was hidden up there. (Wait – was it? She couldn’t find its personality matrix or anything remotely like a hard drive. If he stashed it in the ceiling that would explain a lot.)
“Jack, that is power. Or at the very least, it is money. You can’t just throw it away.”
His eyes were cold, and she thought, if the circumstances had been different, he would have made a great right hand man. “That’s power no one should have.”
“Who are you to judge?”
“Someone who’s seen the end of at least one world, and a couple of civilization. It’s too easy to destroy everything at the best of times. No one needs the help.”
She shook her head at his idiocy. There was no way he was that old, and she didn’t believe his “not dying” nonsense. He was just some species she hadn’t encountered before, who had organs in the wrong place, and possibly spare ones. “My first impression was right. You are crazy.”
Jack just shrugged. “Maybe. I don’t care anymore.”
Much as she feared, as soon as they were at the edge of weapons range, the plasma cannon fired, and the singularity weapon seemed to disappear in the briefest burst of light. Although, no. It just seemed like light in this dark, dead system. But there was a growing stain, a deeper darkness on top of the other darkness. She understood then that the singularity had been triggered, which was why it was so far away. And in this system, there was nothing but a bloated, dying star to feed it. It wouldn’t last long. “You idiot,” she said, but without much force. This was quite possibly the single stupidest thing she had ever seen, and she used to work at Peacekeeper Command.
“Oh, I’ll cop to that,” Jack replied. When she looked over her shoulder at him, she saw he was aiming the blaster at her face. “Will you?”
Grayza had no time to react before he fired.
Jack regretted giving Stheluss the password before docking at the station. It probably would have been easier just to have her lock down the ship and board it.
This was such a lawless place that convincing even the righteous Stheluss to lock up Grayza even for a small amount of time was akin to beating his head against a bulkhead and hoping he’d break through it. But he needed Stheluss put her away for a little while, if only to give him time to escape. Jack knew she held a grudge – she was a Peacekeeper. Holding grudges was like their third best thing, behind fascism and sexy S&M gear.
He could have killed her, and it had crossed his mind to do so. She had probably done a hundred terrible things, and there was no telling how much blood was on her hands from the Scarran-Peacekeeper skirmish. But Jack still had a shred of humanity in him, and he found he couldn’t kill her in cold blood, so he simply stunned her. Of course, had he known how hard he’d have to press Stheluss to put her in a holding cell, he might have reconsidered.
Jack was standing just beyond the forcefield when she came to. Grayza’s eyes flew open and took in her surroundings before she sat up. Jack gave her a small wave, and the look she shot him was pretty uncharitable, all things considered. “I don’t suppose you’d consider us even at all, would you? I mean, I could have killed you.”
“Why didn’t you?” she asked, her voice all edges. She seemed almost resentful about it.
“No need. And, as it turns out, killing me is just a misdemeanor here, so you should be out in no time. But I’m thinking it’s best we go our separate ways from here.”
Grayza seemed to be trying to stare holes through him. “Forgive and forget? Do you think that’s even remotely feasible?”
“I think it’s the best way forward. It’s a big universe, and I think you know that I’m not the world’s easiest target.”
The look she was giving him now could have left scorch marks on any hull. “I won’t forget this.”
“Neither will I. Let’s never see each other again, okay?” Already tired of the vague threat session, Jack turned and walked out of the security office.
He knew he should be worried about pissing off an ex-Commandant, but he really couldn’t be assed. He’d spent most of his life pissing off powerful people, and somehow he was still here. It probably helped that he was immortal, but that couldn’t be all of it, as that was a relatively recent development.
Jack decided not to think about it any longer. After all, hadn’t he done his good deed for the year? He kept a singularity weapon out of an unstable person’s hands, and committed the heist of a century.
Now it was time to go to Bacchus Four and party.