Snakes and Starships: I

Spoiler warning below for various Starship Promise routes. Read on at your own peril.



Antares’ route: Antares has been promoted to Commodore and has a high leadership role amid others like him.
Atlas’ and Tyrian’s route: Atlas and SP’s MC (here named Jenna) are together on the promise. Tyrian made his appearance as per Atlas’ route, which led to the happenings of his own route. At the end of Tyrian Season 1 he’s on death row thanks to the Union, but has somehow escaped custody.
Orion’s route: There is a tense, but present understanding between he and Antares, and they have the ability to contact one another.

Jaxon’s route: Rumour has it, in the bloody coup staged by Rastaban Saiph he killed the former emperor to claim the title himself. Saiph’s daughter – Miho – is rumoured to have killed Jaxon’s ex in a disagreement over ‘who was more worthy of him’. This rumour is unsubstantiated.


General setting: With Tiberius Fox out of the picture – the Empire’s most active and vocal militant force – Rastaban Saiph, an Empire general, emerged with unprecedented force, assassinated the generally unknown emperor of the Galactic Liberation Front, and crowned himself in charge.




“I can’t believe this is still being plastered all over the galaxy,” Miho snorted, scrolling through The Jewel Box, then back up to a specific image. “Blah blah, kidnapped an Empire princess, blah blah take the culprit alive at all costs…”

“You’re taking this too lightly,” the man to her left on the bridge chided, but Miho just grinned up at him.

“And you take everything too seriously, Terovin,” she chuckled, tossing her tablet down onto the console as they came out of warp at the co-ordinates she’d set earlier. “That Empire ass can set as high a bounty on me as he likes, it’ll get him nowhere.”

“I agree it’s unlikely you’ll be betrayed by the people we help, Captain, but there are plenty of credit-hungry bounty hunters who’d jump at the chance to turn you in.”

“I find your lack of faith disturbing,” Miho grumped. “Any bounty hunter worth their stars will take one look at that listing, realise it’s dirty Empire money, and decide against getting involved, while the idiots who don’t know better have no chance of catching me anyway.”

Terovin just grunted, and manually began to manoeuvre the Excellon closer to the large Empire freighter moving at sub-light speed toward Cassius V.

The other vessel seemed not to notice their approach, but neither on the Exellon’s bridge seemed the least bit surprised.

“You ready for this?” came a gruff voice from the corridor, before a huge tank of a man stomped into view.

“As always,” Miho smiled, standing to flex her shoulders. “A total cake-walk.”

“Captain!” Terovin barked just as Miho joined her compatriot in the hall. “An attack class Empire ship just appeared on our scanner.”

“What’s their transponder signature?” she grumbled, looking back to the monitors to await the answer.

“Ahh… TD096-Y-76,” he reported, then looked up and over at his captain. “It’s Commodore Fairchild.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” Miho cursed, throwing herself into seat while gesturing sharply with her hand. “Get us out of here.”

“Well that was productive,” the large man standing behind her rumbled, sour and surly.

“Why aren’t we moving?” Miho growled, glowering at her first officer.

“We’re locked in a tractor-beam,” Terovin reported. “Our magnetic reflux drive it still out of commission.”

“Perfect,” she muttered, raking her fingers through her hair.

“What now?” the large man queried, and Miho stood again, squaring her shoulders.

“Dress-ups,” she sighed.

“Seriously?” Terovin blinked. “There is absolutely no way Commodore Fairchild hasn’t seen that bounty notice.”

“What’s he going to do? Throw me in the brig?” she snorted, but Terovin didn’t look convinced.

“We both know he’s not everything he appears to be,” he pointed out. “Our luck has held so far, but this is a really risky gambit.”

“No choice,” she shrugged in resignation. “Come on, you’re with me.”


Antares stood ready with his boarding party, his usual steely expression coloured only by the red visor obscuring his eyes. He had plenty of other things to do with his time, but the unmarked ship running stealth so close to an Empire freighter couldn’t be ignored.

“They’ve cut thrusters, Commodore,” Corvus reported, and Antares nodded.

“Good,” he said curtly. “Let’s deal with this quickly.”

There was a deep rumble as the breaching clamps locked in on the captive ship, then several sharp hisses as the airlock between was pressurised.

He led from the front, with battle-ready Empire soldiers at his back, and with all confidence he stepped across the threshold… to be greeted by two figures.

“Huh?” one soldier ejected, his voice slightly muffled by his helmet, but not his surprise.

“I hope you have a very good reason for this, Commodore,” Miho dropped, her tone dripping with barely restrained annoyance.

Though he couldn’t possibly have anticipated her appearance, Antares did not flinch, nor did his impassive expression falter.

“Highness,” he acknowledged, bowing with effortless grace, and his soldiers followed suit.

“Kindly unhand my ship,” she dropped, staring flatly through Antares’ visor with expectance.

Her posture was perfect, her attire clearly of Empire origin, and the crown nestled in the mahogany tumble of her hair clearly declared she outranked even the Commodore.

Not that you’d know if from his reaction.

“Please understand, Highness,” he began evenly, despite the intensity of Miho’s gaze, “the Empire has been on high alert after your kidnapping, yet here you are in command of your own ship?”

Visibly, Miho’s irritation increased, while Antares remained ice-cold.

“Obviously,” she dropped, lips pursed. “And I do not intend to address your bafflement.”

Her chin tipped upward a little in a haughty gesture, but still Antares seemed unmoved, even if his soldiers began to shift a little uncomfortably.

Two wills: they seemed somehow to glow through the pace between them, burn and crackle.

“Regardless, I am unable to release your ship until I am satisfied you’re in no danger,” Antares told her flatly. “If this is your ship and crew, tell them to stand down while my people conduct their sweep.”

Terovin was the first to react, lifting his blaster a little higher, but Miho’s face slowly lit up with a smile.

“So devoted,” she praised – a voice of smooth, natural honey. “Very well.”

She stepped forward, eyes still locked, and offered him her hand.

“You shall entertain me in the meantime,” she added, gaze narrowing slightly until he took her hand and bent over it, touching his lips ever so lightly to the back of it.

“You are welcome aboard my ship, Highness,” Antares said as he straightened, resuming eye contact immediately.

Again, Terovin’s feet shifted, and Miho turned to him.

“Co-operate with Commodore Fairchild’s soldiers,” she commanded, and though she could not see his expression through the visor of his helmet, she knew he was scowling. “I have nothing to fear in his company, rest assured.”

It was then Antares who held his hand out to Miho, who -with all the graciousness in the galaxy – accepted his offering… and refused to grimace when his fingers coiled around hers almost painfully.

Leaving Terovin and her crew on the Excellon, Miho was escorted onto Antares’ ship all the way to his private quarters.


When the door hissed closed behind them, Miho remained silent and waited for Antares to finish his scrutiny.

“The last time I saw you,” he said finally, “you were beaming proudly behind your father as he seized control of the Empire.”

“Oh? You were there?” Miho queried, but Antares knew she’d seen him. “I didn’t think respect was your forte.”

At this taunting he took at large step toward her, but Miho did not move.

“Do not forget who I am,” she warned him instead, continuing to stare at him from beneath her lashes. “I’m here as a courtesy, because dressing you down in front of your men…”

“You’re here because I captured your ship,” he interrupted. “And because the Emperor listed a bounty all over the universe demanding your kidnapper and you, be brought to him.”

“I wasn’t aware you were a bounty hunter,” Miho retorted coldly, “let alone someone eager to do the Emperor’s bidding.”

“What are you up to?” Antares pressed, leaning a little toward her face, and Miho’s upper lip curled a little.

“When your soldiers are finished searching my ship, I will return to my business unhampered,” she told him sternly, turning her shoulder and slipping around him until he took her arm firmly. “Do not forget who I am,” she repeated, her sneer now full of pointed threat.

“And what would that be, Miho?” he sniffed, so close to her face she could feel his breath of her lips. “Empire militant? Assassin? Political strategist? Dutiful Princess?

“And fast approaching royally pissed off,” she growled, glancing down at his offending hand then back up.

“If you will not tell me,” he began again, and this time Miho interjected.

“I will not tell you,” she smirked, lifting her free hand toward his cheek, touching it lightly. “But by all means, do whatever you like to try and get it out of me.”

As Antares’ fingers enclosed her wrist, there was a sudden burst of sound from the intercom.

“Commodore!” Corvus barked. “The Princess’ ship has broken from our docking clamps and blasted beyond the range of our tractor beam.”

Antares’ grip on Miho tightened, but her expression had slipped back into stoicism.

“Your people will be off-loaded in due course,” she explained, unconcerned as Antares backed her up against the wall. “Unharmed, if a little embarrassed.”

“They abandoned you,” he hissed, aside from his grip the first real sign of irritation. “Why?”

“They have their orders,” Miho replied, not flinching when Antares planted one leg between hers.

“To what end?” he persisted.

“Let me ask you a question, Commodore,” she countered, testing the strength of his hold on her arms ever so slightly. “Why did you decide not to tell the Emperor you screwed his precious, innocent daughter after plotting your revenge so long?”

“Innocent,” he exhaled, his lips brushing hers as he enunciated the word, “is something you are most certainly not.”

“You’d know,” she smirked, bumping forward just enough to bring their lips together more solidly.

“Commodore Fairchild?” Corvus’ voice came again, and Antares released Miho to slam one palm against the intercom on the wall beside Miho’s head.

“Let them go,” he ordered briskly, never allowing his narrowed eyes to stray from Miho’s. “The Princess is safe, and that is all that matters.”

“Oh the chivalry,” Miho taunted, rotating one of the buttons on Antares’ uniform. “Aren’t you just my hero?”

Snakes and Starships: II

“That would suggest I think you can be saved,” Antares countered, sliding his hand across the wall until his fingers curled lightly around one side of her throat.

“Luckily I have no need or want of that,” she whispered, purposefully rolling her hips forward against him. “Other things, however, for which I once developed a taste,” she added, licking her lips suggestively, “I don’t mind admitting a desire for.”

He did not move but for the slight twitch of his fingers as Miho kissed him again, a long, lingering kiss she drove into his mouth with increasing insistence until he pulled his face away.

“You assume much,” he growled, and though it sounded like a reprimand, a warning, his body had already betrayed him.

“I’ll even let you be in control,” Miho grinned, nipping at his lips. “Unless you’re feeling submissive.”

In response, Antares pressed his lips to her neck and began to burn a trail upward along the line of her jaw.

“Guess not,” Miho chuckled breathily, as Antares draped her captive arm around his neck.

While he made his way to her lips, claiming them with a possessive force, Miho dug her fingers into his glossy black hair and raked her nails across his scalp.

“I suppose your rank meant more to you than retribution,” she taunted, grunting as he seized her waist and hoisted her off her feet. “And I nearly told him myself, just to see the expression crack his face. Oh, the ruin he’d bring down on you.”

“You should concern yourself more with the ruin I am about to bring down on you,” he snarled, and wrapping her legs around his middle, Miho cackled.

“Do it,” she urged breathily. “I want you to.”

No more words were exchanged.

Whatever had transpired between them in the past, it seemed to fuel a dangerously potent passion that tangled them both in a smouldering, lustful haze. The soft clatter of their uniforms hitting the floor was muffled by the quickening ebb and flow of respiration, a song of increasing desperation.

Antares danced them around the room, shoving Miho against surfaces here and there, until the cold glass of his fish tank against her bare skin cause her to let out a particularly large gasp.

Satisfied by the sound, Antares grinned triumphantly into Miho’s face and dug his thumbs into her thighs. Steadying his stance, he teased against her slickness until she bit down hard on his shoulder. The enthusiasm of his penetration caused Miho to cling to his broad shoulders, ten sharp, blood-red knives clawing bright, erotic sigils into his skin.

Their union scorched against the cold expanse of space, a fiery maelstrom of energy consuming both until their bodies and wills could take no more.

When they both ached, Miho laid against Antares’ chest, idly flicking his nipple, while he lightly tugged against a strand of her hair.

“Next time, I’m on top,” Miho murmured languidly.

“Next time?” Antares repeated.

“Sex with you is, not entirely unpleasant,” she mused. “But,” she went on, twisting the large ring she was wearing until the massive garnet slid sideways, “all good things come to an end.”

“I’m delivering you to the Emperor,” Antares announced, completely deadpan, but Miho didn’t seem fazed.

“I know,” she sighed comfortably, smearing her thumb across the clear gloss the garnet had revealed, before smoothing a thin film across her lips. “For all your rebelliousness, you love your position and power too much to give it up for a sweet piece of ass.”

Still, despite this clear point of conflict, Miho smiled as she slowly stretched a leg over him and rolled on top, cheekily toying with his lower lip with her index finger before sucking on it hungrily.

“Unfortunately,” she murmured, pausing to smother him for a few more, enjoyable seconds, “I have other things to do, than bow to my father’s whims.”

With one last kiss, Miho rocked back, and though Antares’ hands had come up to rest on her hips, they fell away from her body heavily.

“What?” he hissed, brows twitching as that fuzzy, weighted sensation began to spread throughout his whole body.

“Sorry, Commodore,” Miho yawned, shifting off him and the bed and beginning to collect her clothing. “I hope Corvus didn’t inform the Emperor you’d recovered his daughter, because you’re going to have some serious explaining to do when you arrive empty handed.”

Outrage exploded from Antares’s eyes, but he found himself completely unable to move. He was powerless, able only to track her movements as she tidied her hair and reaffixed her crown before pulling the sheets up to Antares’ chin.

“Paralysis will wear off in a few hours,” she informed him glibly, lightly touching his chin before heading to the door. “That should give you plenty of time to come up with an entertaining excuse.”

Blowing him a kiss, she then left him to his no doubt infuriated rumination, while she slipped out into the corridor.

She hadn’t expected guards, after all, she wasn’t an enemy, and so for the most part Miho moved unhampered through the ship. Despite wearing a crown, she hadn’t always been a princess – her repertoire of skills was extensive from a life lived in the military thanks to her father.

He’d been good for something at least.

That Antares’ ship was Empire in origin made it easy for Miho to initialise the escape shuttle, and before Corvus could rush to find Antares and tell him about it, she was well and truly on her way to the nearest colony port.


“You sure leaving Jenna and Atlas alone together is a good idea, Jazz?” Jaxon queried, giving her a light nudge in the ribs as they navigated the streets of Cygnus II.

“Sure,” Jazz shrugged, scanning their path.

Expecting to get jumped was an occupational hazard.

“That’s it? Sure?” Jaxon poked, and though Orion sent him a warning glance, he continued. “She’s been acting all kinds of jealous since you and that grumpy bastard got close.”

“Quit creating drama where there isn’t any,” Jazz sniffed. “Besides, she’s about to have her hands full with her Union defector friend.”

“Remind me again why we’re helping the guy?” Jaxon snorted. “How many times did we have to rescue Jenna because of him?”

“Too many,” Orion responded curtly, “but the fact remains he’s had access to Union technology and other secrets. He could be useful.”

“You’re just jealous because he’s prettier than you,” Jazz snickered, delivered in casual hip-check.

“Of that guy?” Jaxon scoffed. “The legendary Jaxon Silva is jealous of no man, especially not one with a ponytail.”

Orion rolled his eyes, while Nova frowned slightly in consternation.

“I sense some masculine insecurity,” she announced, which caused Jazz to laugh, but the smile dropped at the sound of blaster fire. “That is Union weaponry,” she assessed, shifting her hold on her own massive cannon.

“I really want this to just be a coincidence,” Jazz muttered, taking out her own pistol.

“Doesn’t matter what it is, it’s coming from the direction we’re headed in,” Orion pointed out. “Nova take the rear.”

Jaxon might have made a lewd comment, but he too was readying himself for combat.


When Miho had landed the escape pod at the space port, she’d wasted no time leaving it there. She knew the moment he was able, Antares would track it to her location. Terovin and the Excellon crew would come and retrieve her eventually, but for the time being she needed to blend in – not something she could do in full Empire regalia.

Sticking to the shadows as much as she could, she skirted back alleys until she could ‘borrow’ some clothing from a washing line: a ridiculously mismatched ensemble, but far less ostentatious than her uniform.

“Life would be so much easier if…” she muttered to herself, but stopped mid-sentence and mid-step when she recognised a dreadfully familiar flash of white. “…if that guy died in a hole,” she finished in a rasping growl, glancing upward to a nearby balcony before hauling herself up. “What the fuck are you doing here, Sol?”

Like a cat she crept along rooftops, tailing the Union Admiral and his entourage silently, unable to keep from satisfying her curiosity. He was the kind of man who hated doing things for himself, so whatever had brought him to the streets of Cygnus II, it had to be important – just the kind of thing Miho loved to spoil.

What she discovered at the end of their journey, was another Union soldier, one garbed in an exo-suit she had become painfully familiar with. But there was no camaraderie, and the solidly built soldier took a defensive stance the moment he caught sight of the Admiral.

“Your futile attempt at freedom is over, Aquila,” Evander Sol smirked, as the Union soldiers spread out to block all routes of escape. “I will ensure you pay for your disloyalty with your life.”

As usual, Sol spouted self-righteous Union rhetoric clichés as easily as he inhaled, and Miho had to stop herself from looking for something to throw. Instead, she took stock of the surrounding area, did another headcount, plotted several courses of action.

She may have been there to re-join her crew, but there was nothing she liked more than spoiling the Union’s day.

Evander Sol was completely irresistible to her – a pompous do-right hypocrite of the highest order: a manipulative monster wearing a fractured mask of virtue.

“Mirra couldn’t clean up her own mess?” the beleaguered soldier snapped, his tense gaze also analysing the situation carefully.

“Admiral Mirra’s folly is her arrogance,” Sol declared, the words rolling off the tongue without even a hint of the irony.

It was all Miho could do not to give herself away by cackling incredulously.

“Her failure will be my success,” Sol continued smugly, “and I intend to be the one to flip the switch on your life myself.”

Of course, Miho didn’t know the backstory here, but the opportunity to mess with both Sol and Mirra was just too great a temptation. Above them all at their backs, Miho rose slowly from her concealed crouch, and she knew the exact moment the trapped soldier saw her.

Beaming, she inclined her head to him before looking down, poised on the roof’s edge like a diver – her intention clear.

“Are you in on it too, Sergeant?” the soldier asked, a good deal of accusation in his tone, and their attention remained on him. “Do you sacrifice your faithful? Your loyal? Do you tell them they’re serving a greater good while being the rot at the core of the Union?”

Not long ago he wouldn’t have dreamed of saying such things, but his eyes had been opened. He still believed in freedom, in fairness, in the things the Union said it stood for, but now he knew it was all smoke and mirrors serving the interests of a powerful, corrupt few.

“I will not allow your lies to pervert the sanctity of the Union,” Sol announced pretentiously, his victorious smirk far too much for Miho to tolerate.

As if she could fly, she launched herself from the roof. Her fall was a gracefully choreographed arch away from the building with Sol and his soldiers her intended landing zone.


By the time blaster fire flashed into view, alarmed shouts were audible, but the crew of the Promise only skidded to a halt when Tyrian appeared with a body cradled against him with one arm, shooting behind him with the other.

“Back to the Promise,” Orion barked, before reporting back to Atlas. “We’re coming in hot, Atlas.”

“So what else is new?” Atlas’ voice grumbled over comms. “Who’d we piss off this time?”

“Union,” Orion answered, laying down some covered fire so Tyrian could catch up.

“To be fair it’s Tyrian’s fault,” Jaxon clarified. “And he’s bringing a friend.”

“More strays?” Atlas grumped. “We ain’t got room for any more strays.”

“No time for a discussion,” Orion barked, little plumes of smoke erupting around he and the others as they fled.

Snakes and Starships: III

Evander Sol’s ship dogged the Promise as it tried to leave Cygnus II, but Atlas was able to fly the Union pilot – not that you’d know it given Atlas’ bitching.

When they’d boarded, Jazz took charge of the unconscious woman Tyrian had been carrying, and Orion ordered Jaxon to keep an eye on their unknown in the infirmary.

“What the hell was that?” Atlas snarled, glaring at Tyrian from his seat.

“Evander Sol,” Tyrian answered, looking equally as displeased. “I don’t know how he found me.”

“That fancy suit would be my guess,” Atlas grated. “Bringing that asshole into things.”

“It’s clean,” Tyrian retorted, bristling and balling his fists.

It was then he realised there was blood on his hands, and this seemed to take the heat out of his irritation.

“Who’s the woman?” Orion questioned.

“No fan of Sergeant Sol, that’s for certain,” Tyrian replied. “She came out of nowhere and just pounced. Disarmed half of Sol’s soldiers without a weapon, took one then started firing.”

“Brave,” Nova appraised, but Atlas disagreed.


“Out-numbered and out-gunned, Sergeant Sol had me pinned,” Tyrian frowned, glancing toward the corridor leading away from the bridge. “He’d have captured me before you could arrive if not for her.”

“So you thought you’d bring her onto my ship?” Atlas glowered. “Having you here is bad enough.”

“She may just have saved my life,” Tyrian argued, firing up again. “I wasn’t going to leave her there for the Union to… butcher.”

“All right, that’s enough,” Orion broke in, placing himself between the two men before things could get really out of hand. “We’ll have Jenna take another look at the suit to make sure it’s not hiding anything the Union can track, and when the woman wakes up we can find out who she is and where we can leave her.”

“Sol is like a dog with a bone,” Tyrian scowled. “If he finds out who she is, he’ll hunt her down too. Because of me.”

“That’s your problem, Buddy,” Atlas sniffed, turning himself back to the controls.

“I’ll take responsibility,” Tyrian nodded staunchly, then stalked from the bridge, Nova following him when Orion tipped his chin.

In the infirmary, Jazz had had to pretty much kick Jaxon out the door so she could treat the anonymous woman’s wound without her clothing in the way. The blaster wound in her shoulder was clean, but it was the bloody laceration on the back of her head that concerned Jazz most. At least the bleeding had stopped.

“You sure picked an interesting group to fall in with,” she said quietly, dragging a portable scanner over and taking images of the woman’s skull. “Hmm, well you’re at least lucky there are no fractures.”

After checking for brain swelling, Jazz covered the unnamed woman with a blanket and unlocked the infirmary door. Not a second later, Tyrian entered with Jaxon at his heels.

“How is she?” Tyrian queried, a deep furrow between his brows.

“She took a nasty blow to the head,” Jazz reported, “but the wound isn’t as bad as it looks, and I’d be really surprised if she didn’t wake soon. Scalps always bleed a lot. The blaster wound is going to bother her for a while, but it’s not life threatening.”

“Any clues to who she is?” Jaxon asked, drawing a little closer to get a better look at the woman’s face.

“Nope,” Jazz admitted. “The only thing of any interest she had in her possession was this ring.”

She had removed the large gemstone ring from her patient’s hand and placed it on a tray nearby; its size and sparkle immediately engaged Jaxon’s interest.

“That thing has got to be worth…” he began, but Tyrian cut him off with his thoughts vocalised.

“Incongruous with her attire,” he noted, and Jazz nodded.

“Agreed. The clothing is several sizes too big,” Jazz said. “Not what I’d expect from someone who leaps from rooftops and attacks heavily armed Union soldiers.”

“There wasn’t much time to consider the reasoning, but I’m sure Sergeant Sol recognised her,” Tyrian mused darkly. “He seemed particularly surprised.”

“Then she could be Union?” Jaxon offered, then frowned.

“Possible,” Tyrian supposed, but he didn’t sound convinced. “But if she is, she isn’t afraid to make – or be – an enemy of one of the most ruthless men among their ranks. And for what? To save a stranger?”

“Sure you don’t know her?” Jazz poked.

“I’d like to get to know her,” Jaxon smirked, his eyes wandering over the sleeping woman’s body.

“Cut that out,” Jazz scowled grabbing Jaxon by the arm and propelling him toward the door. “Lay a hand on my patient and my next procedure will be a double orchidectomy.”

“Orchi-huh?” he blinked.

“She’ll remove your testicles,” Tyrian explained.

At this, Jaxon took a big step away from both the bed and Jazz.

“Tyrian, you made it!” Jenna exclaimed, nearly falling over herself as she burst into the infirmary and unashamedly threw herself at him.

“Hi there, Firebug,” Tyrian smiled, giving her a light hug. “Yeah I made it, though not without incident.”


Atlas continued to share his sentiments about their unexpected guest, but his voice had dropped to a disgruntled mumble.

“Just get us far away from Cygnus II and Evander Sol,” Orion instructed curtly.

“The hell does it look like I’m doing?” Atlas grunted.

“Ideas, Captain?” Nova prompted, seeing Orion deep in thought.

“It seems unlikely Mirra would tell another admiral about her failure,” Orion reasoned, frowning.

“But a death-row prisoner’s escape, especially someone with Lieutenant Aquila’s record, would be difficult to keep quiet,” Nova pointed out, and Orion nodded in agreement.

“God damnit,” Atlas cursed, and Nova and Orion looked to him. “We’re being hailed by your asshat brother.”

“On screen,” Orion sighed, rubbing the back of his neck and looking up to where Antares’ face soon appeared. “Antares,” he greeted as coolly as he could. “To what do we owe the pleasure?”

“You just blasted off Cygnus II past a Union warship,” Antares began, without any pause or pleasantries, “with something that belongs to me.”

Genuine surprise patterned Orion’s face.

“You picking fights with Sol on purpose now?” Orion queried, shrugging his shoulders a little. “Not that he’s much of a challenge these days.”

“Very soon, the Union is going to be the least of your worries,” he declared, his tone cold, expression serious – not that he was often anything other than those two things. “Give me the princess,” he went on sternly. “This is one bounty too hot even for your band of misfits to handle.”

“I know he’s got a pretty, purple, ponytail, but calling the guy a princess?” Orion smirked, but his mind was turning over.

Atlas, meanwhile, looked to the door leading off the bridge, the knowledge of what was in the infirmary with Jazz making his hackles rise.

Unimpressed, Antares glowered at his brother.

“I’m not interested in the Union traitor,” he dropped. “But unless you want the entirety of the Empire’s fleet breathing down your neck, you’d best hand the woman over and leave this sector post haste.”

The idea of being the Empire’s enemy number one didn’t thrill Orion much; skirmishes were one thing, poking his nose in their business, sure, but in the belly of the Promise laid the injured daughter of the Empire’s greatest tyrant. That was more than a target on their backs if word got out.

“You said bounty,” Orion pointed out, focusing back in, and Antares’ lips twitched in displeasure.

“Believe me, she’s not worth any amount of money,” he asserted.

“You’re right, we wouldn’t take payment from a genocidal maniac like Rastaban Saiph,” Orion snorted, “but I know you’re not just toeing the Empire line, Antares, so what do you actually want with his daughter?”

A short silence that followed, which Orion eventually broke with a chuckle.

“It can’t be,” he laughed, folding one hand over his stomach.

Antares looked even less amused.

“No,” he responded flatly. “All you need to worry about is the pain the Empire will bring if she is caught on your ship.”

“We might not do deals with filth like Saiph,” Atlas put in, still in his chair with a bottle of whiskey in one hand, “but what’s your girlfriend worth to you?”

At this point, Antares inhaled a slow breath, attempting to hold his temper, while Orion continued to stare expectantly.

“I am trying to help you,” he said, very nearly through his teeth, and Atlas hissed out an incredulous splutter, followed by a loud laugh.

“And I’m the centre of the fuckin’ universe,” he announced.

“Atlas has a point,” Orion noted, now crossing his arms over his chest. “You get to claim the bounty, and we get nothing, which doesn’t sound like much of a deal.”

Again there was a pause, Antares’ eyes darkening with each second that passed.

“Fine,” he said eventually. “Name your price.”


Jazz finally kicked Jaxon and Jenna out of the infirmary but allowed Tyrian to remain. He sat at the woman’s side with a scowl crumpling his forehead, glaring at her face like it could tell him who she was and why she had intervened.

When the door opened and Orion stepped in, Tyrian raised his head and examined the man’s expression; he didn’t like what he saw.

“What’s going on?” Jazz asked as Tyrian got to his feet.

“That,” Orion began, pointing at the unconscious woman, “is Miho Saiph, daughter of maybe the biggest tyrant in the history of all species in the known universe.”

“Saiph?” Tyrian blinked with no small measure of horror, looking between Orion and Miho.

The Emperor Saiph?” Jazz added slowly, her eyes bugging.

“That might explain her zeal in attacking Sol,” Tyrian mused darkly.

“The last guy was bad enough,” Jazz exhaled, hand moving to cover her mouth. “But Saiph is…”

“A true monster,” Tyrian finished for her.

“Antares is going to take her off our hands,” Orion told them. “He’ll give us the bounty the Emperor is offering for her safe return, and we don’t have to have anything else to do with her or her father.”

“Wait,” Tyrian frowned uncomfortably. “What was she doing on Cygnus II dressed like that?”

“Who cares?” Atlas huffed, appearing at Orion’s shoulder a moment before he all but stomped over to Jazz. “I want her off my ship.”

“Uhmm,” Jazz murmured, pinching her lower lip between her teeth for a second before finishing her thought. “No.”

All three men blinked at her.

“What do you mean, no?” Atlas responded gruffly.

“She is my patient, in my infirmary,” she declared staunchly, “so I get to say when she’s well enough to travel.”

“Come on, Jazz,” Atlas scowled. “This ain’t anybody, this is…”

“I heard who she is,” Jazz broke in, setting her jaw stubbornly.

“And I’m not comfortable with treating an unconscious injured woman like a payday,” Tyrian added, much to Atlas’ irritation.

“The day you get an opinion on my ship is the day I give up drinking,” he growled.

“That wouldn’t be so bad,” Jazz muttered, but the foul look Atlas sent her warned her not to say anything more.

“She wasn’t marching through the city, flanked by battalions and armed to the teeth,” Tyrian pressed. “She was skirting rooftops in clothing obviously not hers, and she saved my life for whatever reason. The very least she’s owed is the chance to give a little context before she’s bundled up and carted away like cargo.”

Orion seemed to be considering Tyrian’s plea, much to Atlas’ disdain.

“At the very least it’s worth finding out what she was up to,” Tyrian added, and Orion seemed to be swayed.

“You’ve gotta be kidding me!” Atlas exclaimed.

“I want her in hard-light cuffs before she wakes,” Orion said finally. “Atlas, we need somewhere to lie low for the time being.”

“This is bullshit,” Atlas snarled, stomping out of the infirmary in a volatile humour.

“Secure her,” Orion commanded, his lips a thin, sour line. “And if she makes one false move, Jazz, sedate her. Nova will stand guard.”


“No way,” Jaxon dropped, his eyes wide. “What am I, an emperor’s daughter magnet?”

“She didn’t come looking for you,” Tyrian pointed out flatly.

“Hey, she could have heard I was going to rescue you on Cygnus II,” Jaxon postulated. “And just happened to run into you getting cornered by Sol.”

“Unlikely,” Tyrian responded coldly.

“Quit the bickering, you’re giving me a headache,” Atlas complained, filling his tumbler with whiskey. “What’re you going to do about your brother?”

Orion scratched at the back of his neck.

“I doubt very much he’s interested in the bounty being offered by the Emperor,” he mused. “But I don’t know what his real motivation is. Whatever it is, he’s not going to be pleased we’re not following his orders.”

“I’m all kinds of cut up about that,” Atlas snorted, before taking another swig,

“What about Sergeant Sol?” Jenna piped up, looking a little worried. “I mean, we’re not his favourite people already, and, then we go and, well she went and beat up his people and we rescued her so…”

“For the record, I was against that,” Atlas grumped, and Jenna took the opportunity to move a little closer to him. “And the fact Sol’s involved?”

Atlas looked like he wanted to spit.

“It wouldn’t hurt to get a little information on what the Empire is up to,” Orion reasoned thoughtfully. “If the princess isn’t cooperative, we lose nothing offloading her to Antares.”

“Be the only good to come of that guy,” Atlas added.

“He is a bit scary,” Jenna admitted.

“Wouldn’t act so tough without all that Empire tech behind him,” Atlas snorted.

“We could just tell Sol, Fairchild has the princess,” Jaxon pointed out, and everyone looked at him.

“A surprisingly good idea,” Orion acknowledged, and Jaxon looked offended.

“Surprisingly?” Jaxon balked in exaggerated offence.

“Jenna, can you subtly bring this information to the Union’s attention?”

“Uhm, sure,” she nodded, pulling her tablet up from where it hung at her side. “Easy-peasy.”

“We’ll lay low on Pragmicet, on the outskirts of Los Urlio,” Orion informed then, shifting his eyes to Tyrian. “Once we figure out what’s going on, we’ll decide what further action to take.”


It was with a near blinding headache that Miho awoke. She was hesitant to open her eyes, but as memories returned to her, she became increasingly aware she had no idea where she was.

Sol’s outraged face was the last thing she remembered, but the smile tugging at her lips caused her skull to throb with greater ferocity.

It was her muttering that drew Jazz’s attention, and before Miho was properly awake, Orion and Tyrian entered the infirmary, leaving Nova outside just a shout away if need be.

When she did peel her eyelids back, it was Orion’s face that first came into focus, and though his hair was short, there was an odd familiarity about him. Her wonder, however, lasted only as long as it took for her to realise she was in cuffs.

“Did I somehow get invited to a weird foursome?” she murmured, her gaze wandering to the other two people in the room. “Again?”

Then Jaxon entered.

“Fivesome?” Miho grumbled, eyes finally fixing on Tyrian. “Huh, well if it isn’t Evander Sol’s best friend.”

“Hardly,” Tyrian responded, but it was Orion who continued.

“We know who you are, Highness,” he declared seriously. “What we don’t know if what you were doing on Cygnus II, and why you attacked Sol.”

“Unarmed,” Tyrian added.

If being questioned straight off the bat was supposed to faze her, Miho showed no signs.

“I don’t need a reason,” she snorted. “The guy is a grade-A asshole. I should think, however, given my insatiable need to ruin Sol’s day allowed muscles here to avoid capture – and it’s clear that is what was about to happen – I’d get a little more thanks than hardlight cuffs.”

“That doesn’t explain why you were on Cygnus II in the first place,” Orion pointed out.

“Very observant,” she smiled, exhaling slowly and gently stretching her muscles.

“Just take it easy,” Jazz told her, moving a little closer though Orion stopped her. “You were injured covering Tyrian’s escape.”

“Tyrian, is it?” Miho mused, giving him a look up and down. “So what was it you did to piss Sol off? Everything about you screams Union, so, what was it? Too slow following blind orders?”

Had he not now become accustomed to being a ‘traitor’, Tyrian might have winced at that comment, but as it was, his expression remained neutral.

“Cygnus II is in Union space,” he said. “What business could the daughter of Rastaban Saiph have on a Union colony?”

“Must I be the daughter of Rastaban Saiph?” Miho counter-questioned, her eyes roaming again until she spied her ring across the room. “Are you all the sum of your parents? Hmph.”

She’d have crossed her arms if she was able.

Orion drew himself up a little taller.

“Well, if all you’re going to do is make attempts at misdirection, then you’re worth no more than the bounty Commodore Fairchild has offered for your return.”

His eyes narrowed, and hers hardened – he’d definitely touched a nerve.

“Why would he be so insistent?” Orion added, his tone as infuriatingly off-hand as he could make it.

“I honestly don’t think he’d want me to tell you,” she smirked, a knowing and arrogant smirk that actually reminded Orion of his brother.

“Is that your final answer?” Orion prompted.

“You cheated on him, didn’t you?” Jaxon piped up for the first time.

Despite some discomfort, Miho lifted herself up a little to peer at Jaxon more closely.

“Are you offering?” she asked, and beneath the weight of her scrutiny Jaxon looked surprisingly caught off guard.

“Uhmm,” he murmured noncommittally.

Her gaze shifted to his metal arm.

“You could at least give a girl a hand,” she added bitingly.

“Come on,” Jazz implored, though she looked a little annoyed. “We could have just handed you over to Commodore Fairchild already, but we wanted to hear your side of the story.”

“You’re all awfully Commodore this and Commodore that,” Miho noted, looking over Jazz from toe to top with far more appreciation than she’d given Jaxon. “Anyone would think this…”

She paused to take them all in as she decided what to call them.

“… group, was pro-Empire, though that doesn’t account for him,” she reasoned, focused turned back to Tyrian. “Unless you’re a traitor – that would explain why Sol descended from on high to deal with you personally.”

“I am not a traitor,” Tyrian scowled, taking a step closer to where Miho was lying, much to her enjoyment.

“Enough,” Orion huffed. “We’ve no time for games, so if you’re not interested in telling us what you’re up to, you can discuss it with the Commodore on his ship.”

“You think he’ll pay you and then just leave you go on your merry way?” Miho scowled, as Orion lifted his command tablet.

“We have an understanding,” Orion smiled thinly, tapping against the screen until Corvus’ face appeared. “Tell Commodore Fairchild we have what he wants.”

“Waaaaait,” Miho grated out slowly, the sound of loathing.

“You’ve got some nerve, Orion,” Antares growled from the tablet’s surface, but Orion hit the mute button. “I’m listening.”

Everyone was listening, and Miho did not look the slightest bit pleased.

“Commodore Fairchild interfered with my covert mission, removing me from my ship,” she explained. “Since I have more important things to do than him,” she continued, not losing momentum despite the innuendo, “I was forced to extricate myself, and landed on Cygnus II to rendezvous with my crew.”

“What covert mission?” Orion pressed.

“Sure,” Miho scoffed, “allow me to waive all subterfuge and spill the inner workings of my covert mission.”

“It couldn’t have been too important if you were willing to risk getting caught by Sol, or worse,” Tyrian noted, and Miho sneered.

“I think you underestimate my dislike for the man,” she snapped, rolling her eyes.

“If you’re on a mission, what’s with the bounty your old man posted?” Jaxon queried.

“The bounty is my cover, obviously,” she sniffed. “There was no kidnapping, there is no kidnapper.”

“Cover for what?” Orion insisted, but Miho ignored his question.

“Which is why, Orion, giving me to Fairchild is as good as handing him to the Emperor for execution – getting in the way of my plans? He’ll pay with more than his rank for that, and where would that leave you and your understanding?”

Orion couldn’t help but look down at his tablet’s screen, where Antares was glowering up at him.

Then he ended the call.

“Smart,” Miho nodded smugly, then held up her bound wrists, but the shake of Orion’s head said it was over.

“Your story doesn’t add up,” Orion declared, and Tyrian added his thoughts.

“A cover that would have every power-hungry Empire thug looking to gain the Emperor’s favour hunting for you? Sounds counter-productive to me.”

“You’re making assumptions,” she snorted.

“Counter-productive unless you want every power-hungry Empire thug hunting you,” Orion concluded, and Miho rest her head back and let out a long, slow breath.

“All you small-fry need to know, is that the universe will be a much better place if you let me get on with my work,” she huffed.

“You still want to let her go?” Orion asked Tyrian, who rolled his shoulders but did not allow his attention to wander from the bound princess.

“Give us a reason to let you go,” Tyrian said – not imploring, but Miho could see he really didn’t want to turn her over to the Empire.

“You dislike the Empire that much?” she questioned, laboriously pulling herself up into a sitting position.

“I dislike anyone who harms others for their own benefit,” Tyrian responded earnestly, which caused Miho to chuckle.

“You want to know what I’m up to?” she posed, and everyone in the infirmary nodded. “I’ve been going on a killing spree.”