Hangar 35, Lewitt Port, Gliese 900.1 System

Furieux swore loudly inside the roomy cargo bay of the Viridian Embrace. He had taken the Lakon Type-7 out  on loan only a week ago from a dealer on Schuster Hub in the Wuru system and was beginning to think it had been a bad idea. On two separate occasions he had scraped the rear of the ship when attempting to dock, not being comfortable in piloting such a large vessel. The second incident had seen some internal damage done to the ships air recycler. While only minor repairs were required, access to the life support panel was difficult to reach. Air quality within the ship was poor however,  leading to the pilot experiencing dizzy spells while in flight. After informing Commander Walford of his plan to take a break from their trading and run through some diagnostics in the hangar, the fellow Dragon joked that of all people, Furieux should be used to feeling a bit squiffy, given his taste for strong drink. In truth, while he welcomed the banter between his comrades in the 8th Dragon Squadron, Furieux was glad for the alone time. The man’s reputation for being somewhat of a bon vivant often overshadowed the fact that he could be very deep, reticent and slightly introverted. Of course, he did his best to keep these attributes hidden from his peers and  only his sister, Anais, who lived and worked on Darwyn in their home system of Zeta Tucanae was aware of his deeply rooted and well-concealed sensitivity. The amount of alcohol that he consumed was extraordinary, a way to remove himself from himself, a means of escape.  After leaving his home system, Furieux’s mantra was simple; no bonds,  no ties, no attachments. Ensuring that he flew solo, and staying on the move, it had served him well.

Reaching into the recycler unit again, Furieux felt around inside, searching for the replacement fuse that had slipped his grasp while attempting to replace it within its socket. This time, he managed to locate it and successfully press it into place.

“Alright then,” he mumbled to himself, “Here goes.”

Standing back to examine the control panel, he reached out and powered up the instrument. Nothing happened. The unit was dead.

He sighed and  slumped down onto the top of an unused cargo canister.  There were no seats in the cargo bay. Every inch was reserved for freight.

“Maybe a drink will help me figure this jazz out.” he muttered, looking around the hold for the case of Gerasian Gueuze that he saved for emergencies such as this. Gueuze beer was a favourite of his when he didn’t have access to Centauri’s finest export, Mega Gin. The stuff glowed in the dark due to the bio luminescent algae that made up the primary ingredients. Opening a crate, Furieux removed a bottle and  danced it in his hands, admiring its vibrance.

“Maybe you should replace the fuse in the lower left socket instead of boozing it up?” suggested a voice behind him.

Furieux swung around, his right hand dopping the bottle and immediately reaching for his pulse pistol. Leaning against the arch that led to other parts of the ship stood Commander Talynne Star.

“Sweet mother of all Tucans, Star!” Furieux yelled. “Stealth much?”

“Put your gun away, Deu, it doesn’t suit you.” she giggled.

Commander Star had joined the 8th Dragon Squadron back during the Eta Draconis contract She was an accomplished fighter pilot and integral part of the crew. Furieux had first encountered the woman on a training mission in the Eta Draconis system where she single-handedly took down a test Ananconda, possibly the most dangerous of vessels, from the cockpit of a Core Dynamics Eagle with little to no effort. After the battle, Furieux’s employer, President Vidar Vondell of the Gold Vision Company had requested that he was to ensure her induction to the 8th ran smoothly. Given that Furieux’s weakness for women ran a close second to his penchant for booze, Vondell had knowingly enforced the need for professionalism. Somehow, Furieux had adhered to this, and treated Star in the same manner as the rest of the Dragons. No bonds. No ties. No attachments.

“How long have you been standing there?” Furieux asked, re-holstering the weapon.

“Long enough to realise you don’t know the first thing about life support systems. Here, let me.” she replied, moving over to the air recycler and reaching inside. Furieux smirked and took the opportunity to open the bottle of Gueuze with a practiced hand and took a long swig. Within two minutes, Star retracted her hand and switched on the power. The soft hum that reverberated through the Viridian Embrace suggested that she had indeed returned the unit into fully working order.

Furieux raised an eyebrow. “Impressive. What else are you good at?” he grinned.

“More than I get credit for among this group of drunken bums it seems.” Talynne winked, taking a seat. “What the frell possessed you to buy one of these bricks?”

“This…brick,” he gestured, “…is about to make me rich. I have aspirations to fly one of those Saud Kruger Orcas at some point and this is my ticket to the dream. Don’t you like it?”

Talynne peered around the hold. The room was large, utilitarian. “Could use a bit of a tidy up, and it stinks of liquor.” she offered.

Furieux gaped at her incredulously. “I appreciate your input, Star, but I don’t see the need to beautify the interior of a ship that no one but me is likely to see. I always fly solo. Brings me to the point, what are you doing here?”

Talynne reached into her pack and pulled out a bottle of clear fluid that Furieux instantly recognised as Centauri Mega Gin. Holding it out at arms length she offered it to him. “CMG as requested, sir.” she smiled. “All the way from Hutton.”

“You flew all the way to Hutton for this? Damn, Star, I was joking when I asked you to swing by Alpha Centauri.   Mind you, this stuff is like painite here right now. Bernie has run out. ” Furieux said, accepting the gift. Bernie was the bartender on the local watering hole on Lewitt port.

“Not anymore, I dropped off another six cases at the Star & Garter already. Seems to keep the troops happy.” she said. “And what do you mean you fly solo? I distinctly remember that you had company on a mission during the Eta Draconis contract. A certain Vondell wasn’t it?”

“That was under extreme circumstances, Star.” said Furieux, recalling the assignment that Vondell had first sent him on.  His employer was adamant that his daughter, Alessandra, who was also the  head of security for GVC, was to fly with him to ensure the contract was completed successfully.

“Yeah…and I bet that these extreme circumstances that involved a pretty female took a lot of arm twisting, right?” Talynne joked.

“Without a doubt. I had no choice in the matter.” he smirked, swallowing another mouthful of Geueze. No bonds. No ties. No attachments. Vondell’s daughter was just another link in the chain.

Interrupting the momentary silence, the ship’s comms system alert sounded. Furieux reached into his flight suit and produced a dataslate. Notifications originating from any of Furieux’s registered ship’s cockpit could be accessed using these incredibly useful devices and he brought up the transmission data on screen and skimmed over it. He visibly paled. Talynne, realising that something important had come up, got to her feet.

“I’ll leave you in peace, commander.” she said.

Furieux, distracted, slowly lifted his head and looked directly at her – through her – for a few seconds before saying anything.

“Yeah sure.” he replied, lost in thought as he watched her turn and head towards the exit. “Oh, and Star?”

She spun on her heels and looked at him. “Yeah?”

“Thank you for the gin. They need you around, you know. The Dragons.” he said.

“Of course they do. I’m not so sure about you though.” she replied, then promptly left the hold.

Furieux sat in silence for a few moments before looking at the dataslate again. Unscrewing the lid from the bottle of gin, he took three long gulps before he finally picked up the slate again and began to read;

***

Relay Transmission: GCRT#8534289

Transmission Date: 16/04/3301

Message Origin: ettieneFURIEUX; Furieux House; Darwyn; Zeta Tucanae System

Message Destination: deuilFURIEUX; Lewitt Port; Gliese A Gleise 900.1 System

Encoding: Secure Encoding Protocol

[START OF MESSAGE]

Deuil.

This correspondence may surprise you given the circumstances surrounding your departure of Darwyn. Be that as it may, know that I bear you no ill will. Many months have passed since we last conversed and I am well aware that we did not part on good terms. While I cannot condone your actions resulting in the defamation of Furieux Extraction, you are my son, and I fear that in my anger, I may have been rash in my decision to excommunicate you from the Furieux estate.  Be advised that I have been made aware of almost every activity that you have been engaged in since you left, and it dawns on me that you have become part of this increasingly notorious 8th Dragon Squadron. Yet again, I am disappointed in your lack of judgement when there are far more lucrative ways to profit here on Darwyn, and from all accounts, this Dragon Squadron are nothing more than a crude gang of mercenaries with a reputation for bad living. This was not the life I had intended for you, nor do I approve of  your chosen career path. However, this is not the reason I write. I urge you to return to Zeta Tucanae as soon as you are able. Your sister is missing and we believe that your actions and those of the 8th Dragon Squadron in Gliese 900.1 are the cause.

Ettienne Furieux

[END OF MESSAGE]

***

Furieux returned the dataslate to his flight suit, grabbed the bottle of CMG and raised it to his lips, swallowing several more mouthfuls of the liquid before launching the almost empty bottle against a bulkhead. It smashed into several glittering pieces. He hadn’t heard from his father for over a year. He had sent transmissions to Anais on two occasions both of which had remained unanswered and he had assumed that his father or other Furieux Extraction employees had intercepted them. The bond with his sister was a strong one, and had remained so since the two of them were children. Anais was the one person in the entire galaxy that Furieux trusted implicitly. She understood him perfectly despite her obvious disdain towards the way he lived his life.

His mind raced. How did the Liberals know of his past? Was it even the Liberals to blame? Had Anais just decided to leave Darwyn of her own accord? Was she in danger? Was it his fault? The 8th Dragon Squadron had a contract to fulfil in Gliese and he couldn’t just drop out, could he? In the Star & Garter, surrounded by his fellow Dragons, he sometimes felt at home, even a sense of belonging.  No bonds. No ties. No attachments. Furieux stared at the remnants of the broken bottle through blurry eyes. The shards of glass sparkled like so many stars against the velvety blackness of space. One of those stars reminded him of home, a pale blue and white marble that contained a thousand memories he wanted to erase, but also one he could never forget.

Two days later, Furieux had returned the Viridian Embrace to the dealer on Schuster Hub and had liquidated most of his assets, with the exception of the Hazy Jane II, his Cobra.  He had purchased a brand new Imperial Clipper, which he had christened the Lady Muck, before picking up two cases of gin from the Star & Garter. Now, in the pristine,  spacious and stylish cockpit of his new ship, he took a deep and shaky breath and set a course for Darwyn, Zeta Tucanae. He gunned the engines, requested clearance from station personnel and  boosted out of Lewitt forcing himself not to look back.

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