Lost Tranquility: Insidious Directives Read Count : 24

Category : Books-Fiction

Sub Category : Science Fiction
INCOMMING TRANSMISSION FROM W.H.E.E.Z.E. HEAD QUARTERS

[ Captain Dagga,

Expect a ship to dock with you within thirty minutes. A Star Federation courier will hand off a CONFIDENTIAL document. It is of the utmost importance that this document is taken to the Star Federation HQ IMMEDIATELY. You and your crew are entrusted with this task due to high commendations you have received while fending off Pirate attackers. Your skills dealing with such kind will be heavily needed on this mission. Protect the document at all costs.

Director Ortega ]

The screen continued to flash in front of the swirly-eyed beast for a few moments before the message finally disappeared and the screen returned to black. In the reflection, Dagga's face was contorted into one of sheer annoyance, the side of his upper lip lifted in a grimace to reveal some of his sharp canine teeth. "High commendations - feh. Just another phrase for 'You're basically a criminal so you're obviously good at beating up criminals!'" The green haired beast spun his chair and stood from the command desk. The annoyance didn't leave his face and it likely wouldn't for a long while.

With a great huff he made his way from his place on the bridge to the cockpit. "Hey Johnny boy. Prepare the express dock. We got someone from Star Fed-"

"Already on it, Cap'n! Got a blip from the upcoming Star Fed ship on the radar and figured they'd wanna dock with us. I assume you know why?"

Dagga grumbled and nodded as he stepped closer to where Johnny was sitting with a myriad of screens in front of him, along with a large view-port that showed the vast, inky blackness of space. "Yeah, Star Fed wants us to deliver some document to their HQ. Dunno why it's physical. Figured we were past that age, by a lot."

Johnny chuckled and clicked a button. He shifted a lever on his navigation desk. "One would think. Based on your annoyance I also assume this is going to be dangerous."

The hyena grumbled again and sighed. "Yup. Space Pirates apparently want whatever it is we are going to be transporting."

"Oh good. At least we'll be able to test out this gal's new guns." The mongoose chuckled.

"I'd prefer not to, really. We just spent way too many credits repairing this bucket. I don't think we can afford to repair any damages for a while, even with whatever pay we will be getting at the end of this mission." Dagga plopped down in the copilot's seat next to Johnny and placed his footpaws up on the mostly empty co-nav desk. He ran a paw through his hair and grumbled again.

Johnny looked over at him and smiled his best smile. "I'm sure we'll be fine! We've got a good crew. And even if we do run into some of those Pirates, this bucket," putting emphasis on the word bucket, "will get us through just fine. It's gotten us this far."

"Yeah, but I like having credits to eat when we have downtime." The beast finally returned his friend's chuckle. "Either way, it's our mission so we gotta follow through. How far off is the Star Fed courier?" he asked as he looked to the blipping radar in front of Johnny.

The mongoose clicked a few keys and smirked. "They should be docked in about fifteen minutes. Want me to round up the crew?"

"Nah, I'll do that. You hang tight and make sure the courier doesn't screw up our express dock. I swear half of the guys the Star Fed employ have never been to flight school." With another disgruntled chuckle Dagga stood and left the bridge, heading through the port and into the hallway that would bring him to the galley.

As Dagga neared the galley he could hear the chattering of a bored crew. It had been weeks since they'd found any worthwhile jobs to take on that would balance what they'd had to spend repairing the Lost Tranquility. He figured that they'd get bored at some point, and that tempers would start to flare if they kept going empty handed after paying for damages post-mission. The closer he got, the louder the chatter became and he started to make out the very annoyed voices of the Gunner and the Medic arguing.

When he finally rounded the corner he saw a collie mix, Skip, bearing down on a very short blonde raccoon, Hipa. The black and teal canine was clearly angry about something and the medic seemed just as annoyed, though not nearly as vocal about it.

Skip's teeth were bared and she growled, "I don't want any stitches! Stop trying to use me for practice!" She held up her right paw, which was wrapped in a crude bandage of thin cloth and a smattering of tape. Blood was already seeping through the cloth. "I like battle wounds, anyways."

"Skip, it's not a battle wound. You cut yourself on a broken plate." The racoon did not seem amused at all. He glared up at the much taller dog, paws on his hips, and a needle and thread in his right paw. "Let me stitch you up so it doesn't get infected." He reached out to try to grab Skip's wrapped paw again but glared as she tore it out of his reach. "Dammit, Skip. You're being ridiculous."

"Just let the little guy stitch you up Skip," Kel the snow leopard chimed in, busy picking up pieces of broken plate. His voice also held an obvious lilt of annoyance.

The only crew member Dagga didn't see was Doja, the Negotiator of the crew, and his wife. If she wasn't with the rest of crew throwing bitch fits in the Galley then there was only one other place she could be. That would be Dagga's next stop.

The dog beast cleared his throat and pounded the side of his fist on the metal threshold of the Galley three times before he spoke with a deeply annoyed growl. "Ya'll get ready, suit up. We got a courier incoming and they're passing a document off to us. We gotta transport it to Star Fed HQ. Every route takes us through Pirate territory," he paused a for a moment to remind himself of something that he needed to do, knowing that they would be passing through Pirate lanes. After a beat, he continued, "so be ready to hit battle stations."

It was Kel who spoke up first. The snow leopard scoffed and let out a hearty chuckle. "You mean we are being paid to transport a PHYSICAL document? What fuckin' year is it?" He continued to laugh but it started to die off with a nervous refrain as if he were waiting for someone to laugh with him. When no one joined in he cocked his head to the side and looked back to Dagga. "Wait... We are getting paid right?"

"Geezus, yes we are. I figured you'd do your jobs out of respect for your CAPTAIN, not just the loot," Dagga's growling voice shifted to a gruff chuckle. "Either way, get your asses ready. Courier is docking soon, then we head off. It's gonna be a seven hour trip." Without waiting to see if anyone responded, he turned the corner and headed towards his Quarters.

He didn't knock, knowing he should have, and pushed the button to raise the metal mechanical door to his room. "Hey, Panda. Time to get up. We got a mission. Meet the incoming courier at the express dock. He's gonna pass over a document." There was a pile of blankets on the bed concealing the outline of a curled up body. Only Doja's long, fluffy pink ringed tail stuck out of the blankets.

Dagga waited a moment for a response before he spoke again. "Alright, fine. I'll make you pancakes. But you gotta get up now." As soon as he said the word "pancakes" Doja's fluffy tail perked up and stood high for a moment before twitching. That was the only response Dagga needed and he headed out of the room and back towards the bridge.

As soon as Dagga ducked under the archway to the cramped bridge area, Johnny's excited voice greeted him. "Cap'n Green Hair! The Courier ship is docked and secured. He should be getting to the express hatch now."

"Good, Doja will meet him. I just woke her up."

"Oh boy, she didn't throw anything at you this time, did she?"

Dagga chuckled lightly as he routinely plopped down in the co-pilot's seat. "Not this time, luckily. Hopefully the Courier doesn't say anything to piss her off. It's rare to get away interacting with her within ten minutes of her waking up." Dagga paused for a moment, a quizzical look on his face, as he cocked his head to the side. "Odd how we made the one who needs the most sleep to function as the Liaison of the ship."

The two shared a laugh as they waited for Doja to do her job. Five minutes later there was an echoing bang down the corridor that lead to the express hatch. Johnny looked at the monitor and the indicator told him that the hatch had opened and the Courier ship was pulling away. The mongoose looked over to the swirly-eyed beast and grinned.

The beast smirked back and shrugged. "I guess he pissed her off." The two laughed again. When it died down Dagga reached for the intercom and turned it on. He cleared his throat and spoke, his voice gruff and still slightly annoyed despite the previous laughter. "I hope you didn't kill that poor guy, Doja. Put that document in the best hiding spot. Everyone else settle in and stay alert. We got seven hours of open space to travel and lots of Pirates looking out for us." He released the intercom and looked back to Johnny.

The mongoose's ears perked as he spoke. "Do you want me to activate the beacon?"

Dagga simply nodded and then turned to look out the viewport. "Wake me when it gets exciting." He leaned back in the co-pilot's seat and set his footpaws back up on the nav-desk. As he watched the inky, speckled blackness of space pass them by his swirling eyes slowly drifted shut as he fell into a gentle sleep.

A myriad of faces swam before Dagga's eyes. Some of them were contorted with immense pain, others were hollow with a searing hatred behind their eyes, and a few were screaming. He couldn't discern which faces belonged to who or if he recognized any of them at all. The only familiar things he could hear were the echoing sound of a name. A name he hadn't heard in a while.

"Praxus... praxus... praxus..." the voice echoed over and over.

It had been so long since he'd heard that name or even thought of that place. The sudden reminder, coupled with the screaming, angry, painful faces made his entire body feel uneasy. Was he shaking? What was that loud ringing noise? New voices joined in with the screaming faces, but these voices he did recognize.

"Praxus... praxus... praxxa... pragga... pagga... Dagga... "

"DAGGA!" Skip's loud growl crashed through the beast's consciousness and tore the swimming faces from Dagga's sight.

He sat upright in the co-pilot's chair and instantly grimaced, grabbing his head around his ears as he was greeted by the sound of the alarm ringing throughout the entire ship. "What the hell?!" he screamed as he looked over at Skip, who was already clad in her mismatched leather and scrap metal armor with two blasters on each hip. "I said wake me up when it got exciting! Not dangerous!"

"Danger is exciting! Now get the fuck up and let's go! We are being boarded." the Gunner collie turned and ran back down the hallway towards the express dock.

The hyena stayed in his seat for a few long moments and mentally explored the very strange dream that he had been ripped from before he could figure out what it was about. The ringing of the alarm faded away as he looked out the viewport and into the darkness of space. It had been so long since the Praxus system had entered his stream of thought. Nine years had passed since he last was in the small self-proclaimed 'system' of dwarf planets. It was a smuggler's hideaway. Gangs ran rampant, essentially breeding criminals. Dagga had spent most of his time here before something pulled him away when he found 'real' employment under W.H.E.E.Z.E.

The lights of a small ship flashed through the viewport, bringing Dagga back to attention. The ringing of the alarm faded back into his existence and he grimaced at the noise, the small battleship that was staring down the Lost Tranquility still holding the beast's attention.

"Red and gold?" Dagga gasped as he noticed the colors of the ship's design and the smiling horned beast sigil crudely painted on the nose. He was up not a moment later and racing down the hallway towards the express dock.

When he rounded the corner he saw his crew hunkered down behind metal shipping crates that they had stacked in the middle of the hallway for makeshift cover.

"Nice of you to join us, Cap'n!" Johnny said in his normal happy tone as he knelt behind one of the crates and held a long-barreled blaster rifle.

"Don't! Shoot! Them!" Dagga yelled frantically as he stepped into the middle of the hallway between his covered crew and the express dock and faced the incoming crew of Pirates.

Dagga ignored the voices of his crew as they shouted for him to get behind cover. He questioned his shitty decision to stand directly in front of the Pirates that were assumed to have murderous intentions. Instead he stared straight ahead and watched the dock's hatch opened and a team of heavily armed and armored Pirates stepped into the hallway, all of them wore a piece of red and gold fabric around their right upper arm. The twelve Pirates, all of different species and creeds, knelt into formation with their guns raised and their swords and knives poised for attack, but they didn't move forward.

Dagga raised his paw to the side in a silent order for his crew to hold their fire. He heard Johnny gasp softly and whisper 'shit' under his breath as he saw the red and gold clad Pirates march into formation.

A few very long, uncomfortable moments of silence passed before the Pirates parted and allowed a tall, scruffy chinned and well armored beast walk through them to face Dagga in the hallway. It was obviously the Pirate crew's Captain, revealed just by the way he held himself. His dark maroon and black marked fur was matted in places and the multiple horns growing from the canine-like beast's head made him even more intimidating.

The two captains stared at each other for increasingly uncomfortable moments until Dagga finally spoke.

"I had the beacon up," he said with a growl, though if anyone knew him well they'd be able to pinpoint the slight tinge of sadness in his voice.

The other Captain nodded and smiled with the same hint of sadness that was in Dagga's voice. "I know. I saw it."

"Then why, Riley?" Dagga's ears twitched as they started to droop to the sides in his growing sadness and confusion.

"We can't let you pass with that document." The Captain kept his nearly glowing orange eyes on Dagga. "I'd say I'm sorry but I'm not. You're not as important as that document." He raised his fist and spoke loudly. "Take them! Only hurt them if they try to hurt you first. Lock them up in their galley. Search the entire ship for the document."

Instantly, the Pirate crew moved forward and started to lock Dagga's crew in energy shackles. He turned to his crew and friends and shook his head to remind them not to fight back. As they were being lead away towards the galley Dagga looked back at Riley, his brows furrowed in anger and betrayal.

~~~~~

"So, uh, Dagga. You wanna tell us what the FUCK just happened?" Skip growled, her teeth bared.

Dagga looked up and around, taking note of his crew sitting around the galley with their paws shackled behind their backs. They all looked angry. Every single one of them was glaring at him. The only ones who didn't seem pissed enough to kill him were Johnny and Doja. The mongoose and pink furred red panda only looked marginally upset with him. He took in the anger from his crew for another moment before sighing and resting his head back against the cool metal wall behind his seat.

"It's really complicated," he said as he sighed again.

Skip spoke up again, her anger very painfully obvious. "I don't give a shit how complicated it is! If they find that document, we don't get paid! If we don't get paid we can't eat, or fix shit, or LIVE! What happened back there, Dagga? You obviously know the Captain of this crew."

Johnny started to speak up but Doja cleared her throat and shook her head at him. She looked at Skip with care in her amber eyes and spoke softly. "Riley and Dagga know each other from years ago. They worked together for a while, but split ways when Dagga was commissioned by W.H.E.E.Z.E." She shrugged. "But that's all I know."

The mongoose spoke up now, despite Doja having advised against doing so. "Whenever we have to fly through this territory we put up a beacon that only Riley's crew can pick up to let them know that it's us coming through. They leave us alone when they know it's us. He and Dagga have had that agreement since they parted ways. We don't mess with them, they don't mess with us."

"Then what's going on? Everyone else considers us being shackled and held on our own ship being messed with, right?" The blonde racoon medic spoke up from his corner on the floor. The Pirates didn't feel like lifting the four foot tall racoon to sit him comfortably, so just left him on the floor. He was clearly agitated, his long tail puffed up and a scowl on his face.

Dagga scoffed. "Trust me, I'd like to know what's going on, too." He sat forward and looked into the threshold of the hallway where four of the Pirates were standing to guard the Lost Tranquility crew. "Hey! Fuckheads! Go get your horned little shit of a Captain. I need to talk to him."

Dagga's request was answered with the sudden approach of one of the Pirates, a large bear, and a boot colliding with his chin. The bear chuckled as Dagga let out a sharp growl and shook the pain from his head. He spat on the floor, leaving a small pile of mucus mixed with blood, and looked up at the Pirate who had kicked. A trail of blood dripped from his busted lip and chin.

"You're a real nice fella, honestly. Now be a good boy and go get little Riley." Dagga stared at the bear with his teeth bared, a deep growl rumbling in his throat.

The bear grumbled, clearly insulted, and started to raise the barrel of his blaster to Dagga's head but stopped as a very chilling voice entered the room.

"You shoot him, I eat your liver," Riley said as he strode into the room with an air of royalty about him.

Without any defiance Riley's subordinate dropped his blaster and stepped back into the threshold of the galley. Riley sniffed and looked around at the crew of the Lost Tranquility, judgement heavy in his orange eyes. "Not to be a dick but did you downgrade on purpose?"

Doja laughed, the sound dripping with sarcasm. "When you begin a sentence with 'not to be a dick' you ALWAYS end up being the dick."

"Nice to finally meet you, too, Doja." Riley turned toward the pink furred, fluffy tailed panda and smirked. The expression was chilling but Doja didn't back down, continuing to glare at the Pirate Captain. "At least your reason for leaving Praxus isn't ugly, Dagga." Before Doja could say anything in retort the Captain turned to face the swirl eyed beast.

They stared at each other for a long time. The silence was deafening, carrying with it a great deal of pain and unsaid words.

"Why are you doing this, Riley? What about our pact?" Dagga's voice no longer held its normal growl. Something, it seemed, had grounded him. He stared directly into Riley's orange eyes and all he could see was their past, the years they spent smuggling and running cargo together throughout the the tiny system of Praxus. "Wait..." he said suddenly as he looked to the floor. The thought was sudden and half formed but the coincidence was too much for him to ignore. He snapped his head back up to Riley, his eyes wide. "What does the document have to do with Praxus?"

Even Riley seemed slightly taken aback by the sudden connection of whatever was going on in Dagga's head, but his history with the green haired beast kept him from being too surprised.

"You had a dream didn't you?" Riley chuckled and continued before Dagga could respond. "It's planetary defense statistics, militia numbers and locations, and... " he paused for a moment and shifted his stance as if he were incredibly uncomfortable, "military movement plans against the system from Star Fed."

Dagga stood abruptly and his muzzle hung open. There was no longer anger in his eyes. Instead there was deep worry, concerne, sorrow, and fear. It was a while before any sounds even tried to come out of his mouth. "Star Fed is attacking Praxus?"

The rest of Dagga's crew started to look just as worried. However, none of them had heard of Praxus before. Dagga had liked it that way. His past was his own and didn't need to be shared with those he spent his time with now. His own wife, Doja, didn't know much about the system of dwarf planets. Now everything was starting to creep up on him. The dream made so much sense and the longer he stared at Riley the worse it started to feel as it sunk in.

"Yeah. They've deemed it a cesspool of criminal activity and a plague on the outer rim. There are rumors that they are planning to destroy every one of the dwarf planets in the system. EVERY ONE. That's twelve worlds, Dagga. Twelve planets full of life and activity being destroyed because the yuppies don't understand that it's the only way to live in that part of the universe." The horned Captain rested his face in his palm and sighed. "Star Fed cannot get their paws on the document you're transporting. Tell me where it is. We will take it and leave you alone."

Dagga just stood there speechless as his ears drooped out to the sides. "Riley. I can't do that. I need to bring something to them if I want to feed my crew for the next two weeks." Dagga looked down as his eyes narrowed, brows furrowed in deep thought. "Let us go and we will figure something out together. You don't need to hold us captive. But I can't just give you the document. I'll take care of it, but I can't give it to you."

Riley lifted his face from his palm and stared Dagga down for a long, cold moment before his ears twitched and his shoulders seemed to relax. "As long as Star Fed doesn't get it, then fine. But if any of your crew touches any of mine this will get bloody."

The green haired Captain nodded in agreement and turned to his crew, who all looked either very confused or very annoyed. "Don't you all fuck this up," he growled to the group.

"Westin! Come over here and unshackle the Lost Tranquility crew. We are going to discuss some things together. Best not to raise unnecessary hostilities." Riley spoke loud and clear before he turned to sit on one of the many cushioned seats in the galley.

The same bear who had kicked Dagga in the chin stormed into the room. "Are you kidding me? Why are you being soft on these scum? We board, we loot, we leave! If people die in between any of those, so what?"

"I try not to kill the people I actually somewhat like, Westin. Otherwise I'd have no allies at all. Just release them and shut up."

The bear let out a loud, angry growl. "That's it, Riley! This has been coming for a long time, but releasing these idiots is the last straw! You've come between us and full payout too many times!" He turned and shouted down the hallway. "Fall of the horned brat!", he bellowed before storming back into the room and smacking Riley in the side of the face with the butt of his rifle.

The Captain fell to the floor in a heap, knocked out cold, as blood seeped from a cut under his right eye.

Dagga's crew gasped and looked around frantically as even more Pirates stormed into the room to take up a tighter guard.

Westin stood tall and proud over Riley for a moment of triumph before he turned to his new crew and shouted more orders. "Take the ones who don't follow into shackles! Search high and low for that Star Fed document! Kill Lost Tranquility crew AND Riley if they cause any trouble!" He laughed, the sound cold and heartless, as he planted a kick to Riley's side before stepping out of the room.

Dagga could hear the shouting and blaster fire of the Pirates who were still loyal to Riley fighting against the mutineers, but the noise soon died down as they were clearly outnumbered. The swirly-eyed beast looked around the room, to each of his crew members, and then to the passed out former Pirate Captain laying on the floor, bleeding from his face.

"Perfect time for a coux, Riley. Fucking great." Dagga scoffed and leaned his head back against the wall behind him as he closed his eyes and tried to think of some sort of plan.

~~~~~

An hour had passed and it seemed as though the mutineers still hadn't found the document. Dagga's entire crew could hear the crashing and banging from around the entire ship as they ransacked every inch of it. The beast grimaced and winced every time he heard something shatter, bend, or break. The Lost Tranquility was his baby and it was almost as if her pain was his as the Pirates damaged and destroyed things here and there. He hurt and his wallet hurt.

'That sounds like a lot of credits...' he thought every time he heard something else get smashed.

How had any of this even happened? It was supposed to be a simple job, Riley's crew wasn't supposed to attack, the document wasn't supposed to be eradication plans for Praxus. Dagga's head was swimming with thoughts and 'what-ifs'. Every time another one passed through his mind he felt weaker and weaker. His shoulders were slumped and he was looking at the floor where the blood from Riley's head was pooled and starting to darken and coagulate.

The pink furred red panda spoke up softly from across the galley. "Dagga? Hun, are you okay?" Her voice was soft and full of worry, her amber eyes were bloodshot and heavy lidded. It was obvious that she didn't get as much sleep as she'd needed.

The green haired Captain shrugged and looked up slowly. "I dunno, Doja. Am I okay? Is this crew okay? Is Praxus okay? If they find that document..."

"They won't," Doja replied quickly. "I hid it somewhere no one has ever looked."

He chuckled at his wife for a moment, but instead of joy it was full of sarcasm and lost hope. "Do you hear the damage they're doing to this ship? They're going to find it. I have a feeling once they do they won't leave anything behind. They seem pissed enough at Riley to blow us all up when they dip out." A growl started to find its way into his throat as he spoke, his voice rumbling with his very clear and rising anger.

"Why do you care so much about that system? I've never heard you talk about it before and now it seems like it's you only lifeline or something." The blonde raccoon medic, Hipa, spoke up from his seat on the floor.

The snow leopard, Kel, cocked his head to the side as he looked at Dagga from across the room. "Yeah, small fry's right." Kel paused to snicker as Hipa made a disgruntled noise in response to the unwanted nickname. "This is the first I've ever heard of any connection you have to Praxus. I've heard of the system, but it's on the far outer rim and I haven't been that far."

"I thought it was just a drug den, honestly." Skip's voice was abnormally calm. She looked at Dagga with the same worry that Doja had in her eyes.

That was it. It was never going to be just his little part of personal history for himself ever again. It had finally come out and now he was going to be forced to talk about it. He could choose not to tell them but, they were his crew, and if they couldn't trust him they would do to him what the Pirates had done to Riley.

A deep sigh left his lips as he sat up a bit higher and rolled his shoulders to crack his back. He kept his eyes closed for a moment as he fought his brain and memory for the right way to explain their connection. Just make it short and sweet? Give them the long, drawn-out exposition? Either way, he needed to say something because he was starting to get annoyed by the feeling of everyone's eyes on him.

As Dagga opened his swirled eyes he sighed again and took a moment to look at every member of his crew, including the still passed out and bruised Riley laying in a heap on the floor. "Praxus is a part of my past that I wanted to keep just for me. That's why I don't talk about it." He shifted slightly in his seat, discomfort clear on his face as his brows furrowed and he continued to think of a way to explain it.

"Was it a bad part?" Hipa asked as he tried to scoot closer to the group.

Dagga shook his head quickly. "No, not really. I mean, I was a criminal. I was a smuggler. I ransacked and looted alongside Riley for the longest time. We were never the aggressor. We only hit those who hit us. I dunno. Praxus is where I basically grew up. It's not where I'm from but that system of tiny, shitty planets helped me survive. If I hadn't found Praxus, or Riley, I wouldn't be here. I wouldn't be the person i am today. But in the same breath I'm also not entirely proud of the person I was back then. So I keep it to myself. It's why Riley and I split ways when I left the system after finding W.H.E.E.Z.E. I needed a fresh start, no connections, no ties. I guess Riley always thought it was because of Doja that I left since I met her around the same time I got into contact with Director Ortega." Dagga sighed and took a deep breath, as if explaining all of that had taken his breath away. He fell silent for a long time and just looked around the room at his crew members.

Doja was the first to speak after giving the Captain time to calm his mind. "I get it, babe. I really do. I don't think any of us here are mad that you didn't tell us. I barely knew about it and we are married!" She forced a soft chuckle in an attempt to lighten the mood. It didn't work.

With a shrug Dagga looked to his wife. "Honestly I don't care if you all are mad at me for not telling you. It's my business. I wanted that part of me to stay just for me. What I'm pissed off about is the fact that Star fed is trying to destroy the entire system just because of a reputation."

"But if it's full of criminals wouldn't they spread to the other systems? I mean you came here from Praxus, what's going to stop anyone else?" Hipa spoke softly, unsure whether or not his words would upset his Captain.

They did.

Dagga growled and shot a glare at the blonde raccoon. "You know why you leave a place like Praxus? Because you finally have the opportunity to. People don't leave unless they absolutely need to or they have that opportunity. It's the way it is because of necessity. It's so far outer rim that there are no real laws. There's only chaos. And Praxus has found a way to thrive within that chaos. Criminals don't leave Praxus. They leave because they finally have a way out of that life."

"But what about Riley?" Skip asked as she looked to the still passed out former Captain on the floor, then back to Dagga.

Another shrug. "He's a different case. Piracy is in his blood. It's actually not normal for those who label themselves 'pirates' to be around Praxus. They have a code and Praxus doesn't heed to that code so they steer clear. It sounds the same as a pirate society but it's just so, so different. It's hard to see that without being there and actually experiencing it." Dagga's voice trailed off as he looked to the floor, then to Riley, then back up to his crew, and finally to Doja. He stared into her eyes for a long time, silently pleading to help him. But help him with what? What was he going to do to save Praxus?

"You're such a bleeding fuckin' heart, Dagga." The voice was shaky that everyone nearly gasped as they looked down to Riley struggling to sit up. For some reason the mutineers hadn't bothered to shackle him, but his weapons had been taken. Slowly, he made his way to his rump and sat on the floor rubbing his temples before he looked around and laughed. "Well this just sucks, doesn't it?" He looked to Dagga with a grin. "So what're we gonna do, buddy?"

"You aren't gonna do anything, you horned little brat." An armored rat, one of the guards, stepped further into the room and kicked Riley in the back. The former Captain tumbled forward to the floor and growled under his breath. "Now shut up, all of you, and stop talking!" The rat stepped back into the threshold of the doorway and kept watch over the group of shackled crew, along with the unshackled and bleeding Riley.

"Amos, you're a little shit!" Riley spat at the rat Pirate as he turned and glared at him. The side of Riley's head was still stained with blood from the wound that had originally knocked him out. He growled and turned to look at the Lost Tranquility's crew and then to Dagga. "You know they're gonna find that thing, right?"

"Yeah I know. I'm trying not to think about it." Dagga grumbled and peered out of the threshold, down the hallway and around the Guards. There wasn't much that he could see but he could see bits and pieces of broken scrap metal laying along the hallway. He could still hear the pounding and crashing around as they searched for the Star Fed document.

Dagga looked to his crew. He looked in each of their eyes and could see worry, pain, confusion, and anger. He could only imagine the eyes of those on Praxus as entire worlds were blown to bits. A deep, boiling anger started to rise in his chest. He could feel the fur on the back of his neck stand on end as his ears twitched and stood as well. His entire body started to shake. How could the Star fed do that? How could they decide to kill off entire worlds and everyone on them without thinking about the lives that were going to be lost? The anger kept boiling, the hyena kept shaking.

It was only Doja who noticed the volcano that was her husband preparing to erupt. "Dagga. Hun. Take it easy. This isn't a good time. You got this, please try and calm down." She spoke softly, but it didn't seem her words were getting through to him. She stood and moved to where he sat and ignored the prying eyes of the Guards who had noticed her movement.

The pink panda sat next to the shaking beast and pressed her shoulder into his. Just this contact with his wife seemed to calm him a little bit. He started to breathe more slowly and he wasn't shaking as much. But there was still so much anger building up inside of him. He leaned against Doja and sighed.

"We need to do something," his voice was somber and pained, not at all reflective of the anger that was emanating off of him.

Doja sighed and shushed him softly. "We will do something. If they find the document we will have a chance. Just trust me." Her voice was low enough that only he could hear.

As Dagga looked over to his wife he noticed the bright, mischievous grin that was spread across her face. Confusion struck him and he cocked his head to the side as his brows furrowed. He opened his mouth to question what she meant -

BOOM!

The explosion shook the ship and echoed through the cramped halls. All the guards but the rat went running towards the explosion and the rat was left with his back to the Lost Tranquility crew as he stared with worry down the hallway.

Riley was up in an instant and on the back of the rat. Without hesitation he chomped down into the mutineer's shoulder and growled. The rat screamed and dropped his blaster as he twisted and spun, trying to knock Riley off of his back.

The Lost Tranquility crew watched with wide, hopeful eyes as Amos and Riley struggled. Riley growled again and chomped into another part of Amos's shoulder. While the two were struggling they could still make out the emergent shouting and running happening where the explosion had gone off. It was chaos.

Among the chaos Dagga's brain seemed to finally kick start again and he stood to his feet and rushed towards Amos with his shoulder forward. He made contact with the rat and Riley went tumbling into a wall. Riley quickly got to his feet and went for the blaster that had been dropped, kicking Amos in the face on the way. The kick knocked out the rat who now lay in a heap on the floor.

"Well then," Riley panted as he held the blaster in his paws. "That was fun, wasn't it?" He chuckled before he spat to the side. The saliva was mixed with Amos's blood, flesh and fur.

The rest of the crew all looked at him for a long silent moment. Finally Dagga cleared his throat, straightened his back, and turned his back to Riley, wiggling his still shackled paws. "Ya mind?"

The rest of the crew stood and moved towards Riley. The horned Captain laughed again. "Oh right, yeah. Give me a moment." He held the blaster in one paw as he knelt and rummaged through Amos's belt and bent back up with the deactivation key for the energy shackles. "Who's first?" He asked with a smile.

It was quick work when Riley went about unshackling the crew. They rubbed their wrists and stretched their backs, continuing to remain very aware of all the commotion happening down the hall.

Skip stepped forward, an air of readiness already in her eyes. "So, uh. What did they blow up?"

Without hesitation Doja spoke up with an oddly sadistic delight in her voice. "They found my hiding spot. I booby trapped it."

Dagga wrapped the much smaller being in his arms, picked her up and spun around once. "This is why I married you!" As soon as his happiness appeared it went away slightly and he set her back down to the floor. "Wait- they better not have hurt anything too expensive."

"We really don't have time to talk about that. We need to take this ship back and stop them from leaving with that document." Riley said with a growl in his voice. "I'll take the blaster and cover you all. My guys aren't that tough, to be honest, but there are a lot of them so this won't be a walk in the park." He hefted the blaster up and smirked. "Let's do this."

"Everyone gear up and get on Riley!" Dagga shouted the order and watched as his crew began digging through their own various hiding spots within the galley.

Skip prepared herself with a rather large blaster. Hipa grabbed two short barreled pistols. Doja had a large knife in one paw and a sword in the other. Johnny had grabbed his trusty shotgun blaster. Dagga found his own two swords and when he turned around to see how everyone had geared up he was pleased until he saw Kel. The snow leopard stood in the middle of the galley with only a large metal pipe.

Dagga quirked a brow and glared at the spotted cat. "Seriously, Kel?"

The snow leopard shrugged and smiled.

"Okay, whatever. Everyone on Riley. We have a battle ahead of us. Stay tight. Cover each other. And for the love of god try NOT TO SHOOT THE SHIP." Dagga turned and nodded to Riley with a devious grin spreading wide across his muzzle. "Well go on, ya horned brat."

Riley chuckled and nodded back before he turned and started down the hallway at a trot in the direction of the smoke coming from the explosion.

It didn't take long for the group to come into contact with mutineers. It appeared that every one of the Pirates was in some sort of panic. When the first three saw the group coming down the hallway they simply turned and started to shoot. It didn't even seem as though they were aiming and they missed most of their shots. Their eyes were wide with worry and their armor was covered in soot.

"They got loose!" One of the shooting mutineers, a moose, yelled as he raised his blaster to shoot.

Before he had a chance to pull the trigger again an energy bolt from the blaster that Riley had apprehended struck him square in the chest and he fell nearly instantly. The other pirates already heard the yell, though, and were spilling into the hallway. Soon there were seven of them lined along the wall and hidden behind corners, all emptying their blasters in the direction of Dagga and his crew.

Chaos wasn't on their side and most of their shots were missing their target. Two of them fell after being struck by bolts fired from Riley's blaster. More bolts followed as Dagga's crew proved why he had taken them on as they all let loose. Johnny's shotgun blaster took down two of the remaining five mutineers. Skip fired three shots. Two went into the abdomen of a pirate and the third struck his head.

The two that were left ducked behind their cover. The Lost Tranquility crew and RIley all moved forward. The blaster fire stopped momentarily as Doja and Dagga rushed toward the pirates and swung themselves around their cover to down them with a series of swipes from their swords and knife.

Moving further down the hallway became difficult as the smoke from the explosion had started to fill and obscure it. The closer they got to the explosion, the more commotion there was. The crew could hear the sound of injured pirates crying out for relief. They could hear the fire that had been ignited from Doja's booby trap. Pirates were spilling into the hallway, running towards the crew with their blasters raised, fingers already on the trigger.

Bolts whizzed both ways as each crew took cover behind corners when they could. Despite what Dagga had said about not shooting the ship multiple stray shots struck the steel of the inner hull and left scorch marks and dents in their wake. Despite the haze of bullets the Lost Tranquility crew was holding their own.

Johnny moved closer and ducked behind cover to dodge a bolt. As his target reloaded he inched the barrel of his shotgun around the edge of his cover and blew the Pirate ox away. As soon as the large armored ox fell he saw three more Pirates fill his place. Behind the three new mutineers was another one holding a scorched and damaged envelope.

"They have it!" Johnny shouted to the others behind him.

It was as if a surge of pure adrenaline hit the entire crew. The group of six moved forward into the haze of blaster fire. As a few of the mutineers fell from their attack, Dagga and Doja moved in to clean up with their blades.

Hipa trotted forward when he saw two of Riley's loyalists tied up, bruised and bleeding in an alcove of the hallway. He looked them over quickly. Both were unconscious. "You all keep pushing forward! I'm gonna clean up the loyalists I can find and free them so they can help us out!" The blonde raccoon hunkered into the alcove, which wasn't hard given his size, and set to work doing what he could to bandage the wounded Pirates.

The others kept moving. More of the mutineers fell each second. It looked as though they were going to come out of this essentially unscathed.

Kel let out a loud snarl and the sound of his pipe dropping to the floor echoed through the blaster fire. Skip looked back instantly and ran to the snow leopard's side as he leaned into the wall next to him. His left arm was hanging limp and his shoulder was bleeding.

The Gunner held him closer for a moment before she brought up her long barreled blaster and blew away the mutineer who had shot Kel with a loud and terrifying growl. Even more of the mutineers fell as her blaster released its vengeful energy bolts into the fray.

Dagga's crew, joined by Riley, surged forward again. They were a wave of anger and determination. No matter how many of the mutineers piled into the hallway they kept falling. Hipa had been working fast bandaging and freeing what loyalists he could find and soon even more blaster fire joined the chaotic chorus.

When it seemed the mutineers had thinned and were starting to back down and retreat, Dagga looked to the pirate who had the envelope in his pocket. His eyes narrowed and his brows furrowed. His grip on his swords tightened and without another moment's thought he rushed forward. The pirate had no time to react and simply screamed as the swirly-eyed beast plunged both of his swords through the pirate's stomach.

The mutineer fell and Dagga quickly reached down to grab the envelope and stuff it into his vest.

It only took another five minutes of blaster fire for the mutineers to realize they had been outnumbered and defeated. They dropped their weapons, slumped to their knees, and surrendered before Riley, his pirates, Dagga, and his crew.

As the freed loyalists rounded up the Pirates that were still alive, the Lost Tranquility crew and Riley gathered in the galley. As they stood around, bruised, bleeding and panting, Dagga pulled the envelope from his vest. The damage from the fire caused by the explosive trap had left it nearly unrecognizable as an envelope. Dagga looked at it with a grimace for a long moment before he opened the seal with ease, given how much damage it had taken.

What he pulled out brought a very small, tentative smile across his muzzle.

"I think we can work with this," he said as he flipped through the pages of information and maps, or what was left of them. "I don't think there's enough here for them to carry out any sort of attack with confidence."

"But what about our mission to deliver the document? We need that pay or we don't eat for weeks, Dagga." Hipa said as he started to stitch up the wound on Kel's shoulder.

The snow leopard winced every time the needle was poked into his flesh. "Yeah I'd kind of like to eat after all of this."

"I'll figure it out," Dagga said with confidence as he turned to Riley and looked over the horned Captain. "I'd thank you, but I know you wouldn't care either way."

Riley chuckled and shrugged. "I save my own ass. You and your crew just happened to be along for the ride."

"Take care, Riley. Keep in contact about Praxus. I'll give you any info I come across if you do the same." Dagga held out his paw.

With another nod Riley reached out and grasped Dagga's paw tightly and the two shared a firm shake.

Riley's departure wasn't sad, it wasn't emotional, and it didn't get drawn out. As soon as the two Captains separated their paws Riley turned and strolled to the express dock in preparation to disembark. It took only minutes for the alarm to chime, denoting the express dock's activity. They never had been ones for long goodbyes. They both always knew what the other meant even through silence.

It felt strange to suddenly be without Riley by his side. Dagga placed the papers back into the destroyed envelope. It had been so long since they'd seen each other just to get boarded and end up fighting side by side. The reason for their reunion was even more odd. Praxus hadn't been on his mind in so long and then it fell right back into his lap.

The beast's mind was swimming as he and his crew went to work placing the bodies of the fallen mutineers and loyal Pirates in the air lock to release them into the vacuum of space. It was the best burial they could manage, especially since they had to worry about repairing what damages they could before they set off towards the Star Fed HQ to complete the mission. Or rather, complete it to the extent that they could.

It took the crew an extra four hours to repair what they could with the supplies they already had. The rest of the repairs were going to cost them credits that they couldn't spare.

Everyone was tired. The crew just wanted to get this over with so that they could find out if they would have the money to eat and repair the Lost Tranquility. Tempers were flaring again but Dagga gave a strict order for everyone to rest for the remainder of the trip. It took a while to convince Hipa to give in and take a nap, as the short medic was far too interested in dressing everyone's various wounds. He kept saying that he needed the practice but every time he picked up a medical instrument his paws would shake from exhaustion.

The medic finally agreed to lay down and nap after he accidentally cut Kel's flesh instead of the bandage he was attempting to trim.

Dagga held the ruined envelope in his hands throughout the entire two hour trip to the Star Fed HQ . There was nothing that would help Star Fed attack Praxus, but the swirly-eyed Captain couldn't help but think about what could come next. A failed military attempt only meant they would try again. The one place Dagga considered his home was in danger and it felt like there was nothing he could do, whether or not he allowed his past to permeate his present life.

He looked down at the envelope again as the ship continued flying through the vastness of space. There was something he could do. He knew what Star fed was planning to do the system of dwarf planets. He figured they had resorted to physical transportation of information in order to avoid the risk of their plans being hacked. As long as Dagga continued to do work for W.H.E.E.Z.E. and open himself up to other forms of courier and transport there was a chance he could learn more.

He knew that he needed to be careful, however. The crew's employment wasn't through the Star Fed, but if they ever found out that Dagga and his crew were essentially running sting operations to prevent any military advancement on Praxus, they could lose everything.

The abrupt chime of the ship telling them they had docked with a station tore him from his thoughts. The trip hadn't felt like it had taken two hours.

The Captain's body screamed as he made his way from the Lost Tranquility and into the vast Star Fed HQ station. He wandered the halls aimlessly for a while, not really sure of where to go. It took a couple of guards to point him in the right direction. After another ten minutes of wandering Dagga came upon a large door that said 'Major Juniper'.

With the ruined envelope held tightly in one paw he reached up and was about to knock, but the door's mechanics already began to hiss as it slid open. On the other side of the door was a large office and behind the desk sat a bright-eyed raven shuffling papers. She wore a stiff and pressed uniform with a multitude of ribbons and commendations hanging on the chest.

She waved a wing to beckon Dagga into the office. "Come forward, Captain Saoirse."

The use of his last name stunned him for a moment before he nodded and stepped inside. Without saying anything or waiting for the Major to ask questions he held out the ruined envelope.

Major Juniper looked at it, then to him, then back to the envelope. "You do know how to correctly transport documents that are confidential and important, correct?" Her voice was cold and challenging. "Not to mention it took you much longer than it should have." She looked up to Dagga with eyes just as frigid as her voice.

"Yeah, we ran into some trouble. Pirates and stuff. Had to fight 'em off. They did get a hold of this at one point but they never opened it or read it." Dagga kept his voice as neutral as he could, with the slight lilt of sarcastic joking. It was how he normally spoke and he shouldn't have needed to try, but just looking at one of the people responsible for the apparent planned attacks on the home of his past made his blood boil.

The raven reached out and took the envelope from him. She opened the already broken seal and pulled out the pages, charred beyond recognition. She flipped through them, reading what information was there, and then tossed them upside down on her desk. She sighed, anger obvious in the sound, and began to click away at the computer sitting at the side of her desk.

"The information wasn't stolen, but we now need to organize another very expensive and dangerous physical transport because of your incompetence." The Major stopped typing and turned to look at Dagga again as she interlaced her feathered fingers on top of her desk and straightened her back. "You will receive one quarter pay, but ONLY because we don't have to worry about someone else having the information. You otherwise would not have been paid at all. If you think you have the competence to do a better job next time we will continue to utilize you and your crew for these courier missions. I want to believe this was a single mishap, as I've heard good things about the Lost Tranquility. I will go through W.H.E.E.Z.E. should we need your services again. The credits have been deposited into your account. Good day, Captain Saoirse." Major Juniper waved a wing to send him away and went back to fussing with paper work.

Dagga nodded and left as soon as he could. If he had been in there for another moment he wasn't sure whether or not he'd be able to avoid going to jail for punching out a Major of one of the largest militaries in this corner of the universe. What made him feel better as he walked down the halls of the HQ with clear exhaustion was the fact that they had seemed to have walked right into a way to save Praxus.

A smile finally spread across his lips as the Lost Tranquility came into view in the large hangar. There was work to be done and he knew he had a crew that he could count on to help save the home of his past.

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