Unknown Location, Nukunda
Stryker’s head felt like a supernova had gone off in it. His shoulders and lats were burning and throbbing in pain. His vision was watery, and all he could make out was the distorted outlines of a face. He blinked and shook his head. The vision started to clear.
Where the hell am I?
He thought. He tried to get his bearings. A few bright lights, pleated metal walling. No low thrum of a ship’s engines, no wonkiness of artificial gravity. But that concern only occupied his groggy attention for a moment. When he looked down at himself…...
He was strung up and completely naked, in between two chains. One, hanging from the ceiling, had been fastened to his bound wrists. His ankles were bound together and attached to the other chain, fastened to the floor.
There was the sharp pain of long nails digging into his cheeks, then a he felt the blunt end of an object slam into his abs.
“Ooph!” he grunted. The sharp nails released and he tasted blood on his lips.
“You're awake,” said a cold female voice dripping with malice. Stryker was struck again. He swayed with the chain, growling in pain.
“Remember me, you asshole?” She smacked his face with a wooden stick that had a large knob on one end.
Stryker spat out blood. “Sure I do. You're the chick that I used a wrench on to rearrange her face. It’s an improvement..”
Black Rose growled and swiftly connected a boot to his crotch.
Stryker groaned in pain,as he swung from the chain.
“Say what you want, meathead, ” she said. “Now it’s my turn…” She walked around the large man, the dull yellow lighting highlighting the platinum blond hair.
Stryker tried rubbing his wrists together. They screamed in pain as the binding bit into his flesh tearing away at it. Drops of blood welled up and oozed between the links.
Black Rose pulled out a blade. “Did you know...” she started to say, her voice oozing with rancor, “that there are people who find tattoos….a rather delicate form of artwork…..”
Stryker didn’t like the sound of that. “They should head down to their local parlor and get one eh?”
Black Rose’s once beautiful face, now a twisted mess of scarred flesh curved into a smile. “They rather like the art, on other
She slid the blade of the knife along the scapula, tucking the flat end under the skin.Stryker gasped, but tried not to cry out in pain. He could feel drops of blood run down his back. Black Rose turned the knife and slid it further under the skin, pulling it up.
Stryker cried out. Black Rose smiled. She pulled the blade out, and attacked the tattoo from the other side. A small shallow incision, peeling the skin away from the flesh.
The man could only see stars. The pain was unbearable. Rose stepped around the man, holding a flap of bloody skin in her claw. A tattoo of a stylized star. “Whoever the artist was, did a nice job, eh?” She kicked him in the stomach.
Stryker growled in pain, his mind a blur. In the recesses of his mind he could hear the chains clinking.
She walked around him tracing a finger along his meaty bicep. She stopped at the tattoo of Black Omega’s logo, that he had gotten. “Oh, I didn’t know you were in with that
lot.” She stabbed the knife into the muscle.
Stryker howled in agony.
“...but then again, you're probably some low underling in the organization…..” she said dismissively.
Her communicator beeped. She looked down at it in annoyance as she absent-mindedly twirled the knife in her fingers. Sheathing the blade, Rose looked up at Stryker with a sinister look of apology.
“I’m sorry, but I have to take this. Don’t go anywhere, okay?”
With a snear, the woman turned and exited the room. Stryker couldn’t hear the conversation, but Black Rose had set the knife down on a spindly table.
Stryker dangled from the chain, bruises welting up, his back was nothing but tingling and stinging pain, the bicep throbbing.
He couldn’t think beyond his current situation. All he knew was he had to get out from the chain. He wringed his wrists together. The chain cutting into the skin. He howled in pain as the skin was torn off, the hard metal grinding into the bone.
He pulled down, the shoulder ready to pop out of the socket, and twisted. The binding pulled against the thumb ripping the meat off of it as the hand finally worked free. He fell to the floor with a thud. Through dimmed vision of pain, he crawled towards the table. The binding around his feet didn’t allow him full reach. He saw his left hand reach out, the fingers barely touching the leg. He was fumbling at it, threatening to push it further from his reach. Somehow, he caught it and brought it over. The knife fell with a clatte cutting a slit along the skull. Stryker felt his fingers curl around the hilt.
The large man sat up and used the blade as leverage to break the chain around his ankles. He pushed himself up and off the floor and staggered to the door. He stood next to it, back against the wall, posed to strike anyone with the knife if they were to pass through.He stood there quietly, his chest heaving, the pain still wracking his body and warm blood running down his back and wrists.
He heard the door slide open and crouched down. In a spring of brutality, Stryker brought the blade upward into the throat of the person entering the room. He felt the blade jerk as it passed into the skull. With a quick stroke, Stryker turned the blade, and pulled it out, just to aim it at the chest piercing the heart.
The man gurgled as blood oozed out of the gaping hole in his throat, and slid onto the floor. Stryker pulled him in, closing the door behind him. He stripped the unlucky man down, donned the pants. He felt the blood oozing down his back, wrists and arm. Stryker took hold of the shirt and tore it into strips. Working quickly, but with diligently he tied the strips tightly around his wounds to staunch to flow of blood. He finished by pocketing the knife and taking hold of the blaster.
Stryker slid quietly through the door.
First things first, where am I, and how to get out of here….
His eyes landed on the Faulcon DeLacy logo.
I’m on a ship….which type…
He went along the corridor and found an access hatch. It was coded, but he tried a few engineering override controls.
It slid open with a hiss and he crawled in. The space was tight, and he didn’t have much room to maneuver with. He needed to hack into the navigational systems. Stryker army crawled along the low corridor, searching. Power conduits pulsed, wires strung along the length, housing and fittings, and finally he found it. A small auxiliary interface. He recognized what ship it went to.
He pried it open with his left hand, exposing its innards; a mess of circuitry and wires. He used the knife to short the device and a few sparks flew. The internal sensors were disabled.
He found a large bundle of wires nestled up in a recess over the interface. He grabbed the bundle, ripping it from ceiling and and cut the sleeve. The individual wires fell loose and Stryker started filtering between them. His large wounded back occasionally rubbed into the metal flooring, sending fresh spasm of pain. He grit his teeth and breathed slowly letting the sensation dissipate.
No, no, not that one, yes….no, no, no, There it is….
Stryker located the three wires he needed. He cut one, then stripped the plastic shrouding from the other two. He twisted the exposed metal together, and pulled the lever to the open position.
There was metallic clank as an external hatch opened.
The communications array began transmitting an automated distress call. He touched the tip of the blade to a metal fitting in the circuitry and tapped out a simple Morse code message. “Taken captive, send help...” then slid the knife back into the pocket. He pulled up the navigational protocol on the small display. They were on the surface of some planet in the Nukunda system. He couldn’t make out much from the flickering static screen.
He didn’t linger there long. Stryker crawled along to a junction and taking a moment to get his bearings, he turned to his left and bullied opened another hatch.
Stryker slid out of the maintenance shaft and, back into the ship. He grasped the laz-pistol and held it down, ready for a firefight. He slowly made his way towards the cockpit, keeping his steps quiet. His wrists, arm and back throbbed but he was determined. He passed into the engine room, slowly picking his way through the machinery.
Zap! Sparks flew as the bolt of a ionized energy struck next to him. Stryker dodged behind a large metal object..
More sparks. “I know you’re there, and this time, I’m going to end this.” Black Rose sounded calm, and level.
Stryker peered out from his hiding place. Another shower of sparks. But he saw where she was. Up on a railed platform. In prone position behind a control panel. He twisted around to hide his head. Stryker did some quick thinking. Despite her level tone, there was a wild glint in her one eye
What idiot opens fire around a power-plant?
Stryker saw some cover closer to the ramp that lead up to the platform. He ducked. Another burst of sparks erupted next to his head. He hunched over.
“Come out, come out!” she sang. “Why don’t you just make this easy for both of us…”
Stryker cursed. All he had was this blaster, and he wasn’t about to use it. Not here. He knew he needed to get in closer. He peeked around the side. Black Rose was standing on the platform and behind her was a ladder leading up. The base was covered, but most of the length was exposed. If she wasn’t paying attention to it, it could provide a way up to her. He rummaged around some metal debris. The engineer selected a larger clunkier piece of metal. He positioned himself to make a dash to the ladder, while tossing the hunk of metal low in the opposite direction.
There was a metallic clank as the metal struck the floor immediately followed by blaster shot. Stryker seized the moment and darted out, staying low. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Rose’s profile, then her back. His sprint carried him to the base of the ladder. He stayed on the backside, which positioned him under the platform.
“I know you’re over there” she said. “Maybe I could just decompress this compartment. Not as satisfying as taking your life with my hands, but you know....”
Stryker quietly climbed the ladder. He reached the point where he would have to swing himself around to the front side. He didn’t like the idea of being exposed, but it wasn’t an option. He peeked over the edge. Rose’s back was towards him. She was working on a control panel.
The massive man pulled himself up onto the platform. He turned his shoulder towards her, and made for a bullrush.
With the momentum of a freight train, Stryker’s shoulder collided into the woman's back, smashing her into the bulkhead. Her head whipped back as Stryker wrapped his arm around hers, violently pulling it down then up. There was a sickening crack as her arm broke. She gave a howl of pain.
Stryker had her, or so he thought.
Rose reached down with her other hand and pulled a sabre from a hilt. She turned it and sliced Stryker’s side, along the stomach.
He yelped, letting her go. He looked down noting the ribbons of blood ran over his thick abdominals.
Rose stood hunched over like some feral cat breathing hard. She wiped blood from her cut lip. “You're more trouble then I thought…” She took a step closer to him.
Stryker knew he was exposed and he had to disarm her, but didn’t know how. He weighed his options. She was debilitated, and he didn’t know if she needed both hands to work her sword. He formulated a plan.
He raised a forearm to defend himself.
She took another step closer, slashing down with the weapon. “I’ll kill you!” Stryker took a step back.
She slashed again and Stryker took another step backwards. His back pressed against cold steel. Rose smiled, and winced. “No where for you to run.”
Stryker shifted his weight, he was going to rush her again. The man powerfully pushed forward. He made to go left, as a faint, then he dodged left. He felt the steel of the blade slash along his chest and shoulder. He grunted, but he managed to wrap an arm around her torso. He used his weight to drop her down to the ground. He tilted and rolled, placing his feet against her torso. When his back was firmly against the deck, he forcefully pushed with his legs, ejecting the woman over the edge.
There was clattering of steel on steel as the sword spun to a stop, and clattering of Rose’s body as it hit the ground below.
Stryker pushed himself up and peered over the edge. He saw Rose raise a blaster with a shaking hand. She took aim at the hydrogen reclimator. With a wild laugh she pulled the trigger.
Stryker turned as the reclamator exploded. He turned and dove for the entryway. He heard Rose scream in agony as she was burned alive. Immediately the emergency bulkhead closed. It was too fast. Stryker's thick forearm was caught under it.
He howled in pain as the bulkhead crushed it. He was trapped. The ship rocked as a hydrogen tank exploded. He couldn’t pull his arm free. Sparks flew everywhere. In a daze he saw the saber laying there. He fumbled for it. The fingers of Stryker's left hand gripped the hilt. He brought it up.
Agonizing pain. His vision went blurry. He tried to pull his arm. Nothing. Still trapped. He hacked at the flesh again as the ship shook from another explosion.
He passed out for a moment. Like looking through water, he saw his bloody stump of an arm. Blood oozing from it. In his daze he pushed himself up. Blood smeared over the deck. He saw a return heat manifold. Shaking, he placed the stump against it.
The flesh sizzled and popped. The rancid smell accosted his senses, as he howled in agony again.
Stryker’s daze grew. He couldn’t see properly. Everything was fuzzy. His head spun. He knew he was moving. He could see the escape pod. Then nothing.
Stryker opened his eyes. Someone was hovering over him. He couldn’t make out the face.
"Relax bub, you're safe." the mysterious voice said. "Looks like you've been through alot, so just take it easy."
“Who are you?” Stryker asked.
"My name is Jubei. I scooped up your damaged pod after I followed the distress signal."
“Where am I?”
"You're aboard my ship, Shin-Tenchu." Jubei said with pride. "It's a Fer-De-Lance, so we shouldn't have a problem getting you back to Clair Dock.”
“How do you know?”
Jubei smiled. “You’ve been babbling about it, so I assumed that's where you're from or where you want to go. Lucky for you I'm delivering packages in Pegasi. Try to get some rest, we’ve got a long way to go.”
The groggy feeling washed over Stryker and he couldn’t fight it. He gave in and slipped back into unconsciousness.
Marrakech Morgan, infamous outlaw and member of the Black Omega High Counsel, stepped into the dimly-lit medical bay. Before her was the unconscious form of Stryker Aune, barely alive thanks to the life-support systems to which he was attached. His body was broken, large patches of his skin missing, and his forearm crudely amputated in a desperate bit for life.
Marra was not pleased.
Stryker had sworn allegiance to both Black Omega and the Federation Intelligence Service, playing the part of double agent but ultimately causing trouble for both parties. Even if his ultimate loyalty had been proven, Marra resented the ham-fisted way that he had approached his craft. But the big oaf had refused to die, and now presented a problem for the Pirate Queen.
A thin, gaunt surgeon in a threadbare labcoat timidly crept up beside her. He gestured to the man with a holoslate before nervously speaking.
“We could use progenitive cells to regrow the arm.”
Marra’s eyes narrowed in contempt as she shook her head.
“No. The idiot cost us more than he realizes. I want that cybernetic affixed to him.”
The doctor looked at Marra, and then at Stryker. “It’s… it’s not ready. Just a thing I’ve been toying with. The technology is unproven, it’s too heavy for everyday use, it-”
“I didn’t ask for your opinion,” she interrupted. “Look at him. The man’s been sweating over barbells for years. He’s perfect for it.”
The doctor looked at her with fear and reluctance. The last of his medical scruples were being tested by her insistence that he affix the crude prosthetic..
The woman’s eyes flashed. “You what
, exactly? Can’t do it? Won’t
do it? Well?
The man looked at the cold steel deck and shook his head. “I can
. It’s just that-”
"Then it’s settled. I want that brute to remember his failure for the rest of his days. That those who can’t perform their tasks are trash.”
She turned to the wilting surgeon, looking him hard in the eye. “And what do we do with trash?”
With a whimper, the doctor hefted the cybernetic claw off the table and placed it next to Stryker’s stump. It was a grotesque, unnatural sight next to the smooth skin. He pulled open a drawer, revealing a set of crude surgical instruments. Glancing at the slim woman, he hurriedly nodded.
Sensing his capitulation, Marra gave him a final, icy stare and spun to walk away, heels clicking and the door sliding shut behind her. He was alone.
The perspiration was already starting to bead on his forehead as the hapless surgeon pulled up his mask. With trembling hands, he selected the appropriate tool and began his bloody work.
A huge thanks to M. Lehman for his edits, suggestions and contributions. Read more about his amazing Reaper Diaries here.
A special thanks to Jubei Himura
for his suggestions and edits.
A special thanks to my brohemian Beraug "The Beast" Roschke
for the awesome action render of Stryker!
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