Chapter 1: The Worst Fucking Luck
The hushed voice of a teen with teal eyes and brown hair framing his tan and yellow-furred face barely clears the sound of the air vents that fruitlessly attempt to clear out the industrial stuffiness. At least it kept most of the smell out.
"Kel," a young man repeats, louder this time, his shadow looming over a teenager with jet black hair and brown fur. "Kel, wake up." A snore, followed by inaudible murmuring. "For the love of Aldan... Bakkie is going to rip you a new one if you don’t get up.” With a sigh somewhere between despondent and annoyed, he pinches his gloved fingers against the tip of Kel's ear and gives a tug.
Kel begins to turn over, muttering just under his breath, "Not right now, baby..."
The other teen stands up straight, glaring down in impatient disbelief. With a deep breath, he leans in close to Kel's ear and yells, "KELENCO LEXTON!"
Kelenco's eyes bulge open; scrambling to get his bearings when he nearly rolls off the cargo crates made impromptu bed. He manages to plant his feet firm on the steel floor and begin swiping his arms around in some sort of spastic interpretive karate exercise. He soon comes to the realization he's exactly where he left himself with exactly the person he'd expect and delivers a frustrated karate chop to the other boy's head, his cap hugging the side of his hand.
The other teen takes a step back, taking his cap off to rub at his scalp. "OW! What the fuck!?"
“What the fuck indeed, Nai," Kelenco says, straightening his glove and turning his nose up. "I was dreaming of wealth and bitches!”
“Uh… huh…” Nai pauses to leer. “You realize we have at least three more freight cruisers to unload and only three hours to do it, right?”
Kelenco gently grabs one of the two zippers on the neck of his body suit, zipping and unzipping about an inch with a nervous side glance. “R-right… Heh.”
Nai wastes no time pulling his hand away from his collar and dragging him toward the front of the garage, the large doors inching and screeching their way toward the ceiling in preparation for a docking ship.
This was the typical grind on Tier Five of Grand Celestre, especially so for the docks lining the edges; always busy, always loud, always filling your lungs with smoke and debris from gods knew what. Remarks from outsiders on the conditions were usually met with a casual, “You get used to it,” but anyone who’d spent more than a few months working (or even worse, living) there knew that was a lie only to save face. Cargo would come in and out from all over the continent, traded back and forth between the merchants and factories on the upper layers of the city as well as beyond the bland expanse outside its borders.
It was a dream of many to escape the lower layers - the choking factories, the dangerous slums,
the ruins of the old cities Grand Celestre had long since replaced. Whether you held onto it dearly or tossed it away like a rolled cigarette that had outlived its use, the fact was that dream would remain unrealized for most. Lives wasted away looking upward and wondering what could have been.
The few who actually saw a life beyond what middle and lower class offered knew it was better to stay silent. Delusions were the only comfort spared for some, and killing a dream around here had much worse consequences than simple hurt feelings.
The large clock over the door, a hologram of an analog face taking a moment every couple of minutes or so to glitch out, read quarter-to-five. Kelenco heaves a sigh, tapping a tablet meant for shipping documentation against his palm on the trek across the garage to deal with one of the last of today’s orders.
He slows his pace, taking a moment to arch an eyebrow at the vessel; easily one of the oldest models of airships he’d ever seen stop in, and a conglomeration of whatever replacement parts it likely took the thing to stay afloat. How or why the thing was still running, he couldn’t even begin to fathom; for as little as he knew about how airships worked, he did know it’d take nothing less than a genius to keep this thing in one piece and prevent crippling manaburn to the primary engines.
Catching the attention of the tall, stocky man waiting with his arms crossed, Kel thrusts the tablet toward him. “Please sign here, here, and here and make sure your cargo is properly secured and ready for docking; your payment will be automatically transferred to your account upon proper delivery,” he recites in a dull tone, using the stylus to direct the man to the signature lines. “If you have any questions, please contact Tramanto Unloaders Inc. and we’ll our best to resolve any issues. Thank you for your business, and remember…” He stops to slump his shoulders, rolling his eyes in silent defiance. “If we can’t get your cargo unloaded in a jiffy, then that ain’t skippy.” He scrunches his nose in distaste, muttering, “Fuck my life…”
Moments have passed by the time Kel snaps himself out of his own loathing monologue; he glances down at the tablet to see nothing’s been signed, sets the stylus on top, and places his free hand to his hip. “Listen, asshole, I’ve got two other freighters here - much nicer looking, less likely to blow up the garage freighters - that I have to help unload in the next ten minutes, so the sooner you sign the sooner I’m off your ass and you can get back to glaring at something a little more worth your time. Ya got me, bro?”
The man releases a small grunt when the teen shoves the tablet right into his chest, but otherwise shows little reaction other than a cock of his eyebrow beneath his golden brown bangs. He keeps a navy eye on Kel as he begins signing his name, staring a few moments longer before shoving it right back and sending the slender young man flat on his behind.
“Really appreciate your business, Mr…,” Kel starts to snip back, looking to the tablet for a name. “Tin… Tr… Ugh, people can actually write this bad?”
“Trion Kurie,” the man calls with a look over his shoulder, delivering a glare strong enough to send a shiver straight up Kel’s spine.
The teen holds his breath until the man’s disappeared back into the cargo hold of his ship, exhaling it all in relief and pushing himself back to his feet and waving his middle finger around in the air toward the ship once the coast is clear.
Nai watches with a look of amusement, plopping a hand on Kel’s shoulder and smirking when his friend nearly jumps out of his skin.
“D-dude, you tryin’ to KILL me?!”
“Nah; I already know you’ll do a good enough job of getting yourself killed one of these days,” Nai shrugs, looking at the tablet. “What the hell happened over here?”
Kelenco throws his arms up, heading toward the next ship with Nai in tow. “Fuck if I know. Guy stares at me with serial killer eyes for ten years and gets pissy when I tell him I got a job to do.” He looks down, hesitant. “Not the first time I’ve been stared at, but this time felt… different.”
Nai cracks a nervous smile. “C’mon… We’re almost done for today. Once we get out, we can head over to Gram’s for some din-”
Both boys shriek at the weight of a hand clasping either of their shoulders tight from behind. “Lexton… Noirdan… I got words for you.”
“I hate words,” Kel shutters, looking over his shoulder to see a pair of hazel eyes trying to strangle the life out of him with a glare alone.
“What’d we mess up this time, Baklenn?” Nai groans, slumping his shoulder once the middle-aged man has released them.
“The paperwork’s all wrong and the garage is a mess,” Baklenn says, pulling a hand-rolled cigarette and a lighter from his jacket pocket. “You’re gonna stay and help me fix it; don’t care if it takes all night. You boys don’t learn, then ya don’t eat.”
“Man, you stress too much,” Kel says, weaving his fingers together and pressing his hands to the back of his head when he turns to face his boss. “Look at you; you’re already starting to go gray! Can’t you let it slide and relax a little, Pops?”
Pinching at his short bangs, Baklenn tries to get a good look at his roots but quickly disregards it in favor of gripping his cigarette between his teeth and lighting up. “Lay off the hair. And what’d I tell ya about callin’ me Pops, eh?!”
“I recall you telling me not to,” Kelenco snickers, running off toward the other side of the garage to get to work. Nai hesitates, but rushes off after his friend with a gulp upon seeing Baklenn’s disapproving frown.
Time slugs along, but after another two hours of grueling lifting, stacking, and rearranging, the boys sit down to catch their breath and wipe their brows. Everyone else had long since gone home, but Baklenn being not only the owner but the kids’ guardian had the authority to stay as late as he pleased and force the two of them along for the ride.
“Alright,” Baklenn grunts with a puff of smoke, going over his tablet one last time. “Looks sound. Don’t stay off in the Seiikae too late, ‘kay? Door’ll be open; should have your paychecks ready by the time you get back.”
“Sweet,” Kel says with a tired laugh, leaning forward on his knees as he sits. Looking over at Nai through his bangs, he asks, “Off to the old bag’s place then?”
“Off to Gram’s, yeah,” Nai smiles, getting up. “I’m starving!”
By the time they hit the sidewalk, Baklenn’s turned off most of the lights in the garage; a lot of the nearby buildings shared the same fate of only their street lamps being lit, seeing how most cargo shifts were done for the day. There were a few that would remain open through the night specifically for international shipments that couldn’t be expected to show up between five and five, but it was in Nai and Kelenco’s fortune they didn’t have to deal with that mess. Nighttime shipments were always way more prone to accidents.
The trip through the bazaars of Tier 5 was no different than any other morning or night; all manners of manatek lanterns and lamps hung around from the stands and the power lines, with desperate merchants shouting out to every passerby to buy their cheaply made wares. It rarely came as a surprise when one merchant would disappear in favor of another at most stands; a majority of the lower tiered folk already knew where the reliable shops were, and word was quick to spread if you were out to con people. It never stopped them from trying to con people anyway, but at least after a while they’d retreat down to the Seiikae or Condenser levels to try their luck there; the more confident ones would instead travel upward, hoping to pull the wool over the eyes of the mid and high class folk.
Toward the center of the trade level was a large building, even this late into the evening still bustling. People packed into elevators and trolleys strung along by thick blue-glowing support wires, while others moved toward stations split up by cement partitions reaching all the way to the ceiling and large, circular glyphs carved several inches into the floor. Many holographic advertisements littered the walls to try to entice citizens into all sorts of goods and services and serve as a distraction between departures - concerts, the newest Commi model, propaganda for the Federation Army in light of escalating tension between Grand Celestre and the other cities, restaurants on all levels, you name it.
“Hate these things,” Kel grumbles, clamping his eyes shut when glass doors shut around the area to prevent any unfortunate accidents and the glyph under their feet begins to light up. In a flash, they disappear and reappear in a similar station in one of the lower levels.
“Yeah… You say so every time we use them,” Nai says, watching his friend fight back the urge to gag. “Still got your appetite?”
Swallowing hard, Kel says, “Somehow,” and watches the doors open to let them out.
“Let’s get going then; Gram’s probably pissed.”
Kelenco gives him a bland look. “Oh no. Our corn’ll be cold.”
Nai punches him in the arm. “Gram’s cooking is good; don’t lie.”
While the station looked same as the one before it, stepping outside almost made a person feel like they’d just entered a different country. Gone were the cold iron and steel buildings and industrial musk and in their stead were buildings made of wood and brick, temples carved of stone, and all manner of plants in front and back yards as well as window sills; money was usually tight, so a lot of families opted to grow their own vegetables and herbs where they could. Children played in the streets wearing their hand-me-down clothing, and hover transport powered by manatek was almost nowhere to be found while bicycles and carts were rampant.
Nai never failed to notice that look on Kelenco’s face every time they stepped out of the station. He’d always done his best to hide it - he’d actually gotten pretty good at it - but to Nai, his eyes always screamed the same thing:
Kel didn’t seem to pay any attention to Nai constantly glancing over or at the very least didn’t bother to bring any attention to it himself, but there was always that forlorn silence the two shared for several blocks.
And then, almost every time without fail, the silence would be broken by a child in the distance.
“OIII!” That boy, only twelve years old at best, would rush over with his mess of black hair flying around his black-furred ears and the treasured pair of dark red goggles with orange lenses covering his eyes. Hoisted on his shoulder is a barrel large enough for him to hide inside, but the size or weight of its contents don’t seem to phase him in the slightest; he’s never winded when he stops before the two teens to greet, “Hey, Kel-da!”
Kelenco widens his eyes at the sight of the barrel slipping forward off the boy’s shoulder, but is helpless to watch as it slams down on his foot. He yelps out in pain, making quick work of releasing his foot and favoring the non-injured one. “Trevian, I swear to-- Just how fucking heavy IS that thing?!” he snaps, making an attempt to lift it up with one arm and struggling. He gives in and uses both arms, and gives in further and throws out the idea of carrying the thing at all, letting it slam back to the pavement.
“Oh, I dunno; it’s just rice,” Trevian answers, rocking back and forth on his heels with a smile. “You guys are late!”
“Yeah,” Nai sighs with a smile of his own, “Baklenn decided some punishment was in order tonight.”
Flicking his bangs out of the way, Kelenco puts a hand to his hip. “Hey, shouldn’t you know better than to make us keep Mayen waiting any longer? You’re gonna get us in even more trouble, shrimp.”
“Sorry!” Trevian gasps, picking his barrel up. “Do-ayon!”
“See ya,” Kel calls after him, watching him scurry off. “Tch, that kid…”
“Makes you look like a wet noodle,” Nai finishes with a playful elbow to his rib.
“Don’t even remind me.”
By this point the rest of the walk would remain mostly silent, but it was easy to see Kelenco’s spirits lifted even if only slightly. Nai could finally feel some relief, and within minutes Moema’s Traditional Azarian Cookery would come into view, it’s wooden sign lit up by a nearby candle-lit street lamp.
Seeing silhouettes in the window, Kel stops to rub his head. “So is anyone ever going to explain to me how the hell she keeps getting customers?” He receives a slap across the back of the head, giving Nai a devious smirk to let him know it was justified.
Bells jingle at the touch of the door swinging open; the both stop to eye a girl flopped over the counter, her face flat to the linoleum and white bangs covering her eyes when she groans, “Irayihaam.”
“Ohyo, babe-ne!” Kel grins, getting the girl to look up in a rush and show her black eyes and brown-furred face mirroring his.
“Demadede!” she snorts, leaping over the counter to run over and punch him in the arm. “Where the hell have you been? You were supposed to get off work almost three hours ago!”
“We were - OW,” Kel tries to explain, getting interrupted by another punch. “Rosi, we- OW.” And yet another. “We got - OW - held up at w- OW - work and - OW - what kind of sister are you?!”
“An older sister!” she laughs, punching him in the arm again.
“Older by like three minutes!” he snorts, answering back with a punch of his own. Nai can only shake his head as the two continue to smack each other, escalating into attempts to get the other twin into a headlock with no concern for the customers looking on; most of them were used to it by now.
The door to the kitchen swings open and out walks a dark haired woman with gray streaks running through it and bags under her dulled teal eyes. “Kani-Ek Toh!”
The fierce drill call gets the attention of everyone in the restaurant, but more importantly it gets the three teens to line up side by side with their arms straight at their sides.
She slowly paces back and forth a couple of times, looking them over carefully; with a pause, her cold demeanor melts away completely and she embraces Nai in a hug. “Good to see you, sweetie,” she finishes with a kiss to his forehead. She squints at Kelenco. “So what did you do to piss Baklenn off this time?”
“Why do you always assume it’s JUST me?” Kel huffs with a cross of his arms.
“Anyway, you two sit down and I’ll whip you up something hot off the stove,” she says with a small wave of her hand, heading back into the kitchen.
“Thanks, Gram!” Nai calls after her.
The three sit down at the bar counter, discussing their daily grinds as usual. Rosalin would always try to rope the boys into going up to Tier 4 to watch a movie or hit the arcades on their next day off, Nai would bring up something interesting he saw in the news on break, and Kel would typically respond with snarky jokes and stories of some of the ship crews he was unfortunate enough to have to deal with.
He couldn’t help but think back to that guy from earlier… Trion or whatever it was. That look he gave him was the kind that belonged only in nightmares. It’d been a long time since Kel had been on the receiving end of a look like that, and he would have preferred it never happened again. Bad memories swelled up to the surface, and even in the comfort of Mayen’s restaurant he still felt uneasy.
“You didn’t eat very much,” Rosi points out, a smirk growing on her face. “Don’t tell me you’re going on a diet. There’s gonna be nothing left of you to punch!”
“It’s totally okay; when the bruises start to swell up, I’ll look at least ten pounds heavier,” he shrugs, sliding off his stool. “You good to go, Nai?”
Nai heaves a sigh. “I guess.”
“Hey, hey, hey,” Mayen says, sliding her oven mitts off her hands and throwing them on the counter so she can give her grandson another hug. “You don’t get to go anywhere till you say goodbye to me, you got that?”
“Yes, Gram,” Nai says, hugging her back.
Turning to Kelenco, Mayen holds her arms out; he tries to turn away with a groan, and she pulls him in for a hug anyway. “You got a lotta nerve, little one.”
“I prefer my hugs a little… younger,” he grins, getting a light smack to the back of the head as Mayen shoves him along.
“You two stay outta trouble.”
“Yes, ma’am,” both boys say, giving a wave goodbye to Rosalin on their way out the door.
Traveling whence they came, Nai and Kelenco return to Tier 5, headed toward a group of buildings crammed together and nearly reaching the “ceiling” - the trade center’s residential district. The idea was that most of the people here would be busy enough with work that the most living space they would ever need is enough room to eat, sleep, and go to the bathroom, resulting in some of the most cramped excuses for apartments anyone could think of.
“You’re lucky; you shouldn’t be complaining at all,” is what they’d tell Nai and Kel when they complained about the crowded conditions; it’s true they were part of the small percent lucky enough to get an apartment intended for two people, but that didn’t change the fact there were actually three trying to coexist in that still fairly tiny space.
The walk over was nothing to scoff at either, especially at this time of night. If you were still out on the streets this late, it was assumed you were either too dumb to live or up to no good; pickpockets would make quick work of the drunks, not to speak of anything worse that may be lurking. The two teens had made this trip more times than they can recall though, and surprisingly they dealt with what little trouble came their way without much issue.
They enter their building - there wasn’t really much way to tell it apart from the others aside from the address number near the front door - and board the elevator. Nai presses the button for the fourth floor, unsurprised at all when it doesn’t register the first time; he practically punches it the next time, cracking a small satisfied smile to himself when the doors begin to squeak shut.
Down the hall three doors on the left; Nai lets himself in first, taking off his shoes in a small hall wide enough to only let one person through comfortably at a time, leading straight into the living and dining area. “We’re home,” he calls out, moving further inside to allow Kel to do the same and shut the door behind them.
“About time,” Baklenn snorts, taking a sip of brandy in his old recliner. He takes his attention away from the holobroadcast playing on the wall to watch the teens plop down in a couple of beanbag chairs. “No trouble getting back?”
“Didn’t get shanked, if that’s what you’re asking,” Kel drones, ready to nod off.
“And that, my little friend, is certainly an accomplishment,” Baklenn nods. “You know what else is an accomplishment?”
“Not fucking up at work so I can actually get to bed at a decent time for once in my life,” Kel groans, getting up and sluggishly walking over to the bedroom he and Nai share a few feet away. “Somebody set the coffee maker or I ain’t going nowhere tomorrow.”
“Way ahead of you, ‘cause that makes two of us,” Baklenn says, looking to Nai. “You should probably get to bed too.”
“So you’re gonna cut us a break tomorrow, right?” Nai says with an exhausted laugh, heading for the bedroom as well.
Baklenn sports a smirk. “Not on your life, kiddo.”
“Figured as much… Well, g’night Bakkie.”
“Night, Bak,” Kel yawns, already curled up on his side of the mattress pressed against the wall. Nai shuts the door, double checks that their alarm is set, changes into more comfortable clothes, and crawls onto his side of the mattress. Sleep came quickly for the both of them.
It was a short lived experience though, at least in Nai’s case; he cracks his eyes open, the time of 2:24 AM hovering in front of his face. Groggy as he may be, he decides he should probably go to the bathroom rather than turn over and go back to sleep and does just that; on his way back to bed, he hears something just loud enough to catch his attention and stops.
“I’ve got two kids I need smuggled out of here, like… now. RIGHT now.” That was definitely Baklenn’s voice from his bedroom. “I hear you’re one of the best in the business and I’ll… I’ll pay you whatever you want.”
“Best in the business of what exactly? ‘Cause is sure as hell ain’t smuggling kids,” another voice grunts, not amused in the slightest.
“Please, I’m beggin’ ya here. Everyone’s in for a whole lot of trouble if I don’t get him somewhere safe.”
“Yanno, I’ve heard that Leinstrum’s got it out for some Ashellina twerp. There any correlation to the one I ran into at your garage?”
Crippling silence; the man on the other end takes it as a yes and sighs. “Alright, Tramanto… Free services for the rest of my days, and you do not come to me for any more favors. EVER. Or I’ll plant one right between your eyes. We clear?”
“Crystal,” Baklenn gulps.
“Here’s the deal then; you get them to C7 on the west end docks by three, and I’ll take it from there. If you’re late, I’ll throw him off to the Feds myself; I’m not about to get dragged down with you.”
Nai gawks, rushing into the bedroom and shaking at Kel. “Kel, you need to wake up! Wake up, god damn it, this is really--”
Baklenn boots the door in, aiming a pistol upward and taking a shot right through the ceiling. Both boys jump about a mile, with Kel damn near ready to knock Nai out in one fluid motion.
“Get dressed,” the boss grunts. “Don’t bother packing; you don’t got time. We’re gettin’ the hell outta dodge. NOW.”
“Bak, I heard you talking to someone in the other room,” Nai stammers, being quick to do just as ordered. “What the hell is going on?”
“No time to explain; we gotta move or we’re all dead.”
“Dead?!” Kel snaps, struggling to get dressed in the dark and nearly tripping over his own pantleg. “Could you at least tell us what’s about to make our lives miserable?!”
Baklenn takes a puff of his cigarette in hesitation, turning to answer just as the boys leave the bedroom fully dressed with a completely foreign look of overwhelming concerned washed over his face. “It’s the Feds, Kel. They want you. They’re coming for you right now, and we can’t be here when they show up.”
Kelenco widens his eyes in horror. “But… how?! They already-- I’m not worth anything to them, I’m just--”
“Look, if you want answers, I suggest you try asking them when we’re not running for our lives,” Baklenn blurts, ushering them toward the front door to get their shoes on.”If we’re not at the west end by three, we’re all probably fucked. Move quickly, move quietly, and stay close to me.”
They hurry to the elevator and bolt outside, rushing down the sidewalk and turning into the first alleyway they come across.
“We’re never gonna get to the west end by three on foot!” Kel hisses. “Shouldn’t we get a car or… or something?”
“No cars; stick to the shadows,” Baklenn says, gun at ready as he peeks around the corner and signals that it’s all clear.
They manage to make it most of the way with no conflict, weaving in and out of alleyways and barely avoiding Federation patrols. Just as they spot the west end docks in the distance a few blocks away, a blinding spotlight shines down right on top of them, the wind of a hovercopter blowing their hair back.
“This is the United Federation Army of Grand Celestre,” a soldier’s voice calls over a speaker, “We are under direct orders from the Grand Meister Xera Leinstrum to take you into custody. Any sort of resistance will give us full right to issue lethal force to the man and the Azarian. We request you come as quietly as possible; do you comply?”
“Dock C7,” Baklenn whispers back, cautiously passing back a handful of Cred sticks to Nai. “There’s someone waiting; he’ll take care of you. Now run.”
Nai begins to panick. “Bakkie, we can’t just--”
“I said RUN!” their boss snaps, shoving them away and turning to shoot at the hovercopter.
“Baklenn, please…!” Kel winces, running away. Shutting his eyes tight, he looks straight ahead and refuses to look back as he speeds up his pace, forcing Nai to do the same. “Dock C7… Dock C7,” Kel starts saying under his breath, a mantra to keep his mind on the task at hand while they run.
“Kel, why are they after you?” Nai asks, getting only a small surprised glance in response. “Th-this isn’t something random; I can tell you and Baklenn know something you’re not telling me.”
“Right now all you need to know is they are very serious about getting their hands on me and killing you,” Kel huffs, the docks now right across the street. “I can’t answer jack shit unless we live through this, so work with me here.” He peeks around the corner, spotting a patrol nearby; taking a deep breath, he quietly counts himself in, then grabs Nai by the hand and makes a mad dash for the building.
They can hear yelling over the loudspeaker just as the enter, but Kelenco doesn’t let up even slightly; running as fast as his legs will carry him and giving Nai no other choice but to do the same, they can hear the soldiers already starting to catch up.
“This guy had better fucking be here,” Kel grunts, sliding to a stop just in front of C7 and rushing in; across the garage is the light of a ship’s open cargo bay. “OI!”
“Hands behind your head where I can see ‘em!” a soldier snarls through his helmet; Kel and Nai immediately skid to a halt, slowly lifting their hands up and looking toward the ceiling.
“Please, please gods no,” Kel whimpers.
“You’re under arrest; surrender immediately in the name of the Meister!”
A shadow is cast over the boys from a figure emerging from the ship.
“Sir, return to your ship immediately! We’re under direct orders from Grand Meister Xera Leinstrum to apprehend these children, and any further action will give us no choice but to--”
The figure lifts his arm up and three gunshots ring one after the other, whizzing right past the teens. They instinctively drop to their knees with their hands over their heads and tremble, only realizing moments later that all three of the soldiers that had followed after them were now lying dead on the floor, bleeding out from the neck. The man slowly lowers his arm and, with no other options left to them, Kel and Nai get to their feet and rush up the ramp.
“Wait a minute,” Kel gawks upon getting a better look of their savior. “You’re--”
“Get on the ship, Shelly,” Captain Trion Kurie says with a scowl.
“Y-you were the man on the phone with Baklenn earlier?” Nai mumbles nervously. “Just what’s going on, and h-how are you involved in all this?”
“Answers come later,” Trion grunts, the bay door beginning to close. “For now, I get this bird in the air and you two catch your breath.” He stops with his back to them, gun still dangling in his hand. “By the way… Welcome to the Maiden’s Kiss. Do us all a favor and don’t make yourselves comfortable.”
Kel and Nai turn to watch the last sight of the dock swallowed up by the ship’s door. There was no going back now even if they wanted to.