tagSci-Fi & FantasyHalfbreed Ch. 01

Halfbreed Ch. 01

byHookedonPhoenix©

"Do you wanna know how I got this jacket?" Mike said, perching himself upon the glowing blue countertop of the bar like a man looking for a mission. He tugged at his shoulder, displaying the dark leather for the two half-dressed Catians huddled together in the barstools directly next to him.

One of the women's catlike ears twitched in his direction. She turned her head, tilting it to one side like a confused feline as her long tail curled about her leg. "...Your jacket?" She asked, brushing a lock of crimson hair from her eyes. Her companion poked her head around as well, blinking at the scruffy looking rogue who had the guts to approach them.

Mike grinned. Got 'em. He thought, congratulating himself. "Of course! Don't you know what type of leather this is?"

"No?"

Mike brushed gently at the tip of his shoulder, as if clearing dust. "Gelph leather. Near-priceless, this stuff is smoother than silk, but tough enough to take a bullet."

The closest Catian leaned in, her inbred curiosity getting the better of her as she brazenly reached out and felt it. She let out an appreciative gasp. Mike could see a flash of her cleavage through her clingy dress. Both of the Catians looked as though they'd dressed for a night on the town.

"The creature they get it from comes from a remote feral world in the Dwarven Technocracy." Mike explained, "Only one of its type in the galaxy, and the shorties keep a firm rein on how much is sold."

"So how did you get it?" Asked the second Catian, a raven-haired little thing, with eyes that were as charmingly blue as Mike's Elven first mate. The thought alone made her infinitely more intriguing.

"Oh, now that's a story." He said, leaning forward. He clicked his shot glass against the Catian's tall, frilly one. "...Would you care to hear it?"

"-If you'll buy us both a drink first," The redhead challenged back. "Sure."

Mike already could tell he was going to like her. He smirked, signalling for the Bar AI, which extended a nozzle from the bartop and dispensed a set of refills. Mike downed his shot and called for another.

He leaned back in his chair, adopting an air of casual indifference as he shot eyes at the black haired Catian in the back. She blushed and glanced away.

"I stole it from an Emperor." Mike at last proclaimed, allowing the statement to hold in the air for a moment. He downed a second shot and tilted the empty glass towards the Bar AI again.

"Really." The redhead said, her smile showing she was either amused or intrigued by his bold claim.

"Really!" Mike responded, scratching at his stubbled chin. "I stole some diamonds from him, too."

"Which Emperor?" Asked the raven haired beauty.

"You'd have never heard of him." Mike answered.

The redhead huffed. "I'd bet."

An amused glint came to Mike's face and he turned to face the two Catians. "Oh really? Hear the story then, see if I'm lying."

The Catian smiled back at him with a predatory flash of her fangs. "And if my pryde-sister and I still think you are?"

"Then you don't invite me home tonight to meet the rest of your pryde." He replied without missing a beat.

The raven haired one giggled. "I like him." She whispered to her sibling, as though Mike could not hear. The redhead's own smile deepened. Mike took their expectant gazes as his cue to continue. He leaned forward onto the bar, his elbows against the counter.

"So there I was," He began, his hands gesturing to fill the drama. "Working as a smuggler on my ship: the Halfbreed. My first mate and I had just jumped bail on Hera IV and the Elven Authorities were hot on our heels. We'd crossed into Wild Space less than a week before, stopping off on a colonized planet ruled by an Emperor of all things!"

"So, not a Galactic Emperor." The redhead remarked wryly.

"Did I ever claim he was?" Mike bantered back. "A colony project saw a couple different species transplanted onto the same world at once - much like the dirt rock we're sitting on, right now. Infighting broke out when the Colonists were cut off from communication for a few months, and some civic-minded leader stepped up to take over everything."

"So anyways, we come down to the planet, moving a few contraband weapons for the rebels fighting the government. Everything's pretty bog-standard for that kind of mission. But what happens?" Mike subtly signaled for the Bar AI to refill his companion's glasses again.

"A raid! Half the group we were selling the weapons to end up dead, and the other half captured. Alongside us." The two felines seemed engrossed, leaning forward as Mike spun more of the story. "We ended up in a detention center underneath the Emperor's Palace! He took me and my first mate in for questioning. He thought we were the leaders of the rebellion! Can you believe it?"

"No." Remarked the redhead. She was grinning.

Mike continued as if she hadn't spoken. "We get taken in, one by one. The Emperor shackles us to this torture device, right? My first mate goes up first. She doesn't break, holds firm, gives him nothing. My turn comes up..."

"-And you didn't break either?" The redhead replied.

Mike laughed. "No, I cried like a little child and told him everything..." He took a swig from his drink. "Well, I told him something, at least."

The other Catian cocked her head, "What did you tell him?"

"The password to my ship AI." Mike responded. "He wanted his own flagship, and what better craft than a premium Elven-made starship?"

"So he stole your ship." The redhead said. Mike grinned.

"No. Not precisely. I didn't give him the password to unlock my Ship's AI, I gave him the unlock codes for the ship's defensive grid." Mike made the gesture of a gun with his hand. He fired. "Anyone with the wrong DNA in a ten meter radius of my ship got a Gauss cannon shell flung to their face for the trouble."

"I'm sure the Emperor was mad about that."

"Oh, you bet he was!" Mike said, preening himself like a cocky bird. "Not ten seconds after his chief of security gets fried into dust, I'm chained back up in the torture device screaming my lungs out. But this time I brought a surprise."

"What?" The two Catians asked.

"A frequency scrambler." Mike said, "Some of the rebels who hadn't been captured had smuggled it in. Rendered the torture field completely inert. I literally sat up out of the restraints. Damn near gave his highness a heart attack!"

Mike gave a flick of his wrist, forming a precise gesture as the device on his wrist spread liquid metal across his hand. The flowing, mercury like substance fashioned itself into a blade that ran the outside length of his extended pinkie. Changing hand gestures, Mike formed a fist, and the liquid metal rolled across his knuckles, strengthening them into hard points with which to strike. He released his hand gesture, and the liquid metal retreated back into the device.

"I used my hand to hand combat skills to subdue his guards, and take his highness prisoner. Together we walked down to the cells and opened all the cages. Setting the rebels free."

"A happy ending." The redhead remarked, lifting an eyebrow as she smiled into her drink.

"It gets crazier." Mike replied. "Turns out, one of the cages was holding his daughter, of all things! The Emperor imprisoned his own daughter!"

"The crown princess!" The redhead said, smacking a hand to her cheek in mock shock. Mike smiled as he saw her lick her lips. "She must have been very grateful to you."

"Immensely so." Mike replied, allowing the implication to hang in the air. "She fell for me at once - naturally."

"Oh, naturally!" The redhead laughed. Her fellow pryde member did as well. "Did you make love to her in her prison cell right then?"

"Nah, there was no time." Mike said modestly. "We had to get the Rebels out of there so my first mate and I could get paid! The romance came later, in the Captain's cabin."

"You asked her to join you?" The raven haired one asked. She seemed charmed by the tale.

Mike shook his head with magnanimous grace, "No, not at all. I - gentleman that I am - offered her use of my cabin. She invited me in."

The two Catians giggled as one. The redhead took a long sip of her drink, fluttering her eyes at Mike. The raven haired beauty's tail began to bounce excitedly behind her.

Mike continued. "Just as my first mate and I are leaving the system, we get a call from the Emperor himself. He says he'll pay an Emperor's ransom for his daughter back, alongside the promise that he'll make a deal with the rebels in exchange for her safety."

"Did you trust him?"

Mike chuckled, "Of course not! He had to come onto my ship for the negotiation! While my first mate kept a gun on his face we signed a deal in front of all his planet's news cameras. He got the girl, and I got to fly off with a crate full of diamonds."

"...What about the jacket?" The redhead asked.

"Hm?" Mike said, tilting his head at her.

"Your jacket. You said you stole it from the Emperor." The redhead's eyebrow danced dangerously atop her head, her smile widening. "When did you find the time to do that?"

"Oh! Sorry, wrong story." Mike said, lifting his glass to his face. "That was a different Emperor entirely. If I tell you two that one, I'd have to buy you both another drink.

The two girls began to laugh. "We... could be persuaded perhaps." The redhead said, leaning forward towards Mike. Her lipstick was cherry red, her eyes emerald gems that shone with interest "But if so, you'd have to tell us the real story, this time."

"Would I, now?" Mike replied, leaning forward as well. "And... would it matter if the tale was told somewhat more privately?"

"Only if you went into the nitty-gritty details about your experience with the Princess." The redhead fired back. Mike smiled. There was the sudden appearance of a presence at his back.

"I can get into the details here and now, if you would like." Said a voice that sent nervous shivers down Mike's spine. It was elegant, almost lyrical in the way she bent the words around a sentence, to make it sound somehow grander than it was. Mike let out a low sigh and turned around.

"Aly!" He said, adopting a wide, counterfeit smile. "My beloved first mate! I did not hear you approach!"

"You never do." The blonde creature remarked, her face near expressionless. Her pointed ears poked out from either side of her head, and her intensely blue eyes matched with Mike's in an unblinking stare.

"I thought you'd be another hour or two..." He said, painfully aware of the Catians at his back.

"It was a short meeting." She said, her eyes drifting to the source of Mike's discomfort. The two alien women giggled. "My contact at Maelaes Aelor Inc. wished our conversation to be brief, so that you and I could be off planet sooner, with the delivery." The buxom Elf added. "We have a limited window of time before takeoff."

"I was just finishing telling these fine ladies a story!" Mike replied, giving her a winning smile, "Can't it wait for just a little bit?"

The Elf blinked. Though others could barely see the change, Mike noticed a slight shift in color on her cheeks. He'd miffed her. "Of course it can, Captain."

Mike winced. Always when she's mad. He thought, shifting uncomfortably in his seat. The Elf glanced over at the two Catians, watching the unfolding situation with undisguised amusement.

"If you two would prefer, I can tell you a more... plausible version of the events that he just described." The Catian's eyes immediately flicked over to look for Mike's reaction. He shrugged.

"We were contracted on a mission to deliver spare starship components to a distant space station. I am a licensed Elven Mool-Gwaith, under his stewardship. We've never been on the run from the Elven Government in our lives. His ship was a gift from the Elven authorities, in fact. For deeds he'd committed that greatly benefited our people."

Mike slowly sank into his seat as the two Catian's smiles widened. "There was no 'Emperor,' he was just the local lord of the station. There were no 'Rebels,' Michael got himself caught up in a pub brawl and tossed in the brig alongside fifteen other men and women. Including me."

The two felines were outright laughing at this point. Mike shot a dark look towards his first mate, but the fire was in her eyes now. Once she got like this, there was no dissuading the stubborn Elf.

"It turned out that the local lord's daughter was among those arrested, out doing something she wasn't supposed to be doing. She was terrified of getting in trouble with her father."

"We helped her break out of the cell so she didn't get discovered, and she in turn put in a good word for us when we had to get our starship back after it got impounded. Came to see us off at the landing pad and everything."

The redheaded Catian lifted her ears, intrigued, "...So she really did have a crush on him?"

A very soft, very dangerous smile came to the Elf's lips. "Yes. That much is true." She turned to look at Mike. "She gave him a kiss on the cheek and everything. As to her willingness to be with him... perhaps you could set the scene, Captain?"

"She snuck onto the ship while we were doing final preparations for takeoff." Mike said, defeated. "I found her under my bedsheets. Naked. We were nearly out of the system before I had to turn around and drop her off."

"Her father came to collect her." Mike's first mate said.

"Aly, c'mon-"

"He wanted to know why his eighteen year old daughter had stowed aboard Mike's ship. And why she was naked."

The two Catians looked like they would have to be carried from the room. Both were doubled over laughing, one was pounding her fist atop the countertop as she held her stomach for dear life. Mike grunted, downing his last shot before briskly standing up and pulling his dark coat tighter around his shoulders.

Her work finished, the Elf pivoted smartly on her heel and strode towards the bar exit, weaving with impossible precision through the crowded storefront. Mike moved to follow, having to almost jog to keep up with her elegant movements.

"...You could have at least told them the Jacket story instead, Allynna." Mike grumbled.

The Elf tilted her head back so that Mike could only see one side of her face. A ghost of a smile pulled at the corners of her full lips.

"Which one, Michael?"

They marched in lockstep through the crowded streets of the Colonial Capital. The red sun hanging high overhead as the hustle and bustle of the planet Charity engulfed them, sweeping them along the tightly packed thouroughfares as automated hover cars zipped across the city skyline. It was dark here, a far cry from the pristine, carefully cultivated beauty of the Elven core worlds upon which Mike had grown up, a human amongst strangers.

This was Wild Space. A lawless frontier of infinite possibilities and infinite dangers. Even as Mike moved through the multifaceted throng of different Alien species, he kept making small hand gestures, reforming the liquid metal at his wrist to create makeshift weapons, ready to strike at a moment's notice. First a dagger, then a small sticking spear, then even a retractable blade. He was fidgety.

Allynna strode ahead of him by several steps, her tightly-fit outfit clinging to her body like a white leather bodysuit. It was obviously expensive, well tailored and practical. Mike had seen her move in it; it was like watching water flow. The already-graceful body language of her race was multiplied by the ease of motion. Though almost none of her skin was left uncovered by the modest outfit, it still drew Mike's eye like a moth to a flame.

He quickened his pace, brushing aside a particularly large Orc to catch up to her. The native grunted at him in annoyance, but Mike flashed him his winning smile and slid past. Mike caught up to Allynna, noting that she began to step faster by another fraction once he did, forcing him to quicken himself still further.

"Thanks for finishing my story for me." Mike muttered, "Catians mate in packs of five, you know!"

"There was no time for subtlety." Allynna remarked, her eyes staring straight ahead as she walked. "Had I allowed that conversation to play out to its logical conclusion, we'd have missed our deadline to be spacebound."

"You know, a Co-pilot isn't supposed to shoot down her own Captain like that." He said, flashing her a smile that he saw her take note of, out of the corner of her eye. She didn't smile back, but Mike could parse out the barest glint of amusement on her ageless face.

"No, I suppose not. Shall I report my failings to the Gwaith Monitoring Authority? They can send you a replacement Mool-Gwaith, if you'd like."

Mike laughed, sticking his hands into his jacket pockets as he walked alongside his first mate. "Why bother? The last Elf slave they sent me was defective. And I've heard the new models don't even have pretty eyes."

He saw Allynna's head snap around, a surprisingly intense scowl building upon her face as she glared at him. He laughed. "Jeez! Lighten up, Aly. I forgot how touchy you can get with that stuff."

"It is not slavery, it is Gwaith Elen. It is a sacred duty for my people, one we must all undergo before we can be accepted into Galactic society." She said. Mike shrugged. "It is not something to be so flippant about."

"I figure after three years of living together on the Halfbreed, you'd know when I was joking." Mike replied.

"The average human baffles me with nearly everything they do." Allynna said, her eyes momentarily drifting to Mike before looking away. "...You make it five times more difficult."

"Thank goodness I've still got my good looks, at least." Mike joked, "Otherwise I'd be utterly incomprehensible to you!" She let out a huff of air that to anyone else would have sounded like a grunt of annoyance. For Allynna it was as if she had just belly laughed. Mike grinned. "See? I knew you were a sucker for a bad punchline."

The formal Elf had the barest of smiles tugging at one corner of her mouth. Mike wondered if she even recognized it was there. "Perhaps it simply had something to do with your delivery."

Mike grinned, hustling to follow the beautiful Elf through the clinging throngs of people as they cut their way down a side alley to get to the nearby Spaceport. The tall, oblong launchpad was littered with a smorgasbord of alien ships of all sizes and description: squat Catian fighters; fat, lumbering Dwarven freighters; a small fleet of assorted Human and Elven ships decked out in a panoply of different colorations, sizes and weapons configurations.

Mike took in the raw stench of hyperdrive fuel and smiled, reminded of his youth and the odd jobs he'd occasionally take on the planetary launchpad near his home on busy weeks or during festival months. The Elves had a multitude of deities and spirits that they prayed to, and every holiday was an excuse for the poor human children of the colony to make some extra coin as flight jockeys.

Allynna walked through the Starport as though she were strutting down a red carpet, blissfully unaware of the looks she got as Mike hustled to keep up. "So what's the score? Are we in business?" He asked the back of her shoulder.

"Yes." She said, refusing to turn around and instead walking purposefully forward. "I met with my contact at Maelaes Aelor Incorporated. We're moving some illegal contraband under the nose of the company for him."

"...So a 'Private contract,' then? Shipping stolen goods from the company stockpile?" Mike said. Allynna nodded. "Let me guess: your contact's a Dwarf." She smirked but said nothing, casting her gaze backwards for a fleeting moment so Mike could see the gleam in her eye. He snorted.

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