Lady Nistrie and her unheralded, yet most welcome host, shared a roaring fire. The contents of his bucket-o-fish were bubbling in a small cauldron, enjoying the merry company of fresh herbs and veggies. The Terran was, exactly as he mentioned, full of knowledge and quite an experienced survivalist. Though in his own words, the bunny claimed that he was but a humble Camper.
Earlier he promised she'd be dry soon; Nistrie never imagined that the uplifted sentient could set a fireplace so quickly. The bunny hopped back to the channel and back, twice, and each time he brought with him extra camping gear. A tent, much like the one her rescuers had gifted her, a bedroll, that nifty metal fireplace and his ancient-looking cooking pot. When she asked her host where he stored all of this gear, he answered smiling “in my floating Shadow.”
As she slowly ate the delicious fish soup, Hector satiated her curiosity and explained more about what being a Camper meant.
The Campers were a tight-knit group of sentients, the bulk of whom weren't locals, yet they always spent their free time on Mars. In addition to maintaining the planet's Terraformed ecosystem, they also cleaned its giant canal network, and seeded all waterways, lakes and rivers with fishies. The organization was known for planting an odd forest here and there, preventing soil erosion.
In exchange, Lady Nistrie told him about her unfortunate meeting with the pirate ghosts, and how she shot their captain. The bunny did carry, just like every single Terran she'd seen so far, a sidearm. After a recollection so vivid, Hector had no intention to repeat what happened to her. He hopped back to his “Shadow” and came back, a compact carbine slung over his shoulder.
“You get some sleep now. Tomorrow, after you've rested, we will revisit that pirate dropship you found. I promise you, they will have their transparent hands full this time.”
The Dzent'a did what she was told without question or any shred of hesitation. Somehow, after only a few hours spent talking with this uplifted Terran, the lady trusted him nigh implicitly. Generally, the Dzenta'rii were not known to be naïve and she considered herself quite prudent an individual. Even though her unusual hobbies made her a social outcast, she still learned how to read people. One was forced to attend various social events and mingle with other socialites.
Ofttimes the ploys she had to protect herself from were quite elaborate. Though, as soon as the other Ladies in Longing uncovered who Lady Nistrie was, they scoffed and they laughed. “Reading books and technical manuals was unladylike” and “Why would you ruin your soft hands fixing machines?” they'd sneer at her and then cackle incessantly in their corner of the ballroom.
Nistrie couldn't wait till it was appropriate and she could leave the social event. After she heard about the Terrans from a distant friend, the lady quickly sold what little she had, packed her belongings and left for the Minarchy. If not for that unlucky incident, she'd still have her own space shuttle, a reasonable sum of money and Dzenta'rii gear.
Thank the Universe, the Terrans who helped her were also generous! They gifted her with plenty of food and some basic items, even one of their spare particle-beam pistols. After selling her first bundle of salvaged components, Nistrie pocketed a sizable sum. She aimed to return their generosity – a Dzent'a couldn't sleep well if they owed other sentients money.
Early next morning, Lady Nistrie woke up refreshed.
Hector had changed into something which reminded her of the military uniforms she'd seen during parades. Yet, this one looked much, much plainer than what Dzenta'rii usually wore. Blue with gray stripes, the suit looked like it gave its wearer the ability to survive in harsh conditions. It was equipped with a sturdy life support and offered enhanced protection against beam weapons.
Since Nistrie read all the tech manuals she could get her hands on, she quickly discerned the type of alloy Hector's thin armor plates were coated with – Zimir.
“Why Zimir though? Ghosts can't shoot you with energy weapons.” - She pointed out after the bunny noticed her ogling his well-upgraded suit.
“No, no, this is not for them ghosties.” - he smirked, tapped his belt and added - “My shield belt protects me from these stinkin', unalived thieves. Armor plating is for when I bump into the living.”
Hector handed her another belt, similar to his own and explained the controls:
“When we get close to the derelict, switch it on with this button. Yes, and here you can...”
“Recharge it with spare power packs? This is a good model, quite expensive!”
Nistrie had already locked the belt buckle and was carefully fiddling with the controls.
“I am loaning it to you.” - the bunny sniggered, and after checking his weapons a second time, one paw pointed at the tent:
“Now, help me pack the camp up. Never a good thing when sentients leave all their stuff, just laying around. Speaks ill of their discipline and really is bad camping etiquette.” - Hector fatherly said, as he packed his cooking gear in a padded, vacfoam bag.
On Dzenta'rii planets, the androids did most of the menial work and were paid quite well to do so. Here, everyone was expected to pull their own weight, so she joined the bunny. The people who rescued her mentioned, that people also made doubly sure to repay any favors they were granted.
Thankfully this was the Terran Minarchy; a person with her hobbies had plenty of opportunities to make serious cash. The sooner she got back her backpack, Nistrie could make use of all the credits stashed there. Maybe even buy the bunny something or treat him to lunch?
“You are a very thoughtful young lady and I accept your offer, gladly!”
Lady Nistrie bit her lip – she'd spent a tad bit too long on her own, and had gotten into the habit of vocalizing her thoughts.
“There is a floating borgar joint, just a few kilometers down the channel. For the price of a few creds, you can eat like a... well... a genuine lord.” - The bunny chuckled after she made another, this time pleasantly surprised face and smirked at his witty joke.
They kept chatting about little, everyday things, she found interesting yet knew little to nothing about since these were Terran social customs or cultural things. Little by little, as the minutes passed and they got ever closer to where she uncovered the derelict, Nistrie learned more about her host.
Carrying gear and weapons like these, she was relieved to discover that her initial assumption was correct. Hector was a veteran, and not just an ordinary soldier, but a submariner. On her homeworld there existed a water navy; Lady Nistrie knew of it since she read the ship's manuals. It would seem, however, that only the Terrans bothered to design and build submersible ships.
The entire trip back to the derelict took them thirty minutes. One couldn't fathom how great a distance they ran, under duress and with tons of adrenaline pumping in their veins. This was especially true for a Dzenta'rii; whose adrenaline levels were much, much higher than those of any Terran.
“Over there,” - she pointed in the near distance, after switching the gifted shield belt - “the tiny hill is actually a class 3 dropship. No idea which one of these pirate 'clans' owned it, but it could transport thirty-eight troops, I think.”
Hector gave her a squinty-eyed look after he activated his shield belt and his snout twitched.
“Forty and... don't call them troops. Miserable Life-stealers they are, not proper soldiers!” - Spat out with a completely different tone of voice her host, his particle-beam carbine aimed at the partially uncovered wreck.
They cautiously closed the distance; Hector at the front and Lady Nistrie, pistol in hand, covering his back. While they advanced, she attempted to copy how the old bunny moved and was semi-successful. Her stance changed naturally, and she not only felt a surge of confidence, but oneness with her gun.
No sooner than they had reached the derelict, a bunch of ghostly pirates floated from its insides.
“Look, the killer of our captain is back to face justice! Whoever drains the most life from her miserable meatsack will become our next leader. This is OUR ship and no one steals OUR stuff!”
Hector made one small step forward and aimed at the burliest-looking pirate ghost. The bunny's gray colored goggles most probably gave him a much greater field of vision, because he gently nudged her. It took her a few seconds, but there was no mistake – the filthy, lying pirate ghosts were sneaking up from behind! She could see three of them, floating through the tall grass, trying to encircle them.
“What have we he...” - one of the spirits noticed Hector, yet the bunny interrupted her:
“By the Patrons, you creeps still think that this is your ship?! Old timers took care of you back then, and veterans will do it again... for one, last, time.” - the bunny then unceremoniously opened fire.
“Shid!” - was the only thing that same ghost could utter.
His carbine unleashed a long, continuous beam, which not only hit the ghost he already aimed at, but three others. Surprised by such firepower, the malevolent spirits floated off in all possible directions, including underground. Lady Nistrie gasped; the gun was much more powerful that what one would assume just by studying its modest size.
She was fighting these ghosts again but... this time everything was different. Not only was she not alone, but she was prepared, shielded, and her companion fielded powerful particle-beam weaponry. Him being a veteran soldier was probably the most important factor and these pirate spirits evidently knew it. One by one, those who were the furthest away, attempted to escape, yet were sniped by Hector.
Anger, there was so much and quite righteous anger, swirling around him like a cloud!
Lady Nistrie fired all remaining shots in her used power pack, reloaded and kept firing. That Terran-made pistol unleashed a fusillade of particle-beams and each spirit she hit vanished. Gone were these unjustly lingering about apparitions, their translucent forms devoured by violet flame.
Yes, she did feel fear and a lot of it, but after witnessing how easily her companion took these spirits out, the Dzenta’rii became emboldened. No longer were her hands trembling and she breathless! Stance and aim much better, the lady shot dead seven pirates.
After she'd recovered her discarded during the hasty flight gear, Lady Nistrie entered the derelict dropship. One hour and many scans later, she'd not only salvaged the best components from its cockpit, but a secret compartment. Inside lay a small, mysterious-looking chest and thanks to her skill, she was able to safely hack it open...
I and @todolomejor have been planning and working for months. Mystery, spooky stuff Starshatter style, fishies, munchies, and, of course - aliens! This will be a series of stories following the adventures of two characters - the old submariner Hector and the Dzenta'rii, Lady Nistrie!
Episode eleven coming soon...