Lady Nistrie and Hector spent their short return trip to Mars in an even smaller company. The sales rep having flown away on another ship, it was only them and that minister, occupying the transport shuttle. The same Universalist who came to Phobos with them was flying back, yet this time Nistrie couldn't contain her curiosity.
While Hector was taking a nap, she spent a few minutes talking with the alien priest. He was indeed a hearty individual and like most Universalists, full of wanderlust. Lady Nistrie discovered that his Order has been visiting Phobos yearly, each time sending a volunteer to converse with the spirits. Most of the time it was an one sided conversation, but lately, the noble specters have informed him and others, that “it was time.”
More about his chats with the still lingering around Terran miners the enigmatic man did not say. He answered Nistrie's questions about the 1969 pirate clan invasion of Terra, though, and confirmed her suspicions. Indeed there were plenty of ghosties lurking around, on the surface of Mars and out in space, across the many battlefields of the Solar System.
Meaning there was also salvage to be recovered!
During their rather exhilarating chat, Lady Nistrie felt her small headache suddenly became a serious pain in the noggin. It wasn't going to stop her from enjoying the rest of this day, so she popped a herb pill and just before their shuttle landed, most of her pain went away. There was a buzzing sound, however, which she, no matter how hard and long looked the source of, couldn't locate.
The moment Nistrie's foot left the shuttle's floor plating, it was as if something hit her forehead.
She was surrounded by this sound – somehow it came from everywhere and nowhere. Her sight cleared and instead the colorful Martian star port, Lady Nistrie saw a bleak, shadowy plane. Little rays of darkness ominously crept up towards her, peaking from under a ghastly looking fog.
No, it was not a misty plane, but the deck of an ancient, derelict starship!
“Reeeeee...” - Somebody or better yet, something screeched straight inside her mind.
By instinct, Nistrie tried desperately to shield her ears, even though she knew full well that would not stop the voice.
“tuuuuurn...” - The eery voice continued.
She was able to focus her sight upon something; the gnarly shape of a man, clad in a now dilapidated, but once gloriously looking armored spacesuit, appeared out of the fog. Whoever he was once, there was not a speck of flesh left on his blackened skeleton. Bones still moving, charged with otherworldly force, the deceased pirate pointed Nistrie with his armored glove and skull shroud in gray flame, screeched:
The Lady was immediately overcome with anger.
“What?! No! It is not yours, I won it fair and square!”
“Reeeeee... tuuuuurn...” - Repeated the skeletal monster.
“Not unless you give me something in return.” - Nistrie angrily stated and reached for her beam pistol.
The dead pirate suddenly stop mid screech and two pinkish flames alit inside his eye sockets. Of course, the pistol was not here, and, as a matter of fact, the Lady had no control of her hands even. She, however, refused to surrender herself to despair – even the smallest of Terrans would've told this thing to sod the heck off!
“Well, I am waiting your answer, ghost. What's your offer?!” - Shouted she, even more emotion in her voice..
“Thieves... we hate them! You... you are a thief! Return my slab or...”
“Like the young Lady said, this Slab is not yours to get.” - With unconquerable calm stated the Universalist.
The alien priest had somehow appeared beside Nistrie; he placed one hand on her shoulder and then lifted his hood, gifting her with a confident smile.
“Now, leave the child in peace or,” - his benevolent-looking smile slowly changed into a violence promising frown - “I and my friend will deliver such swift boot-kicking, you wouldn't even know what smacked ya.”
“Youuuu... I am powerful, mightier than you think, priest!” - The pirate ghost suddenly flash moved at a hands reach, his raised up in the air armored gloves burning.
Another figure, one clad in gray and black uniform, casually appeared behind the ghostly pirate. Gloved hands, not burning or glowing with any sinister energies, wrapped around the skeletal monstrosity's neck. If that was even possible, Lady Nistrie witnessed the complete and utter shock, reflected in the pirate's burning eye sockets.
“I will say it once, so you listen carefully.” - The uniformed figure's voice was at least ten times more intimidating than the ghost's.
“This is not a safe place for you to be, Clanner. Either alive or in a half-way-departed state, you will find us Terrans more than willing, and able, to stop you.”
“How dare youuu... I existed for thousands of years, long before you fools have even been born and I...” - With a much shaken voice screeched the pirate ghost.
“Yes, yeees, you existed for like forever, and are powerful beyond our wildest imaginings... Do you know how many times we, the agents of Psy-Corps hear these same bullshit statements?! Now, if you want to keep existing, remove your silly projection and never come back.”
“Fool! Mortal men cannot orde...”
Attempted to sound intimidating the pirate ghost, yet went silent the very second the two gloved hands around his skeletal neck squeezed.
“I will promise you one thing, ghost.” - With newly found focus stated Lady Nistrie - “When we meet again, it will be on your hull plating. I will come with my Slab...”
“You will seal your doom, mortal! Do you know how many little fools like you came to steal my treasure away? Thousands of them, and I devoured their very souls!”
“Who said I am coming alone, ghost?!”
Lady Nistrie woke up on a medibed; surrounded by Hector, the robed priest, a hamster in a doctor's suit, and the uniform wearing man. Once her eyes had focused and the terrible headache vanished, she sat on the bed.
“She will be ready to hoppity hop around the market in a jiff.” - Chuckled the blond-haired green-eyed hamster medic, after scanning Nistrie with his medical device.
“Is that thing... gone gone?” - Worryingly asked her Hector, a mix of anger and fear in his eyes.
“I squeezed once.” - Stated with his intimidating voice the uniformed man, and then smiled at her, before adding:
“At least one shattered vertebrae, the coward slithered away before I had time to do more.” - He removed one of his gloves, and Nistrie saw a bioluminescent Psy-Corps badge form above his wrist.
“I was going to introduce him to you, Lady - this be my old friend. Me swears, Logan gets bigger every time I see him!” - Hector happily shook the man's gloved hand and then poked him in the ribs.
“Nah, 'tis you, getting smaller, cos you're not eating right! Growing bunnies need pork, beef, sheep, and goat meats – all barbecued to perfection. Not them lean fishies you keep gobbling up all the time!” - Jabbed back at him the telepath, both men grinning with smiles which promised more culinary adventures.
“Happy to be of service, dear Sentients.” - The Universalist said after clearing his throat and everyone turned their heads.
“I am so grateful to all of you! But, how were you able to do what you did, father?” - Lady Nistrie gently bowed her head to the minister, who immediately waved his hand.
“No, don't bow to me, child. Also, we don't have titles in our Order. Since most my adult life was spent here, in Terran space, I have adopted a human name. Please, just call me Alan...”
Logan, after he fixed his glove, shook hands with him, followed by Hector.
“Psy-Corps has a duty to take care of all those who dare molest the minds of our people. Be these violators still breathing or ghostly, few could hide from us!”
“After our talk about the Slab, I took precautions and linked my friend.” - Hector mumbled, eyes darting between Nistrie, Logan, and Alan.
“Of course, I immediately hopped on my bike and drove here. Had a gut feeling, you know, and I always listen to those.”
The hamster doctor was already treating the scraped knee of a little child, who hopped inside his medbay just a second before. They could hear him telling the kid a joke, while he sanitized and then glued the small wound.
“Kid, ya know what Martian 'tatoes luv to much the most?” - Asked the smiling girl the hamster with his squeaky voice, cheeks giggling.
“No, huwhat?” - Innocently asked back the child, twinkles in her blue eyes.
“Fresh baddies, o'course! They be growen biiiig and taste, oh yesh they are!”
The kid tested if her knee didn't hurt when she walked, shoved a credit chit in the hamster's hand, and prepared to leave. He dutifully deposited the child's money in a piggy bank, then gifted her with a small bag, full of candy. She stuffed her face and happily munching, dashed out on the street, to join her giggling friends.
Lady Nistrie's eyes watered when she saw the piggy bank's inscription:
Thirty minutes later, Nistrie, Hector, Logan, and Alan, pitchers full of delicious Kvass, sat at a covered with plates table. Once more at the Bulgarian place, because she'd developed a healthy appetite for delicious food, and one could not be full after tasting Mr. Puff's amazing cookies.
“I am running a small school in Cydonia city, which you are welcome to visit anytime. My Order offers meditation and galactic history lessons and we mostly teach the younglings, though you, Lady, you I think would greatly benefit from our teachings. Though we offer all of our services and knowledge for free, when adults come to us, they usually bring donations. Priests have to eat too...” - Alan calmly stated after swiping his personal G-Net link to Nistrie, and then drank some Kvass.
“Indeed; you have a latent telepathic gene, Lady Nistrie, and you need training. Your kin may not approve of me teaching you, but they do not need to know.” - Logan winked at her and she could clearly see little jolts of electricity, dancing in his green eyes.
“Hector mentioned this and I am ready to pay for your telepathic lessons.” - Said Nistrie and patted her coin purse, and all those creds she earned from selling the Stumblers gear clattered.
“Save those for our Universalist friend here, his Order can use the creds. Psy-Corps, and especially when it comes to training aliens, requires Soul Proof.”
The telepath finished his Kvass, cleaned the plate before him and reached for another.
“Meaning I have to do something to prove myself a worthy student to you?” - The Lady was not feeling stressed and for some reason, actually expected Logan to say something like that.
“The goal of this is so you prove to yourself that you are capable. Best of all, the Soul Proof will strengthen the belief in your own will, teach you about the quality of your merit. Because, true strength comes from...”
“Within, it comes from within.” - Alan finished Logan's sentence with a smile on his face.
“Don't worry, they will never ask you to do something impossible, partner.” - Hector sniggered, stuffed a slice of barbecued pork in his mouth and added:
“Speaking from experience since I completed a number of missions for Psy-Corps over the years.”
Nistrie didn't know what exactly to expect when it came to such a test. Perhaps there'd be a complicated riddle or something had to be perceived via cerebral powers? Logan fixed his reddish hair and scratched his perfectly straight nose, obviously engaged in deep thinking. His boot tapped a number of times, before finally, he raised his finger.
“I know exactly what kind of job will be best suited to your unique talents, Lady. Successfully completing it will pay for your training in full, and even leave you with a hefty bonus. Though it will take me about a month to organize, and meanwhile...”
“Meanwhile we will stretch our legs and travel around these parts. There are derelicts to salvage...” - Hector stated and chewed another slice of meat, while his foot gently bumped Nistrie under the table, giving her a cue.
“Yes, yes, and lots of pirate ghosts to shoot!” - The Lady immediately followed up, finishing his thought.
Then it was finally time for her Camper training?! Her nose gently dripping, the Lady made sure to wipe it first before eating and drinking more. The veteran bunny was sure to learn her every little survival trick and gunslinger wisdom he knew. By learning more about the Terran Way, she was growing as a person and, becoming more like the Dzenta’rii of old.
Exploration, making good friends, solving the ancient mysteries of space, even fighting baddies – all of these things were part of her people's way, the Ast'la.
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!
Art by Miro Maatta.
Episode eleven coming soon...