Our heroes Clarke and Tycho joined forces with the saurian psion Tai, hired by the latter to accompany him to a nearby world.
The fledgeling crew don't get very far before they are found by the Blood Cult, those strange and sinister cultists that hunt Tai.
As they fight their way towards the local spaceport, both nomad pirates and Unity peacekeepers shows up!
And their walk to the port turns into a running gun-battle as they struggle to get there in one piece.
At the gates to the spaceport, they are finally surrounded by Unity troops and Clarke, being the only member of the band in fighting shape, decides to take his chances with the local captain of the guard.
They were only defending themselves after all!
On their way to his office, the bounty hunter spots something from the recent past. It's the Cormorant, the ship belonging to the nomads that robbed the Unity bank!
This is were we join our heroes, as they enter the guard captains office:
"What do you have to say for yourselves? These are serious crimes!"
"Defending one's life against unlawful attack is not a crime in any law or charter of the Unity." Clarke stated, stepping forward to emphasize his point. "We did not start the fight, but I damn well ment to finish it!" He added rashly, his temper flaring.
"Be that as it may, you attacked Unity personel, even after being ordered to stand down!" The captain was not going to be bullied in his own office.
"Your deputies engaged first, and you'll notice that I only disabled your men. If I wanted to kill them, I could have. Rangers taught me to do a thorough job." Clarke walked around the office, pacing like a caged beast.
His temper cooling at the reminder of his guardsmen's blunder, the captain leaned forward in his Chair. "Look, I get that there's been a missunderstanding, and I appreciate your right to defend yourself ranger. But you can't start shit like this in my town, it makes me look bad." the captain waved his hand at the guard by the door, a fellow nervously gripping his weapon.
"Let the ranger and his companions go for now, his service shouldn't be so quickly forgotten." he turned to Clarke "Don't start any more fights please? Next time I'll have to lock you up, justifications be damned."
"I appreciate the gesture captain, we'll try and stay out of trouble. One last thing?" the bounty hunter added."What?"
"The ship that is docked at the landing platform, the Cormorant. She contains the rest of the crew of a Nomad pirate gang that recently robbed the Unity bank a few weeks back. You think you could render some assistance in apprehending them?"
"Get out before I change my mind."
Oh well, Clarke though, at least we are free to go.
"How did it go boss, are we getting out?" Tycho nervously looked at the bounty hunter.
"Sure, we are free to go. We need to get to the Cormorant quick though, before she hops off-world again.""Let's get going, Mr Clarke, Mr Tycho, we have little time to waste!" Tai interjected.
The group started to make their way towards the blast doors that separated them from their flight out of here when they heard commotion and screams the north of the station!
"There's trouble misters, you best get out! The tax collector is arguing with the nomads about inspecting their cargo, I will get bloody any second!"
"Don't worry, get to safety!" Clarke pushes the civilians out of the way.
As he does, the nomads spot them, and take off running into the next section, dissappearing from view!
The crew of the Cormorant started pre-flight checks, and soon the rumbling of the starting engines could be heard, even through the thick blast doors.
Coming from a culture extolling the virtues of martial prowess and bravery, Tai isn't one to sit by as their chance slips them by!
With a rush of air he sped off, before Clarke had a chance to tell him to stay back.
He hurtles through the doorway, smashing his staff into the back of the first pirate. The tax collector gives up a frightened yelp as the saurian suddenly materializes and smacks down the pirate.
Before the second nomad has a chance to react, Tai repeats his heavy-handed blow, braining the second pirate before the first one has fallen all the way to the ground.
Taking advantage of the fact that the spooked trooper is not paying too much attention, Clarke sprints into position at the bulkhead closest to the nomad.
His high pace affects his aim though, and he only manages to bowl the pirate over, without any serious damage.
His angle lined up perfectly with most of the newly arrived nomads, he fires a set of long bursts through the open doorway.
It's like shooting fish in a barrel, three falls down not to get back up again and the last man crams himself into the corner next to the door, bruised but alive.
Meanwhile, the guard captain starts moving towards the engagement, but he doesn't get very far before he is surrounded by angry and frightened civilians, demanding answers and assurances of safety.
The stunned nomads doesn't stand a chance as Unity patrolmen charges in to arrest them.
At the same time, the leader and a trooper splits off, hoping to intercept Clarke and his crew, intent on arresting them again!
As they run through the corridor he can hear the klaxons of the blast doors to the landing pad going off. "Double-time it trooper, the door will open any second now, we must get them before then!" he shouts and sprints ahead.
The doors started parting with a groan, but most of it was lost as the roar of the starships engine came through unmuffled by the now opening blast door.
Before the doors had fully opened, our heroes squeezed through, bolting for the access ramp into the cargo bay. Tai made it before his companions and his strong arms caught and lifted them onto the ramp as it was closing.
With a blast, the ship took off, leaving orbit.
"We're on the ship, but we don't control it just yet." Clarke finished surveying their surroundings. "We don't know how many men are still on this ship, or where any of the major systems are. So we take it nice and slow, they don't seem to have detected us yet anyhow."
"You understand what they're saying?" Tycho gave Clarke a puzzled look.
"Some of it yeah, tangled with pirates a lot in the service. Enough to know that we should expect some resistance."
"As I was saying" Tycho continued, "this is a SHI Stalker-class ship, albeit modified."
Two startled nomads looked at him, a split second before they realized he was an enemy.
For one of them, this was too late.
The smuggler opened fire with his pistols, dropping one onto the floor and forcing the other to throw himself away to avoid the same fate.
Clarke has a few steps behind, as his ally suddenly started for the door. He stepped past Tycho and into the room, and seeing the nomad on the floor trying to get back up, he pounced.
His combat blade went straight trough the pirate, his full weight helping to push the blade as he landed on his back.
"Next time, let me know before you run off, would you? the bounty hunter asked Tycho.
"Shutting her down boss, this way we won't be reaching the rest of their fleet for a bit. I took the liberty of firing the break-thrusters as well, so we won't go far!"
"Good, now we have some more time" smiling a grim smile, Clarke turned to fins that Tai was missing. "Tai, where are you? he sent over the comms.
"Don't do anything rash, you here, sit thight and wait for us!" but there was no reply, only a distorted echo.
His power coursing through him, Tai stepped out into the guards view. Letting out a battlecry he charged the surprised nomad, hitting him with his psi-enhanced force.
Tai had gotten too close to the door though, and as the portal opened, he saw a full squad of nomads on the other side, guns trained on him.
Tycho and Clarke just managed to get into the second cargo bay as Tai hit the ground, stung by a score of projectiles.
Firing snap shots, Clarke brings down the closest nomad with a tungsten slug to the neck, making his two comrades in the doorway duck back for cover.
Tycho blasts the only nomad in sight, but he does it well!
The pirate falls over with a dozen new holes in him.
"Get into cover, you're too exposed" Clarke ordered Tycho, who promtly obeyed the command.
Clarke himself circled around, looking for a better shot at the remaining pirates.
Suddenly one of the nomads worked up the nerve to charge into the room, heading for Tycho, nestled away behind a few crates.
Unable to see his assailant until the last moment, he was caught unawares and barely kept the attacker at bay. A near miss gave Tycho the opening he needed, and at this range the heavy bullets from his gun punched through the armour as paper.
The smuggler catches a break as the nomad stumbled on the body of the previous attacker, and Tycho quickly dispatches the second pirate as well.
Clarke suddenly spotted a nomad in a gilded suit, the ships security chief! His shot cracked the visor of the nomad's helmet before bouncing off.
The ricochet almost hits the nomad next to the chief, forcing him deeper into cover.
Two more gilded suits come into view, firing their gauss guns at Tycho. The crates around him turns into splinters of wood and plastic, but the smuggler is miraculously unhurt.
When the pirates stopped firing for reloads, Tycho peeked out of his quickly diminishing cover, popping off a few shots at the attackers.
Enough of the heavy bullets slam into the leftmost one, knocking him to the ground, out of action.
In a fluid motion, he took a step back, drew his combat blade and buried it to the hilt through the head of the lone nomad that was sneaking up on him.
"You won't find me as easy a target as my subortinates!"
A burst of gel rounds and a fusion beam flew past, too close for comfort.
Tycho moved up behind Clarke, ready to spring into action.
"You gave away your position, not too smart" Clarke yelled, hoping for a reply.
"It won't matter soon, bounty hunter. When I best you, I'll get an even bigger crew. You're the meal-ticket I've been waiting for"
As the commander kept taunting Clarke and taking occasional pot-shots to keep him in cover, the bounty hunter took a deep breath, focusing on the nomads voice.
He went into action.
Pivoting out of cover at a crouch, the commanders shot went overhead by inches, but Clarke's shot did not. A single smoking hole in the gorget silenced the nomads boasting.
"That aught to shut you up." Clarke chuckled at his own joke.
"We have the ship Tycho. Start checking systems and do get us out of range of the Nomad fleet please?" Clarke was already moving back to the cargo bay, to check on the knocked out saurian.
"You sure you don't need no help with Tai?"
"I'll do what I can, you just get us flying."
Tai's wounds were pretty bad, several bullet wounds of various grades of severity, and at least one broken rib. But he was still alive.
"You're one lucky bastard Tai." the bounty hunter used the suit's first aid kit to take care of the worst of the injuries.
Together with Tycho, he hauled the unconscious psion into one of the statis pods and started the auto-doc..
A few days later on the Cormorant, a few days STL travel from Churchill 7:T-77/4
"Yes, much obliged Mr Clarke. Mr Tycho, I hear you made a good account of yourself fighting off the pirates."
"I don't wan't to brag, but somebody had to pick up the slack." Tycho smiled and then pointed to the nav-console.
"We are coming up on a trading post, the last one before T-77/4. Should go for a milk-run I reckon'. Just the basics, some repair and replacement part if the've got them."
"A fine idea Tycho. But I think we need some more answers from our friend now that we are getting close." Clarke turned from the nav-console back to the psion.
"I suppose you have a right to know.." Tai took a deep breath and then started again. "I've seen disturbing things in my dreams. Horrible things, portents of a future still not set in stone, if we can get to it first."
"No offence, but how's your nightmares a good gauge of terrible futures? Everybody has bad dreams at times!" Tycho looked at Tai in disbelief.
"It's no regular dream, it it? It's a prophet's dream." Clarke offered.
"Yes, Mr Clarke, quite so. There is a artefact of an civilization older than you can imagine, of power and purpose unimagined. If it falls into the Blood Cult's hands, they will use it to bring the entities they worship into this world. It would bring about a cataclysm that might end civilization as we know it!"
"Let me show you." Tai reached out to touch the foreheads of the other two, sharing his dream-visions. As the vision ends, the psion is obviously drained by the experience, and he sits down to catch his breath.
"That is what's at stake here gentlemen. Make no mistake, if we fail, we might all be doomed."
"That's a cheery though." Clarke muttered, still reeling from the visions he was shown.
"Well, it seems quite easy to me boss." Tycho stated "We just make sure to smash that thing before the cult can get to it.
"We must keep them from getting the artefact, but there is something else.." Tai looked at his compainions. "The Cult also hunt down any of the stronger psions they can find in this sector, that's why they were after me."
"So we need to free whatever psions they have then, make sure they go in blind." Clarke finished Tai's sentance.
Their course set, and the stakes known, the crew went off to resupply before their quest started in earnest!
What will happen on T-77/4? What dangers await on the planets surface? And who or better yet, what, are the entities the Cult worship?
Tune in next time for another thrilling adventure!