An Appeal for Support

Striker stood at the loading dock door and watched as Cam left the ship heading to Tony’s to collect our payday from the sale of the illicit goods.  He knew he was missing out on a good time with Tony, the last time they met he had overindulged in the free wine and before he could satisfy his more basic desires with the girls was pulled away due to a disagreement amongst the crew. He told himself he would fix that next time he went to the club.  But for now, he had more pressing matters, he needed money for a drone.  While he didn’t think Cam would stand in his way on this having him out of the picture, he thought would simplify this negotiation.

Striker gets on the ship's comms and requests a quick meeting in the cargo hold. Over the next 10 minutes, the rest of the crew trickled in with Corvus being the last to join. 

“What is this about Striker? Why the hell did you call us here?” Corvus said irritated.

“Well, to cut to the chase.  I want money to get a drone.” Striker said confidently. “We’ve been attacked by giant green iguana people, laser-shooting robots, and multidimensional octopuses.  I’m sick and tired of going into these situations blind.” 

Adamn speaks up, “I don’t think anyone is going to disagree with you on this Striker, but drones are expensive, how are we going to afford one?”

Striker looks at Adamn and says, “It's simple. We don’t need a weaponized drone right now, let’s look for one that can do some recon, and maybe carry something.  We keep it simple. We can upgrade later.”

Corvus interrupted, “You called me down here for this?  What a waste of time.” 

“Hold on, I bet we can find a great deal here in the city.  They have everything.  I bet we could have one by tomorrow morning!”, Striker said with a bit of excitement in his voice.

Striker looked over at Zhukov who was shaking his head.  “Stick to what you know Striker and fly this tin can.  Your days of playing with toys ended when we left Starlight Haven.”

Striker started to interrupt but was cut off as Zhukov continued. “If we happen to find a drone in our search for a Spike drive you can have it. Until then just do your job.”

Striker looked around at the others gathered in the cargo hold, each of them nodding in agreement with Zhukov’s assessment.  Irritated and angry at his own loss for words to counter the argument Striker quips back, “Fine. I guess I’ll wait.”

Deep down Striker was livid.  How little did they think of him? Was a little money too much to ask? Geeze, I know we all have wants but this is for everyone. 

With the impromptu meeting now finished everyone quietly left and went back to their tasks. Leaving Striker a bit of time to think of his next move.  Opening the cargo hold door he left the ship and headed toward one of the numerous Veridian’s Navies officer bars that sprinkled the area around the spaceport.  If nothing else, he could find some female companionship and perhaps an ally here on Veridian.


Part 2

Striker walked into the pilot club and surveyed the area. Smoke and the smell of liquor hung heavy in the air.  Various groups of pilots were spread out around the room, some playing card games and pool while others were content to talk with fellow friends and comrades.  It was clear that a few other individuals had too much to drink and were looking for trouble. Wanting to avoid a confrontation and not knowing anyone in the room Striker decided to saddle up to the bar a few seats from an attractive female pilot. He then ordered coffee and water from the white-haired barkeeper. While nursing his coffee he allowed the familiar warm drink to soothe his nerves.  After a bit, he had noticed that others gave the female pilot a pretty wide birth.  He wondered who this mysterious woman was, he didn’t notice any markings on her clothes that gave away her allegiance or suggested who she might fly for.  

Striker's curiosity about the mysterious woman grew. He mustered his courage and turned towards her, offering a polite smile. "Not often you see someone drinking coffee in a place like this," he commented casually.

She looked up, her gaze piercing yet curious. "And it's not often you see someone walk into the Pilot Club looking as out of place as you do," she replied, a hint of a smile playing on her lips.

Their conversation flowed effortlessly. She introduced herself as Commander Lyra, a name that resonated with authority yet felt approachable. Striker found her easy to talk to, their shared love for the skies creating an instant bond. As they talked, he noticed the subtle sheen of her cybernetic eye, a high-tech marvel that seemed to give her an enhanced perception of her surroundings.

The evening was going well until a burly pilot, clearly intoxicated, stumbled over to them. "You're in my seat," he slurred aggressively at Striker.

Striker, not wanting to cause a scene, especially in front of Lyra, offered a creative solution. "How about we settle this over a game of cards? The winner gets the seat, and the loser gets a face tattoo.  The burly pilot counters, “hell make it a full arm sleeve and neck tat!. I can’t mess up this beautiful mug.”

Striker considered the wager and thought this should be easy, he wasn’t drunk after all.

The other pilot, amused and confident, agreed, shaking Striker's hand with a drunken grin.

The card game was tense, with an audience gathering around. Despite Striker's best efforts, the fates of the cards were not in his favor. Accepting defeat with grace, Striker was led to a back room where a tattoo artist who was a regular at the club had already set up shop. When the artist asked what he was to do the winning pilot, not knowing of Striker's recent running with Mad Morgan, said “Let’s make it something memorable that will ensure he’s noticed…”

After a few hours, Striker emerged from the back room. The tattoo that now adorned Striker's right arm and flowed into his neck was a striking and complex tapestry of red runes, each carefully inked to resemble the notorious symbols used by the Plunder's Fleet, some of the most feared group of pirates in the sector. These runes, known for their sharp angles and intricate designs, were symbols of power and defiance in the pirate world.

As the tattoo artist worked, the vibrant red ink stood out boldly against Striker's skin, creating a vivid contrast. The runes spiraled up his arm in an elaborate pattern, seeming to pulsate with a life of their own. They wrapped around his muscles, accentuating his physique, before spilling over onto his neck in a cascade of fiery symbols.

The design, while imposing, also carried an artistic elegance. The way the runes intertwined and flowed gave the impression of a dance between chaos and order, perfectly encapsulating the essence of the Plunder's Fleet. It was both a badge of honor and a mark of infamy, a permanent reminder of the pact Striker had made and the unlikely friendship he had formed with Commander Lyra.

The other pilots in the club, aware of the symbolism behind these runes, cast a mix of admiring and wary glances at Striker. The tattoo was not just a mark of his defeat in the card game; it was a testament to his boldness and willingness to embrace the unpredictable nature of life among the stars.

Lyra, still at the bar surrounded by friends, caught Striker’s eye and gave him a friendly wave, motioning him over. As Striker approached, she got a better look at his arm. Lyra couldn't hold back her laughter at the sight. "You've certainly made an impression tonight," she chuckled. She proceeded to introduce Striker to the other officers who now surrounded her.  They talked of some of their adventures, although Striker was careful not to mention the run-in with Mad Morgan, afraid of the possible repercussions considering the new “Art” that now adorned his body.

As the conversations flowed, Striker was enjoying himself, feeling like he was with his people. Behind him a compad buzzed and he vaguely heard the barkeep say. “Hello…. Mmmm.  Yeah she’s here. Hold on. “  He then tapped Lyra on the shoulder “it’s for you.” Lyra took the compad and listened, Her expression turned serious. "Pirate activity in orbit," she said to the group, her tone shifting to that of a commander. "We have to go."

She stood up, her presence commanding respect. She turned to Striker, "Look me up next time you're on the planet, You're an interesting guy Striker."

Striker watched her and his new friends leave, feeling a mix of admiration and intrigue. He knew this wasn't the last time he'd cross paths with Commander Lyra of the Veridian Space Force. As he left the Pilot Club, his new tattoo aching slightly, he couldn't help but feel that his journey had just taken an exciting new turn. He wondered if the events of this evening were fate or a cruel cosmic joke at play.  The bigger question however remained,  how the hell was he going to hide this tattoo, its going to cause us trouble…