DISCLAIMER: See the first one. I do not own Outlaw Star. All its prospective characters and crap belong to Bandai.
Okay. 5 months late. Wanna know why it took so long? Because I didn't want to take the story into an angsty whinefest with Jim as the central character. So after going back and rewriting it from the ground up, I'm proud of the result. This chapter is that result. I know it's been almost a year since my last update, and this chapter is long overdue. SO without further damage to your squiggly-sqwooches, here is the next chapter of True Strength comes from the Heart.
Chapter 9: New Direction. New Friends.
Outer space travel is quite difficult for those who do not own their own vessel. In the third great space age of Man, many people in the inner and outer worlds not fortunate enough to own their own ships have to resort to other means to travel the stars. One particular and popular method is the official way: a passenger ship. Privately owned by the Spiral Organization, and sponsored by the Federation, it ships billions of passengers all over the Milky Way.
They are affordable and economical, allowing for even the poorest of individuals to enjoy the ability to travel. And it's good for Spiral because it means they always have business, and they always turn a profit every cycle.
Of course cheap and economical means that every ship is only kept in the shape to keep it running. Many of Spiral's ships face frequent health and safety violations. And in order to turn out a profit, they are frequently jammed with passengers (often far moreso than what is considered safe). Seats are an unnecessary cost to Spiral, so most of the vehicles they use are converted cargo ships with large storage bays. Pirates often ignore them because most of the people who use such low brow transportation and cannot afford anything other then the clothes on their backs.
On the space passenger liner, Dhammerung, a lone figure sits mostly keeping to himself. He is cloaked in simple brown garb, covering most of his body and face. The other passengers kept him at a poll's length. "Anyone who looked suspicious was probably a dangerous person" the idea born out of strife and bitter reality. Out on the rim, one simple mistake could lead to the death of a careless traveler.
The shrouded passenger just happened to be a gentle soul, a genius with a long golden mane of hair. A human lamenting over his new mission after his recovery in the hospital on Sentinel-3 .
Head to the 2nd moon of Epsilon-3, there you will find people who can help you. Mention my name, and they will advance your cause.
Yes, the very same human, 14 years of age, who fought with Gene over the bills perpetually. The human who brought thoughts of ecstasy to Fred Lou at his passing, and the very same human who had a special place in the crew who maintained the Outlaw Star.
But most importantly, the human who was the host to Doppleganger, a mysterious entity that somehow knew how everything was going to turn out before hand.
He had planned ahead, that much was clear. Jim had not known that the events over 2 months ago, had all been meticulously plotted in detail, to accept wide margin of error and to accommodate every possible outcome and shortfall. He had poured over all the data like a fine toothed comb, taking in every detail like a ravenous starved creature. The diary on the other hand, was a different creature entirely.
It contained hundreds of thousands of entries. Jim could spend his whole life trying to study John's diary, and he wouldn't even scratch the surface. So instead of reading every one since the beginning, he decided to just skip around. One of the things that Jim noticed, was that he actually started writing at a specific point in his life, when he was still coming to terms with his true nature.
Can I still live like this? I've been running away ever since humanity started to expand its influence. All of my pursuers are dead. I had no idea I wasted so much time trying to do it though... How come I'm so important to them? I can't stand using this...I'm not a human, that I established a long time ago. My memories are fragmented, but I was...at one time.
The war is over, and even though they say "Cease Fire", it's clear that humanity has won through excellent battlefield tactics. I've experienced it all. The pain, the sorrow's, the joy...When this is over this host will be heralded as a hero.
I have altered his memories to compliment it.
These experiences have changed me. Maybe things aren't so bleak for the sons of Terra after all.
His last few diary entries were a bit of a mystery though.
Who is this man? I have never seen him before... With the way he speaks, I'd say he's from the one of the lower royal houses. Clan-Clan maybe...? He's made me an intriguing offer...I shall meditate on this.
His eyes widened at the mention of Clan-Clan. So another is influencing their actions behind the scenes? This is even bigger then what he originally thought. A relative to Aisha offered something to John... but what?
Things are so different now. Cyrus thinks I may not be ready for this...But I am. I'm not content with just watching and intervening at my leisure any more.
The diary ends there. Judging by his final entry, Jim came to a bitter and chilling conclusion: that John wanted death, and through this boss... he achieved it.
Looking back on it... it all makes sense now. His ego and intellect... he just felt tired.
Jim knew it. Felt it even. And that weariness and sickening disgust with his nature drove him to the end. He wanted to die.
But even so, why at the hands of an outlaw as a common bounty contract? He'd ask Suzuka if he ever saw her again...
On the other side of the of the cargo hold, another figure sat keeping to herself. A young woman close to the age of sixteen, her form covered in tattered navy space suit. Unlike the blond traveler, her hair was short and auburn in color, but not short enough to expose her half-ctarl ears.
It looks like a full load out to the rim. The usual rabble is all gathered, except for him...
He looks suspicious...
Over the course of their lengthy departure, she had developed a curiosity for the cloaked traveler. Being poor herself, she had no choice but to watch the other passengers go about they're business trapped on this crowded ship. From the child passing his time with a simple ball, to the poor woman muttering half-remembered chants and prayers in the corner. The aura of suspicion that the traveler seemed to give off easily overshadowed the gentle and nervous aura projected by the other passengers.
I know he's up to no good. It's only a matter of time before he slip-
"EVERYONE ON THE FLOOR NOW."
"Do what we say, or we will blow this ship to the Leyline."
She looked at the young traveler, half-expecting him to be behind this sudden turn of events.
...But he only complied with the hijacker's orders.
That could only mean one of two things. That he was somehow directing them and decided to play the role of an innocent... Or that he actually was innocent. (Further confirmation came when they confiscated his computer equipment.
"Guess I was wrong..." She said to herself.
"HEY YOU! WOMAN. GET THE HELL ON THE GROUND NOW" A foolish human ordered her .
Hmph. I'll play your game for now. But I'll wait for the right moment and take um all out. Their guns can't hurt me anyway...
"Hey... This one's pretty fine." Oh no. You do NOT want to mess with me.
"Hey guys, mind if I have a little fun with her?" Idiot. I don't want to have to kill you. But if you so much as breath on me...
"Oh yeah. Now that I'm up close... MMmmm. Those thighs...and that hair. I'm gonna enjoy this."
The next few moments went in painfully slow motion as an unintelligent human met an agonizing end: His ribcage shattered and caved in, crushing his internal organs by an uncharacteristically strong woman. His painful screams of agony horrified the passengers and shocked the other hijackers into a momentary state of confusion.
"What the hell..." One of them said as his hand twitched by his holster. "...She's a Ctarl-Ctarl." He said under his breath as he drew his high-caliber pistol from his hip. "FORGET ABOUT ALL THE OTHER SHIT MEN." He said grabbing a nearby passenger. "Ctarl-Ctarl you are outnumbered. Surrender now." He said pointing his gun at the head of a young woman. "Or I'll blow this woman's brains out."
"Hmph. I don't listen to cowards." She said glaring at him with two orbs of green fury.
"You don't get it do you? All we want is your belongings. And all we have to do is blow up the ship if we don't get them." He said pointing to his vest. "We have all the cards. These passengers have all decided to comply, why don't you? " He said jamming his gun inside her mouth. "Don't be a fucking hero!" His words reverberated with the ship's hull along with the pained screams of the hostage.
Dammit. This complicates things. He's really gonna do it!
"Ugh I really can't watch this any longer."
The hijackers barely saw it coming. In a less than a second after hearing a young male's voice, a blinding flash and loud bang filled the interior of the Dhammerung. Within seconds, two of his colleagues were immediately incapacitated. Another fired his weapon in several directions, injuring a man in his forties.
He didn't even scream when his neck was broken, severing his brain from his nervous system and from his conscious reality.
The last two suffered painful reminders of why outlaws are not to be messed with, as their kneecaps were shattered by the simple and old 9 millimeter pistol of the cloaked passenger.
Leaving the man with the hostage all alone, staring down the barrel of the very same gun.
"D-don't come any closer! Or I'll-"
"Don't gimmie that. You know, you really are stupid. " He said placing both hands on his gun. "For one, people don't hijack passenger liners anymore. If you just wanted the belongings, all you had to do was blow a hole in the hull and vent all the O2 out into space. That's how the pro's do it." He took a step closer. "-But no. You wanted theatrics. You wanted sadism." He glanced at the young crying woman. "You wanted people to suffer."
He took a step closer. "You weren't gonna use the bombs at all. Hell I'd be surprised if you did. But all I see from you now is fear... Fear of death."
Who is this guy?
"People only become suicide bombers if they're following a misguided ideal after they themselves have nothing to live for-" The man flinched at those words. "-but neither you or any of your fallen comrades follow such ideals. None of you were prepared to die. You just gambled on the fact that no one would fight back. Well-" He cocked his trigger. "- You must be new out here."
"BASTARD!" The final hijacker screamed as he threw the woman forward and aimed his gun squarely at the shrouded passenger. Two shots were heard on the rim that day. One grazed the shrouded passenger in the head, tearing his hood and instantly knocking him unconscious.
The other striking home, embedding itself in the forehead of the last hijacker and splattering a cocktail of blood and brains all over the fear consumed passengers behind him.
Amnelis, the half-ctarl, caught the last of the event after she recovered the use of her senses from that horrible weapon used by humans: flashbangs.
She ran to the young boy's side when the others were afraid to move. Dumbfounded that their lives were just saved by a young outlaw who put his life on the line selflessly.
"I need a doctor now!"
His head was swimming. He was conscious now, but only barely. Hushed and whispered voices could be heard around him.
Where am I?
Disorientation. Confusion. Massive headache. These are signs of head head trauma.
The voices were louder now.
Speaking of what they should do with him. Some of them were yelling. The yelling made his head hurt.
Can't you be more considerate?
"I say we put him out the airlock. Outlaws like him are nothing but trouble!"
"Stupid humans. Just like you to forget gratitude."
"He put the lives of all of us in JEOPARDY!"
"And what would you have done if that young woman was killed, Marx?"
"That only happened because the half-Ctarl stepped in. We could have just gave them what they wanted and-"
"And what? Let them take what they wanted? She was going to be raped!"
"DAMN HALF-CTARLS AREN'T HUMAN. SO WHY THE FUCK SHOULD I CARE?"
Amnelis looked away and held back her anger and tears. Now was not the time to let emotions show. The boy still needed her help.
"All I know is that he deserves our thanks. He saved our lives." She said very quietly. Almost as a whisper as she looked down at his face. His golden hair matted and bloody from his wound, now carefully dressed with several bandages and pads...
But she could see him stirring, as if he too wanted to escape the troubles of the hostile ungrateful souls of the Dhammerung.
He slowly opened his eyes to a blurry and unfamiliar setting. The ceiling of a ship. "..Where am I?" He managed a weak whisper.
A face became distinguishable among the harsh interior of the ship. A familiar face.
"Shh.. Don't talk. They want to kick us both out at the next port..."
She smiled "You're pretty good in a fire fight. I've decided to travel with you... You look like you could use the help." She moved a little closer and stroked his hair. "Besides you did a very good thing today. You not only saved an innocent's life, but everyone's on this ship. You should be proud."
"Aisha?" He said looking opening his eyes a little more.
"Aisha? Who's Aisha? My name's Amnelis." She said smiling.
His memory and feeling slowly came back to him as his mind played out what had happened to him only a half-hour ago. He tried to sit up, but was met with firm resistance.
"Slow down Outlaw. You've just been shot. Take it easy for a while." She said gently pushing him back down. "It's a rare sight to find such a tough-as-nails human out here. What's your name?" She asked pushing a makeshift pillow out of donated clothes and cushions under his throbbing head.
"It's James. James Hawking."
"Nice to meet you James. I have a feeling we'll be getting along just fine." She said smiling again.
He smiled back. He'd just made a new friend. And friends are exactly what he needed out here now that he left Gene and the others behind.
"Call me Jim."
Chapter 9: End
Well I took a risk by doing this, but I like this better then my other idea. I KNOW SOME OF YOU ARE DISAPPOINTED IN ME FOR TAKING TOO LONG OR FOR CHANGING THE STORY FROM THE PREVIEW, it's just I seriously think that this direction is for the better. There's still gonna be angst (he is that age you know) and you're still going to find out what Suzuka and Patience's pasts are. Only in the next chapter instead of this one! And it's gonna be a big one. :D
Starwind & Hawking is now only Starwind Co. As it's former members are stripped, Gene, Melfina, and Don struggle to make ends meet with just themselves. They can do nothing as Suzuka decides to follow after Jim when she discovers his destination.
But other potential enemies loom on the horizon. As recent events come to limelight, the Guri Guri are brought into the forefront of the media from their clandestine involvement on Sentinel 2 months ago. Overnight they turn into wanted criminals. With no where to turn and no one to trust, the fruit of the Ctarl-Ctarl's best have no choice but to join The Exiled. An organization made up of banished Ctarl-Ctarl. There's nothing secret about what they want either. The complete destruction and subversion of the Empire.
If all this is happening, then what does Jim hope to accomplish by going off on his own? Can he find enough answers and enough strength to save Aisha? And it might have been more then chance that Amnelis and Jim crossed paths. It may become clear, that their reasons for traveling alone may not be all that different from one another.
Next time on Outlaw Star: True Strength Comes from the Heart;
Chapter 10: If I had the Key's to the Leyline, I'd wish for a million dollars
Don't miss it:D