Chapter 1; A Twist
Harry looked around him at the battle field. The stench of the dead was too great to even be natural but it was his eyes that he wished he could gouge out and his hands flinched ever so slightly in a nervous twitch as the temptation to cause damage to himself became ever so slightly greater. He pushed it aside and steadied his wand at the cause of all of this devastation.
There were only two living beings left on the blood soaked field. Himself and Tom Riddle and Harry knew then that his own sacrifice would be well worth it. Four thousand years ago an Ancient Seer had seen a vision of a great power, a god, that he then learnt to tap into to destroy his foes but the spell had killed the Seer and all those around him. Harry, Ron and Hermione had searched for a sure way to kill Voldemort regardless of the two remaining lost Horcruxes and Harry was willing to use it as a last resort.
Now everybody was dead and he no longer cared about what the god would demand of him after he cast the spell. Harry began chanting and Voldemort's eyes glared at him as he recognised the language, not for what it actually was but as a language that he didn't know. A spell smacked into Harry sending his wand flying across to Voldemort but Harry didn't care since he no longer needed it. The spell was taking the magic from his very core and would need most of it to complete itself. The next spell sliced a deep gash down Harry's chest but Harry barely flinched knowing that the god would probably demand his very life so it mattered very little how alive Harry was by the end of the spell.
The ground around Harry began to burn in strange black veined fire and the dirt itself seemed to burn along with the bodies that the fire touched. It ebbed around Harry like it was alive. Voldemort had never been curious and didn't particularly want to see what this spell would do so cast his favourite weapon in his arsenal. Green light flared across the battle field, the air rushed towards the spell as if it was being eaten by the Dark magic. Harry felt his core completely empty to complete his own spell and stared emotionlessly at the incoming magic.
The world around him flashed with fire and he found himself standing at the edge of a great cavern. Behind him and in entrances like his all around the cavern, strange furred bipedal creatures watched him. Creatures that seemed to want nothing more than to devour him while his heart still beat in his chest. In the centre was a pillar where a being of fire and shadow stood with arms raised. "You have called for me." The being told him. Harry fell to his knees in pain as the voice sounded not through the air but inside his head.
"Yes…" Harry gritted his teeth. "To kill Tom Riddle."
"You have potential." The being told him. "If I kill this man for you then you will agree to what?"
"Whatever you need." Harry didn't know what the being had meant by potential.
"Then it is done." The being told him solemnly. "The end of Tom Riddle for all eternity in return for your obedience for your life."
Harry's stared in horror. It wasn't going to let him die.
"Of course not!" The being told him evidently hearing all of his thoughts. "You have too much potential to simply ignore."
Harry found himself on his knees facing the oncoming Killing Curse but just as it was about to hit him the entire area was bathed in thick flames and Harry lost consciousness just after he heard Voldemort scream in pain. His body and every piece of his soul burnt into nothing.
Sixty-six million Light years away a power throbbed in anger as it felt its newest acquisition torn away from it.
Harry didn't know how long he drifted. It could have been minutes, hours, days or even years. He knew he'd been eighteen when the god had destroyed Voldemort for him but for all he knew he'd been drifting here for another eighteen years. The sphere he recognised as Earth spun slowly below him. The rest of his view was filled with stars and somehow he knew around his Galaxy there were others. And somehow he knew that the Earth below him wasn't his own. Not any longer.
The woman behind him spoke and Harry found himself unable to turn to look at her. How did you turn yourself when floating in space anyway? He had known she'd been there but he couldn't say for how long. "Very few would have done what you did all those years ago."
Harry was facing her now though he didn't know how. "Years ago?"
"For them it was years ago." She glanced down at the planet. She seemed to glow with a natural energy as she turned back to watch him. "For you it was just one step ago and this is yet another step."
"Where am I?" Harry asked. "Where's the God?"
"The abyss isn't a god for us." She told him. "The Abyss is upset that you will not be accepting his agreement just yet."
"I made an agreement." Harry told her. "One I will gladly see through if it means the end of Tom Riddle."
"These people," She gestured down at the Earth, "know nothing of Tom Riddle and magic has long since been replaced by technology. We are not yet done with you and until we are there is nothing the Abyss can force you to do. And we will not permit you to join with him willingly."
"What are you?" Harry asked.
"We are Paradine, as you would have become if your mother hadn't allowed herself to die so early or if you had accepted your fate like you should have." She told him sternly. "You wont remember this life for the time being and we're giving you a second chance to prove yourself."
"How can I prove myself if I don't know what is happening?" Harry asked her.
She was gone. Harry stared at the Earth for a moment before he too disappeared.
He woke with a mouth full of sand and tried to roll over to breathe properly and found himself blinded by a bright sun.
"This guy's still alive." A voice spoke up though he didn't think it was aimed at him. "Hey, kid, you still alive?"
A foot kicked him over without care and there was a short intake of breath as whoever it was recoiled. He groaned and tried to move but only felt pain. "Kyle!" Another voice snapped. "If he's alive just tranquillise him and get him to the med bay. He's worth more alive!"
He saw the man raise an arm and then felt a sharp pain in his neck before he fell asleep with only one thought. 'Who am I?'
The next time he awoke his view was disrupted by several horizontal bars but he was still out in the open under the heat. His skin felt sore and hot probably from the sun but somehow he knew just how to ignore that pain. He tried to assess his situation. 'So I don't know who I am, where I am, how I got here.' He frowned. 'What do I know?'
He looked around him trying to find some clues. A plaque on the side of his cage read, 'Slave Zero-Eight. Total amnesia-low chance of recall.' So he knew that amnesia was when you forget everything you ever knew and he obviously still knew how to read. He also knew that being a slave was bad. Very bad.
"Right, Zero Eight!" A loud clang startled him and he was hunched inside his little box before he knew what he was doing. He twisted to what was evidently the door as it was swung open. Two sets of arms reached in and yanked him out. He went limp before he realised what he was doing.
'Always make enemies underestimate your strength.'He realised instinctively as the four mean looking men hauled him across a courtyard full of cages similar to his own. Other scared faces stared at him through open doors. Some held sympathy for him, others looked envious. He spied a large set of double doors and decided that that was the exit. He let all of his weight drop onto the two men and they staggered at the sudden change in balance. Before they could readjust he took all of his weight and spun around low to the ground. He knocked his two captors to the ground and knocked them out with a sharp blow to their necks that he didn't even know he was capable of. One held some sort of metallic item in his hand and he grabbed it.
'If you don't know what it is supposed to do point it at somebody that's threatening you. It's better to try it on them.'The lecture seemed genuine and he twisted his grip awkwardly and pulled the small trigger on the base. He knew what triggers were for. A red blast shot from the device and hit the first man. He stared at the device in shock and would have thrown it away in shock if the other guy hadn't brought up a crackling stick. He fired again and heard weak cheers erupt around him. A man moved through the cages to his right and he crouched, spun and fired without a second thought. The man collapsed as the shot hit him in the chest.
"Get out while you can!" A man in a cage no more than two feet from him yelled and he came to his senses. He ran full pelt towards the doors but just as he was about to reach it two small devices like snakes detached from the walls on either side and he felt himself being thrown backwards onto the ground by two blasts of what looked like lightning. Somebody yanked the killing device from his hand and he felt himself being lifted.
He came around again to find himself held firmly on his knees by two very irritated looking men. In front of him was a large desk and two more men sitting on either side. "If you're sure you want this one?" The man on the far side asked.
"I saw what he did out there. He obviously has hidden talents even if he doesn't know what they are." The second man assured him. "I'll find that out eventually. Proper precautions can easily prevent something like this happening again."
"Like I said, I'm doubling my price."
"And I've already matched that." The second man assured the first.
'Wait!'He thought to himself. 'They're selling me!' He struggled against his captors before feeling something sharp under his chin. He stilled and realised that one of his captors had placed an arm under his head and that pieces of bone where pushing up at his chin.
"See, it just takes the right kind of threats." His apparently new owner boasted.
"You do realise we took him out of a downed cargo ship. He was down on the roster as a new security specialist but there was no name listed." The first man told the other calmly. "But since he's the soul survivor we can't exactly check out if that's true or not. He's got a new scar on his chest from the accident but other than that he's healthy. No other scars or major illnesses or wounds."
"Good. We'll just have to call him Zero Eight for the time being." He latched onto the name with something akin to determination. One day he'd come back here and he wanted to be able to rub that designation-name in their faces before they died.
He felt a bubble of disgust and hate rise within him that he knew was from more than just his recent encounters.
Four years later
Zero crouched low to the ground miles from where he should have been, watching the town he had only ever seen twice before. He was the fighter-hacker slave extraordinaire and the only reason he wasn't famous, according to his 'Master', was because he was being kept a secret, otherwise people would try to kidnap him and avert his 'loyalty' for their own ends. Zero had been very careful over the years. For months after his selling off he had struggled with constant food and sleep deprivation with the occasional beating if he misbehaved. After he had given up trying to run they had implanted an explosive device just under the skin on his back set to go off if it wasn't reset every twenty-four hours.
After that he had been tested in almost everything to find out what he was good at. Supposedly other than loss of self he hadn't lost much to his amnesia. His skills were still there. He was a crack shot with any weapon and could beat even the Nietzschean guards of the household he was a slave to. His underfed body was kept fitter than the other slaves so he could earn money for the household on the missions they sent him on. His last skill which they had given him free range on and even spent a lot of money developing was his 'computer programmer' skills. They had brought brand new or second hand computer systems for him to study and learn from and let him play with the ships that his Master and his family owned. Nowadays Harry could even hack the weaker AI systems. He'd been given a second implant at great cost to his Master and the silver port in his neck meant he could uplink his own mind to a computer so that he didn't have to carry around the larger equipment to work.
His life hadn't been peachy though. The guards hated him because their Master hated to see him brought too low. Only because of his loss if he died rather than from any form of concern. He lived with a small family of slaves in what could almost be called a hut inside the house Slave pen and the thirty year old woman Calamy doted on Zero because of what was expected of him. Normally his Master would break up such familial ties but Zero knew that it helped to ensure he didn't try to escape. Several hints had been made about what would happen to Calamy, twenty five year old Joseph and ten year old Izus if he ran away.
Over the years he had mostly been sent to hunt prize beasts for his Master, sometimes simply guiding and protecting the family and their friends on their hunts and sometimes doing the hunting himself and letting the animals be claimed by his Master and his family. Many a times his Master had boasted and taken the credit in the town about his own ability to kill rare and dangerous creatures without ever mentioning that Zero was the one to actually do it and that he normally did it with nothing more than a knife and the single energy pistol he was sometimes given to ensure he himself wasn't eaten.
Twice though they had put his computer programming skills to use. Once he had been snuck about a ship with a valuable cargo with orders to circumvent their control over the ship, vent the air to kill the crew and then guide the ship to rendezvous with one of the family's own cargo ships. Zero had gotten his revenge for that one though by programming a secondary program into the virus he had created that would create a natural looking slipstream accident which had destroyed the newly captured ship as soon as Zero had been safely returned to his 'home.'
The second time had been slightly less dangerous to himself but far more profitable for the family. He'd actually done it from his Master's own cargo fleet's flagship. He'd hacked into and planted a control virus in a missile satellite system in the planet's orbit giving sole control of the planet's defences to his Master. After that his Master had more or less controlled everything on the planet that could be destroyed by those missiles…namely everything.
The memories of his punishments over the last four years were the worst thing though and now his 'family' couldn't be there for him. He couldn't always find the prey that his Master's family wanted and he couldn't always successfully bring back the carcass his Master wanted to take credit for killing and that always led to punishments ranging from starvation, isolation, whipping and though it had only happened once, Rape. The Master had been gone for a few weeks and his son had been placed in charge of the slaves. When Zero had been unable, or rather unwilling, to use his viruses to spy on a girl in the town that the Master's son had wanted for so long, Harry had been given to his Master's son's friend to rape and punish.
Zero had refused to say a word since and had been punished for that too but his Master had relented that enough punishment had been given and had accepted Zero's unwillingness to speak for the last year. Last week though had been the last straw for Zero though. One of the guards had raped his little sister, Izus, and Zero had lost it and killed the Nietzschean man. His Master couldn't afford to lose him so had killed his mother Calamy and sold Joseph and Izus to an off world slaver. Thus removing anyone for Zero to stay here to protect.
That was his Master's first mistake. The second had been letting Zero slip away with his own ready-to-go viruses. He'd copied them and as Zero crouched just outside of town the main stash would be self deleting themselves. Unfortunately there was nothing that could be done about the virus in place on the planetary missile satellites but he could stop it from permitting anyone to target him.
The third mistake was his Master's greed. Almost twenty hours ago his Master had sent Zero to find and kill the only Crey Wolf in this area but Harry hadn't even tried and had headed straight for the town.
Zero studied the outskirts of the town and more importantly the two ships settled on either side. The first held the look of one of one of his Master's cargo ships, or slave haulers. The second was larger but still looked rather old but he liked that look. It meant comfy and well cared for. He didn't recognise it and decided to take his chances with it.
He was tempted to sneak onto his Master's ship and plant his self-destruct device which was programmed to space the crew - vent the air - and then take any measures needed to destroy the ship. It would even target a friendly ship to destroy it as well as itself. Zero decided that his own escape would be better than being caught for a little bit of revenge. One day he'd come back here and kill his Master, free the slaves, and then destroy the slavers here. That however was a little beyond his skill set at the moment, plus he'd need a really cool ship.
Zero's last concern was his implants though. He'd already wiped the tracer on his computer implant, that had been done months ago along with a defensive virus designed to prevent any intrusion into his brain through computers if he was captured by somebody. His explosive implant was more of a concern however, in four hours it would explode taking his upper torso and head with it. He reached for the knife and began the gruelling task of blindly cutting it out.
He snuck around town and up to the locked down ship with ease. Now was the more difficult bit, accessing a locked down ship. He climbed the landing strut and up the actual ship onto the top of the hull and along to the small personnel hatch. He slipped a small plastic case from his pocket and pulled out a small data chip that he inserted into the bottom of the access panel which was in turn protected by a solid door that opened for anyone. The small control panel beeped to show that access was denied but after a few more moments it beeped a happier tone and Zero removed his data chip and hit the release. The door sunk in slightly before parting to slide into the hull and he dropped down onto the ladder. He shut the outer door and sighed in irritation as he saw the access panel for the equaliser controls and inner door. He could let his virus handle the inner door controls but he'd have to equalise the chamber first by himself. He crouched down to the floor and yanked open a control panel. He pulled out the data cable for the access panel and plugged it into his implant and put up with the few moments of disorientation as he was unceremoniously uplinked to the ships computer.
He set to work for the next hour breaking through the access codes to allow him entry, actually equalise the chamber and then remove any record of his presence within the computer core. Making sure that none of the cameras would record anything but empty corridors and rooms for the next hour. Hopefully that would be enough time to get himself hidden.
Luckily there was only one person on the ship, puttering around in the rather small medical bay which also seemed to be her cabin, but he wasted a few minutes simply staring at her in shock. She was purple and had a tail and moved with a grace he'd never seen before. Whoever she was she didn't notice him as he slipped away and eventually Zero found a small cubby hole to hide in which had a small data point that he could always tap into if he needed to. He didn't hold any illusions about being able to stay hidden for long. This ship - the Eureka Maru - was well looked after and undoubtedly her crew knew everything about her, every small crack and little shadowed corner. If they actually started looking for him they'd find him. Hopefully he'd be in space by that point.
Right now he needed to sleep since he hadn't in over two days and after the pain of cutting into his own back caught up with him he fell asleep propped up against the wall.
Four hours later
Humming brought him into wakefulness as the ship's engines came to life. The hull began to vibrate and the sound of the cargo bay's main doors closing told him that they were soon to leave. Zero smiled the first smile in a week and relaxed against the wall.
Fifteen minutes later he felt the ship leave the ground and the artificial gravity shifted as it compensated for the ship's angle as it arched upwards for space. Harry felt it shift again and guessed that they had arrived in space. Footsteps made him curl up against the wall and he could just see a man as he walked passed. He was about Zero's height, slightly shorter than average though in this man's case Zero thought it was natural whereas with Zero it was lack of food. He was well built but slim wearing low hung trousers and a well fitting t-shirt. Spiky blond highlighted hair and kind eyes made up the ensemble and Zero felt himself calm ever so slightly.
He turned slightly and Zero spied the computer implant in his neck and tensed again in an instant. The chances of having his presence detected just increased dramatically, assuming the man actually had it installed to make him even better rather than having it installed to bring him up to par. "Beka." The man spoke into his wrist radio as he came to a halt at the corridor junction near to Zero. "You should probably see this."
"I'm kinda busy right now. Some idiot on the surface is saying they want to check the ship for a stowaway."A woman's voice, presumably Beka, came back through the tiny speaker.
"That might not be a bad idea." The man said forgetting any plan to walk to wherever he had originally planned. "Someone accessed the top hatch while we were out."
"Do we have a picture?"She asked.
"No, the records don't even show it happening. But this is me we're talking about. The system backs itself up every fifteen minutes, so I have proof it was done." The man said rather arrogantly and Zero almost groaned. If he'd downloaded one of his virus like he normally did it would have found and reported the presence of a recent backup. "Whoever it was must have accessed the core computers to do it and I bet they didn't just do it for fun."
"Harper, I want to know exactly what he did to my ship."Beka told him. "Rev, try and find him."
"Already on it."The voice that came back was rougher than any Zero had ever heard.
"What are you going to do?" Harper asked.
"Stall for time until we find out if he's here, but if we don't find him soon we'll report it to the surface."
"You're going to report it?" Harper sounded shocked. "That's kinda strange for you, boss."
"Remember those missile satellites? Well they're controlled by the person claiming that his son has stowed away."Zero felt his blood boil at the insinuation that he was related to that scum. Obviously his Master hadn't claimed him to be a slave since a lot of cargo runners didn't agree with slavery and wouldn't help. The question was whether these were that kind or not. Zero decided to not take the chance. He pulled out one of his smart viruses and plugged it into the data access point and typed the start code into the access panel to upload it into the Eureka Maru's computer. It would search their navigation computer and pick a random system, head at full power to the nearest safe Slipstream point and activate the Slipstream engines. It was then the crew's choice whether to pilot the ship through Slipstream, or get lost or destroyed there.
"Why would his son run away?" Harper asked as Zero stood and slipped out his knife.
"Who knows and who cares."Beka responded. "I'm not getting my ship blown up for some kid."
"He must have a reason for running away. Could he have legitimate reason to want to escape?"The new voice matched what Zero would guess would come from the purple alien. He heard concern for his own health in her voice and was surprised since he had only ever heard that tone from Calamy and Joseph.
"Well we know that guy isn't particularly nice."Beka pointed out just as Zero made his move. He slipped from the shadows and around behind Harper bringing the knife up to rest against his throat. Harper went suddenly very still.
Zero couldn't find it in himself to speak just like he hadn't for the last year. He hated talking to people. With the exception of Calamy, Joseph and Izus nobody had heard his voice in a year since Zero had no idea how they would treat him and through disuse it really hurt to use it.
"Harper, are you still there?"Beka asked over the radio. "Harper, god damn you, we've got an unknown onboard. Stay in contact!"
She sounded particularly worried and with the ease that Zero was holding him that proved that he really wasn't a fighter. "Harper!" She sounded really worried and Zero loosened his grip and moved the knife slightly away from the skin to tell the man that he could respond.
"Beka!" His voice cracked slightly. "I found him."
"Bring him up here then."She told him sounding very relieved.
"By found, I really mean he found me."Harper told her. "And I can't really go anywhere without his permission."
"Why don't you ask him to bring you up here then?"Beka asked. Zero scoffed in amusement and tightened his grip.
"I don't think he likes that idea." Harper told her with sarcasm lacing his voice.
"I'd let him go now, if I were you." A deep gravely voice spoke from just behind him and Zero groaned ever so slightly. He tilted back his head to look at the ceiling and held the knife loosely to the side. He felt a firm grip twist the knife from his hand and he stepped back and turned slightly to face the one called Rev. He felt his heart rate speed up as he flinched violent at the sight of the 'creature'. It's red robe only just covered the fact it was furred and the clawed hand holding his knife only kept his attention away from the brutal looking face for a split second. It was a monster. Harper darted away behind the alien even as Zero's eyes. It was a shame his Master hadn't deemed it necessary to provide him with a pistol today for his hunt or he could have shot the thing. "Let's go." It's teeth showed clear as it spoke and Zero backed away a half step ready for anything.
He growled as he tipped his head towards the end of the corridor and his fists flexed in preparation against any attack from Zero.
"Uh…Beka." Harper spoke up again. "Rev has him, we'll bring him up."
"Good, we can ask him what he did to my ship."She sounded rather malicious about the idea but Zero just allowed himself to be led peacefully.
They led him through passageways and up towards where he guessed the Bridge was. They found two people there. A woman with blond hair and a rather tight fitting top and waistcoat sat in the control seat and the purple lady from the medical bay now wearing something close to a formal dress stood at the side of the room.
The lady, probably Beka, stood and rounded on them as they entered the room. "So this is our stowaway?"
"Hmm." Rev grumbled at her simply.
"What have you done to my ship?" Beka asked. Zero just watched her as she gestured for Harper to look at all of the computers in the room. "Who are you?"
Seeing no reason not to answer this one, Zero waved at his throat. "You can't speak?" The purple alien asked. Zero just shrugged since he didn't want to admit that it was by choice even though he didn't think that his voice still worked particularly well.
"I don't believe that." Beka said simply. "Your name. Now!" A clawed hand settle on his shoulder but Zero had been intimidated worse than that before even if not by such a creature.
It took a few attempts and a lot of pain but he eventually got his voice to work. "Zero." He said eventually succeeding against the damage done from his screaming while being raped and through disuse afterwards. He'd never been properly healed since he'd never admitted to the damage. With his 'family' he had always stuck to whispering and hand signals to express himself. This small effort caused tears to creep into his eye but he pushed them down.
"Zero what?" Harper asked looking up at him. They were all looking at him but only Harper and the purple alien were looking at him in concern.
"I think that's his name." Beka frowned.
"Or designation." Rev suggested and Zero tensed.
"That would explain things." Beka admitted and walked forwards towards him. The clawed hand on his shoulder prevented him from retreating from her but a panicked look did spread across his face.
"He's a slave. On the run." Rev grunted tugging at the back of his rather tattered sleeveless mesh top that only just hid his chest scar. "And his implant is gone."
"You got somebody to cut it out?" Beka asked him. Zero shook his head slowly. "You cut it out yourself. Jesus, you must have been desperate." Zero narrowed his eyes in a glare.
"So, we take him back before they start firing at us?" Rev asked unsure of his suggestion and Zero tensed up. This was not the way things were supposed to go. A few minutes was all he needed though.
"We could get a good bounty for this one too if he can get passed out security." Beka shrugged and Zero couldn't make out the expression on her face. "Must be valuable with that computer interface in his neck."
Harper looked up in surprise. "That explains how he got through the access codes so fast." Zero met his gaze and obviously Harper saw something there. "He could be really handy around here. I'm not as good with computers as I am with engines." It seemed to pain him to say this but he shrugged. "I couldn't have got through the security that quickly."
Zero looked at Becca pleadingly. "Sorry, I'm not going to risk my ship against those missiles." She turned to the pilot's seat but Zero didn't really blame her. He might have nothing to lose but she had her ship and her crew to lose. That didn't mean that Zero was going to let himself be taken back though. She tapped a few buttons and his Master's face appeared on the screen. Zero blanched backwards in horror, not being able to cover it and found himself held firm by Rev.
His Master saw him and a nasty look spread across his face. "Mr. Astarci. I believe we may have found your stray. Designate a suitable landing place and transfer over a suitable finders fee and we will happily hand him over."
"With pleasure, Captain Valentine." His Master smirked. Zero glanced around hopelessly as his fear of his Master outweighed any sense of logic. He was safe now unless they died in Slipstream. He met Harper's eyes and saw him cringe and mouth what seemed to be a sincere apology. "You didn't really think you could escape me did you, son."
Zero snarled and almost lurched forwards to attack him but Rev restrained him. "See Zero Eight. The rest of the known planets are just as bad as here, just as uncaring for people as pitiful as slaves." His Master smirked viciously. "You always did hold some ridiculous hope that you wouldn't die here. I'm sure twenty-nine felt the same way."
Zero's snarl shocked even Rev that time. Beka turned to look at him with a regretful look on her face. "We've received your coordinates and the transfer. We'll plot a course…"
She trailed off as every screen but the one with his Master's face started flickering before solidifying on their normal status. "Uh, Beka. We're changing course."
"What?" Beka gasped before turning to Zero's Master. "This isn't our doing."
"This is you isn't it, Slave." His Master snarled. "This is one of your viruses isn't it." Zero found the courage to smirk at him but he still shook in fear. And he hated himself for it.
"It's in everything, Beka. Navigation, engines, even life support." Harper sounded panicked. And betrayed. "He could even space us if he wanted to."
Zero met Beka's eyes and slowly shook his head trying to promise that it wouldn't kill them. "What's it doing?" Beka asked.
"It's plotting a course for the nearest possible Slipstream entrance." Harper said.
"Where to?" His Master growled.
"I don't know." Harper told Beka who glanced at his Master apologetically. Zero stared at Harper in surprise. It would be very easy to find the destination. In fact the Navigation computer would clearly say it. In fact, everyone in the room could see it on the pilot's console.
"Foolish, Zero Eight." His Master snarled. "I'll destroy the entire ship before I let you get away."
Beka rounded on him with a furious gaze as the communication was terminated from his Master's end. "You selfish brat. You'll get us all killed."
Zero shook his head but couldn't force the words even if he had wanted to. He pointed at himself and then at the destination screen clearly saying he wanted to go there with them.
"It's not going to matter in two minutes!" Beka swore viciously.
Zero simply repeated the gesture with a pleading look at the Captain of the cargo ship.
"Fine!" Beka snapped. He mouthed the word missiles and pointed to himself.
"You mean you hacked them in the first place for him to control?" Harper asked in shock. Zero nodded. "That's incredible."
"How does that help us?" Beka asked.
"Because he wouldn't give that much power to his Master without retaining some himself." Harper told her.
Zero pulled out his pouch of data chips and found the one he wanted. He offered it to Beka who took it and glared at it expecting it to explode or something. "What's this Harper?"
"No idea." Harper said as he took the chip and turned it over in his hands. Zero pointed at the computer terminal next to Harper. "Boss?" Harper turned to Beka who turned to look at Zero. He held her gaze pleading for her to trust him, to like him. To not get them all killed.
"Do it, Harper." Beka ordered. Harper slotted it into the navigation computer and it refused access. He typed in his access code but the virus was still holding them out.
"Five, Six, Zero, Eight." Zero used his fingers to pass over the code. Harper glanced at Beka but typed it in. Instantly the communications program booted up and a message was sent.
"Boss? I think the satellites are shutting down." Harper frowned. "And we're approaching the closest possible Slipstream portal." Slipstream worked by using the natural cosmic connections between places and forcing the ships to exit normal space and 'ride' these streams between places. Depending on how the nexus was formed made it different depending on where you went and determined the time. Sometimes you had to use five different Slipstream jumps to move between neighbouring systems. Other times just one would get you half way across the Galaxy. Some systems made it possible to enter Slipstream anywhere far enough from a gravitational force but other only had one place safe enough to enter.
"Can you shut down your virus?" Beka asked him. Zero shook his head with a small sad smile on his lips. "With the satellites down I'm not really compelled to hand you back to them, especially now I have an excuse as to why I left with you."
Zero just shook his head. He wasn't willing to take the chance. "Are you really willing to assume I will pilot the ship through Slipstream? Or were you willing to just die if I refused?" Beka asked him.
Zero gestured at the other three in the room and then at her and her ship. "You were willing to take the chance and now you can see I wouldn't risk this ship for anything." Beka concluded. Zero just smiled his small smile again. His eyes tried to lose focus but Zero had been in more pain than this and had lost just as much blood before. He just hadn't been so anxious and adrenaline filled before. Or so hopeful.
Beka set herself up in the pilot's seat and a moment later the Slipstream drive activated and a blue rift opened up in front of them. Two tendrils of light reached out for the Eureka Maru and dragged it in. Zero found his self leaning heavily on the railing to keep to his feet as the ship lurched around the sharp corners of the Slipstream nexus. They were spat out moments later in another system after fifteen seconds in Slipstream and over four hundred light years of actual distance.
Zero sagged as his energy drained from him. He was free from his Master but now he had lost all of his bargaining chips. His virus was already deleting itself from the Eureka Maru's computer and from the original data chip he had planted. Beka now had full control of the situation and Rev still had him held under his claws. His limbs were shaking and his throat felt tighter then it had in a year except for when he'd watched Calamy being murdered. Though the authorities didn't see the killing of a slave as murder.
"Trance, perhaps you should have a look at our new guest. See what you can do with his cloths too while you're at it. They're in need of some attention ." Beka ordered. "Rev, go easy on him."
"You know I would not have hurt him." Rev said.
Zero turned his head to look at Rev in shock. Rev grunted and pulled Zero around and pushed him gently between the shoulder blades. The pressure on his open wound sent him to his knees with a half controlled cry of pain and his sight blanked with white for a moment before he could force them to clear again. He blinked out the spots as he was lifted to his feet by a man his own height. Harper then. He found himself leaning into him comfortably as the nicer man helped him along through the ship to the small cabin that acted as a crew room and as the medical bay.
As soon as Zero was on the bed his eyes closed and he slipped into another exhausted sleep.
Zero woke to find himself propped up at a comfortable angle. The bed had been altered so that there was support for his upper back within putting pressure on his self-inflicted damage between his shoulder blades. His upper body was bare but he was wearing a light pair of cotton trousers around his lower half and had a blanket tucked up to his waist. He shivered slightly and it attracted the rooms only other occupant. The purple alien. Trance he thought he remembered Beka say.
"Are you cold?" She asked him kindly. He nodded and shrugged. "I know, your planet is a rather warm one. You'll get used to it." He narrowed his eyes at her and she smiled back. "Not your actual planet then?"
He frowned at her having never met somebody so perceptive. He shook his head though. "You don't have to tell me anything, but Beka's going to want to know everything about you before she makes a decision what to do with you or where to drop you off?"
Zero tilted his head and randomly pointed at the floor. "I don't know if she'll let you stay here though Seamus has been going on about your skills with computers."
"Seamus?" He mouthed.
"Harper, the blond guy." She told him. "Sorry perhaps introductions would be a good idea. I'm Trance Gemini."
Zero glanced at her tail and back at her face with a half apologetic, half confused look. "I don't know either." Trance told him with a shrug. "I don't know who were parents were."
He made an 'o' shape with his mouth to show he understood. "Anyway, Rev Bem is the Magog you met. He's a Wayist. They believe it wrong to ever harm another." She continued, ignoring his confused look. "Seamus is our engineer and of course then there's Beka Valentine, the Captain and Pilot of the Maru."
Zero nodded and looked around dramatically before looking back at Trance. He imitated writing on a pad of paper and Trance smiled. "How about I go let the Captain know you're awake and bring you something to write with?"
Zero smiled, ignoring the pain in his stomach and throat since he hadn't eaten or drunk anything in a long time. He wasn't stupid enough to ask though. That had been ingrained into him very quickly four years ago.
It was ten minutes before Trance returned along with Beka and Harper. Zero looked at them and couldn't keep his anxiety from them. "I heard you did quite a number on yourself." Beka told them. "What did you cut out of your back?"
Zero frowned before fisting his hands and placing them together. He imitated a bomb exploding and Harper gulped while Trance just shook her head and Beka raised her eyebrows at him. "I can definitely understand the desire to get it out but Trance tells me it would be better for somebody like her to do it next time."
'Next time. She's going to send me back! Or sell me somewhere else.'His arm folded over his stomach as he hugged himself.
"Damn. I didn't mean it like that." Beka told him. "I'm not cut out for this sort of thing. Look, I'm not going to send you back or sell you again."
Zero risked a glance her way but looked back down at his lap. "Would you look at me?" His head was yanked up and he cringed but tensed to accept any punishment she was planning. "I don't believe in slavery. Are you listening to me?" She demanded. Zero met her eyes nervously. "Nobody here believes in slavery. If I had the power I'd make damn sure there was no slavery but since I don't making sure you stay free will have to be enough. You're not going back there, I promise."
Zero relaxed and nodded sincerely trying to express his gratitude. "Right then." Beka said as she sat in a spare chair. Trance squeezed in beside the bed and Harper perched on the bed at Zero's feet. "So, what's your name? Was Zero your designation?"
He mimed for paper and a pen and was handed one better. A data board with a data cable. He glanced it over. "You can open it up and check before you plug in if you want." Harper told him. Zero looked up at the man who was probably only three or four years his senior and they stared at each other. Zero shrugged to show he trusted him and slotted the data cable into his implant. He switched on the data board and waited for the inbuilt virus in his implant to stop searching the device for other viruses or traps. It showed it was clear. "That's a cool program. How many viruses have you written?"
Zero shrugged. Beka shot Harper a look which clearly meant shut up before turning to Zero. "So, what is your name?"
He used the uplink to write in large on the data board. "Zero."
"Ok, so what's your designation?" Beka asked.
Zero quirked her a smile before changing it to the numbers "08". "So do you have a normal name?" She asked.
"I don't know." Appeared on the screen.
"What?" Beka frowned. "How about you just tell us your story, where you come from, how you became a slave? How about that?"
"Ok." Zero showed them the board before wiping it and concentrating on a brief history of himself. "I was a security officer of some sort on a cargo ship that I think was shot down by slavers. I was the sole survivor and the records listed me as being eighteen and new to the ship. Slavers found me and took me to a slavers yard. I tried to escape and killed three of them but they caught me again and sold me to my Master. He tested me in everything and found out I had a knack with computers so got me loads of different ones to try out. I can shoot anything that moves or doesn't move so he used me to hunt game and be a guide for this friends. And I could hack into any computer system or use viruses to do things. I escaped recently, cut out my implant and snuck on here, using the virus to make sure you couldn't give me back. I'm sorry."
He let the three of them all read his story and frowns appeared on all of their faces. "How old are you now?"
"22" appeared on the screen.
"You were a slave for four years?" Harper asked with a shudder. Zero just shrugged.
"I don't understand this, why are you talking about the ships records saying you were eighteen and what was your actual job?" Beka frowned. "What did you do before you joined the ship?"
"I don't know." Appeared on the screen. "My life before eighteen is a blank. I have permanent amnesia from the crash as well as this scar on my chest." Their eyes flickered to the long scar that ran diagonally across his chest from his right shoulder to the base of his left rib cage. "I only know slavery."
This time Beka joined Harper in her shudder. "You only remember the last four years, all in slavery. That's horrible."
Zero shrugged. "What did he have you do with your computer skills?" Harper asked him curiously.
"He made me hijack a rival cargo ship, space the crew and deliver it and its platinum to a rendezvous." He told them simply and saw Beka glance at him warily. "I didn't have a choice." He insisted.
"What about those missile satellites?" Beka asked to cover her doubts. "Didn't they used to belong to loads of people.
"Computer virus." Zero told them. "Designed to run from his computer but I wrote myself an override so I could prevent them from firing so I could one day escape and he couldn't shoot me down."
"Well at least you think ahead." Beka muttered. "Ok, you obviously have skills so I'm offering you a place on my ship but I promise you that if you try anything I'll kill you myself. Actually, try anything and I'll send you to the nearest slaver."
Zero flinched but nodded at her knowing that it was simply the worst punishment she knew for him. His stomach grumbled and he went pale as he realised they had heard it. He tensed for a moment before realising that they were looking at him with pity. "I'll go get him some grub boss." Harper said. "I take it I've got a roomy now then?"
"Better you then putting him with Rev." Becca sighed. "If you don't mind? Harper's a rather messy person but your using Trance's room at the moment and there's only three more rooms in the ship."
"I'm used to the floor. Anywhere is fine. Thank you." Zero let the words fade away as Beka and Harper backed out of the room leaving Trance to check him over and change the bandage on his back.
Zero let himself smile at her as he unplugged the data board.