Disclaimer: 'The Adventures of the Galaxy Rangers' is copyrighted by Hearst Entertainment, Inc.
This is a work of fanfiction and I make no profit of it.
Thanks to Robyn for beta-reading.
Set 10 days after "Renegade Rangers"
FEMA = Federation of Earth, Mars and Allied Planets
The first mate was still watching her, but not too closely. It was night on the Tornado; the captain had left the bridge, and neither the ship's engineer nor any of the two cargo workers were likely to show up. She had the bridge all to herself, if the 3 by 4 meter room that housed the freighter's control could be called a bridge.
When another asteroid of the Kuiper Belt came into view, she slightly adjusted the ship's course. The Reneer were crazy to let her navigate when to all appearances she had wrecked her own ship in the Burning Nebula, but she was not about to complain. It was rare that you met people that were so heartwarmingly gullible. She wondered how their species had survived so long in space until now when they picked up drifting astronauts without even checking their id or current warrants. To boot, they had entrusted her with the ship's controls based solely on her word that she was a trained navigator.
She glanced at the first mate again. Some more minutes and the uneventful passage through black and grey would lull him to sleep. Then she could check some useful information on the ship's computer.
She adjusted the grey fatigues she had borrowed from the Reneer. They had too much bulk and no elegance, but they served their purpose, exactly like the Tornado. She needed camouflage more than elegance right now.
When life dealt you a blow, you had to get up again even if it lead you to Beijing Space Station near Pluto. It was an out of the way outpost of the Terra System, but she hoped she would be able to reactivate some old contacts and find some paying jobs.
She had lost the Cheyenne, but she was alive, and she would reclaim her fortune.
An orange light on the control board let her know that the previous course correction had led the Tornado too far off the calculated course for it to continue on that route. She reduced speed and initiated a new course calculation. The Tornado was a massive freighter that distinguished itself neither by speed nor maneuverability. Too slow to be worth stealing for herself, she added ruefully. And while the freighter would bring some money if she sold it, it was not worth the risk of being caught. The League's system of justice may have numerous loopholes that a clever outlaw could exploit, but if you were a human caught during illegal activities within Earth's solar system, you could say hello to the Venus prison colony without much hope of ever saying goodbye to it. Even if Earth's care of its citizens was quite lacking otherwise, it believed in taking care of its outlaws. No, without a partner to back her up, stealing the Tornado really would be more trouble than it was worth.
Even the Cheyenne had been a burden. She had loved planning the raids, and she had loved the booty her outlaws brought back: the jewels, the expensive furniture, the high-tech goods only the wealthiest could afford, but she had not enjoyed being confined to the ship because someone would shoot her in the back as soon as she left the bridge.
Not that that hadn't happened anyway. Maybe she should castrate MaCross; that would be doing the universe a favor.
She hit the enter key a bit too forcefully. The first mate's ears twitched. He opened his eyes and turned half way to stare at her. In the dim light of the night cycle, his blue skin looked almost black, and with the horn-like stubs on his forehead, he resembled more than ever a Terran stag.
"Are all things in order, Me-ge-ret?" he asked drowsily in heavily accented standard Andorean.
She cursed herself inwardly for her lack of attention. Now she would have to wait at least another half an hour before she could run her personal data queries.
"Yes, things are fine. I had to adjust our course because one of the asteroids has moved off is charted track," she replied evenly.
"Can you keep us on schedule?"
With the generous amount of time the Reneer had planned for the passage through the Kuiper Belt, she would need to make several blunders before they could fall behind schedule. Her training as a navigator from those days when she was still willing to do monotonous work was not forgotten; she had already saved the Reneer several days by piloting the Tornado through asteroid belts at subspace speed where, without her help, they would have needed to fall to sub light. Unless she marooned the ship, they would arrive at Beijing Space Station well ahead of time.
She mock-saluted, trusting the Reneer would not be able pick up on the irony. She hated taking orders. If not for that fact, she might have considered the captain's offer to sign on with his crew as their navigator, at least until she got to a space station outside League territory. Beijing would have to do. It was too unimportant to attract major criminals or elite law enforcement officers, and if she avoided bar fights and stolen credit cards, she should be fine. And she wouldn't allow herself to be distracted from her plans by any handsome men who told her fancy lies about being on her side when all they wanted was to further their own ends!
Impatiently tapping her fingers, she accidentally hit one of the light switches, and the first mate looked up questioningly when the halogen lights above the co-pilot's chair lit up.
She smiled apologetically at the Reneer and set the light back to 60 percent. She needed to focus.
The important thing was to move at normal pace, literally and figuratively speaking. A person running would draw attention. She chose her path. She never ran, and anyone who claimed differently deserved to get lost in the Burning Nebulae. She gritted her teeth, trying to stay calm. She should have shot him. But then, killing your one night stands was bad manners, and she certainly had better style.
The beeping of the console interrupted her dark thoughts. She programmed another course correction and then increased the tolerance margin where the computer was allowed to do auto-corrections when an asteroid deviated from the trajectory stored in the ship's data banks. The time they would be able to save by means of frequent manual correction was negligible and not worth her effort since the work was enormously boring and she needed to concentrate on the queries she really wanted to ask the computer. She had already set up an encrypted and anonymous connection to the interstellar network, but the console was in plain view; as long as the first mate was still fighting sleep and glancing her way at irregular intervals, she didn't dare to call up pending arrest warrants.
She had steered a ship through the Kuiper Belt several times before back when she had been an apprentice navigator on the Dragan. The work taught her to be thorough: one slip and she could easily maroon her ship, but it wasn't the type of excitement she wanted. She lived for the times when they would dock at space stations and she could browse the shops for the newest useful gadgets and scan the crowd at the bars for interesting fellows that she would like to get to know better.
It was at one of those bars, the Red Butterfly on Mercury's Ring, that she had met Istvan. Bold and dashing, the dark-haired fellow captured her attention, and his passionate kisses and plans to gain riches drew her to him. She followed him through the solar system on his quest for adventure and lucrative jobs. He was a bounty and treasure hunter, and he showed her much that she needed to know about survival on the frontier, from how to check the quality of the ammunition you bought to repairing jet packs. Unfortunately, he did not know how to keep his money together. She loved good clothes and refined technology and wasn't above the occasional round of poker or stay in a five star hotel, but she would never go into debt for luxuries and give up her freedom. She knew you couldn't change people, so she simply kept a separate account from Istvan and enjoyed the good times. Sadly, her lover also had a problem with competition and could not stomach the fact that she was a better shooter than he was. When bitter arguments started to take up more time than their happy moments, she left.
For some reason, men were like champagne. If you kept them for too long, they grew stale. And besides, she knew all too well about the dangers of too much drink…
She shook herself from the reverie. She had survived those three days drifting in space and waiting for a rescue by focusing her thoughts on the future, not by getting depressed about the past. She would find a new gang, even if she had to build it herself, and she would get back at MaCross. Whining didn't change anything. That was her philosophy, and it had always served her well.
She wondered if she should just knock out the first mate. Whenever she thought he had finally dozed off, he startled from his snoring, shook himself like a wet dog and stared at her wide-eyed.
"Do you want me to minimize the sine quotient of the approach vector and the trajectory axis?" she asked innocently.
The first mate blinked rapidly three times; then he mumbled "Proceed!" and slumped back into his chair.
She smiled inwardly. She didn't have any knock-out gas, but maybe navigational formulae would do the trick. In her experience, mathematics always served as a lullaby to those who did not understand it.
She wasn't a scholar, but she hated being dependent on others and wanted to understand the machines that gave her control over her course.
Maybe she should have interviewed the Andorean on stealth technology while she had the time. If she hadn't been preoccupied with other things, or rather a certain someone…
She took a deep breath. Done was done. Mistakes were there to learn from. She hadn't allowed a man to kiss her in a long time, and blasted, the guy had walked out on her the next day! In the future, she would be extra careful of noble Galaxy Rangers who claimed to be ex Galaxy Rangers. Most definitely she should not have gone quite so far so fast…
She clenched and unclenched her fists. There was no use fantasizing about the impossible. Galaxy Rangers stayed Galaxy Rangers no matter what clothes they wore.
Her need for a companion who could help her oversee the treacherous bunch of MaCross and his gang had deluded her into thinking she could trust him, and – she gritted her teeth at her own stupidity, but there was no use denying it – she had been influenced by her hormones. Let's face it, with nothing but ship controls and a slime ball like MaCross around, a girl could get lonely. There was nothing wrong with having certain emotions, but an intelligent girl would not allow them to make her decisions for her. Time to move on.
The first mate had not stirred for several minutes and did not twitch when she stared hard at him. She glanced around the bridge quickly to make sure no one else had entered, as unlikely as that was at this time of night, then she entered her query for the League's most wanted outlaws and any news surrounding the re-capture of the Cheyenne.
There was nothing to do but wait now.
She wondered what priority the search for her had. In a way, she should be honored BETA had sent its elite team and two alien ambassadors after her.
She had to admit the presence of the alien ambassadors had baffled her. She was not sure if they had been on the mission to oversee it or whether someone from their governments had labeled them as troublemakers and wanted to get rid of them. Given the size of Andor's and Kirwin's "we're fine without humans" factions, which were almost as big as Earth's "we're fine without aliens" faction, that was not entirely impossible.
She idly wondered if the Andorean and Kiwi government would pay more for kidnapped ambassadors to be safely returned to them or to be kept off the radar for good. But then, abductions weren't her type of business. She would have to acquire some money and a new ship first, anyway. If she found out more details about the Series-5 technology, however, there certainly would be interested and wealthy buyers for that type of intelligence. For now, selling the Reneer's planned schedule and route to whoever was looking for a disguise or easy ambush would have to do.
It was unfortunate the rangers had not been serious in their intention to turn outlaw. There would have been so much potential in their union. It was a pity they were enemies now – regrettable for them.
She was sure Captain Fox could be relentless in pursuing a case if he was given the leeway to do so. He spoke with a faint but still perceptible Mars accent, and even if he tried to tone it down, his whole attitude screamed 'you won't get away with taking as much as one drop of water from my land.' She would need to be wary of him if they met again.
Hartford was an interesting case. It seemed he possessed the type of hacking skills that only extensive practice of breaking into guarded computer networks could bring about. She remembered hearing rumors that he had not joined the Galaxy Rangers quite voluntarily. It might be worthwhile to check out these rumors when she had the time.
Niko was the type of quiet woman who would not show her teeth until threatened. Daisy would be sure never to turn her back to her though she had to acknowledge Niko's psychic skills were impressive. She reluctantly admitted that she owed the woman. Daisy felt no obligation to the rangers as a group; she had helped them escape the Burning Nebula and would never have been there in the first place if not for their deceit, but Niko had not needed to extend the force field to save Daisy when she and Shane fell down from the parapet after MaCross had shot it.
There were many things one could say about Daisy, but she paid her debts, to humans and aliens alike. Though now was more the time to collect from whoever owed her. Mars might be a good stop for that, but there were too many people there who could recognize her from her old life, when she still kept the law…
She glanced at the computer screen again: no results yet. The subspace information connection was slow, and she had routed her query via two anonymizers using triple encryption. It would be some time before she could see if her warrant had been updated from deceased to 'wanted dead or alive.'
The silence was getting on her nerves; the space outside was a black canvas dotted with little lights. Nothing was happening, and she had to force herself not to fidget in her chair. She remembered talks with Galaxy Rangers about how waiting in space was the worst part of any mission, discussions of strategy and bad jokes back in those days when she called some of them friends…
Indeed, the Series-5 team would have made good allies. She knew how hard working conditions for the rangers could be and how frustrating it was if criminals went free. It was the reason she had turned away from the law. The rangers' ruse had been credible. She didn't fall for simple ruses. She wasn't as gullible as her mother.
She cut that thought short. There was no way she would repeat her mother's mistakes with men or life in general.
She angrily glared at the blackness of space only to realize how futile her anger was. She was responsible for her own choices. She would build the life she wanted, and if she didn't do it, no one else would do it for her.
The first mate was snoring softly, and her computer query was still only half way completed. There was nothing to do but stare out into the vastness of space and let her thoughts wander. She had grown up on a space station. She was used to the black and the monotony. She allowed the memories to surface, recalling the life she never wanted to return to.
She grew up on Galway, a space station near Venus that served as an ore processing plant and supply center for miners living on smaller outposts. Galway's inhabitants were mostly Irish, Polish, and British-Pakistani emigrants. Life on Galway wasn't exciting, but it wasn't reduced to bare necessity as in some of the remote mining settlements either.
Her mother worked as an accountant, and Daisy was hard-pressed to imagine a more boring activity; her father survived on odd jobs, but alcohol and gambling always would quickly eat up the little money he made.
Her mother believed her father whenever he begged her to take him back in, promising that this time things would be different, but within at most a couple of months, the old man would be back to the bottle. Daisy never understood how her mother could cling to a cause without hope for so long.
Strangely, when her father stopped coming back altogether, her mother fell apart. Daisy was twelve at the time. She had thought the constant arguments at home were bad, but her mother's apathy and the bleakness that followed her father's disappearance were worse.
Daisy packed her bags and snuck aboard a grain freighter; she wanted to see the galaxy, and almost everywhere had to better than where she was. She thought her mother wouldn't miss her, but apparently, she had been wrong about that, for the incident roused her mother enough from her despair to call the Galaxy Rangers about her missing daughter. Four weeks later, Daisy was escorted back to Galway by a pair of rangers who had discovered her during a routine check of the freighter that had accepted her as a ship girl. It was the first and the last time her mother slapped her.
The incident wasn't enough to repair the strained relationship between mother and daughter, but at least it caused Martha O'Mega to pull herself together and regularly put food on the table again.
Daisy reluctantly settled back into the life at Galway; she wanted her independence, but she understood that she had to acquire certain skills first. If she intended to run a space ship instead of just running errands for the captain, she needed to finish school. Navigation took more mathematics than she had thought, and when the time came for her to pilot her own ship, she didn't want to trust some piece of software or greedy fellow to keep her on course.
Until then, she did her best to make the stationary life more interesting and learn about the world outside. She worked as a waitress in the food mall to earn some extra money for jewelry, computer games and other small luxuries, and the job allowed her to meet people who had been to other places.
Her mother warned her not to get pregnant when she saw Daisy flirting with the sailors and prospectors who frequented the shopping district, but beyond that, Martha was way too busy with her own misery to look after her teenage daughter. Daisy just laughed at her mother's attempts to keep her from the path of vice, as Martha would call it. She was perfectly able to get what she wanted from the boys without giving too much herself – unless she liked them, which was a whole different matter.
After a nasty run-in with a group of sailors who thought a waitress should serve way more than just drinks, she got her boyfriends to teach her how to shoot.
A gun was a girl's only reliable friend. It didn't ask pesky questions when you woke up next to it or cause you trouble about your life choices; instead, it solved a whole lot of problems.
After Daisy graduated from Galway's excuse for a high school, Martha's connections to the network of Irish emigrants landed her an apprenticeship as a navigator on a small freighter, the Dragan. It wasn't enough to make her call on Christmas, but it was one of the few things for which Daisy was thankful to her mother besides the full red hair and a useful talent for numbers that she had inherited.
After two years on the Dragan scrubbing decks, hauling cargo and learning how to navigate, she had seen every little space station or port in Earth's solar system and knew what there was to know about flight maneuvers, docking procedures and handling difficult customs officials. She grew restless, and it was time for her to see something else.
On a routine trip to deliver goods to Mercury's Ring, she met Istvan, an adventurer who had a way with words and guns, and she followed him. Their relationship was short-lived, but afterwards, she couldn't go back to a life of routine. Calculating flight vectors had lost the little appeal it ever held for her.
However, reality caught up with her fast; the income from bounty hunting was not sufficient to make a decent living. It was all right as an excuse for those who wanted vengeance or as an extra income for miners who needed to defend their claims anyway. Some isolated settlements might even see it as a cheap alternative for a sheriff, but for her, it did not pay nearly enough to keep her weapons up to date and stay in form, not to mention, enjoy some of life's more refined pleasures.
Many days she ate merely bread and beans. The only regular work for bounty hunters was on Mars, and she hated doing the government's dirty work. She took some cases that the Galaxy Rangers handed over to her for outlaws that were hard to track down, but exciting work was few and far between. She even made friends with some of the Galaxy Rangers stationed on Mars. Their work was as hard as hers, maybe slightly better paid, but becoming a Galaxy Ranger was not an option for her. She had never done well in a hierarchy, and there were too many constraints to working in law enforcement. Not to mention, the death rate among the rangers was high. She did not believe in mercy, and she could not understand why the rangers did not kill those who tried to kill them. She had never listened to the priest in Sunday school.
When she saw the bad guys get rich while she struggled to make ends meet, she began to wonder whether she had chosen the right side. An empty purse threatened your independence as much as a holding cell.
She started taking some more lucrative jobs: guarding estates, escorting cargo through no man's land, extended bodyguard duty, transporting small valuable items, and she stopped asking extensive questions on whether the work was legal.
She still stayed in touch with the rangers. When her friend Maureen Callaghan was killed in a shoot-out between rival gangs in Little Chicago, she did not even wait for the warrant. She brought in the shooter, and she did not demand any money for it. Only hours later, they had to release him for lack of evidence. That same day, she signed up with the rival gang. When on the next day the two gangs clashed, she did not hold back. She managed to take out a good deal of the gun fighters, including Maureen's murderer, before she went down herself from a flesh wound. Her former friends, who had seen her fall, took her for dead when she did not contact them. It was all right with her. The old Daisy was dead.
The computer beeped softly when it had finished its search. She looked at the results. The news coverage surrounding the re-capture of the Cheyenne was astoundingly small. Apparently, BETA did not want any reports about the incident either.
She checked warrants for members of the Blackhole Gang. She was not surprised to see that MaCross's had already been withdrawn. For all his obvious faults, his family had some excellent diplomatic connections.
She was astonished when she discovered that the warrant for her had been withdrawn as well. Apparently, she would not need to kill that bastard MaCross. She might settle for sending some anonymous letters to his family and their rival clans instead.
She considered her options. With her criminal record wiped clean, she could take up legal work within FEMA territory, but that life held no allure for her. Her ambitions went beyond staying alive and comfortable. She had dreamed of being a queen as a little girl, and now she would be an outlaw queen.
There was some hard work ahead for her. She needed weapons and a ship and possibly a new gang. It seemed like it was time to visit some old enemies who had gotten complacent and collect some information and money. Then she would be ready for her new enterprise. Few humans dared set foot on Tortuna. It would be a good place for a smuggling enterprise, a high-paying one at that.
When she met the rangers again, she would be prepared. As to Shane, he would see what he had missed, and if he didn't, it would still be his loss.
When Beijing Space Station came into view an hour later, Daisy closed all network connections, wiped the computer's memory and alerted everyone that they would be docking soon.
She exited the ship without looking back; the captain asked her one last time if she wanted to sign on with his crew, but she shook her head.
She had left behind that kind of life a long time ago.