Disclaimer: As well as Firefly and Halo, this story is based on the Shadow of the Beast game series. The copyrights of the games belong to (as far as I know) Ubisoft Reflections (formerly Reflections Interactive) and SCE Studio Liverpool (formerly Psygnosis).

FIREFLY Mk2.2: REALM OF THE BEAST

They Aim to Misbehave

The planet of Tau was a popular pit-stop for many alien species out in the blackness of space. While only a small planet and little more than a lump of rock, it was home to one of the biggest salvaging operations in that region of the galaxy, as well as one of the most advanced smelting and metal refining plants. This area of space was notorious for the sudden meteor showers that came through it, which often caught ships unawares, making them ripe pickings for scavengers. What better place to set up a refinery and an intergalactic equivalent of a trucker's stop, where there would be no shortage of materials and passing customers?

If Alan Tyler and his crew of the Firefly-class transport ship Serenity had thought that they could, they would have avoided the place. However, they needed to make a stop there in order to smelt the material known as Unobtainium that they had recently acquired, and craft it into a suitable superconductor for their ship's recently-installed slip-space drive. Bishop, the ship's pilot, would be overseeing the operation with the engineer, Rachel Tam. This left Alan, the First Mate Alistair, and the gunner José Lovano, with some time on their hands to sample the local culture.

So it came to pass that the trio found themselves sat at a table in the place known as 'Spike's Place' in the English language. The place was an alien bar, but Alan couldn't help but feel that it was more of a facsimile of similar bars on Earth; he supposed that alehouses were pretty much a universal constant anywhere in the galaxy. Of course, what separated it from any bar on Earth was the variety of bizarre-looking alien life that frequented the place. Some were humanoid, some reminiscent of animals and insects back on Earth, others were really hard for Alan to describe. The bizarre appearances of the patrons, however, somehow did not look out-of-place; the only person who did was José, as the only human in the bar. As a result he was getting a lot of odd looks; apparently most aliens had been convinced that the Covenant had rendered the human race extinct. They had had some trouble ordering drinks, but luckily the surly, warthog-like barman had picked up some English phrases while on a trip to someplace called Illium, though he admitted that he never expected to get customers from Earth.

In order to try and set José at ease, the griffin-like gargoyle Alistair was in the process of regaling him and the Godzilla mutant Alan with a story of an incident that happened to him about a month before the war ended. It was presently night-time on Tau, meaning that he could move about in his flesh-and-blood form freely. The incident he described had involved some kind of viral outbreak in London, involving a contamination of what was known only as the 'Rage' virus. In spite of the storytelling, José still couldn't help but feel uneasy; he was sure that both Alan and Alistair were in their element, surrounded by so many other non-humans.

"The Phoenix Gate?" Alan was now asking the gargoyle. "What's that when it's at home?"

"The Manhattan Clan found it centuries ago," Alistair explained. "From what I understand, it's like a portable time-travel device, and it caused a lot of trouble for Goliath when he stumbled across it. It disappeared after he was finished with it, but it turned up in New York again a couple of weeks after you left. Brooklyn found it, and now it's zapping him through the ages for some unknown reason. Brooklyn calls it a 'Timedance'."

"Catchy," Alan said. "I take it one of his stops was merry old London?"

"Is my skin green?" Alistair replied, smirking. "He'd already been back to Castle Wyvern; saw himself frozen in stone and all. Anyway, he wound up right in the thick of the outbreak, with me and the rest of my clan. He thought I was me great-grandad Griff at first, though I still say I'm the more handsome devil. Anyway, with Brooklyn's help we managed to get out of London. When he saw the Infected, he said he had a strong feeling of déjà-vu. I asked him what he meant, and he told me all about you and the Destroyer parasite."

"So he remembered me, did he?" Alan asked, smirking.

"He certainly did," Alistair replied. "I mean, who could forget your face?"

"Believe it or not," Alan said wryly, "there was a time when I could still pass for a human. I doubt he'd recognise me now, if he saw me. Like you said; stick a pair of wings on me, and I could pass for a gargoyle myself."

"Anyway," Alistair said, shrugging, "I was doing some night-security work for Saeder-Krupp at the time, so I could do my bit in supporting the clan. Lofwyr must have remembered my report about the Rage outbreak and Brooklyn's involvement; he approached me when he was scouting for crew for the Serenity, and asked if I'd like to work with the real Alan Tyler. I have to admit that the idea of working with someone over five hundred years old sparked my curiosity."

"I think he sent you just to keep me in line," Alan said. "Just to make sure I was actually looking for Kiryuu and wasn't just trying to get away from his dinner table."

"Oh, come off it," Alistair scoffed. "If you thought I was really a spy, you'd never talk freely around me."

"You never know," Alan said, smirking. "My openness could all be part of some highly over-complicated ruse to screw you over."

"Well, if that's the case," Alistair replied, mockingly, "don't expect me to just bend over and take it up the tailpipe."

José had been listening quietly to all of this, feeling somewhat left-out of the proceedings. Not that he particularly cared; getting too attached to others was just too much trouble, as far as he saw. He tried to gulp down some of the alien brew that they had tried to sample. The liquid tasted like tar, and burned his throat as he swallowed. He let out a gagging noise, looking like he was going to be violently sick.

"You alright, mate?" Alistair asked.

"¡Chinga!" José exclaimed, gasping. "What the hell's this crap made of? Brute piss?" He suddenly stood up violently, and turned towards the bar.

"What the smeg are you doing?" Alan asked.

"I'm gonna tell them to get some real beer here, pronto!" José snarled indignantly. He moved through the gathered patrons towards the bar, pushing his way to the front of the long queue.

"Great..." Alan groaned. "This is all we need." He and Alistair watched as José made his loud and indignant complaints to the barkeep. A number of the patrons turned their heads to witness the argument, and several aliens in the queue complained loudly in their various tongues. José didn't seem to be bothered by this, instead turning his ire towards the patrons and increasing the volume of his voice.

"And now he's arguing with the prawns..." Alistair said, with a loud sigh. His wording was somewhat accurate, for the aliens now arguing with José did indeed look like large, bipedal king prawns, complete with long antennae, long spindly limbs and tentacles creeping out of their mouths. One was covered in a muddy-brown carapace, while the other was a blue-green colour. Both were dressed in loose-fitting scraps of clothing, as if they had just been pulled out of a dumpster. They did have voices and an identifiable language, but it was barely audible by an odd clicking sound which they made as they spoke.

Alan and Alistair now felt thoroughly embarrassed, but José did not seem to care; he was now starting on a new tirade about aliens not learning English. The prawns responded with more clicking (unknown to Alan, one of them had actually said "Fuck off!" in their native language), which only served to raise José's temper.

"How about I use a language you don't understand, eh?" he shouted mockingly. "¡Chinga te, pendejo!"

"I really think I'd better get in there..." Alan sighed, as the prawns raised their own clicking voices, their tentacles flapping madly.

"Kind of a shame, really," Alistair replied. "I was just about to get popcorn."

Alan rose and crossed over to the scene of the argument. The blue-skinned prawn had raised a clawed fist to strike, but Alan prodded him gently on the shoulder, causing him to turn his large brown eyes over to him.

"Excuse me," Alan said, in a firm tone. "This guy's one of my crew, and I'll be the one to deal with him, if you don't mind. He's really not worth the effort, trust me. Now let me get you something-"

Afterwards, Alan could never say for certain what it was he had done to upset the prawns, for the next thing he knew he was being picked up and hurled bodily through the thin plexiglass window at the front of the bar. Landing outside roughly on the dusty ground, he slowly picked himself up, feeling sore all over. Inside the bar, loud bangs and crashes could be heard, along with a lot of breaking glass. Looking back to the window, Alan could see that total chaos had unfolded inside. The place had now degenerated into a large alien bar-brawl, and both José and Alistair were in the thick of it. He sighed and shook his head.

Just once, he thought, I'd like to see the diplomatic approach work.

Groaning at the prospect, he jumped through the window and joined in the brawl, in an effort to retrieve his troublesome crew.

0

A few minutes later, the Serenity had made a speedy departure from Tau, complete with a warning that if it should try to land on the planet again it would be shot out of the sky. Not long afterwards, the ship was once again landing in the large hangar of the Reverence-class cruiser Divine Journey, which had given the Serenity a lift through slip-space to reach Tau as quickly as possible. The plated, almost bird-like design of the ship contrasted strangely with the sleek lavender-hued designs of the small Phantom dropship that shared the hangar, as well as the interior of the cruiser itself.

The ramp leading into the Serenity's cargo bay lowered, and all five crew members stepped down into the hangar. Alan approached two of the tall, armoured Sangheili that were waiting for them expectantly. The captain couldn't help but wonder how he was going to explain to them about what happened down on the planet's surface.

"Welcome back, Alan," said Cujo 'Mentatal, the gold-armoured Shipmaster of the Divine Journey. "I assume your errand was a success?"

"I guess it was," Alan replied off-handedly. "Bishop and Rachel did the best that they could, but maybe one of your engineers should look over it, just to be safe. After all, it's your tech we're messing around with here."

"Say no more," Cujo said. "We can't have one of the last Fireflies blow itself up, can we? Xovu would never let me hear the end of it." He called over to one of the other Sangheili, who was overseeing adjustments to the Phantom in the hangar.

"Loga," Cujo said, "get on the Serenity and check the slip-space drive."

"Rachel," Alan called to his small engineer. "Go with him. Help him make sense of the engine."

"Aye-aye, Captain," Rachel called. She and Loga walked back up the ramp into the depths of the Serenity. As Cujo saw them leave, his eyes fell on José and Alistair, both of whom were covered in bruises. José in-particular looked a mess, as he was sporting a black eye and a burst lip. Both of them were apparently still concussed, for they were staggering about like drunk scarecrows, leaning on each other for support. Alan, of course, was unmarked, the Organiser G-1 that flowed through his veins having healed all signs of injury.

"So what happened to them?" Cujo asked. Alan groaned, leaning in closer to Cujo.

"We had some trouble with the locals," he said in a low tone. "I've only been in space a fortnight, and I'm now barred from two planets."

"You need to exercise more control over your crew, Tyler," Cujo snarled. "Did you honestly think being a Shipmaster would be easy? If you get your ship barred from many more planets you won't be much use to this fleet!"

"What are you getting at me for?" Alan replied indignantly. "I didn't start it! Actually, I got tossed through a window for trying to be diplomatic! Besides, I may be part of your fleet, but it's not like I go shouting about it! As far as everyone else is concerned, I'm your bog-standard privateer. Whatever trouble comes, it'll be my problem, not yours. I don't expect anyone to dig me out of my own shit."

"Be that as it may," Cujo retorted, "you are a Shipmaster. That means you're responsible for your crew's actions, and everything that happens to them, your ship and yourself! If your crew goes around picking fights with every non-human they meet, then what does that say about you?"

Alan sighed, looking back at Alistair and José. The Mexican seemed to be in the process of relating a funny story from the incident, as he was laughing and joking. He seemed remarkably casual for someone who had just pulled the Serenity's name through the mud on an alien planet.

"That obvious, was it?" he groaned.

"You've got to do something about him," Cujo muttered. "He has been openly antagonising every one of my people who try to address him. He honestly seems to think that he can bring down a combat-trained Sangheili in a fist fight."

"I'd like to see him try," muttered Dovi 'Canthon, the towering Sangheili stood next to Cujo and also the ship's Field Master.

"If I had any choice in the matter," Alan muttered, "he wouldn't be on my ship. He's not getting away with what happened down there, that's flat."

Alan wasn't sure if José was paying attention, but his patience with the hired gun was wearing very thin, and he was past the point of caring. Just then, Loga and Rachel approached them.

"What's your report?" Cujo asked.

"Well, it's certainly not the way I would have fitted up an engine," Loga replied, with some amusement. "Still, the new superconductor is connected to the slip-space drive and appears to be fully functional. We won't know for certain without a test flight, however."

"All other systems are A-OK, Captain," Rachel said, cheerily. "Serenity's got a clean bill of health. We can take that test flight at any time."

"No time like the present," Alan said.

"Then I've got just the opportunity for you," Cujo chimed in. "As you already know, we're scouting every planet we come across for some sign of our missing Supreme Commander, Telek 'Heros. A previously-unknown planet has surfaced on our long-range scanners, located in the Hawking Eta cluster. We covered a lot of ground back in the dark days of the Covenant, but this will be our first time charting this particular rock. With our search for any sign of Telek, giving this planet the once-over is more important than ever."

"I take it we've been picked to be the pioneers, then?" Alan asked wryly.

"If you want to put it like that," Cujo replied, chuckling. "You'll have to make your own flag, though."

"Anyone going with me?" Alan asked.

"Tom, Tulsa and Wago are scouting other worlds in our vicinity," Cujo replied, "while I'll need Mitsu's help to cover a more promising-looking location. I'll send you the coordinates of the planet and our rendezvous point once you're out in the Black. I would guess the planet's not much more than an hour away via slip-space, provided you don't make a wrong turn."

"Understood," Alan replied, giving a quick salute. "We'll try and bring back something nice."

"Don't let Telek catch you calling him that," Dovi chimed in, chuckling. With that, Alan turned to face the rest of his crew.

"Alright, people," he called, "we've got ourselves a new job. Let's saddle up." Alan, Alistair, Bishop and Rachel proceeded up the entrance ramp. As José made to follow them, however, Alan grabbed his shoulder.

"Not you," Alan said, forcibly. "You're grounded for this mission."

"What?" José spluttered indignantly. "You must be fucking joking!"

"If only," Alan said. "I'm not having you setting back human/alien relationships for the next millennium this time."

"You can't do this to me, Captain!" José howled. "Or should I say 'Shipmaster'! Malcho signs my paychecks, not your Elite butt-buddies!"

"That overgrown peacock's not here though, is he?" Alan snarled. "I hate pulling rank, but while you're part of this fleet you answer to me, and right now I'm saying that you keep your arse on this ship until we get back. If you get bored, I'm sure Cujo or Dovi can give you something to do. Maybe some time spent among the Elites will teach you a few manners."

Before José could protest any further, the ramp was raised as Alan walked into the depths of the Serenity. When the ramp was secured, José stepped back as the ship lifted off from the floor of the hangar and turned towards open space. The shielding technology in the hangars allowed for ships to pass freely through the force-fields protecting the crew from the vacuum of space, and within seconds the ship was sailing out into the stars. Turning away from the view of space, José caught sight of both Cujo and Dovi, who were fixing identical steely gazes at him.

"Chinga..." he groaned.