"The Tarak fleet is targeting the Nirvana!" Belvedere announced rather calmly.
"Don't shoot" Bart said with tears streaming from his eyes "Please don't".
"Confirmed position of the Mejere fleet" Belvedere announced, "They're behind the Tarak fleet and advancing…" the bridge bunny's voice changed to a panic "They're also targeting us!"
"Why are they targeting us!?" Misty yelled "We're not the enemy!"
Aramone yelled over the growing commotion, "Incoming message from the Tarak fleet".
The message read, "Attention female pirates, you are to make an immediate and unconditional surrender".
"Don't really have much choice" Chase muttered as he heard a faint, distant, mechanical voice in the back of his head "Yeah I don't like it either, but for now we have to play the waiting game".
Ezra cried, "We're receiving a message from the Mejere fleet. It reads attention crew of the Nirvana. If you follow Tarak's demands we'll rendezvous with you and evacuate your crew at once".
Magno had her back straight against her chair, her one visible eye under her hood was glaring at the two fleets before them, "We shouldn't push our luck at a time like this, send them a message we'll agree to surrender so long as no one is harmed".
Ezra sent a message to both fleets agreeing to the surrender and boarding parties from the Mejere fleet began advancing. The Nirvana's alarms went off as the boarding parties docked with the ship.
Chase turned to the captain, "Captain, how much do you trust me?"
Magno looked down to him, unsure as to what he meant.
"We don't have time for me to explain" Chase told her, "How much do you trust me?"
Magno waited another second before answering, "I'd be willing to put the lives of everyone on this ship in your hands. What do you intend to do?"
"There's no time to explain, they'll be up here any minute" Chase said before walking over to his captain "I have a special piece of equipment capable of generating a stealth field around me. I'll be right behind you the entire time".
The bridge door slip open and a massive group of women stormed the bridge dresses in those suits that made them look like monsters. The boarding party surrounded the captain and everyone on the bridge intently aiming their weapons at them.
The captain noticed that Chase had completely vanished, "Well this certainly is an extravagant way of greeting your visitors. I guess we'll be accepting your invitation".
In the peksis reactor, Duelo, Hibiki, Bart and Pyoro were staring at the giant crystal.
"It's ironic" Duelo said, "This is where you and Dita first met isn't it? In fact this is where we all first met…After this whole thing started".
"So why'd you bring me down here?" Hibiki asked him "I don't like how quiet Bart's being. Just what are you two planning?"
"He's been like that since that whole thing with the commander" Duelo explained "As for Pyoro he just doesn't like being separated from Kaluah".
"Hold up I know what's going on here" Hibiki said, "You've figured out that I'm from the first generation haven't you?"
"You definitely seem to be" Duelo admitted.
"So that's our plan then" Hibiki said, "Just let me talk to the old man and I'll straighten all of this out".
Duelo quickly grabbed hold of Hibiki and injected him with a light green liquid that caused him to black out as he fell over the rail and into the peksis.
Watching the young pilot vanish under a bright light, Bart gasped "It swallowed him!"
"Peksis is keeping him safe" Pyoro told him.
"They have no idea Hibiki is here in the first place, this way he'll be able to serve as the ace up our sleeve".
"How'd you come up with something like that?" Bart asked his friend.
"You can thank the commander" Duelo said to which Bart moaned.
"So what about me?" Pyoro asked "What should I do?"
Bart jumped at the little robot and grappled him "You need to just stay here and play dead got it?"
Down in Reg Central, Barnette was quickly locking down the entire system to keep Tarak and Mejere from accessing it. Jura entered carrying a lot of stuff with her, "Hurry up Barnette we need to go".
The green haired pilot replied, "I know Jura, just give me a second to lock the systems".
Once Barnette finished a single member of the Mejere boarding party entered the room and ordered both of them to start moving, Barnette made one last look at the console and in that instant everything that had happened in that room since the journey began flashed in front of her.
Her talks with Gascogne, the one time she was changing after receiving a new attire from the former Reg leader and Chase entered, but immediately turned around before side stepping to the back room, with his back to them.
And perhaps one of her favorite and painful memories, the night after Gascogne sacrificed herself, Chase had stayed with her alone in that room throughout the night staying at her side like he promised.
As her and Jura were being escorted back to the boarding ship, Barnette took a quick look at every room they passed by, memories of her moments on the ship, good and bad flashed in her mind as she passed them by.
Passing by the restrooms, she remembered the time when Chase ran after her down this hall and she pulled her gun on him demanding him to keep his distance, but Chase playfully held his hands up as he kept walking toward her with a teasing smile.
That memory brought a smile to the Reg leader's face…it seemed like it was only a few days ago, but at the same time years gone by.
"What are you smiling for?" one of the boarding guards asked, "Keep moving!"
"Right sorry" Barnette said before she continued on "Chase. I know you'll save us".
With the last of the crew on the boarding ships, the pirates took one last look at their ship before they were flown away and the soldiers of Tarak moved in to secure the Nirvana.
Barnette sat quietly by herself, remembering the moments she shared with Chase on the ship. She continued to smile even though small tears were slowly filling up in her eyes.
Barnette felt a hand on her shoulder, but when she looked no one was there. Her last memory before the Mejere ship landed at its destination was of her and Chase in her room one night, the night she experienced the way men and women would occasionally show their love for each other.
After the ship landed, the guards began herding the pirates off, Barnette didn't know why just yet, but she felt that Chase was watching over her and the others ready with a plan to save them.
The trial against Magno and the crew didn't last very long, the pirates of the Nirvana were found guilty of multiple counts of treason and propaganda before being sentenced to life.
Magno and the rest of the crew were transported to a giant prison facility located on a massive asteroid orbiting Mejere, there they were all placed into a massive cell before the guards locked the door and walked away.
"So I guess this is it then huh?" Celtic asked as she sat in the corner.
"No we'll get out of this I just know we will" Dita said trying to lift the bridge bunny's spirit "If we just keep believing I know Mr. Cowboy and Mr. Alien will figure something out!"
"Dita will you wake up!" Celtic yelled "Neither one of them are here so how are they going to help us?"
Magno smiled, "You'd be surprised my dear" she said to the bridge bunny. Magno walked over to the cell door before hearing a quiet whistle. "It's about time you showed up".
"Captain?" Dita asked before Chase appeared right in front of them.
"So much for Mejere being a civilized place" the cowboy smiled, "This place is completely filthy; I've seen ranches and barns cleaner than this".
"You never cease to amaze me Chase" Magno said to him, still smiling, "You've been next to us all this time without anyone noticing. So I assume you have a plan for our escape?"
"You could say that" Chase replied with an evil smile "Of course being completely honest this whole thing was half my idea. I was thinking about surrendering alongside you and the others then have Nighthawk attack wherever I was to cause a distraction, but he had a better idea. Use this stealth generator to stay with you and then pick the best moment to attack". Chase held his left wrist up to his face and spoke to his watch "Nighthawk, we're ready the spotlight is all on you".
A deep mechanical voice replied, "Understood, commencing assault on targeted facility".
Magno looked confused, "This was your ship's idea?"
"Oh that's right I never told you" Chase said with a sly smile, "Nighthawk is a sentient machine, completely capable of thinking for itself and even self piloting when I'm not around, he even talks, a fully aware AI".
"My now, that is intriguing" Magno said with a faint smile "And to think this whole time I thought you were just…"
The entire facility began shaking and alarms everywhere went off. Every prisoner in the facility was panicking.
"Several Mejerian dreads teams detected" Nighthawk's mechanical voice came from Chase's watch "They are currently carrying out a complete blitzkrieg style attack run to cripple the facility. Hacking into their radio feeds…transmissions reveal they are another part of Magno's crew left behind on Mejere. They have come to liberate their captain and crewmates".
"That's good to hear" Chase said, "Looks like we're going to have some backup".
"So they're finally here" Magno smiled as the prison shook again.
"Captain you might want to stand back" Chase said as he pulled his double action colt revolver from his vest and reached into his left breast pocket retrieving a single bullet.
"What do you plan to do?" Magno asked him as he loaded the single round into his gun.
"It's a special round with an explosive tip; with luck it'll make quick work of the locking mechanism".
Chase placed the barrel of his gun against the cell door's keyhole and looked up to everyone in the cell, "Everyone get down".
The imprisoned pirates all crouched down and covered their ears as Chase pulled the trigger, and the explosive round tore through the inside of the door's lock.
"All clear" Chase said as he opened the cell door.
"Several of the attacking dreads have landed" Nighthawk reported, "Penetrating thermal scans show the pilots heading for your location. Alert, scans also show a platoon of guards converging on the cell block adjacent to yours and another approaching from behind".
"Alright you all heard him, let's move" Chase yelled.
Magno and her crew began filing out of their cell; Barnette was the last one out.
Walking over to Chase, Barnette stared directly into his eyes, "I knew you'd save us".
A loud explosion roared through the cell block and before any of them knew it, they were surrounded, but not by guards.
"Captain!" one of the women said before removing her helmet "We heard you were around so we thought we'd come pick you up".
Magno smiled, "Well you certainly took your sweet time getting here".
"Sorry about that" another woman said, "We were caught in traffic by the way how did you manage to escape?"
"Oh right" Magno said with a lost expression as she stepped aside showing Chase, "This is Chase Harris, he's a real good friend of mine he helped us out before you showed up".
Chase tipped the brim of his hat to the two women, "Ladies".
"A man?" the first woman asked before Ezra ran over to her.
"Rebecca!" Ezra cried.
The dark haired woman looked at Ezra and placed her hands on her shoulders "Ezra, I'm glad to see you're ok". She then noticed Kaluah in Ezra's arms, "Who's this?"
Ezra smiled as she held the baby up, "Kaluah say hi to your Oh-mah".
Rebecca's eyes lit up, but her happy moment was cut short as Nighthawk spoke up from Chase's watch again.
"Alert, I recommend an immediate retreat; enemy reinforcements have been notified and are en route".
"Alright what are we waiting for?" Chase yelled over all the commotion, "Let's free the rest of them and get the hell out of dodge!"
Both Rebecca and the red haired woman she was with looked at Chase, still unsure how to handle the situation with him involved, but the captain put their minds at ease.
"Well" Magno said to them, catching their attention, "You heard him, let's get the rest of these ladies out of here".
Both Rebecca and the red haired woman nodded, "Roger!"
The rest of Rebecca's team began freeing the other prisoners, "Just where are BC and Ms. Gasco?" she asked angrily "Just what were they thinking leaving out captain alone in a situation like this?"
Two gunshots echoed through the cell block and everyone looked to Chase as he shot the last cell door's lock apart and opened the door to free the women inside, "Ladies" he said tilting his hat to them as the four women inside filed out.
"Alright that's the last of them, let's go!" the cowboy yelled as he began running forward, but Barnette grabbed him and pulled him to her, kissing him in front of everyone.
Dita, Misty, Meia, Rebecca and everyone else were surprised at what they just saw.
After Barnette backed away from Chase, the cowboy seemed confused for a moment, "Not that I'm complaining" he began in a completely lost and confused tone "But why did that just happen?"
Barnette smiled at him, but before she could say anything Nighthawk spoke again.
"Chase I am detecting a massive elevation in both yours and Barnette's heart rates, may I remind you that the enemy is closing in and that this isn't the time for the two of you to have relations".
Both Barnette's and Chase's face lit up in a glowing bright red color as Chase yelled at Nighthawk to shut up and kept the enemy reinforcements at bay until they escape.
It wasn't long after that, everyone was evacuated and returned to the Nirvana. Thanks to the will of the peksis, the Nirvana was freed from its restraints and sped away to reclaim its crew along with the new recruits from the prison.
"AND HOME RUN!" Chase yelled as he along with the rest of the crew reentered the Nirvana, spotting Hibiki sitting on a crate, eating from a binto box Dita had made the cowboy yelled at him in a friendly way, "Hey Hibiki! What's going on? I leave you in charge of the ship for a few hours and you let it go to hell, look at this mess!"
"Don't blame me for that!" Hibiki yelled back with a slight smile on his face, "I was trying to figure out the code Barnette used to lock down the ship".
"Oh that's easy" Barnette said taking the datapad from Hibiki, "It's a word we all know well. See" she said holding the datapad out to him with the word "Smile" on it, suddenly the ship's power was restored.
"Everything has to be so cheesy around here" Hibiki muttered before looking at Dita, "It was cold, but it wasn't half bad".
Dita smiled and thanked Hibiki before Magno began issuing orders to everyone.
"Alright I know you're all happy to be back, but we need to start preparing everyone to your stations at once!"
The entire crew immediately began rushing in every direction, determined to get back to work and prepare for what they all knew was around the corner, the final battle and the remaining forces of the harvest.
Barnette said goodbye to Chase and quickly returned to Reg Central to begin her preparations as well leaving Chase alone with Meia, the captain and Rebecca.
"It seems everyone is ready" Chase noted.
The captain smiled "Indeed it does, their morale, their spirits. I've never seen them higher than they are now; I know we'll survive this battle".
"I don't know" Chase said before he looked to Meia, "So how about it Meia?" he asked the dread leader "What do you think our chances are?"
Meia scoffed with her own smile "Honestly?" she asked "Well the harvest killed you once already and all it did was piss you off. I can't imagine they'd be able to stop you this time".
"Alright that's enough chit-chat" Magno said to them "We've got work to do, Chase come with me".
"Aye-aye captain" the cowboy responded before returning to the bridge along with Magno and the bridge bunnies.
Once back at her terminal, Belvedere immediately announced the presence of a Tarak pod heading toward them to which the captain ordered them to intercept it.
Not long after the pod was safely retrieved, Bart had rushed back to the bridge, "Sorry I'm late!" he yelled before standing in front of the captain, saluting her "Bart Garsus reporting for duty and awaiting your orders captain!"
Magno smiled at him before closing her eyes, "You're late. Now quit wasting time and return to your station and begin preparations".
Bart smiled back at her "Right away captain".
After Bart jumped into the helmsman portal Magno looked over her shoulder and to Tenmei who was standing in the doorway, "Well? How long are you going to stand there? I don't recall ever relieving you of your position as commander".
Tenmei gasped and stepped into the room, "So does this mean you forgive me then?"
"To forgive or to blame?" the captain asked "I'm correct to assume you'll be returning to us as Buzam right?"
Tenmei smiled as he stepped forward, but the captain spoke up again, "However I have one condition" the old pirate smiled at her second in command "Could you please go back to the voice you were using before?"
Tenmei closed his eyes with a thankful smile, "Very well" he said before pressing the chocker on his neck returning it to its original green color and returning to his terminal.
"Your orders commander?" Ezra asked.
"Now hear this all Nirvana crew!" BC yelled "All stations stand ready! Everyone else stay at Emergency level 3 status! Bart set course for 5, 3, 8 Ezra give me a status report on all of Nirvana's systems. Cel open a line of communications with Rebecca".
The captain felt a massive pain in her chest and immediately hunched over, Chase took a single step toward her, but the captain waved him back before she activated the ship's PA system, "Now here this! Even if our backs are against the wall no matter how painful it may get don't you dare think of taking the easy way out. There will be no dying aboard this ship, there's a bright and somewhat cruel future out there for all of you so make sure you live to see it".
Chase's smile vanished and everything around him began spinning wildly. Closing his eyes, Chase was standing in the middle of a destroyed rodeo arena with a torched sky above him. He could feel a strong evil presence hidden behind the burnt clouds, slowly approaching him.
Glaring at the sky, Chase narrowed his eyes "I'm not afraid of you, not anymore. So you can keep on coming, in fact I want you to. So I can show you what happens when you piss me off, when you take everything away from me and then try to take the treasures I've found since then. What makes me happy, so I'll be waiting for you…Ready to finish what you started".
A/N. And there's chapter 11 and ever closer to the end we draw
This is where it all comes together, the final battle is next and with only 3 chapters left its almost time to say our farewells to Vandread: Gunslinger.