Starfox: The Space Beyond

Prologue

The Human Systems Federation (HSF) is comprised of roughly 450 star systems spread across the galaxy. Though still isolated in one arm of the Milky Way, they have expanded rapidly since the development of practical space travel. Their technology is slightly more advanced than even the best Cornerian prototypes, with superior armor, weapon, and propulsion systems. At the heart of the HSFs technology is the jump drive, a device that allows a ship to bring any two points in the galaxy to within a few kilometers of each other, allowing it to move itself and any accompanying vessels large distances with ease. Jumps of 20 to 40 light years are not uncommon for medium sized warships and trade ships with some of the larger battleships and carriers able to jump hundreds of light years if necessary. Fighters and short range inter system craft do not have jump drives, though all ships have a short range, high speed warp drive that allows them to travel within a star system. The HSF guards their jump drive technology zealously with no ship being permitted to be captured with a jump drive intact.

The humans themselves are slightly taller and thinner than the average Cornerian and have a higher muscle and bone density, this gives them a frightening amount of strength for their size, a well trained human can best 2 or 3 Cornerians in hand to hand combat. They can be injured or killed with heavy weapons and lasers but, due to their advanced personal body armor, the average blaster sidearm doesn't have much of an effect. Thankfully, humans are rarely seen except on patrol outside the Lylat system and never planet side, an agreement with the Cornerian government forbids their ships from entering the system and prevents the humans themselves from touching down on any planet in Lylat. The Far Reaches Pact, as it's called, has kept their presence in the surrounding star systems largely unknown.

When the HSF first made its appearance in the Lylat system about 5 years after the First Lylat War, it did so by sending a series of encoded messages to Cornerian military ships operating on the edge of the system. Eventually, the Cornerian government answered and a diplomatic exchange was permitted on the outskirts of the Lylat system on board the human exploration vessel Particle Horizon. Human interest in Lylat came from the system's wide variety of habitable worlds and unusual star and red dwarf binary configuration as well as the number of brown dwarfs and dwarf stars that were in close proximity to the system itself. The humans stated their intentions to settle and colonize a handful of the neighboring star systems, not knowing the Cornerians themselves had only limited access to their region of space. It was standard HSF policy to contact any space-faring population found in a region prior to colonization to avoid a future conflict, species that rejected their request were given a 50 light year buffer zone around their home system and left alone.

The Cornerian government, not wanting to look weak or inferior to the HSF, granted permits to colonize 4 systems inside the 50 light year boundary, 2 of which were unreachable by their own ships. The remaining two were nearby but infested with pirate and outlaw colonies and were so far out of control the Cornerians did not have the resources or manpower to deal with them effectively. The humans named the 2 outlying systems Lylat Gamma and Lylat Delta, and the 2 nearby systems Lylat Alpha and Lylat Beta, humans operating in these systems typically drop Lylat from the name. These four systems are the only place in the Lylat region human ships are permitted to operate and any incursions into the restricted area around Lylat itself are delt with harshly. Most of the ships operating in the region are HSF military, so incursions into the Lylat restriction zone are few and far between, HSF civilian ships are not permitted to enter the region due to its instability. Each planet, 45 in all, was given a number representing it's position in orbit around the parent star. Gamma and Delta were barren systems filled mostly with gas giants, though a few habitable moons and large asteroids supported colonies. Alpha was rich in raw materials and had several habitable worlds and moons and received the bulk of the HSF's attention. Beta was equally rich in minerals but difficult to reach because HSF ships had to sidestep the Lylat system to get there, as a result, Beta was a breeding ground for smuggling and corruption from both species.

It took almost 2 years for the HSF to stabilize the Alpha system and begin to colonize, building mining colonies on Alpha II and VII, and farming colonies on Alpha III. The pirate factions that until that point had free run of the territory, were outraged and began pulling their resources together to drive the HSF from the system. An armada of 375 pirate and mercenary warships and hundreds of fighters descended on the colonies of Alpha III and blockaded the planet. Some of Lylat's best mercenary pilots led the charge into the human controlled colonies, easily routing the defense forces. The HSF's regional patrols were few in number and powerless to stop them. The pirates razed the colonies, making off with much of the humans advanced technology and killing the colonists wherever they could find them. Being a farming colony, Alpha III did not have a large weapons stockpile and most of what the pirates had taken was harvesting and terraforming equipment. The HSF did not plan on encountering a full scale armada and was slow to respond. On the 80th day of the occupation, the HSF launched a counterattack bringing some if it's most powerful warships through a jump portal near the Alpha system's star. They came at the pirate fleet from every direction, crushing the blockade and decimating the pirate ships, their energy shields useless against the HSF's powerful mass accelerator weapons. Only 40 ships from the pirate armada escaped destruction and the HSF cemented it's reputation as the region's most powerful adversary.

The Cornerian government had placed observers in Alpha at the time the hostilities began and was shocked with the speed and efficiency the HSF was able to eliminate the pirate threat. Their fighters were more than a match for anything in the pirate fleets, faster and better armed they tore into their opponents, few pirate fighters managed to escape the battle. The larger HSF ships, some up to 10 kilometers in length, pounded the pirate fleet with their heavy guns, often shearing their ships to pieces in a single salvo. The battle lasted several hours with observers on the surface of Alpha III reporting fighting so intense above them the entire sky was alight. Burning fragments of metal rained down on the planet for weeks after the battle. While the fighting in space was grand and dramatic, the ground battle for Alpha III's colonies was completely different. The pirate raiders having killed or captured most of the human population, pressed the Cornerians that lived among the humans to fight for them. The HSF sent in elite commando units called CSUs (Core Strike Units) into the colonies to eliminate the pirates and free the civilians. They did so with ruthless efficiency, liberating the planet in just 45 days without a single shot fired from orbit.

CSUs are well trained, well equipped operatives that act in the interest of the Human systems Federation. They are the best fighting units the HSF can produce. Far removed from the trigger happy commando stereotype, CSUs are resourceful, intelligent, and above all else adaptable to any situation they may encounter. The exact number of CSUs is classified and they are given a cover occupation within the military to mask their activities. The term unit is misleading since the CSUs often work alone. They are given a great deal of operational freedom and as a result can get in, hit a target and get out without being detected. They excel at keeping civilian casualties and infrastructure damage to a minimum as well as avoiding the heavy urban combat that can grind a conventional war to a stalemate. After the pirate uprising many of the CSUs remained in the new systems serving as the HSF's eyes and ears in the surrounding space and stamping out any criminal elements that manifest themselves. Rumors exist of CSUs hiding out on the outskirts of Lylat itself looking for smugglers and pirate warlords that would rather take their chances with the Cornerian Defense Force than deal with the HSFs warships.

Though physically different, the merger of the 2 cultures went smoothly as the Cornerians found common ground with their human counterparts. Infighting and violence between human races had largely been eliminated, as humans had been colonizing and merging with other species among the stars for several centuries. As a result, a high degree of tolerance for other species existed in the HSF. Cornerians living in the HSF colonies are treated well and given the same protection a human has under HSF law. They are, however, restricted from returning to the Lylat system as part of the Far Reaches Pact, this law takes effect as soon as they enter an HSF colony. Many Cornerians in HSF space trade raw materials with merchants inside the home system, leaving their human benefactors largely unseen. The Cornerians that trade for the HSF are not permitted to discuss who they work for other than saying it was an outside organization based beyond the home system. This helped the Cornerian government keep the size and scope of the human colonization hidden from the general population. Only a handful of high level Cornerian military personnel and government officials know about the humans and any ship that sights a human vessel is ordered to disavow unless engaged.

The HSF was largely unseen during the Aparoid Invasion, they did repel the Aparoids in their own systems and committed a large amount of resources toward rebuilding Corneria. Parts of the Cornerian government believe the HSF may have led the Aparoids to Lylat by forcing them seek an easier target for conquest. HSF command found this statement insulting, stating that human warships were at the ready and the CDF could have called on them at any time. During the Anglar Blitz, the HSF offered to aid the besieged Cornerians but again the government refused. During the Blitz, the HSF housed many refugees in safe zones outside the Lylat system, often in their massive carriers to circumvent the Far Reaches Pact. At this point the Cornerian government thought the HSF and it's colonies had been exposed, and the devastation from the Aparoids and the Anglars left the it unable to function as it once did. They feared they would soon be forced to come clean about the HSF.

The Cornerian government pleaded with the HSF from its temporary location on the Beltino Orbital Gate. They needed their aid but did not want another alien fleet over their skies for fear of panicking the surviving population. Despite the great deal of suffering on the surface of Corneria, the HSF honored their request and sent as much aid as their Lylat proxies could carry. The refugees were permitted to return, though the government insisted they go through a screening process to determine how much information was compromised while they were on the HSF carriers. To their surprise, the HSF had been training Cornerians to operate on their ships and none of the refugees reported seeing anything "strange" walking around during their stay. The refugees were told the HSF ships were simply large stations seized during the previous conflicts, though many wondered why the chairs on board these massive ships didn't have open backs to accommodate tails.

Currently, the Cornerian government is a crippled shell of it's former self, it cannot safeguard ships passing into and out of it's boundaries and many of the planets with small populations are at the mercy of local gangs. The HSF sponsored aid ships are disappearing at an alarming rate and the Cornerian government will not permit them to travel with an HSF escort inside the Lylat system. As a result, the rebuilding of Corneria has been slow with many projects at a standstill due to lack of raw materials. The HSF is getting restless over the disappearing traders and is contemplating pulling it's aid ships from their routes. Corneria is in danger of losing it's largest source of construction materials and supplies, as well as it's only source of goods like clothing, packaged food, and medical supplies.

Part 1

"Unbelievable," Krystal thought as she dropped down to her knees and stared at the floor her hands over her head. A cold blaster pressed firmly on the back of her head.

"He set me up, he knew I was here the whole time." she thought. This was how she was going out, 10 billion miles from home, alone, shot kneeling like a coward. Her target, a Dr. Horace Issen was a former member of Andross army and suspected of smuggling what might have been the only surviving toxin on Venom out of Lylat and into the pirate territories. She was contracted to stop him and bring his cargo back, it should have been a simple job, a few days travel to a distant uncharted star system, get the toxin, and get back. It didn't turn out that way, this wasn't the cobbled together rugged outpost she was told it would be. The concrete reinforced structure was two levels above ground at at least twice that many below with docking facilities and a large research laboratory. This place had been here a long time, it was probably one of the outposts built by Andross to hide his experiments from the Cornerians and abandoned later when he moved to Venom.

Something was wrong with this job, her contact had always been spot on with his information, for some reason, he didn't know about all this. Finding a decent contact was difficult to say the least, she'd been working as a bounty hunter under the name Kursed for a number of years but without the backing of the Cornerian government work was slow. There was plenty of scum in Lylat but she'd only get a job when one bad guy wanted another taken care of and the work was distasteful, even Wolf wouldn't have taken some of these jobs. One dead bad guy was always better than two live ones she kept telling herself, not that anyone would ever know it was her doing the work, or even care. She had a falling out with the Cornerian public and it was all she could do to survive anymore. The longer she spent living the bounty hunter's life, the more she regretted what happened to Star Fox, what she did to Fox. Not that it mattered, so much time had passed, no one remembers her now. It's better that way.

"So who sent you? CDF? Andross? Tell me!" The Doctor barked pressing his blaster into her head. Krystal just stared at the floor, for the first time in a long time, a tear dropped from her eye. Maybe there was hope, maybe they would forgive. Doesn't matter now, just shut up and get it over with.

"How many more are there?" Again the Doctor screamed. "I don't have time for you to sit there and think about it!" There was a hum as the blaster powered up.

"High setting, this is going to be messy." she thought.

"Last chance, talk or die."

"I don't know." she muttered, "They will keep coming until the money runs out, or you do."

"Not the answer I was looking for, maybe the next one will be more cooperative." another hum from the blaster. Any higher and they'd both be painting the walls. There was a rumble in the floor, one of the hydraulic doors had opened, then shut again. Krystal could feel the the Doctor's weight shifting, he was looking around. The large room they were in was a maze full of stacked cargo crates and it was impossible to see from one side to the other. The Doctor's breathing became heavy and erratic, there were muffled footsteps from behind a stack of crates, someone else was in the room.

"Who's there, I have a hostage! Show yourself or I'll splatter her head all over this room!" again the blaster pressed to her head. "Up! Up now! We're leaving!" He grabbed her hair and pulled Krystal to her feet, she could feel Issen's body shaking as he wrapped his arm around her neck and began walking toward the nearest door, dragging her along and using her body to shield himself. He reached the door and turned his attention to it's control panel, a shot came right after. It didn't sound like a blaster, just a loud crack and the sound of a projectile hitting flesh, she was still alive. Issen's blaster clattered as it hit the floor, still humming and ready to fire. The Doctor released his grip on her neck and fell to her side, landing on his shoulder before rolling onto his back. There was a wound in the side of his head, he gurgled and twitched then fell silent. Krystal dropped to the ground, the room started to spin, the nausea was overpowering. Too close this time, it's not over though. There were footsteps, a series of heavy thumps echoed through the room, someone was coming up beside her.

"You alright Blue?" a voice said. "Let me help you up." A black gloved hand appeared out of the corner of her eye. "He's here to help." She started thinking. How embarrassing, having to be rescued and found sick to her stomach and on her hands and knees, she was better than that. She went to smack the hand away, it drifted off to her right.

"You're a long way from Lylat." The voice said. "Can you walk? What's your name?"

"I'm fine." Krystal said as she stumbled to her feet. "He was my bounty, who do you think you are?" she turned around swinging her fist as she turned. A hand caught it, and held it with an almost crushing grip, then released. She stepped back, rubbing her hand and looked up at her rescuer. The stranger was tall, Krystal's head was almost even with his shoulder. He didn't look like anything she had seen in her travels, he had no tail or fur, just pink skin and short, crew cut brown hair on his head. His flight suit was colored black and dark blue, there weren't any markings on it. It looked like it doubled as a kind of personal body armor with rigid plates held together by some kind of fabric, he didn't have a helmet. There was a weapon on his hip and what looked to be another on his back. He had to be some kind of commando or a very well equipped mercenary. She had heard the rumors of a species settled outside Lylat. Pirates and smugglers telling fearful stories of whole fleets of ships disappearing as soon as they left the system. She remembered Wolf having mentioned something about an unknown species causing problems outside Lylat as well, but she never could trust him. The stranger spoke.

"I saved your life, that should be worth something. Your bounty hunting days could have ended here, lose the attitude or they still might." his voice was calm and stern.

"My life is worth nothing. I had this under control, he was MY bounty."

"Had it under control?" the stranger mocked her. "Other than die, what did you plan to do? From the time you landed he knew you were here, you didn't do a very good job of sneaking in. As for your bounty, there he is, take him if you want him. I did what I came here to do."

"And what was that?"

"Kill or capture the Issen, rescue any hostages, destroy the facility."

"What hostages? I wasn't told anything about hostages. How did you know I was here?"

"Yes, hostages. There were several dozen of them on the floors below, all Cornerian civilians taken from aid ships that were hijacked in Lylat. We're lucky Issen didn't kill them off after you were detected. When you landed on the pad outside, every alarm in this place went off. I had to wait until you were captured before I could get them out. When he finally caught you I was able to get moving again. I was lucky to find you, one of the guards told me the Doctor had a hostage with him or you'd both still be down here. I've planted bombs throughout the facility and the hostages have been lifted out. We just need to get out of here so I can detonate the bombs."

"Bombs? You're going to blow this place up?" she asked.

"This is a human controlled system, this place isn't supposed to be here, and in a few minutes, it won't be."

"I need to get the sample he took from Venom, you're not doing anything until I get it."

"You mean this one?" he pulled out a small vile of glowing green liquid. "Nasty stuff, they were testing it a few levels below us, on the prisoners they kept in the labs below. I'm afraid you're not really in a position to tell me what I will and will not be doing."

"That's what I'm looking for, give it to me now!" Krystal pulled her blaster and waved it in the air, the human followed it with his eyes, but otherwise didn't react. She looked at her blaster and back to the human who was now watching her, his stare made her nervous. Drawing her weapon suddenly didn't seem like such a good idea. She brought the blaster down to her side and hesitated, then began to raise it toward the human. He drew his weapon and fired, she flinched at the sound. He didn't hit her, she couldn't believe he missed her standing out in the open just 2 meters away. She pulled her blaster up, it was spitting smoke and sparks, the lights on it faded out, nothing. It had been shot straight through the power cells, a near perfect hole all the way through. She looked at the human, gun still drawn. His dark eyes emotionless, like in a trance. He paused.

"Next time I'll aim for the head, most people don't get a 2nd chance. I'm giving you 3. We need to go now, we can talk about the sample when we're outside the blast radius. My ship is this way." He began walking toward the door.

"I'm not going anywhere with you, I have my own ship, and it's this way."

"Not anymore it isn't. They blew it up right after you were captured."

"I don't believe you. You're working for them for all I know."

"That's why I killed a dozen people to get down here to you." the human said sarcastically. "You don't have a clue what went on here."

"Who are you anyway?" Krystal ask him.

"Orion." the human said.

"You? Orion? You're wanted in Lylat, just about every smuggler and pirate in Lylat wants you dead." Krystal's eyes opened wide, she looked at the Doctor's weapon still laying on the ground then back to the human, "Quite a large bounty if I remember right."

"Care to try and collect?" he tapped the weapon in his hip.

"I've got to make a living somehow." She smiled, looking at the weapon on the floor again.

"Dying's not a good way to make a living, Blue." He shook his head, eying the blaster on the floor. "I don't have time for this and since you're obviously not a civilian, I don't have to take you out of here."

"You're going to just leave me down here?"

"That's up to you, you'll never clear the blast on foot." he looked around, "If you want to get off this planet, you need to decide if the bounty on my head is worth your life. If it isn't, I might as well just leave you here, and if you try to collect it, I will kill you."

"Fine, you take me off this rock and I won't turn you in today." Krystal gritted her teeth and put out her hand, the human reached out and shook it with a firm, almost painful grip.

"Very well, I'll bring my ship around to the landing pad and pick you and your ship up. I should be able pull it, maybe not out of the atmosphere but away from the blast."

"Yeah, you do that." Idiot creature, were they all this naive she thought. Krystal began running back out to the landing pad. The human wasn't lying about killing the guards to get down to her. Their bodies were scattered along the corridor, some twisted in horrible ways, most never had the chance to fire their weapons. She made it to the entrance of the facility and outside was the wreckage of her ship. It looked like they detonated one of the smartbombs on board, most of the outer hull was charred, none of the electronics responded, and the right wing was hanging on by just a few structural braces. There was a rumbling in the distance as another ship approached. Nearly twice the size of her own, rusted and battle scarred the ship hovered overhead, a voice echoed from it.

"Last chance, 2 minutes." A small ladder extended from the cockpit in the center of the ship, flanked on either side by massive engines, a group of small fins and jets along it's hull adjusted constantly trying to keep the ship in one place, the whine of the turbines was deafening and the pulsing thrusters made her ears pop. She put one hand on the ladder and started to climb, it moved and began retracting toward the ship. There was a low hum and the sound of grinding metal as her ship was winched up by an unseen beam toward the belly of the ship, she climbed inside, the door sealing behind her.

"Not as heavy as I thought, we should be able to get out of the atmosphere as is." The human said. The ship rumbled and began it's climb, there was no sensation of movement, just a gradually darkening sky. There was a bright flash and a shudder, he detonated the bombs. Krystal was nervous, she wasn't sure the human could be trusted and she had no idea where she was or where he was taking her. The information she had been given about her destination was wrong, nothing was making sense, this was supposed to be an empty region of space. Krystal decided to wait and see where she was being taken, she didn't have much of a choice at this point, after seeing the guards on her way out of the facility, she had no doubt the human would follow through on his promise to kill her. The fact that she was a bounty hunter didn't mean anything to him, either he didn't know or he didn't care who she was, he had to let his guard down sometime.

Krystal looked around the ship's interior, it was a complete contrast to the human's clean and polished appearance. There were missing panels and exposed wiring everywhere, some of the consoles flickered or didn't work at all. The entire surface of the ship seemed rusty and charred, even the interior panels were weathered and beaten. There were no markings of any kind to identify the ship or the people the human worked for.

"What happened to the other civilians?" Krystal found herself wondering.

"They got out right before I went back for you, they escaped in one of the transports docked on the surface. One of our ships will pick them up shortly, if they haven't already." he said. "I had planned to vaporize Issen and the rest of his facility. But I don't kill civilians, so I had to go back for you." The human's voice was relaxed.

"What do you plan to do with me?" she demanded. "Where is the sample?"

"The sample is in a compartment to your left, take it if you want. If I was you, I'd wait until you were ready. That's some nasty stuff, burns you inside out. As for you," He hesitated. "I'm headed back to my ship, I'll put the drones on fixing yours when we get there. Should only take them a couple of days to get her space worthy again."

"I don't have a couple of days to wait." Krystal snapped at the human, "I need to get that sample and Issen's ID back to my contact."

"There's the door, you can get out and walk, but I doubt you'd get very far. Drop the attitude and use a bit of common sense. Your options are limited and I think I've given you reason enough to trust me, make the best of your situation and relax. You have a name Blue?"

"Of course I do, but I'm not about to tell you. It sure isn't Blue."

"Until you give me something else, it is Blue."

"Kursed, I'm called Kursed."

"I've heard of you, nothing good of course." he looked at her out of the corner of his eye, a slight smile on his face. Krystal still couldn't believe it, this sickeningly friendly human was one of the most feared names in the Lylat system. The name Orion could panic even the most battle hardened outlaws, always knows where and when to strike, never says a word, and never leaves survivors. No one had ever seen him in person, no one alive anyway.

"You're not what I expected for a professional killer." Krystal said smugly.

"Sorry I can't live up to the legend. Alot of what you hear are stories pirates told about their deceased buddies to give their last moments a bit of flair. Most people that get this close don't live very long. I try and let my actions speak for me, sometimes you can avoid conflict based on reputation alone, it's worked very well for me. The cold blooded killer stories are pure myth, if there's a way to solve a problem without shooting, I'll be the first to try it. Most of the guys I deal with out here don't consider that option though, which is fine by me. I'm not even a mercenary, just a regular soldier with a regular salary, though I do take a cut of the bad guy's loot when I can, most of them don't need it anymore. We're almost there, she should be just beyond that rock. Ahh, there she is, DSM Fortune's Prospect."

"You've got to be kidding me? Is that thing even space worthy or do I have to wear a pressure suit the whole time I'm on board?" Coming out from behind an asteroid was a ship 600 meters long, made up of 4 large compartments set 2 by 2 with a large superstructure rising from the aft section. The forward left compartment was only half there sparks and gases shooting out from the wreckage, the rear left compartment was missing it's upper door, the twisted equipment inside clearly visible. The right side wasn't much better, the rear compartment's upper door was smashed and useless it's bottom door was missing completely, the right forward compartment was opening slowly, revealing a crudely constructed ship hangar with several ships Krystal had never seen before. There were small drones swarming around them, an energy shield held the atmosphere in.

"She's an old mining ship, I found her crippled and drifting in an asteroid belt 2 years ago, hard to believe she looked worse then than she does now. She's not the prettiest ship in the system but she is very unique for a wreck, her jump drive was still intact."

"I can't imagine anything on that wreck still working," Krystal said. "What's so special about a jump drive?" The human turned and looked at her again.

"Jump drives allow us to open a portal at any point within the drive's range and travel there with ease. Trips that would take days by conventional means, like the run from Lyalt to here can be made in moments with the aid of a jump drive. I was impressed with the way the merc squadrons that operate in Lylat were able to police the system without much help from the Cornerian government. I had the opportunity to watch some of them during the troubles there. With the Prospect and it's intact jump drive I can deploy a squadron anywhere in this region on a moments notice backed by a mothership. A couple of these ships with teams operating in the region could really help stabilize things. I think it's a sound concept but I need Cornerian pilots to chase the troublemakers that run into Lylat to get away from us since I can't enter the system myself."

"Not interested." Krystal said as she sat back, arms folded. "My squadron days are over."

"I wasn't offering, there's no room out here for amateurs. I'm looking for people with something better than a desire for credits."

"With all this state of the art equipment," she kicked the back of his seat. "I'm sure it will go well. I am one of the best pilots in Lylat." The human looked at her again and smiled.

"My ship's towing yours. Something you might want to remember."

There was a shutter as her ship was released, a docking winch pulled it into the hangar. When they docked, Krystal stepped out of the ship and breathed in the metallic air, the stench of hot slag and grease burned her lungs. The floor was covered with scorch marks and bits of scrap metal, there were bars in the Lylat outskirts that were cleaner than this. Everything on the ship looked decrepit, there wasn't a straight panel anywhere. Blast holes and scorch marks marred the outside of the hull, wires and lose paneling covered the walls, the lights flickered, the ones that worked anyway. They made their way to a heavy pressure door that groaned open revealing a small tram system built into the backbone of the ship. The tram clattered along the track, grinding to a halt in front of them. Dozens of drones roamed the ship as the human turned away from the tram and walked through the cavernous hangar bay, there didn't appear to be any crew. He stopped at a console. The human began pressing buttons on the holographic panel. An image of Krystal's ship appeared, parts of it glowing red. Another panel popped up, a wall of text she didn't recognize streamed by, the human highlighting parts of it as it scrolled past. Some of the drones working on the other ships stopped and moved into position around Krystal's ship.

"What are they doing to my ship?" she yelled.

"I started a restoration program, it will examine your ship and reconstruct the damaged parts to the best of it's ability. I'd give it about a 98% accuracy, it's a different kind of ship than the drones are used to but it's nowhere near as advanced."

"Call them off." she stepped in front and looked at him coldly. "I don't want your drones anywhere near my ship and I don't need you holding my hand. I'll fix the ship myself."

"Given the ship's condition, I'll have my wreck fixed before you do. But if you insist." he walked over to a cabinet on the wall and unlocked the doors. He turned around with a mallet and portable plasma cutter in hand and gave them to Krystal. "These should get you started. You can find the plating and ship components you'll need in the bays on either end of the hangar, some of them may require modification to work on your ship, but of course you can handle that. If you change your mind, the flashing red button on the console over there will start the drones." The dry sarcasm in the human's voice irritated her.

"You can go away, I don't want you looking over my shoulder and when I'm done here I want that sample from Venom." She grabbed the tools from his hand, they were heavier than she was expecting and the mallet slipped, hitting the floor with a metallic clang. The human chuckled and began walking toward the tram. She picked up the mallet and threw it at his head. He calmly side stepped as it flew over his shoulder and hit the floor again, sliding a few meters down the hangar. He walked over and picked it up, then placed it on the drone control console and pressed the glowing red button, he walked over to the tram.

"For getting around the ship." He pointed to lines on the wall and floor. "Blue is the hangar deck, red is engineering, green crew quarters and the mess hall, yellow is command and captain's quarters. I'll give you the first mates quarters, it's not 5 star, but it's better than sleeping in the hangar. It's on tier 2, follow the green line and it's the first door on the right. You can rest and clean up there, I'd recommend a shower. Meals are on the house, go to the mess or punch up what you want from your room and it will be brought to you. It's mostly human fare, but some of the dishes are pretty close to Cornerian."

"The only thing that needs cleaned up around here is this floating chunk of scrap. Here's what I think of you and your hospitality." she scolded, making a rude gesture before turning away from the tram.

"Two days of this" she thought.

"Oh and Blue," The human said as the tram's doors closed. "lose the attitude."

Krystal kicked the wall. By now the drones in the hangar bay had started to work on her ship, she couldn't get close to it. They were cutting holes everywhere while others were bringing in materials from various parts of the hangar, they seemed to paint the materials into the shape they needed, everything from structural components to wiring, the drones made on the spot. She set the plasma cutter on the console and called the tram. She looked at the panel inside the tram, there were several colored buttons and some writing she didn't recognize. She pressed the green button and the tram rumbled down the dark tunnel. It's lights flickering then going out, leaving her standing in the darkness as the tram rocked along the track. At least it smelled better than the hangar.