Garven grimaced, rolling his shoulders under the weight of the gravity cuffs which dug into his wrists. He and his captor entered the sleek lift compartment and the doors hissed shut before them. The pleasant ding, the computerised voice that welcomed them and the soothing corporate music was all contrary to the kidnapping that had just taken place.
“Are they too tight?” Blailock was leaning on his techno-lance as the lift lurched into action but stirred at Garven’s discomfort. He tapped away at the display on his wrist and the cuffs whirred with mechanisms as they expanded and the artificial weight lightened. “Better?”
“Yes,” Garven rolled his shoulders some relief in his aching muscles and blood circulated back to his wrists, “Thank you.”
“Sorry for the initial settings,” Blailock slid his visor up, his weary face smiled sheepishly, “That was a bit intense back there.”
“I’m aware…” Garven said cautiously.
The small lift compartment dinged repeatedly as they moved through the floors to the Deathknell’s bridge, the levels flashed on the readout along with the names of the departments. “Accounting, Weapons Division, Brig, Torture Chamber, Human Resources, Sales, Engineering, Life Support, Break Room.”
“You,” Garven hesitated, “You don’t seem that bad.”
Blailock shrugged, his sleek black hunter’s armour shifted against his muscular form, “It’s just a job really.”
“Just a job?” Garven laughed, “You cut through my bots like a surgeon with a scalpel. That is passion, that’s…”
“Why thank you, Garven.” Blailock was beaming, “Your bots weren’t pushovers neither, how did you get their AI to coordinate like that?”
“Trial and error,” Garven said, “How did you program your techno-lance to phase through their shields?”
“I used to be a maintenance tech on a government hauler, awful working conditions. Every time we were raided the fine print categorised it as us treating with non government entities and docked our pay… You had to get crafty to keep in the black. Being a henchman on the Deathknell pays much better, keeps me active, and even if I disagree with corporate, I enjoy the team. Have you met Daybane?”
“His wife hosts the best game nights, never would have met him unless I signed up with Overlord.”
“Um,” Garven hesitated again, “I’m pretty sure Starnaught killed Daybane…”
“Oh…” Blailock took a moment to process that.
“You didn’t know?”
“Overlord and corporate have us all wear matching uniforms, it’s hard to tell us apart on duty.”
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
“Nah, it’s not so bad since we unionised. His wife will get benefits, I suppose.” He glanced up at the level display, “We’ll be there soon, are you an asthmatic? Do you have any lung conditions?”
“Good, Overlord likes to be a bit dramatic.”
The lift hummed to a halt and the doors parted. The bridge was dim, lit by red floor lighting along the main path which cut through the command consoles on either side. A smoke machine hissed beneath the floor tiling, excessively filling the room with red lit fog, while a tall, robed figure stood at the end, looking out over the hull of the Deathknell from an observation platform.
“Greetings, Lady Starnaught,” Overlord’s voice reverberated throughout the bridge speakers as Blailock led Garven towards the observation deck. “Welcome, to the Deathknell.” Overlord turned, revealing an aging face that had gone through too much botox, and froze. “… Lights.” The Bridge’s lights came on, brightening the black tiling, “Vents.” Somewhere, vents whirred into life, sucking the artificial smoke and fog from the room. “Blailock,” He gestured to Garven. “Who the fuck is this?”
“Garven, My Lord, Starnaught’s best friend.”
“Why is Starnaught’s best friend on my bridge?”
“I couldn’t find Starnaught’s wife on the Defender.”
“So you brought his… friend? No offence, Garven, but why the hell would I want you here?”
“My Lord,” Blailock sighed, “You wanted to entice Starnaught into a risky rescue mission, I couldn’t find his wife, I captured his best friend.”
“Why would he risk his life for a friend? Don’t you know anything Blailock? Why would a hero like Starnaught do anything desperate for a friend?”
“Silence! I don’t pay you for initiative, I pay you to follow orders and sow despair across the galaxy.”
“When I want to lead Starnaught into a trap, I need bait.”
“My Lord!” Bailock was growing irritated.
“And I want good quality bait, again, Garven, no offence.”
Blailock pointed with his lance and all but roared, “My Lord!”
Overlord turned and froze again, “Oh.”
A single, little freighter was jetting through the void towards the Deathknell’s bridge.
“He is hailing us, My Lord,” one of the crew members said.
“Bring him up.”
A screen flickered into life upon the observation deck, a weary looking soldier in a bulky EVA battle suit looked back. “Overlord.”
“Where is my friend?”
Overlord turned to Blailock with two thumbs up, mouthing, “Okay, good work.” He turned back to the projection of Starnaught, “We have him, right here on our bridge, noble hero. And he drew you marvellously into my net, FIRE!”
The ship vibrated as the two eternity cannons on either side of the Deathknell’s hull raised out of their compartments and tracked Starnaught’s ship.
The screen winked out, “I was hoping to avoid unpleasantness,” Starnaught’s voice died into static.
“I’m sure you were,” Overlord cackled.
The observation deck flashed with blinding white light and the deck reverberated with the energy that was expelled from the cannons, when visuals returned there were two trailing streams of tumultuous red energy which had collided with the freighter and obliterated it into an expanding debris cloud.
“Blailock,” Overlord turned, “You get a promotion! As for you,” he turned to Garven, “As our business is concluded we can offer you a company shuttle to the closest…”
“Incoming!” Another crew member cried.
They all turned back to the remains of the destroyed freighter and one piece of debris was hurtling straight for them.
“Our shields will deflect it.” Another crew member said.
“No,” the first one paled, “It’s rocket propelled, its, its Starnaught!”
“Magnify,” Blailock ordered.
Starnaught’s image was magnified on the observation deck screen. Sure enough, he was tearing through the vacuum in his bulky EVA battle suit, making a bee line for the hull, with a power hammer in his hands.
“Well,” Overlord said, admiration creeping into his voice, “Shoot him?”
The eternity cannons sent vibrations throughout the hull as they tracked the tiny figure, but they were too bulky and slow to lock onto him… and their cross fire would destroy the ship. Anti-fighter guns emerged next and fired at the figure, but he was too small and danced around the projectiles designed for crafts one thousand times his size. His boosters fired to slow his descent as he made the hull and his boots mag sealed him in place.
“Well, kill him!” Overlord cried.
“My Lord, we don’t have small enough arms to target a single person on the hull.” A crewmember explained.
“Send out void warriors.”
“The closest dock is the maintenance hatch, it’ll take ten minutes to send out anyone with anything more than a blow torch and he is advancing on the observation deck too quickly.”
Overlord and his minions watched in stunned silence as Starnaught charged up the length of the Deathknell towards them.
“Do you mean to say that we have no antipersonnel defences? Nothing?” Overlord said.
“My Lord,” a crewmember stepped forward reading from a data pad, “We mentioned the risk in our requisition meeting last month and you said we didn’t have the budget allocation for something that wouldn’t happen.”
“Well it’s happening now!” Overlord gestured angrily at the charging Starnaught.
“Yes, My Lord, that’s why we resent you killing the foreman when argued with you about it.”
“How about I kill you!”
“You can’t My Lord, in the new Employee Agreement you cannot kill a minion for a decision that you yourself made. You’ll have to pay out my family half the company’s worth… You should have installed the anti-personnel cannons.”
“We didn’t have the budget!”
“You spent half a million credits redirecting the heat exhaust from our reactors to make the Deathknell’s logo pulsate!”
“Marketing and rebranding was an important part of our business model.”
“You know what else is a part of our business model? Killing our arch nemesis when he’s… he’s here.”
The whole bridge turned back to the observation screen where Starnaught peered in. He sighted Garven and nodded, powered on his hammer which pulsed with green energy, and started swinging.
“He’s… he’s not going to be able to break through that is he? We do have sub space shielding?” Overlord asked.
“Not on the first twenty swings,” the crewmember with the data pad said.
The dull silence of the hammer hitting the screen filled the room.
Blailock slowly clicked his visor back in place and helped Garven do the same. He tapped on his wrist computer, his boots and all of the minions’ boots sealed magnetically in place. He then helped Garven with his own mag boots.
On the nineteenth swing, the glass shattered, the atmosphere rushed out into the void and carried a screaming Overlord with it.
Starnaught hulked through the broken screen and scanned the many enemies arrayed against him. He was gesturing, it looked like he was talking.
Blailock tapped on his wrist computer again and Starnaught’s voice came through everyone’s personal comms.
“Can you read me?”
“Yes,” Blailock answered.
“I am just here for my friend, are we going to fight?”
Starnaught hesitated, his hammer drooped, “Why not?”
“Well, our payroll is wired through his neural link,” Blailock gestured with his techno-lance to the flailing Overlord as he tumbled through space. “I am off the clock permanently now… No reason to fight.”
“Oh,” Starnaught gazed around the bridge, “Anyone else?”
“Well,” Another minion spoke up, “Now that the league will dissolve I could use the severance pay to start my micro brewery.”
There was a murmuring of agreement throughout the minions.
“Yeah, most of us have side hustles which have been doing well. It’s only smart when you have a flexible job in this economy to cover your bases, we should be fine.” A crewmember said.
“Well I want to fight!” A console tech stood up, “But I’m not signed off for combat and HR will dock my next pay if I do that.”
“Yeah,” Blailock nodded, “HR are salaried until the dissolution of the league entirely, better not risk it. Speaking of, someone contact Mindy and let her know what’s happened.”
“So…” Garven said, “We can go?”
“Yeah, sure,” Blailock removed his binds.
Garven ambled over to Starnaught who took him under one bulky arm.
“Hey,” Blailock called before they left through the broken screen. They turned, “Once this is all cleared up let’s get a drink, I can spec out your bot shields and you can teach me some of the AI programming.”
“Yeah, that would be nice,” Garven said, “Ah, see ya, I guess.”
Blailock waved them off as Starnaught and Garven stepped out onto the hull and jettisoned away to safety.
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