She hired a smuggler skyship, The Owl, to take her from her palace on the Imperial world of Ilysium to the far reaches of the Remnants, so she could be with her once secret lover, the pirate
queen Seraphina Flint.
|The Hand of Sorrow, an Imperial Cruiser|
by Radoslaw Kurczewski
cruiser, Captain Hollas, runs the smuggler ship’s registry over the wireless. It’s only a matter of time before they discover the outstanding warrants and learn that The Owl is owned by none other than the infamous outcast Cyrus Vance.
Natasha Syri (as Lady Blackbird currently styles herself) is an Imperial noble in disguise, escaping an arranged marriage so she can be with her lover. She hasn't seen Flint in almost six years and since she was returned from the initial kidnapping for a ransom, she's unsure how to treat her lover who hasn't attempted another rescue since. She's dressed as a commoner, and only her bodyguard, Naomi Bishop knows her true identity.
Snargle is a goblin sky-sailor and pilot of The Owl. He came with the ship, and was living inside when Kale & Cyrus bought her a few years ago. Goblins are exceptionally rare inside the Empire, but out in the Free Worlds they're merely unusual.
Cyrus Vance, an ex-Imperial soldier turned smuggler and soldier-of-fortune, Captain of The Owl. Once a lieutenant of attached soldiers aboard an Imperial warship, Vance refused to follow orders (spacing civilian refugees from an abandoned hulk) and was thrown into the brig for his gross insubordination. He refused to let any of his people be embroiled in the affair (including his trusted sergeant Veronica Quinn, who had backed his decision) and was sent down for two years penal servitude and then dishonourably discharged for it.
They're all sitting in the brig; Cyrus, Snargle and the first mate Kale Arkam in one cell and Natasha Syri and Naomi Bishop in the other.
Natasha jumps into action straight-away, eager to escape the Empire's clutches and find Flint. She takes out a sturdy hair-pin and goes to work on the lock. Snargle, having wormed his way through the bars of his cell and then hers, stands behind her shining a light to help her out. Vance shakes his head and suggests that she just hand the tool over to Snargle and it'll be much quicker - but given the look on her face, he shuts up and doesn't give any more advice that might just annoy her.
|Natasha Syri (aka Lady Blackbird)|
In walks the guard though, a short soldier called Wright. He's wondering what they're up to. But Natasha talks him around, somehow convincing him that sweet little innocent her couldn't be up to anything really.
The guard backs away and steps into Vance's reach - he quickly takes Wright's sidearm, grabbing his collar and placing the barrel of the gun against his throat. Telling him to stay calm, all he'll have to do is unlock the cells, let them out and he'll be fine. Don't cause any trouble and his can tell his officer that there was nothing he could've done.
Wright warns them that his partner, Bell will come inside in a few minutes if he doesn't go back out. Vance assures him that if she's as reasonable as he is, she'll be just fine.
In the other cells are: two drunk and disorderly soldiers, and a scruffy looking vagabond called Oscar. He used to be on the crew of Leo (a sleazy smuggler) who gave him up to avoid getting in any trouble with the Hand of Sorrow. Vance, Kale and Snargle quickly agree to bring him into the crew (hell, Snargle was already opening his cell door!) even though Natasha is dubious.
They're ready for Bell when she comes in. Vance is pointing his gun at her when she opens the door and Natasha slips in behind her to take her weapon. Four of them get into the soldier's uniforms and they'll escort Oscar, as a prisoner for interrogation all the way to the port docking bay.
Dressed in the uniforms, they all look terrible. Vance goes down the line trying to make sure they are more likely to pass muster. Naomi brushes him off, she just wants to be told what to fix. Kale submits to his corrections with ease. Natasha hold her arms out and studies him as he fixes her appearance. He makes a few adjustments which give Kale pause.
Snargle will go below to engineering to cause a bit of havoc in the engine room, to make sure The Hand of Sorrow can't follow them quickly.
The others make their way to the elevator, and Natasha takes charge of the conversation - the guards there wonder where they're taking the prisoner, and are told he's being brought for interrogation. She tells them level 7 when they wonder if it's to level 7 or 8, and she assures them that they can stay here, no need for any extra help. Inside the elevator, she presses to go down to sub-level 1 instead.
Down below, they find the dregs of The Hand of Sorrow, off-duty soldiers and down-beat civilians. Their uniforms are far too nice here and it's clear no prisoners would be escorted around down here, so they dress down, a bit more casually, and break up their formation.
Snargle scurries down the tight tubing all the way to engineering where he eyes up the best way to sabotage the Hand of Sorrow. He spots a few dozen prisoners being kept in horrible conditions, and he quickly sets about freeing them and leading them to a weapons locker. Before leaving them to get back to his task, he tells them where they can find The Owl and offers them a way to escape!
Picking their way through the crowd, they pass a bar which is a little bit rowdy with rival squads. Two of them spill out into the concourse, and square up for round two. There's every sign that this could spill out of control, and if the MPs show up they'll all end up in the brig (which'll rumble the escape!) so Vance steps in, channeling his inner sergeant to bawl them out and suggest that they don't want to get into any more trouble - next time they'll end up outside the ship scraping the hull! It kind of works, but Vance ends up getting his head cracked by a bottle as he pulls them apart. His scalp is bleeding badly.
|Cyrus Vance, captain of the Owl|
Vance steps in to explain that the Chief of Operations is after this information as soon as possible, and when the soldier wonders if he should really be here, with that head wound, Vance doubles down; saying that when the Chief gives you a direct order, you see it through, no excuses. They back down and let the group through. They're almost at The Owl when the klaxons blare. Security teams start to evacuate the hangar and they're caught in the drag-net, neither Natasha's moxie nor Vance's caution get them through - there's really no chance of boarding their ship without starting something.
Getting Natasha to back down from this, Vance calls her 'Nat', which elicits a fierce reaction - her name is 'Natasha'!
They're ushered back into a concourse area, where they hear various personnel complaining that this'll take a couple of hours to clear up, if it's like last time. But there are a few who heard rumours of a riot down in the holding cells.
They grab a table in a nearby cafe to catch their breath for a while. They enjoy a coffee (well, Natasha makes a point of having tea) and when Vance starts to apologise for calling her 'Nat' earlier, nicknames are ubiquitous in the service, Kale draws Naomi and Oscar away to another table to give them some room.
Vance gives Kale a look, but they accept what passes for privacy aboard a ship in a busy cafe. She accepts his apology casually, and when he wonders if the people she's running from know where she's running to, or if they have enough pull to put an Imperial cruiser in their path, she brushes off any suggestion that she might be to blame for his incompetence at getting captured.
She then asks him how he managed to get thrown out of the navy. He explains in the barest of details that he was discharged for not following orders, but then he notices a familiar figure sitting nearby - it's Sergeant Veronica Quinn. Vance is obviously deeply affected by seeing her, and still looking at her, lists the full charges brought against him by the Admiralty which lead to his dishonourable discharge.
Snargle has made his way through pipes and vents (impossible for a human to pass through) and comes out high above the concourse. He opens his ears and glides down spectacularly! Well, it would be if anyone except for a five-year old child was paying attention - he grabs his mother's leg to draw her attention to the goblin, just like on his favourite holo-show, but to no avail.
As he lands, the concourse erupts into chaos, as the piratical prisoner he previously freed spill out into the open, and Quinn rushes past Vance and Natasha to start organising the nearby soldiers (whether on duty or off) run to fight them off.
Vance hunkers down behind the table to prevent her from spotting him; Natasha is crouching in close, and she needles him about Quinn and Vance dismisses her conclusion about their relationship with an angry chuckle.
Naomi grins approvingly and joins in the fight. Vance shakes his head and looks at the situation. He can hear Quinn coordinating the defence, and knows that she'll be calling for reinforcements to catch the pirates in a pincer move. He identifies the best approach route and starts evacuating civilians from the area along those corridors to make the reinforcements job getting through in time almost impossible.
Snargle squeezes through an ventilation shaft and into the hangar, the rest of them will have to use the main door, but there's work to be done to get The Owl ready for flight.
Natasha begins to gather her power, and an amazing lightening storm erupts over the area occupied by the soldiers. To a woman, they're bowled over and that section of the concourse is wrecked, with fixtures and torn metal strewn across the area. Vance and Kale exchange awestruck glances, they'd sensed something when aboard The Owl, and gotten the odd hint, but suspected nothing like this raw power.
Natasha leads them away from the carnage over to the locked door, but Vance isn't following. He picked through the wreckage to find Quinn. She's badly injured, and won't survive without medical intervention. He rolls up his sleeves and scrounge up some medical equipment to give him life-saving first aid. He talks to her, trying to keep her awake and at first she doesn't know how it's possible that he's there with her.
Snargle breaks into a random freighter near The Owl on the hangar deck, which he knows shares the his ship's ether fuel cells. Ripping them out, and hauling them across to the Owl takes the small goblin a while, but he gets on with the job, wondering how long it'll take them to bypass the locks.
The others are stymied by the hangar door's security. Natasha yells at Vance to leave Quinn and help them out, and Naomi can't believe he's wasting time and resources on Imperial scum. Vance holds up a finger and tells them that Snargle's not ready with The Owl yet and they can't leave.
He does get the security code from Quinn (it's Captain Holles' birthday - they both served with him aboard The Silent Song). But before he can punch it into the keypad, Natasha wields her terrible power again, this time to punch a hole through the hangar door. She flashes an impatient look at Vance. And when he still doesn't move from Quinn's side, she walks over with Naomi to haul the wounded soldier to The Owl - he's not impressed with them. If they move her, she'll die and he points at The Owl where it sits on the deck. The pilot light is still red, so Snargle hasn't gotten her up and running yet. He'll move when she's ready and not before. He tells Natasha that they should get back to The Owl right now.
He waits until the reinforcements finally arrive, Standing up and yelling at them that Quinn needs urgent help he smiles at her, and then blinks out.
Appearing on his couch in the cockpit, he glances back at Kale, standing on the ramp in disbelief as Snargle takes off (he forgot Vance could do that, again!), and at Natasha's amazement. They take off, with the pirates crammed into the cargo hold and blasting a hole in the main hangar doors, Snargle deftly manoeuvres The Owl out into the Blue.
Out of harms way, they press Natasha for more details on where exactly she's heading; they can't cast around aimlessly out here with people on their tail. So she tells them that she needs to get to Seraphina Flint, the Pirate Queen! The crew of The Owl moan, they're not sure they like this.
And when Snargle wonders if Cross will have forgiven or forgotten about Vance yet, he puts on a brave face, maybe he'll won't hold it against them, after all loads of people have tried to kill Cross before. Maybe they shouldn't go into Haven though...