Outlaw Star Fan Fiction ❯ Outlaw Star; The Ryunoken Sword(revised, rededited, and better than ever) ❯ Ambush ( Chapter 5 )

[ Y - Young Adult: Not suitable for readers under 16 ]

CHAPTER 5:

AMBUSH

(Official disclaimer: This work is entirely a fan fic. I do not own the rights to Gene, Melfina, or any of the themes, concepts, planets, alien races, or any of the other characters that appear in the "Outlaw Star" anime or manga. So Bandai, Sunrise, or whoever owns the rights to "Outlaw Star", PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE DON'T SUE ME!! I'm only doing this to honor your work and to show my respect and appreciation for what has become my favorite anime.)

(Official disclaimer: This work is entirely a fan fic. I do not own the rights to Gene, Melfina, or any of the themes, concepts, planets, alien races, or any of the other characters that appear in the "Outlaw Star" anime or manga. So Bandai, Sunrise, or whoever owns the rights to "Outlaw Star", PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE DON'T SUE ME!! I'm only doing this to honor your work and to show my respect and appreciation for what has become my favorite anime.)

THE TIME: LATER THE SAME DAY

Sitting in the Outlaw Star's pilot seat, Gene watched as the blue-white blur of sub-ether space flew past the view screen that wrapped around most of the bridge. Behind him, Melfina floated in her navigation chamber, her hands crossed modestly over her bared chest and her eyes closed. They were alone together on the ship's bridge. Jim was working in the engine room, Aisha was watching TV in the lounge, and Suzuka was practicing her katas in the cargo bay.

"Melfina how much longer until we exit sub-ether space?"

"We should be able to return to normal space in about six minutes Gene," Melfina answered as she opened her eyes.

"Alright then. You're doing great Melfina. Keep up the good work."

"Yes Gene." Gene looked over his shoulder to her, than quickly turned back to the view screen. He didn't exactly feel comfortable with Melfina at the moment, not after he learned from Suzuka that she had overheard his conversation with Jim. Still, he couldn't just avoid her. And though Gene had promised Jim that he would drop the subject of Melfina's future for the time being, if she had indeed heard him then he couldn't ignore it any further.

"Melfina?"

"Yes Gene?"

"Are you happy?" There was an uncomfortable silence on the bridge for a long time.

"What do you mean?" she finally asked.

"I mean is there something that you want to do with your life? Is there some goal that you feel like you want to accomplish?"

"I really don't know," she told him. "I really haven't thought about it much." Gene began to sense that he was making her uncomfortable and decided to cut right to the chase.

"Melfina," he asked straight out, "why is it that you still travel with us?" Once again, there was an uncomfortable silence.

"I don't understand," she said. "Why would you ask me that?"

"Well, it's just that…" but before he could finish, the others entered the bridge.

"Alright!" Aisha yelled as she flopped down in the console to Gene's right. "Four days of non-stop travel and we finally make it to Blue Heaven!"

"Just remember that we came here to maintain a low profile Aisha," Suzuka said as she and Jim took their respective seats.

"What do you mean 'keep in mind?" Aisha asked as she swiveled in her seat. "I'll have you know Suzu, that delicate flowers like myself are masters of maintaining a low profile."

"If she's a delicate flower," Jim whispered to Gene, "then I'm a pirate boss."

"I heard that!" Aisha growled.

"We are now leaving sub-ether space," Melfina said as the blur of sub-ether space vanished and formed into the star specked void of regular space. Ahead, Gene saw the floating rocks of an asteroid field appear.

"Alright Melfina," he said, "take the shortest route to Blue Heaven." The conversation they were having could wait until later.

"Understood," she answered. As the Outlaw Star entered the Asteroid Field, Gene turned around slightly in his seat and glanced at Melfina in her chamber, remembering how Suzuka told him that Melfina looked like she wanted to cry after she listened to him and Jim. Melfina, Gene thought, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. I just don't want you to stay against your will because of the wish you made at the Leyline. Turning away from Melfina, Gene looked at the image of the asteroid field on the view screen. Most of the smaller asteroids were being worked on by grappler ships. These weren't the combat ready models like the Outlaw Star; but instead were designed exclusively for industrial use. Using heavy tools, the grappler ships cut up the smaller asteroids before depositing the material into tanker ships. The tankers then transported the materials to refineries built on some of the larger asteroids. As the tankers brought in the raw minerals, hauler ships exited from the refineries, carrying refined ore to planets that specialized in industrial manufacturing. Since asteroid fields were hotbeds of valuable minerals, the refineries produced several million-wong worth of refined metals a year. They were the whole reason as to why Blue Heaven was able to maintain its independence.

After passing the refineries, the town of Blue Heaven finally came into view. Gene breathed in relief as he saw the asteroid based city appear. Once they docked there, hopefully they'd be safe from the Toku for the time being.

"Pardon me for the interruption everyone," Gillium suddenly said.

"What's up Gillium?" Jim asked.

"I'm currently detecting a distress signal coming from inside the asteroid field."

"Patch it through," Gene ordered. Gillium promptly opened a channel and the sound of static and a distressed voice filled the bridge.

"Mayday! Mayday!" the voice yelled over the intercom. "I'm on a collision course with an asteroid. My engines have failed and am unable to change course. Request immediate assistance."

"Melfina!" Gene said as his hands took grip on the pilot controls. "Where's that signal coming from?"

"It's coming from two o'clock low," Melfina answered. "I'm bringing it up on the screen now." Ahead of Gene, a vid-window opened on the view screen revealing a hauler ship slowly moving towards a large asteroid.

"Alter course to intercept!" Gene said. "Jim, ready two anchors to catch the ship. Melfina, prepare to go full reverse at my signal."

"Roger," Jim and Melfina both said. A quick burst from the maneuvering jets on the Outlaw Star's bow caused the ship to suddenly dip down and to port as the red ship sped toward the crippled vessel.

"Anchors are ready Gene," Jim said. Gene took careful aim and pressed the button on the left control wheel. From behind the bow maneuvering jets, two anchors fired from their bays toward the other ship, hitting their mark and their magnetic clamps locking into place.

"Now," Gene said. At his signal, Melfina fired the bow and aft jets in a foreword direction. At the same time, Gene triggered the anchor pulleys and began to haul the ship in. Between the anchors and the thrusters, the damaged ship halted in its path and slowly pulled away from the asteroid. "Gillium, open a channel to that ship," Gene commanded.

"Right away," the computer said.

"Hey over there," Gene asked, "is anyone hurt?" The radio was silent for a second until an answer was sent in return.

"Hey buddy," the voice said, "thanks a lot for your help back there."

"Don't mention it," Gene said. "Now just sit tight and we'll take you where it'll be safe."

"Or," Jim suddenly said, "you can pay us a small towing fee and we'll take you right up to a maintenance dock."

"Alright," the voice said. "How about this for payment?" On the side of the ship facing them, a panel opened and a three-meter metal cylinder floated out.

"Gene look out!" Gillium suddenly exclaimed. "That's an EMP mine!" An EMP mine? Gene thought. He had heard of weapons like that. Electro-Magnetic Pulse mines didn't do physical damage. Instead, they generated an intense electromagnetic field that shorted out a starship's electrical systems, leaving them dead in space.

"Shit!" Gene yelled as he cut the anchor lines. "Melfina full reverse now!" The Outlaw Star lurched back as the thrusters fired at full burn just as the mine detonated and sent a shimmering blue shock wave towards them. Melfina fired the ventral thrusters and they rose above the shockwave's horizon, but still caught the edge of the mine's blast. On the bridge, sparks danced across control panels as the view screen went blank. "Damage report!" Gene yelled.

"No structural damage," Melfina answered. "But the circuits for the navigation system have absorbed some of the electromagnetic energy. Our maneuverability has dropped by fifteen percent."

"What about the view screen?" Gene asked.

"It blew a fuse," Jim answered as he typed on his console. "I'm switching over to the backup now." Jim quickly typed in the commands and the screen returned to the image of the asteroid field.

"Where's that ship?" Aisha yelled as she scanned the screen. "I say that we blow him right out of space for that!"

"See for yourself!" Jim yelled as he pointed to the front of the screen. Looking ahead, Gene and the others watched as the hauler's armor plating began to fall away, revealing a bullet shaped grappler ship with two massive arms tipped with assault bolts for raiding and boarding ships. On the vessel's hull, the familiar symbol of a manji adorned the bow.

"Outlaw Star," the ship broadcast, "surrender and hand over Melfina. She is the only one that we want. Once you do that you are free to go on your way."

"Oh yeah!" Gene said. "Why don't you come and take her!" Reaching into the storage compartment on the side of the pilot seat, Gene pulled out an optical laser transmitter which he hooked over his right ear. "Gillium, switch over to grappler combat mode now."

"Affirmative," Gillium said; the bridge darkening as the transmitter sent a signal via laser beam directly into Gene's eye. Gene shifted his hands to the control rods for the grappler arms while Jim scattered the camera pods around the ship. Underneath the Outlaw Star, the grappler arms folded out from their storage grooves and clamped their manipulators as Gene handled their controls. The enemy ship clamped its own manipulators in response before flying straight towards them, its left arm extending out to grab them.

"Not this time!" Gene yelled. The right arm of the Outlaw Star extended out and caught the arm of the pirate ship, the manipulators closing around the assault bolt in the arm and crushing it in their grasp. Gene pulled back the control rod and snapped it forward, tossing the pirate ship back toward the asteroid they had just saved it from. But before it could crash, the pirate ship's pilot activated his thrusters and was able to stop. Gene pressed on the accelerator pedal and rocketed toward the ship.

"And now you're dead!"

"Wait a minute Gene," Melfina suddenly said. "Another ship has appeared on the sensors. Eighty degrees to Port."

"I am bringing it up on the screen now," Gillium said. Looking to the left, Gene and the others gasped in shock as they saw the image of a gold-colored, diamond-shaped ship appear in the vid-window. In his nightmares, Gene still saw the exact same ship as it led two others on the attack that had killed his father and left Gene a traumatized orphan.

It was the Shangri La.

The ship of the McDougal Brothers.

Harry McDougal couldn't believe that it was finally happening. After all the months of waiting and preparation, she was finally in his grasp. He watched from his navigation chamber as the Outlaw Star appeared in the observation window of the Shangri La's bridge. The Toku had rebuilt him from the information he had stored in the Shangri La's computer system before he "died" at the Leyline. They not only gave him new life, they had also made him faster and stronger than he had ever been before. They had even heightened his control over the ship to a level that even Gwen Khan had been unable to do. And all he and Ron had to do to pay them back was to bring Melfina directly to them. He wondered if Melfina was able to see him yet. The thought of the little bitch frozen in fear as he came to get her was just too sweet to describe. If you think I scared you before Melfina, he thought, you haven't seen anything yet.

"Remember now Harry," Ron reminded him from the forward seat. "Our mission is to take her alive. So don't overdo it. Okay?"

"Yeah, yeah," Harry said. "But we can still have a little fun right Ron?" Ron turned around and smiled coldly.

"Sure. First we play with them; then we take the android. And after that, you can do whatever you want to Starwind and his friends." Harry giggled as he pictured Melfina staring out a window as he blew up the Outlaw Star with her precious Gene still aboard. That would certainly teach the little bitch a lesson. "I'm bringing us around and to their front," Ron told him. "Radio the others and tell them to standby to attack at my signal. Harry did as he was told as Ron brought the Shangri La in front of the Outlaw Star's bow.

"They're hailing us Ron."

"Open a channel," Ron said. "Radio only." Harry opened the channel and Gene Starwind's filthy voice filled the bridge.

"Alright!" he yelled. "Who the hell are you and what are you doing with the McDougal Brothers' ship?" Ron signaled Harry to activate visual communication and the image of Gene appeared on the holoscreen of Ron's console, his expression switching from cocky to surprised.

"Well, well, well," Ron mocked. "If it isn't Gene Starwind. Why you look like you've just seen a ghost."

"I thought I did," Gene said as he regained his bearings. "Didn't I kill you at the Leyline?"

"We Mcdougal men are tougher than we look," Ron smirked. "By the way, is Melfina there?"

"What the hell do you want with her?" Gene glared.

"Oh nothing," Ron said. "I just have an old friend with me that I think she might want to say hello to." Taking Ron's signal, Harry activated the holo-screen in his chamber. The image of the XGP's entire bridge appeared before him and he saw her, floating naked in her chamber behind the pilot seat, her eyes wide with shock.

"Hello Melfina," Harry said. "Did you miss me?"

"Ha-Harry?" she asked timidly.

"Don't you dare say my name, do you hear me?" Harry screamed as he lurched forward; making Melfina jumped back against the wall of her chamber. "I gave my life for you and for what? To see you run off with Gene like some dirty whore?"

"Hey you watch your mouth you bastard?" Gene yelled. "You say anything like that to Melfina again and I swear I'll kill you right where you stand!"

"I'd like to see you try!" Harry yelled back.

"Listen Starwind," Ron said. "You're in no place for a grappler fight and that EMP mine obviously trashed some of your systems. Why don't you just hand over the android to us and we'll let you go."

"Ever hear of the expression, 'when hell freezes over'?" Starwind asked. And the forecast for hell today calls for heavy snow, Harry laughed to himself.

"Fine then," Ron said. "I guess we'll just have to take her from you then."

"Oh yeah?" the kid in front of Starwind asked. "You and what army?"

"How about this one?" Ron said as he signaled to Harry. Harry sent out the transmission and the six Toku grappler ships appeared from out of their hiding places and roared toward the XGP.

Melfina just couldn't believe it. She had seen Harry killed by Hazonko right in front of her. And yet, there he was. But something was different about him. The faint sign of kindness he had in his eyes and his voice just before he died was gone. In their place, she saw what could only be described as a cold and merciless rage. Melfina had seen that look in Harry's eye before, back when he tried to kidnap her. It was then that Melfina picked up some kind of a transmission being sent from the Shangri La. She followed the transmission to its destination and gasped at what she found.

"Gene," she called out, "I'm picking up additional ships."

"Say what?" Gene shouted as he jerked his head around. No sooner had he then the six grappler ships she had found appeared from behind the asteroids around them. From the Outlaw Star's sensors, Melfina could see that all of them were ordained with a manji symbol as the Toku pirate ships folded out their grappler arms and attacked.

"Evasive action now!" Gene yelled. "Melfina, calculate the shortest path out of the asteroid field. Suzuka, man the dorsal gun. Aisha, man the ventral gun. Jim, bring up the sheilds. Everybody hold on!" The Outlaw Star lurched up to the left as Gene fired the engines at full burn. Melfina charted a course and sent it to Gene's console. Piloting the Outlaw Star through the asteroids, she watched as Gene swerved left and right as he dodged both asteroids and the attacking ships. Unfortunately, with the navigation system working at only eighty-five percent, they were at a severe disadvantage. The only hope for escape was to lead the pirates outside of the asteroid field and engage them in open space where they wouldn't have to worry about crashing into an asteroid.

"Ship coming in from nine o'clock high," Gillium said. The enemy ship dived towards them and shot out its grappler arm. Gene knocked the arm away while Suzuka fired the dorsal gun at the enemy ship. The Outlaw Star reversed direction and shot up towards a larger asteroid. Two of the pirate ships closed in behind them and fired at the Outlaw Star's engines. Luckily, Gene had recently installed a new shielding system and the laser blasts from the enemy ships were deflected harmlessly. Aisha and Suzuka fired the guns and the ships broke off their pursuit. A fourth ship appeared in front of them as it opened fire. Jim rerouted power to the forward shields while Gene reached out with the right grappler arm, catching the arm of the ship and throwing it behind them.

"Come on Gene!" Aisha yelled as she fired the ventral gun at the fifth. "Use some missiles and blow these guys up?"

"Shut up Aisha!" Gene snapped as he dodged another asteroid. "If we use the missiles in the asteroid field then we'll have to dodge a cloud of debris as well!"

"Don't you tell me to shut up!" Aisha yelled back.

"Will you two drop it for now!" Jim yelled at the both of them. "There are more important things to worry about!"

"Melfina," Gene yelled, "where's the edge of the field?"

"Change course to ten degrees port," she answered. Gene altered course to her directions and the end of the asteroid field finally came into view. Melfina felt a surge of relief wash over her at the sight. If they could reach it, then maybe they would stand a fighting chance.

"All right everyone," Gene said as they exited the asteroids. "Let's get ready. This is going to be a rough one."

"Wait a minute Gene," Suzuka suddenly said as she scanned the view screen. "I've counted five ships that have attacked us. Weren't there six grappler ships with McDougal?" It wasn't long before Suzuka had her answer. From below them, the sixth ship suddenly appeared. While the other ships herded them out of the field, the final one had sneaked around and waited for them. Melfina yelled in warning, but was too late. The pirate ship rose and punched the Outlaw Star in the bottom of the hull, smashing the ventral gun. The ship lurched with the impact and was sent flying as the other ships flew out from the asteroid field and tackled them. Two of the ships grabbed the Outlaw Star's grappler arms while a third grasped the fuselage of the ether-drive engine. The remaining three appeared in front of them, their missile bays open and locked on to them.

"Try any funny business," one of the ships broadcast, "and we'll blow you straight into hell."

"I don't think so!" Gene growled. "Not if you want to take Melfina alive!" In her chamber, Melfina listened to the defiance in Gene's voice. He and the others were fighting so hard to protect her. She couldn't live with herself if anything happened to him or the others because of her. Meanwhile, the Shangri La and the first ship, the one that had dropped the EMP mine, exited out of the asteroid field. The Shangri La opened the secret panels on both of its sides and folded out its four grappler arms. With its arms deployed, the golden ship moved towards the Outlaw Star and positioned itself directly in front of them.

"I've got you now Melfina," Harry's voice sang over the radio. "And now I'm coming to get you." The fists of the Shangri La's grappler arms balled and launched themselves toward the Outlaw Star; the fists striking the hull plating and shaking the bridge with each blow. "Die, die, die, die, die, die, die, die!" Harry screamed over the radio. Melfina folded her arms tightly against her chest and began to panic. Not again, she thought, please not again! As the Shangri La continued to pound on the Outlaw Star, Melfina couldn't take it anymore.

"Stop it!" she screamed. "Please, leave me alone!"

Harry had lost it. If he continued like that, he was going to kill them. Not that Ron cared about Starwind's life, but they needed to take the android alive.

"Come on Harry!" he yelled to his brother. "Take it easy!"

"Die, die, die, die, die, die, die, die!" Harry screamed. All right Harry, Ron thought. I didn't want to do this, but you asked for it. Ron thumbed the button on his control panel and triggered a slight electric shock in Harry's navigation chamber.

"Oww!" Harry yelled as the shock rolled over him. "What the hell are you doing Ron?"

"We need them alive Harry!" Ron yelled. "I'm sorry but I had to bring you back to your senses. Just wait until after the Toku have taken Melfina and then you can have your fun."

"Fine," Harry sulked. "Just tell them to hurry up!" As Ron turned back around in his seat, he realized that this wasn't the first time he had to use that button. Since the Toku had brought him back to life, Harry's combat skills had increased incredibly. Unfortunately, he had also become prone to berserk rages. Maybe I should ask the Toku scientists if they can get Harry to mellow out after we bring them the android, Ron wondered. First things first though.

"Ship A," he said over the radio, "They're all yours. Board them and get the android."

"Understood," the pilot of Ship A replied. The Toku ship moved closer to the XGP and reached out with its one functioning grappler arm; the assault bolt in the arm extending out to penetrate the hull of the XGP. Gene Starwind might have caused the McDougal brothers more than a small amount of trouble in the past, but that was all about to end.

And then, Ship A exploded.

Aisha couldn't take it anymore. First, the Toku Ships had smashed the gun she was manning so she couldn't fight back. Then, they grabbed them and held on with the tenacity of a Jabu-Jabu Tick. Then, as if to add insult to injury, that bastard Harry McDougal began beating on them while they were down, taunting and threatening Mel while he did it. Aisha looked over her shoulder and watched as Mel huddled in her chamber, too afraid to do anything except cry out in fear. That lousy bastard, she thought. What the hell's wrong with him? He already tried to kidnap her, is he trying to give her a heart attack now? Suddenly, the pounding stopped. Aisha knew that wouldn't have happened unless something else was about to.

"Gene," Gillium suddenly said, "the first ship that attacked us is about to board the Outlaw Star." Aisha and the others shifted their attention to the view screen as the ship that Gillium mentioned moved towards them.

"Gillium," Gene yelled as he jumped out of the pilot seat, "where are they going to stick the assault bolt?"

"Level 1, Section D" Gillium answered.

"Aisha, Suzuka," Gene yelled as he pulled his gun belt from the side of the pilot seat, "follow me. We're going to give the Toku a little welcoming committee. Jim, stay here with Melfina and lock the hatch. Don't open it until I say so." Without wasting a word, Aisha jumped out her seat and prepared to join Gene and Suzu. There was no doubt about it. If the Toku really wanted Mel, then they were going to have to go through her first.

"Wait a minute Gene," Gillium suddenly said. "I've just detected objects moving towards us from the asteroid field."

"What kind of objects?" Jim asked.

"Scanners say that they're missiles," Mel said as she snapped out her panicked state. "I count four!" Aisha looked towards the screen and saw the missiles flying towards them. With the Toku holding them down, there was no way they'd be able to dodge in time.

"Shit!" Gene yelled. "Everyone brace for impact!" But instead of hitting them, the missiles hit the pirate ship that was trying to board them; exploding the enemy vessel in a flash that shook the entire ship.

"What the hell was that?" Aisha asked.

"Another ship has exited out of the asteroid field at twelve o'clock low," Mel told them. They all looked in the direction Mel had indicated and saw a black grappler ship with silver trim exit from the asteroid field. The ship was wedge-shaped and was as long as the Outlaw Star. Just ahead of the ether-drive engine, four fin-shaped sub-light engines were arranged in an x-shaped position. The ship reared up towards them and charged into battle, the gattling blasters in its bow pelting the ship holding the Outlaw Star's left arm with laser fire. As the pirate ship released them, the black ship pulled a machete from a storage bin in its underside and spun into a barrel roll before slashing off the arms of the ship holding onto the Outlaw Star's right. Realizing his opportunity, Gene leaped back into the pilot seat and grabbed the control rods; using the now free grappler arms to pull off the ship holding onto the engine.

"Jim!" Gene yelled as the ship launched down and to starboard. "What's that other ship doing?"

"It's presently attacking the Shangri-La and the three ships with them," Jim said. "Gene what's going on? Who is that?"

"Who cares," Gene said as the three ships that grabbed them began to give chase. "Never look a gift horse in the mouth." Turning the ship around, Gene launched the Outlaw Star straight into them. "Jim, load the missile ports. Gillium, ready an anchor. Fire on my command."

"About time," Aisha growled. The ships were less than 500 meters from them when Gene gave the signal. From the ports in the Outlaw Star's bow and sides, a full salvo of missiles fired towards the three ships. The two in the lead broke off in time but the third received the full force of the attack. With the remaining two ships distracted by their comrade's destruction, Jim launched the anchor towards one and snagged its port side, allowing Gene to grab the line with the grappler arm and jerk the pirate ship straight into a nearby asteroid.

While the Outlaw Star dealt with its opponents, the black ship lead had its hands full with the MacDougal brothers and their backup. Loading heavy machine guns onto their grappler arms, the pirates fired full force as the black ship weaved in and out among the bullets. The Toku grapplers were closing in when the black ship suddenly reversed its engines and flew backward at full speed. Passing between two of the pirate ships, it fired its own missiles at point blank range and blew up both ships up in a single pass.

Grabbing the third ship with the grappler arms, Gene held it in place as Suzuka blasted the bridge with the dorsal machine gun. They had just tossed the now derelict ship aside when the light of the two exploding ships caught their attention.

"Wow!" Jim heard Gene say. "That was a pretty nice move." Returning its engines to normal, the ship rocketed towards the final Toku ship when a missile salvo struck it from behind, sending it reeling through space. While the black ship was busy with the Toku, the Shangri La had hung back for a sneak attack and was now diving straight towards the helpless ship.

"Oh no you don't!" Gene yelled. Blasting forward at full speed, the Outlaw Star slammed into the Shangri La and knocked it aside. Coming around for a second pass, the Outlaw Star and the Shangri La traded punches with their grappler arms before the golden ship retreated backwards. Not willing to let the MacDougal brothers escape, Gene pursued them and fell into the trap they had set. From the ventral grappler arms, the manipulators fired out to snag the arms of the Outlaw Star and began to reel them in. The red grappler ship had just been dragged into striking range of the Shangri La's ventral arms when the black ship appeared from behind and grabbed them. Breaking free from the Shangri La's grip, Gene grabbed the ventral arms and the Outlaw Star and the black ship combined their power to throw the MacDougal brothers into the distance.

"Time to end this," Gene announced. "Mel, send a message to that other guy and tell him to fire at the Shangri La when we do."

"Understood," Melfina said. "Message received and delivered. He agrees." As the missiles were loaded, the Shangri La halted its momentum and was about to angle back towards them, leaving its starboard side wide open to attack.

"Now!" Gene yelled. The Outlaw Star locked on and both it and the black ship fired a full salvo towards the Shangri La. Unable to avoid the combined firepower of the two ships, the Shangri La's hull buckled from the missiles' impacts before the entire ship exploded in a flash. When the screen cleared, Gene and the others saw that the only thing left of the golden ship was a cloud of glowing rubble. Down in the copilot's chair, Jim couldn't believe his eyes. Were the McDougal brothers finally and truly dead?

"Gillium," Gene said. "What happened to the Mcdougal Brothers?"

"The Shangri La has been completely destroyed," Gillium answered. "But I am detecting a signal from an escape pod roughly 400 meters above the debris." Jim looked at the view screen and saw that Gillium was right. The McDougal Brothers had managed to cheat death once again, but not for long. The black ship had already left the Outlaw Star's side and was flying straight towards them. But before it could reach the McDougal Brothers, the last remaining Toku ship flew over and grabbed the escape pod before making a hasty retreat into sub-ether space. The black ship seemed to consider following, but decided not to. Retracting its grappler arms, the black ship turned and flew over to position itself straight off the Outlaw Star's bow.

"Get ready everyone," Gene said. "We don't know what this guy's motives are." But instead of attacking, the ship hailed them.

"Is everyone alright over there?" a voice asked. There was no visual as the ship had hailed them using only radio communication.

"Yeah," Gene said, still grasping the controls of the grappler arms. "We're fine. Hey, whoever you are thanks for the help."

"Don't mention it. But what about Melfina? Is she safe?" Jim suddenly felt himself tense. Was this guy after Melfina as well?

"Um, yes," Melfina answered. "I'm a little shaken, but I'm alright."

"I'm glad to hear that," the voice said. "I'll see you later then." Without another word, the communication was cut and the black ship turned to leave.

"Hey wait a minute!" Gene yelled. "Just who the hell are you and why did you help us?" But by that time, the black ship had already entered the asteroid field.

"Excuse me," Gilliam suddenly said. "But I have found something that I think you all should know." They all turned to look up at the computer monitor above them.

"What's up Gilliam?" Jim asked.

"First of all," Gillium said, "I've determined as to how that ship was able to be so maneuverable."

"Oh yeah?" Gene asked.

"It appears that the sub-light engines on that ship are mounted in pivoting axis joints," Gilliam said. As he talked, schematics showed up showing the scans Gillium had taken of the black ship as it battled the pirate ships. "This allows the engines to both rotate in a full 360 degrees of rotation. Combine these rotating engines with only two maneuvering jets mounted on the bow, and that ship is able to vastly exceed the Outlaw Star in terms of combat maneuverability." Jim whistled as Gillium finished.

"Wow. I wonder where he got a ship like that?" he asked.

"The second topic I wish to discuss is the owner of that ship," Gillium said. "I was able to scan its registration data and I have been able to determine who was piloting it."

"Well don't keep us in suspense," Aisha said. "Who was piloting it?"

"The name of that ship was, the 'Warshark," Gillium said.

"That was the Warshark?" Jim asked as his eyes widened in shock. "But then that means..."

"It means," Gene interrupted, "that our friend was piloting it." The bridge was silent for a long time. "Melfina," Gene said as he broke the silence, "set us back on course for Blue Heaven."

"Understood," Melfina answered.

"Gillium," Gene said, "radio Swanzo and tell him to get a dock ready for us."

"As you wish," Gillium responded. As they re-entered the asteroid belt, Jim fixed his eyes on Blue Heaven. That Mazren the Wolf guy was probably already docked there. Jim also knew that if they were ever going to get to the bottom of what was going on, they would have to go directly to him.

"Why didn't you establish video contact?" Diana asked. Mazren looked up as the Warshark continued on its way to Blue Heaven.

"I wasn't ready to face her yet," he said. "Besides, in case you've forgotten, when Melfina gets in that chamber of hers, she's sort of, well…. naked." Diana was silent as her computer mind tried to make sense of what he had just said.

"Ah," she said. "I see. And you did not wish to see that because she's…."

"Yes," Mazren said as he blushed. "That's exactly right. Can we drop it now please?"

"Very well," Diana sighed.

"What about the Warshark?" he asked. "What's the state of the damages?"

"One moment please?" Diana said as she compiled the data. "Only three missiles struck us, but they were all high yield warheads. Life support is down on deck 3, the Munchousen Drive and reactor 2 are both off line, the cooling system for the sub-light drive has lost pressure, and engines 1 and 4 are operating at only sixty percent capacity." Damn it, Mazren thought.

"All right then," he said. "Radio Zedia at dock 15 and tell her to get a garage ready. We're going to have to put the ship in dry dock for a while."

"Yes Mazren," Diana said. Feeling a tug at his arm, Mazren looked down to see Slag laying his head on the armrest. As he reached over to rub the wolf's head, Mazren realized what his partner was trying to say.

"You're right boy," Mazren said. "They gave up too easily. They must have someone onboard Blue Heaven. We'd better go and look for Starwind and Melfina as soon as we dock."

(Once again, Mazren has saved Gene and the others from the Toku Pirates, but the danger is far from over. For while the ambush has failed, a second group of Toku assassins are waiting on Blue Heaven. Will Gene and the others be able to protect Melfina? If they aren't, will Mazren and Slag arrive in time to help? And when Mazren finally confronts Melfina, he will reveal a shocking secret about her past that will forever change the lives of the crew of the Outlaw Star. What secret will he reveal? Sorry, but that would be telling. You'll just have to stay tuned for our next exciting episode. Same Outlaw-time. Same Outlaw-website. Don't forget to review.)

Chapter 4
Chapter 6

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