The following message – text only – is received on general broadcast to comms of ships normally available for passenger transport operations:

_”URGENT: In need of quick transport off-planet. Call attached # upon arrival. My thanks, Razor.”_

The message originates on Demaria.

Kethren raises an eyebrow at the incoming message signal flashing on the Amadaun’s console. The other eyebrow raises as he reads it. “Well, Kail… looks like that trip to the Icelandic Kipper Festival will have to wait for another year.” The robo-penguin offers a mildly disappointed ‘wark’ but pecks at the console a couple times to assist in the change of course.

The calico kitten-ferret on Keth’s shoulder just offers an amused chitter as they settle in for the hyperspace trip.

Some time later…

As it has many times before, the DNC Amadaun drops out of hyperspace and makes its way to a run of the mill orbit over Demaria. Inside the craft, a pilot (accompanied by a small menagerie) keys in a number that presumably gets hold of an old acquaintance.

The Cliffwalker and his companion are moving as quickly across the sands as they can, slowed a bit by Bluefang’s limp. Razorback pauses to allow the assassin-turned-hotel-porter-turned-fugitive a chance to catch his breath once they come within sight of the herd of bumblers Razorback has been trying to get to. An alert from within Razor’s jacket jolts his attention and he takes out a comm. “Mister Kethren,” he rumbles, “Thank you for making your way here so quickly. How are you faring these days?”

Kethren chuckles slightly. “Well enough that I was going to take some time off for a little traveling. Seem to have taken a bit of a detour though.”

Bluefang eyes the bumbler herd as he reaches a dune crest. He watches in silence as Razorback communicates with Kethren.

“Life tends to do that from time to time,” Razorback replies with a chuckle, “Well, we do not have a lot of time. Militia will likely be at our location within the hour. I hate to ask this, but do you think you can land and takeoff in the desert without being traced?”

Kethren muses aloud. “Well, this ship’s always felt reliable to me. Heading down now, and let’s hope the militia’s looking the wrong way.”

The militia squad, about that time, has arrived at the desert outpost where they find Brash – still grumpy about his encounter with Razorback. He opens the main gate to allow the dozen or so militia warriors to enter on foot. They’re led by a figure in hooded robe, about five and a half feet tall, hands covered in black gloves.

“I wouldn’t count on it….” Razorback tells the comms, then sets off again after sending coordinates to the approaching spacecraft as he leads his companion on a path that skirts the  herd. “It will not do much, he rumbles to Bluefang, “but if we can get these bumblers to stampede the way we came, it may slow and confuse our pursuers.”

The Amadaun continues its swift descent to the designated landing spot, a hatch already starting to open a bit. “Never said I’d count on that, but sometimes life’s good to you. Kind of like how Baile is horribly dangerous, but it treats us fine.”

Bluefang nods to his companion, pulling the pulse rifle from over his shoulder and squeezing off a blast at the hooves of one of the bumblers. The animals huff and squeal as they scamper back over the sandy tracks of the Demarians.

“If you want dangerous,” Razorback says to the comm as he leaps up onto the ramp even as it approaches the ground, “You should try living out here a few days. And I used to come out here on vacation.” He reaches back to help his companion aboard before moving forward and keying the hatch.

Kethren smirks. “Quite alright. The doom planet I call home is enough. Though I suppose it’s tended to feel less doomish since we started growing a city.”

Bluefang slings the weapon back over his shoulder, then scowls at Kethren as he climbs aboard the Amadaun. He looks toward Razorback as he asks: “We can trust this one?”

“Well, we can where I come from,” Razorback replies with a snort of amusement. “I hope we did not take you too far out of your way,” he says to Kethren.

Keth chuckles as he gets the hatch closing behind the passengers whilst lifting off. “No worries. Can always watch a recording of the festival’s high points later on if need be.”

Brash leads the hooded figure into the communications dome at the outpost. “Shot up the door. Shot up the equipment.” He growls.

“He caused a great deal of damage,” the woman in the hood says.

The old Demarian bobs his snout. “That he did.” He looks around the chamber, surveying the damage. “I tried to –” He’s cut off by the blast of a pulse pistol, point-blank at the back of his skull. He drops to the floor.

“Should’ve tried harder,” she says. She turns and walks back out to the outpost’s main yard where the rest of the soldiers are waiting. “Time to go,” she tells them.

The Cliffwalker seems strangely ignorant of Brash’ fate. “Well, you have my thanks,” Razorback says, “Are you returning to the Baille, then?”

Keth reaches up to scratch Floriana. “Unless you’ve got another destination in mind.” 

“Almost anywhere but here is preferable,” Bluefang says with a grunt.

Razorback nods in agreement with Bluefang. “Yes,” he says, removing his axe from its hanger so he can strap in, “and sooner rather than later. I am sure that having the Demarian Militia tracking your vessel would not be optimal.”

The youngish architect chuckles as he pokes at the controls a bit boosting the speed. “Would put a ding in our facade of neutrality, certainly.”

Bluefang settles into a passenger seat, unslinging the rifle so he can rest it in his slap for the duration of the voyage. He straps himself in, because, of course, safety first.

“Neutrality is a dangerous ledge to walk,” Razorback agrees, glancing over at the sensor screen to see if anyone is in pursuit.

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By Brody

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