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Nero walks towards a building on Distress, crossbow folded and holstered on his back. His quiver, stocked with thirty bolts, was sewn as part of his cloak. The other Skeavers shrank back as they saw him; their wariness was not only due to the intimidating cybernetics or his position as Pierce's top man, but also due to his status as a pariah. He was nowhere near as violent or intolerant as his brethren.

He sneered up at Ansra, the orbiting space station passing overhead, put in place by the Altaic species without so much as asking permission. Being less murderous and xenophobic as other Skeavers wasn't too high a bar.

He entered the building and grabbed one of the express descent poles. He was almost late to get an assignment, and it was quite a ways in the Underground. He dropped rapidly, passing countless levels of tunnels and caverns, until he neared the end of the pole.

He swings himself off onto the catwalk and strides confidently, knocking on his superior's door.

"Enter," the voice inside says, and he does as asked.

He closes the door and turns to see his superior, a solidly built Skeaver with a coat of mottled grey and white. Two long knives were stabbed into his desk, opposite a bayonetted pistol that was likewise stored. A small screen to his left showed the roughly spherical space station he had seen earlier, along with the small protuberance that gave the station's Skeaver nickname.

"Reporting as ordered, Pierce."

"So I see, Nero," Pierce says, "And it looks like I need to retrain my guards. Again." A self-satisfied smile creeps across Nero's lips before military decorum quashes it. Such praise from Pierce always instilled him with pride. "But onto your mission," Pierce continues, gesturing at the screen behind him. "You are to take the Tit."

Nero's eyes shot wide open. "Take the Tit, sir? By myself?"

"Yes," Pierce says, "Shouldn't be too difficult for the Skeaver I raised. Think of this as an opportunity to demonstrate your ideals."

"Sir?"

"You keep going on about how understanding other cultures and not immediately murdering and raping them is good for our species. Use that knowledge to take the Tit, and maybe you'll gain some credence."

"Will do, sir. Thank you," Nero says, throwing a salute.

"Good luck, soldier," Pierce says, "And make sure you succeed. Dismissed."


Nero rockets up towards the station in a small, cramped capsule launched from his personal ship, which was currently docked at a fueling station on the inside of the asteroid belt. He carefully steers the capsule to dock with the station in orbit above Distress.

A muffled clunk signals the attachment of electromagnets, and a crackling of sparks opens a hole. Pierce steps out of the capsule and drops into one of the many cargo holds of the Altaic station, cloak muffling his movement.

Music (This song is seriously so fitting)

Upon landing Nero quickly looked around the cold and cramped cargo hold of the Ansra, the Altaics seemed to have only stored food to bring aboard the station, and the supplies of it were dwindling. Nero slipped through the maze of food crates and quickly noticed a guard, sleeping soundly in a chair next to the cargo hold's exit and above him, a vent. Nero smiled.

The smirking Skeaver crept up towards the guard, unleashing his cybernetic claws as he walked. Nero looked down upon the guard as he reached him, his smile gone, he slit the throat of the Altaic and took a hold of his body, slowly laying him down beside the chair as he died in his sleep. Nero moved his attention back towards the air vent, digging his claws in and ripping it off with ease, slowly lifting it down to not make noise.

Nero flattened his bones as he began to climb in, allowing him to just barely fit in his cybernetic arms, he sneaked through quickly but steadily until reaching another vent that he could exit through. He peaked through into the room, using his night vision, and seeing no sign of life, busted the vent open and dropped down.

Looking at the walls, Nero observed an Altaic painting, vibrant and lively with color and emotion. The painting depicted various Altaicia fauna and landscapes, peaceful in nature. Nero took a moment to admire and put his hand up against one, smiling and closing his eyes until the sound of boots echoing throughout the dark hallways brought the Skeaver back to reality and his mission.

With a sigh, Nero brought his crossbow off from his back along with a sole metal arrow and prepared it swiftly and quietly. The Skeaver crouched and moved back into a corner in the room, looking through the scope of his crossbow as the sound of boots got closer and closer. The Altaic made his way from around the corner and into the room, taking immediate notice of the broken off vent, itched ever so closely to it until an arrow swiftly logged into his one of his eyes and the Altaic had fallen to the floor, dead.

Nero sighed again as the Altaic hit the floor and reloaded his crossbow with another metal arrow. Making his way out from the corner, Nero took another look at the painting and noticed that the dead cat's blood at spattered it, turning away in anger and moving into the hallway with his crossbow readied.

Nero jogged down the hallway, until he hears more boot steps come down the hall. He quickly scrabbles up to the ceiling, hiding between some exposed piping. A couple Altaic guards walk down the hall, chatting with the scientist walking behind them. Nero follows silently, moving along the ceiling.

One of the guards was a large, muscle-bound cat, wearing an open vest over a set of body armor. The other was still muscular, but far less so and wore more casual Altaic clothing over similar body armor. The scientist behind them was slim and albino, almost blending into her lab coat. Her left eye was a far cloudier red than her right, a further birth defect she didn't bother to hide.

"Remind me why we made a space station in Skeaver space again?" the burlier of the two guards says, looking back at the scientist.

"There are two reasons," the scientist says, turning her head to the left, "One is to better understand this planet's biosphere. Under all of our theoretical modelings, all but the hardiest single-celled organisms should have died out long ago. Despite this, there is a high degree of biodiversity on the planet. We need to know why."

"And the other?" the skinnier guard asks

"I was getting to that," the scientist says, turning her head to the right and fixing the other guard with a one-eyed glare, "The second reason is to keep an eye on the Skeavers. They've already fucked us up once, so we need to know when they're going to strike next."

Nero's blood boiled. He may like their art, but spying on his people to keep them down was another thing entirely.

"I was wondering why there were guards on a peaceful research station."

"That's because if the Skeavers manage to get a team on board, their violent imposes may cause them to explode the fusion reactors. That would wipe out this entire planet... Wait, why is there blood on the floor?"

The Altaic bends down and dips her finger in the expanding pool of blood coming from under the door to the art room. She withdraws it, reaching into her coat to take out a small pad.

"Open the door," she tells the guards, "This blood is fresh."

Shit, Nero thinks, and drops down between the two guards. His right arm swings in a short arc, decapitating the burly Altaic with his extended and heated blade. He simply crushes the other guard's skull with his left claw, cybernetically-enhanced strength overcoming the resistance with ease.

He brings his blade up near the scientist's throat, just enough that she could feel the heat from the glowing polymer against her fur.

"Now," he says, "I have some questions for you."

Music

"Who are you!? How did you get in here!?" The Altaic scientist yells in fear at her assailant, backing up into the wall as Nero simply moves closer in with his plasma blade.

"I don't know if you heard what I said earlier, but I'm the one with the questions here, as well as the plasma-filled blade that could make your blood boil if I move it even an inch closer to your neck. I'm sure I can find some other poor cat to answer my query if you don't want to, Miss." Nero retorted, emotionless, but anger and frustration were evident on his face.

"Alright...what do you want to know?" The scientist took a breath and responded, seemingly calming down.

"You mentioned something about fusion reactors and blowing up?"

"A single pea bullet hitting the fusion reactors would cause the entire place to blow and wreck Distress' atmosphere. Fusion reactors with Skeavers around is a no-no."

"How can I shut them down?"

"A lot less complicated than you might think, by simply getting into the mainframe and shut them down."

"The scientists and guards on here, who are they?"

"Only Altaicia's best and brightest with the most strong and loyal of men aboard guarding us. Researching Distress could make major advancements in ecology, and after the Skeavers were hit by Razor's Edge, it was too good an opportunity to pass up."

"I admire your bravery, coming her to the territory of your eternal enemies, but do you think it's worth it?"

"The advancement of my field is my top priority."

"Thank you for the information and your cooperation." Nero retracted his blade back to his arm.

"I assume this is the part where you rape and murder me?" The scientist asked, with a tone that wasn't entirely serious nor entirely joking. Nero paused for a moment to think.

"I won't rape you, but I'm not entirely sure about not killing you." As the Skeaver answered, his ears perked up at the sound of more boots stepping through the hallway, this time closing in much faster than before. Nero pushed the scientist back behind him and readied his crossbow, replacing the metal bolt with a bolt with a much fatter head. "Stay back or you'll die too."

Nero took aim and fired the arrow out in front of him and into the darkness as several Altaic guards grew closer. The bolt landed among the guards' feet, startling them enough to fire in the dark with their rifles, lighting the hallway up with every shot. The lone invader jumped up onto the ceiling as they fired relentlessly into the dark, hoping to hit their target.

"Shit! You idiots stop firing!" The scientist yelled amongst the gunfire as she lay flat on the ground hoping to avoid it. The guards halted their fire upon hearing her pleas.

"You fucking morons!" The scientist walked up and yelled at the group of burly lightly armored Altaics. "He was just here, he must have crawled away somehow, the bastard." The Altaics all sighed in relief until being surprised at the sudden beeping and red glow emitting from the arrow on the ground.

"God damn!" The scientist yelled and ran back from the confused guards as the arrow exploded, knocking back several of the guards and impaling them with shrapnel. Nero came back down from the ceiling, blade retracted, and bisected a guard as he landed.

"So much for the stealthy approach." Nero muttered to himself as he reached into a pocket in his cloak and several of guards regained their balance from the knockback. Pulling out a small spherical item, Nero tossed and rolled it out in front of him before reaching into another pocket and retrieving a small suppressed pistol.

"Fuck, Needler!" One of the guards yelled as the rest of them took aim with their rifles once more. The grenade quickly sprung open, releasing hundreds of small, sharp spikes into the room, piercing into the flesh of the Altaics as they dropped their weapons and screamed in pain.

Nero moved closer in, executing guards left and right with his silenced D-25 "Toaster" along with his plasma blade. Nero yelped as he turned around, a cold steel knife entering and lodging into his right foot. A wounded guard below him managed to stab the Skeaver before succumbing to his wounds.

Nero yelled in both pain and anger as he removed it and furiously tossed it into the darkness in front of him, the metal of the knife and the floor clanking together. Shrugging, he retracted his plasma blade and loaded a metal bolt into his crossbow before walking further into the darkness of the hallway.

Two Altaic guards are lounging in the break room, playing cards. A muffled thud draws their attention, heads whipping towards the noise. "An explosion?" one of them mutters, "We'd better check it out."

"Lucky you," the other says as they sling on their arms and armor, "Another few rounds and I would've had your last month's pay."

"Stuff it and notify security."

The Altaic obeys, punching in the numbers in the comm unit.


"We're getting three security alerts," the Altaic in charge of the station's guard compliment says, "All saying they heard an explosion." He walks towards the map screen, passing the arching screens that showed images of the space around the station. He looks at the map and triangulates a rough position for the explosion. "Check cameras 56, 24, and 96."

His crew does so, and an image of a Skeaver with cybernetic arms and a small side wound pops up on the holding a blade to the throat of an albino Altaic. "Sound the alarm!" the guard chief yells, "Skeaver invasion. He's holding Atea," he looks at the screen on camera 56 and appends, "the intruder has killed several guards. Crush with full force." He sprints to his equipment locker, grabbing his gear. "You all monitor the situation and command," he says, "I'm going to go rescue my daughter."


Sirens wail within the station, causing most scientists to lock down their work stations. Within the observation room, however, one of the staff continues working.

"Madam Sekmet," one of her compatriots says, "There's a Skeaver in the station. You should get to the bunker."

"No," she says, "I still have work to do, and the commotion is halfway around the station."

"But..."

"Leave her be," one of the other Altaics says, pulling the worried one away, "Her daughter ran off a week before she got this assignment," he says in a whisper, "She's been working triple overtime to distract herself from it. Let's just go."


Nero hears the alarms screaming as he holds his blade to the half-blind albino scientist's throat. "Now," he says, "What do I do with you?"

"You don't have to kill me!" Atea yells as the Skeaver assassin threatens her once more. "I didn't send those guards!"

"I'm sure you wouldn't have minded if they happened to killed me." Nero retorted.

"What else do you want from me!?"

"You're going to open all the locked doors for me and guide me to the security room. I won't kill any scientists as long as you and they cooperate, I can't promise the same for the guards however." Nero pushed Atea out in front of him and moved his blade close to her back. "Try anything tricky and you'll die."

"My father is the chief of security. He'll...try to rescue me." Atea mutters as she leads Nero throughout the station, both walking at a steady pace.

"If he's smart, he'll stand down." Nero replied emotionless.

"The break room is coming up next, probably a couple guards in there." Atea remarked as they reached the end of the hallway and entrance to the next room, punching in the code at a terminal by the door to open up the locked-down door.

Two guards awaited on the other side of the entrance, taking cover behind tipped over desks and chairs, their Horus Armaments 'Reynolds' shotguns aimed at the door. Outside, Nero prepares another Needler grenade before Atea opens up the door. As it opens, the Skeaver tosses the grenade behind the cover of the guards, opening up and shooting out pins that sting their bodies before they can react.

Nero dashes in the room as the Altaics scream, polymer blade ready, he jumps over the makeshift cover, decapitating a guard as he lands before turning around and stabbing the other in the back. Atea watches in horror outside the room, but reluctantly walks in.

"Some things just have to be done, Miss."

The pair walks through the break room, Atea leading. "This door leads to the hallway to the mainframe," she says, turning right and opening the door. They step put into an L-shaped hallway and walk towards the corner.

"Kind of lightly guarded for such an important area," Nero says, getting suspicious.

"The defense systems here and near the important areas are automated," Atea replies, "the only reason you're not dead right now is that I'm both alive and present."

"Biometrics seems like a very easy system to circumvent."

"The only attack we expect is from the Skeavers," she replies, "and you're the first Skeaver whose first action upon finding a disarmed Altaic wasn't killing and raping her."

She turns to the right and opens the door, walking through hesitantly. Nero follows after a second, and immediately finds two Heckler and Colt rifles pressed against his head. Two turrets fold out of floor tiles, and a large Altaic with a similar rifle, modified to hold a bayonet, walks through. This one was wearing much heavier body armor than the other guards, which looked like a resized Eurypt plate.

"Thank you, daddy," Atea says, shaking.

"You did well, Lit," he says, "though we nearly panicked when your communicator cut out in the break room."

"Sorry about that," she says with a shaky laugh, "That'll teach me to keep this charged." She reaches up to her right ear and pulls on it. It comes away with a snap, revealing its nature as a prosthetic. "I suggest you hold him for our behavioral scientists," she continues, "he seems more civilized than most Skeavers."

"Good idea, Lit." The lead Altaic replies. "Take him down to the labs, study him. I'll deal with him later, teach the Skeavers not to fuck with us again."

"And do what to me?" Nero remarks as the two guards grab his cold metallic arms and prepare to back out of the room, staring at the lead armored Altaic in the eyes. "What I didn't do to your precious daughter? I'm probably the first Skeaver to ever spare an Altaic and you fucking furballs have already made me regret it. If you think a few machine guns and some armor can stop me from killing you, you got another thing coming."

"You killed our guards." The Altaic replies angrily and bluntly.

"And I'll kill more of them, including yourself. I won't stop until the skies of Distress are ours once again."

"Get him out of my sights. The chief guard turns to his daughter and embraces, Nero looking on with disdain as two Altaic guards usher him back into the hallway.

"I expected better security from the Altaics after all the attacks we've launched." Nero remarks sarcastically.

"Shut it and keep walking." A guard replies bluntly.

"I mean, you can't even search your captives for weapons!" With that, Nero activates his polymer blade from his right arm, the glow and the heat emitting from the plasma surprising the guards before being chopped in two by the Skeaver, turning around and swinging his blade swiftly. As Altaic blood sprays on him, Nero wastes no time equipping his crossbow off his back and loading a large bolt in.

For my sake, this better work.

The Skeaver sprints to the door to the mainframe room, taking a deep breath before popping in the doorway, firing a thermite arrow in the room, and crouching back to the side of the door. The lights go out.

Mainframe destroyed.

The lights flicker back on. Sensing danger, Nero scurries up the wall and hides in some exposed piping, working the grate of an air duct free. As he does so, a hail of bullets cuts down the area he was standing in moments earlier.

"You put the lights on too early," the security chief says to one of his men, "He escaped."

"I'm surprised this plan worked," the Altaic says, "though he seems to have come back earlier than expected."

"I think he might have killed his guards," the chief says, "though being smart enough to do that and still stupid enough to think Atea was leading him to the actual mainframe room is... well, it's just like a fuckin' Skeaver."

These fools continue to mock me. It will only make their deaths more satisfying. Nero filled with anger as he watched the Altaics from the air duct.

I must find the mainframe, and quickly, before they find me. Crawling through the duct, Nero found another grate after trying to flee the chief and his men as far and as fast as possible.

Three guards. One below me, two in the front. Shouldn't be a problem. Nero peeked into the room in front of him and smirked, loading a metal bolt into his crossbow and kicking the grate open, then jumping down full force on the guard below him, crushing his skull. Nero quickly impaled the head of a guard in front of him with his arrow, and then rushed the last Altaic standing as he swung his crossbow on his back. Nero greeted the sole survivor by grabbing him by the neck and slamming him up against a wall, causing him to drop his rifle.

"Hello there, handsome." Nero mocked as he lifted the Altaic off the ground with one hand and retracted his steel claws on the other. "Do you happen to know where the mainframe room would be located?"

"Why the hell should I tell you?" The guard responded, fright evident in his appearance and voice.

"I'll spare you." Nero replied, smirking. "Don't believe me? I spared that Atea bitch. I'm here to take the station, not kill you all. Well, most guards not included."

"Bullshit, I'll die before letting you do anything to this station."

"You just had to make it hard." Nero activated the blade on his right arm and slowly moved the plasma-filled weapon to the guard's face. "You sure you don't want to tell me? Burn on the cheek won't fix that?"

"God! Please, no!"

"Tell me now."

"Right down the hall! We were guarding it! The scientists had to make some repairs or something!" The guard admits and Nero replies with only a smirk before dropping him down and swinging a surprise punch, knocking him unconscious. The Skeaver retracts his blade and brings out his pistol.

"You dumb son of a bitch." Nero mutters as he grabs the knocked-out guard by his collar and drags him through the hall up to the doors of the mainframe room, ready to kick open the doors, the Skeaver put the barrel of his pistol up to the guard's head.

The door hisses open, and Nero walks into the mainframe room, dragging the unconscious guard behind him. He sees five Altaic technicians performing maintenance on the servers and draws his pistol, shooting once into the air and placing the barrel of the gun at the unlucky cat's forehead.

"Listen, all of you," he says, "You're going to turn off the power, as well as any backup generators. And you're going to disable the biometric turret security. Or I'll shoot this fucker, and then kill the rest of you one by one."

As he finishes speaking, five shots ring out, and four of the scientists drop dead, as well as the guard. The fifth is holding his pistol and snarling. He reaches to his throat and pulls off a patch of fur and flesh.

"'bout damn time," he snarls. Nero looks at him in surprise; the Altaic's voice was that of a Skeaver.

"I didn't know there were others on the station," Nero says, letting the dead guard fall limp. "I'm Nero, by the way. Care to help me shut down those systems I just mentioned?"

"Name's Claude," the disguised Skeaver says, "I went through some intense as fuck plastic surgery to infiltrate this place. Couldn't contact back, so I was written off as dead or defected." He enters a few words on a terminal, and the lights dim and shut off, emergency lighting flickering to life. A few more taps shuts those down, too. "And there go all possible power sources."

"And the biometric turrets?"

"The fuck ya talkin' about? There ain't none of that shit here."

Nero mutters under his breath. That lying furry was making him seriously reconsider his commitment to helping other species rather than raping and killing them.

"Where to, boss?" Claude says, picking up his gun. "Oh, and do me a favor - kill me as soon as we're done here. I don't want to live looking like this."

"Whatever you say. Why'd you take the job anyways?" Nero asks as he and his newly-found comrade walk back down the hall from the mainframe room.

"You think anyone would do this willingly? Ha! Back on the mothership, Pierce was reporting to Big Mama on Distress updates. As he's leaving, he waltzes up to me and assigns me a 'top-secret mission' and gives me the details. I get the plastic surgery from some captured Altaic scientists, sent up to this shithole, kill some randy and took his place, no one even noticed." Claude replied.

"What the hell were you planning to do? You seemed surprised when I entered."

"Job was to just see what the hell they were doing, but I lost contact with Pierce and could only hope he would send rescue. Doesn't look like you're here for that, though."

"Had no idea. Either Pierce forgot about you or didn't care."

"Probably the latter, the bastard. So, what's left on your 'lil agenda?"

"Kill the chief of security and show off his decapitated head to every furball on the station, it'll convince them to stand down if they're smart like they say they are." The Skeavers stop at the end of the hall, near the two dead guards Nero had killed just minutes earlier. "Take this guy's suit and rifle, should help against the chief."

"Will do." Claude replied as he took parts of the armor off the dead guard and applied them to himself.

"You go to the chief and lead him back here, I'll set up my Mine Arrows and I'll come down from the ceiling when he walks in, you stay behind and fire at him with your rifle, two against one." Nero explained as he took a mine arrow from his quiver and stabbed it into the ground. "Sound good?"

"Sounds good." Claude finished suiting up and readied his Heckler & Colt rifle, walking out the door.

"Sure hope this works." Nero mutters as he stabs another arrow into the ground.

Claude speeds through the hallways of Ansra, urgency only partially feigned. After all this time, his mission would finally be over. And he could die. Finally.

He turns a corner at speed and halts, seeing the security chief in front of him, talking to his daughter.

"Sir, we've got the Skeaver cornered," he says, "He's holed up just down the hall from the mainframe."

"Good," the chief says, and points his rifle at the disguised Skeaver. He pulls the trigger, splattering the spy against the wall. "You didn't cut the mainframe fast enough," the chief continues, "We saw everything. Atea," he says, turning to his daughter, "Get some of the other security guys and have them form a perimeter around the mainframe room. Then find that cyborg girlfriend of yours and have her back me up. We'll take this fucker two-on-one."

Atea sketches an informal salute, gives her father a hug, and sprints to do as instructed.

Nero waited patiently above his traps, his metal claws digging into the ceiling, allowing him to cling on.

I find it hard to believe that a species that has feared us for so long has conquered their fright just to research a few plants and animals and spy on us while they’re it. It shows either how stupid they are, or how dedicated they are. Nero's thoughts went interrupted as the doors to the hallway opened and his explosives went off in a bang and smoke filled the area below. The assassin quickly drew his polymer blade and dropped down to have it met by a pair of long, brightly-lit claws blocking it. Nero looked up to see a heavily-tattooed, hairless female Altaic in front of him, boasting cybernetic arms like himself. Behind her was the security chief, shrapnel impaled in his armor, and dead guards around him.

"You're not the bitch with cybernetics and some plasma blades on-board, hun." The Altaic taunted. "I've looked forward to killing the great Skeaver assassin for a while now."

"You must be the Sphinx. I've heard a lot about you myself. It will bring great pleasure killing Altaicia's best combatants tonight." Nero replied, stepping and drawing his blade back.

"I want this done quickly, Sphinx. The rat's explosives jammed my machine gun, keep him occupied while I fix it." The security chief called out from behind.

"Don't worry, it will." Sphinx replied quietly and then lunged at the Skeaver, who quickly blocked. Their blades clashed once more as the two stared at each other angrily before backing off again. Nero pointed his blade outwards at his opponent.

"This will be fun."

In a separate tab, if you'd be so kind.

A small hum and a whine starts up, barely noticeable from the background noise in the room.

"It will," Sphinx replied. She charges, ducking under one swipe and using her left leg to sweep Nero off his feet. The Skeaver lands on his back and tries to use his momentum to hamstring his foe, but her tail lashes out with cybernetically-enhanced speed to block it, skittering off of a meshed reinforcement just under the skin.

Nero jumps back to a fighting crouch, and the two lunge at each other, the dull glow of their blades tracing lines through the air. The hiss of burning flesh sounds as they barely miss each other, exposed skin blistering from the heat of the blades alone. Sphinx then sweeps her left hand into a backhanded swipe as she lands, aiming her claws at Nero's face. He blocks and jumps back, whipping out his pistol to fire at her unprotected back. He fires twice, but the augmented tail slaps both shots out of the way.

He closes in, blades extended, as she turns to face him. The clang of metal on metal resounds, as she hooks her metal paw between the blade and the arm it protrudes from to keep it away from her face. She uses her other claw to make quick swipes at Nero, which are similarly deflected. She snaps into a roundhouse kick, releasing Nero's blade and ducking under the swipe.

Another blade extends out of her shin, pointing directly at Nero's eyes. The Skeaver catches the limb in his hand, pushing on it to keep it at bay. She punches the ground with one hand, extending her claws to get a firm grip as she kicks up with her other foot, with yet another blade erupting from her knee. Nero catches this one as well, and the two struggle with each other to extricate themselves. Sphinx brings her left arm into a swipe aimed at Nero's groin. Reacting on instinct, he releases the limiters on his arms.

The sudden burst made his strength comparable to a Eurypt's for a few seconds, which he used to rip Sphinx out of the floor by her feet and throw her into the wall.

"Next thing you'll tell me is that you've got a plasma cannon in your arm," he says warily, surreptitiously reaching for his crossbow.

"Now that you mention it..." she says, baring her fangs in an almost psychotic smirk as she points her right palm at Nero's face. The whine of the intake vent on her shoulder ceases, and a large bolt of plasma shoots out towards the Skeaver.

Nero ducks as soon as he sees the incoming blast, grabbing his crossbow and rolling to safety.

"And it's fixed," the security chief says. "Let's exterminate that fucker."

"Two versus one isn't very fair, how about we just fight one on one until one of us dies?" Nero joked as he hastily loaded a bolt into his crossbow.

"You should have told that to the countless guards you killed, rodent. You thought this would be a piece of cake but you fucked up big time." The chief replied as he readied his machine gun and let a hail of bullets storm at Nero while Sphinx looked on, smiling.

The Skeaver assassin jumped back and clung onto the wall as the chief pulled the trigger, moving around the wall and ceiling at a fast enough pace to avoid the bullets trailing him. Seeing a chance for a shot, Nero jumped down from the ceiling and fired his crossbow in-between the chief Altaic and the Sphinx, causing a bright flash of light to blind his foes.

"Shit! Where is he?" The chief halted his fire and stood back, covering and trying to protect his eyes.

"What...the..." As the Sphinx's eyes regained focus, she felt a warm blade enter her body. Looking down at her stomach, she saw Nero's large plasma sword drenched in her own blood, and a whisper into her ears.

"I told you I'd kill you." Nero pulled out his blade and swiftly decapitated her before loading up a piercing bolt into his crossbow. Now for the big guy.

Atea sits in the escape pod bay, trying to fight back tears. She watches the security feed on her tablet, looking at the dead body of Sphinx and her father fighting off the Skeaver who killed her. When she had gone to get Sphinx, she had brought her here. "Sit tight," she had said, "I don't think this Skeaver shithead is as unskilled or as alone as your father says. There's probably a battalion or two of 'em waiting to swarm as he's got us distracted. If that does happen, I want to know you've gotten out."

"And you?" Atea had asked.

"I can fight 'em," Sphinx had said, "I'll get off the station and meet up with you on Altaicia or Revnor."

Atea takes another mournful look at Sphinx's corpse and switches the camera angle, focusing on her father. He fires his light machine gun in controlled bursts, trying in vain to hit his more agile opponent. Eventually, his gun clicks dry. At that instant, the Skeaver jumps towards him, glowing claws extended.

The chief swiftly changes his grip on the gun, swinging it like a club. He catches the charging Skeaver in the ribs and lets go, sending the gun and Nero flying into a wall. As Nero gets up, the chief unlimbers his bayoneted heavy assault rifle, his preferred combat weapon, and points it at the Skeaver.

Nero regains his footing and rolls to the side at the sight of the Altaic's rifle and sprints to behind a corner in the hallway for cover.

"Come out and die quickly while you still can, rat. I'm starting to think I should just gut you and use your pelt as a rug in my bathroom. Keep your head a trophy. Or maybe bring you back to Altaicia to show everyone how strong we are and how weak you really are." The Altaic walked slowly after to the corner, finger on the trigger and barrel of his rifle aimed at where his enemy may pop out. After what seemed like forever of waiting for his target, a silver ball finally rolled out from the corner, shocking the chief before it sprang open, hurling needles all around the room. Upon trying to fire his gun, the chief found his gun only emitting clicking noise, enraging him.

Nero smiled as he came out from the shadows, the jammed gun signaling him. The chief looked up to see the Skeaver and threw the side before charging at Nero. The pirate assassin swiftly dodged to the side.

"You will fail to avenge your people, captain." Nero taunted as the chief turned around and made another charge, winding up a punch that Nero quickly reacted to and caught his hand, pushing it back with all his might.

"Since you are a warrior, I'll give you a warrior's death." Nero twisted and broke the arm of the chief. As the Altaic screamed in pain, the Skeaver walked up and flaunted his claws in front of the chief before digging them into his chest and ripping it open.

"You're familiar with these by now, I'd hope. Home-made." Nero removed his claws and fetched another Needler grenade from his side and activating it before shoving it in the exposed stomach of his enemy.

"Goodbye." Nero stepped back as the chief squirmed before the Needler finally finishing cooking, erupting and spreading the painfully sharp needles all throughout his body, ripping through his flesh, some cutting limbs off from the body. Afterwards, what was left of the chief was nothing but gore. The Skeaver smiled and went to retrieve what was left of his head along with the Sphinx's before heading out the door.

Atea watched her screen with horror, backing away and entering a single-person escape pod. There was only one way she could avenge her father and her girlfriend - she needed to train in Revnor.

With both of their best fighters dead, Ansra was already lost. She had no reason to stay.

So she launched the escape pod, plotting a Slip-Space jump to Revnor.


Nero walked through the station, holding the decapitated heads of Sphinx and the security chief high, as if they were a magic talisman to ward off danger. To compound the effect, the other Altaics shrank back and surrendered as they saw him, leaving him no resistance as he made his way to the communications room.

He arrived, sent a signal that he secured the station to Pierce, and got on the station-wide intercom.

"I'm Nero," he says, "And your station is now property of the Skeaver Pirates. All guards, lay down your weapons. Once you've disarmed yourself, enter the cargo bays I open for you. Be warned, however, that you will be taken out and searched one by one by my comrades. If they find anything - and they'll do a real, real deep cavity search, if you catch my drift - they'll do... well, it depends on their mood. If you're lucky, you'll get shot."

The station is awash in commotion as the Altaics either scramble for the escape pods or get to the cargo bays. Nero taps a few buttons on the console and slams the escape pod bay door shut, the single launch barely registering.

He walks to the guard room, waiting for Pierce and the rest of the Skeavers to arrive.


A few hours later...

Nero walked into the communications room, which Pierce was turning into his own personal command center. Pierce himself was sitting behind his desk, with a potted Chlorin behind him.

"Nero," Pierce says, taking a few clippings from the Chlorin and wrapping them, "Here, have a smoke. You've earned it."

Nero takes the roll and extends his plasma claws, using the heat they generate to light it. He inhales deeply, and exhales with a sigh. "You always know where to get the good stuff, sir."

"Indeed I do. How'd the mission go? You run into that traitor Claude at all?"

"Traitor, sir? He seemed eager to help me and die rather than to interfere with my mission." Nero replied, taking a seat across from Pierce and enjoying another hit from his Chlorin blunt.

"Ah! So you did run into him! Big Mama and I had got him some 'expensive' surgery for free so he can look like one of those furry-fucks to infiltrate this shit hole, and we know he did since he contacted us after the fact, but never completed his mission. We had assumed he wanted to live the rest of his life as an Altaic, the 'lil shit." Pierce replied, both ecstatic and angry.

"Well, he helped me at the very least, 'fore the cats killed him."

"Speaking of them, the skulls of those Altaic warriors make nice trophies. You're welcome to take them back to the Goblin if you'd like. A reminder of your successful mission!"

"No thanks, sir. Keep them here, where they died a warrior's death."

"Suit yourself." Pierce knocked ash from his Chlorin roll back into its pot.

"Anything else?" Pierce asks.

"Just one. Have you, by chance, found a female albino Altaic, blind in one eye?"

"None of the shits we've searched looked like that. And none of our guards noticed any albino fuckers in cursory sweeps, and you'd think they'd stand out. Why, Nero? You see her and decide to break your "no-rape" code? Must be some furry."

"Well shit. And I simply want to kill her, sir. Slowly and painfully. Caused me some trouble during the infiltration."

"Well, one escape pod launched before you sealed them off. Normally, I'd ream your ass out for that, but this was a hard-fought victory. You're entitled to a slip. Anyway, your bitch was probably on that pod. Anything else?"

"No sir."

"Very well then," Pierce says, cutting off several more fronds from the Chlorin and passing them to Nero. "Dismissed."

Pierce leaned back and continued smoking, pleased with how the mission turned out. One single surgical strike lead to taking Ansra with no Skeaver casualties. An operation far cheaper than Big Mama's planned several-legion strong frontal assault. This plan for conquest was far better. And speaking of conquest...

Pierce turns on his video feed to one of the guards in charge of screening the prisoners. "Hey, Jules, with this victory, I kinda want to celebrate, you know?"

"Sure thing, boss. You want any one in particular?"

"Not feeling too picky right now. Just make sure she's female and not hiding anything."

"Okay then," Jules says, turning as a leashed, nude Altaic steps out from one of the searching stations, led by a Skeaver guard. "Hey, not there. Take her to Pierce. But first, which one is she?"

"Something Sekmet," the guard replies

Jules makes a note next to her name in the crew roster. "And she'll be right up to help you celebrate, sir. Have fun."

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