Where there's a Weewoo, there's a way Circulation: 197,504,875 Issue: 982 | 5th day of Hunting, Y25
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A Corsair Among the Stars

by zennistrad


To say that tensions were high would have been an understatement.

     Korzara had successfully boarded the freighter ship, and it had looked for a moment like she would finally complete a job without a hitch. Given her luck, it was only inevitable that it would all go horribly wrong.

     Now, Korzara stood face-to-face with a rival outlaw. Ylana Skyfire, one of the most notorious of all space bounty hunters, now stood at the scene with her weapon pointed straight at Korzara’s face. The three Grundo crew members stood behind them both, trembling in fear as they watched the encounter play out before them.

     “I should have known you would show your face,” Korzara said. “I’m surprised I didn’t recognize your smell from a lightyear away, you quisling.”

     Ylana raised an eyebrow. “Quisling?” She hesitated for a moment, and Korzara could see the gears turning behind her eyes. “Oh, right. You mean when I worked for Sloth. You do know that was fifteen years ago, right?”

     “You worked for a man who would put me in shackles if he ever got the chance,” Korzara growled. “You expect me to just forget about that?”

     “No, actually,” Ylana deadpanned. “I expect you to come quietly, so I can claim the fifteen million neopoint bounty on your head.” She gestured with her pistol to the large blaster slung across Korzara’s back. “Now take that thing off before I zap you into a heap of molten slag. If I see your hand move even a little bit towards that trigger, you’re as good as dead.”

     Korzara glowered, but otherwise did not say a word. The built-in battery backpack made her weapon much too unwieldy to draw quickly. If she tried to pull the trigger, she would likely end up as a smear of black soot on the floor.

     Slowly, Korzara began to pry off the weapon’s shoulder straps, gently lowering it to the floor.

     “That’s more like it,” said Ylana. She lowered her pistol, and gave Korzara an infuriating smirk. “And now that I have you exactly where I want you—”

     Ylana didn’t get to finish her sentence. As she lowered her guard, however briefly, Korzara immediately took advantage of the opening. She grabbed the backpack off of the floor, and in one single motion, threw it with as much force as she could muster towards Ylana.

     It was a risky gambit, but it proved immediately to be a success. Korzara’s back-mounted blaster soared through the air, the battery pack striking Ylana square in the center of the head with an audible clonk!

     The impact sent her flying backwards, landing against the wall. She grimaced as she stood up, and rubbed her head right where the impact had struck. “Why, you...”

     Ylana reached for her pistol, but this time Korzara was prepared. She ducked and rolled as a burst of energy from Ylana’s blaster shot straight past her, leaving the scent of burning air across her nostril. Korzara tucked herself into a roll, grabbing her own backpack and slinging it over her shoulder as she carried her momentum forward.

     “N-no! Stop!” The Grundo captain begged. “You can’t fight here!”

     Korzara ignored the captain’s pleas, and stood to her feet. Turning around to face Ylana, she let loose a blast of searing green energy from her barrel. Ylana swiftly dodged to the side, and the blast impacted harmlessly against one of the metal crates.

     Everything fell silent. Korzara and her would-be captor simply stared at each other, breaths heavy as each of them aimed their weapons at the other’s head. Her hand twitched as she carefully watched Ylana’s trigger finger, and Ylana did the same.

     They never had a chance to resolve their standoff. Before either of them could fire their weapon, one of the nearby crates began to glow, illuminating the cargo hold with searing red.

     A cacophonous explosion rocked the cargo hold, nearly knocking Korzara off her feet. When her vision adjusted, she saw the three Grundo crew members running around in panicked circles. A klaxon blared, and an automated alert sounded across the freighter ship’s interior.

     “Warning! Warning! Unstable reaction in cargo hold detected! Evacuate immediately! Repeat! Evacuate immediately!”

     Another smaller crate began to glow bright red, and Korzara winced as an explosion rocked the cargo hold, forcing her to shield her eye with an arm. Though the blast wasn’t powerful enough to hurt her, she could see several other crates beginning to glow with the same volatile energy.

     She turned towards the Grundo captain, glaring daggers with her good eye and brandishing her weapon. “You! Explain!”

     The captain flinched, but did not offer any resistance. “O-our cargo is a shipment of highly unstable Neotonium ore! If energy weapons are fired anywhere near them, it’ll...!”

     Another explosion rocked the cargo bay, and this time it was a little bit too close, as its smoke sent Korzara into a brief fit of coughing. Another alert shouted across the ship’s speakers.

     “Alert! Alert! Destruction of spacecraft imminent! Seek escape pods immediately!”

     “We’ve gotta get out of here!” said one of the Grundo crewmen. He and the other two rapidly fled from the cargo hold, out of sight. Korzara turned towards Ylana, who stared at her with an exasperated, half-lidded stare.

     “Ugh. Well, so much for the bounty. I don’t want to be anywhere near this place when it blows up.” She opened a panel on her wrist, and was enveloped by light as she teleported away.

     Not wanting to waste any time, Korzara followed suit, and the Liberada quickly beamed her aboard. She grabbed the yoke of her ship and hit the thrusters to the maximum, moving as fast as she could away from the site of the expected blast.

     Not long after, her sensors detected a massive explosion in the direction she had come from. Three escape pods had also been jettisoned, no doubt carrying the crew, while Ylana’s ship had long since made the jump to hyperspace.

     It was a small blessing that Ylana didn’t seem to have pursued her. Maybe she was too preoccupied with escaping, or maybe she decided the bounty wasn’t worth the trouble. Either way, Korzara had long since learned to be grateful for such things.

     Once she was in the clear, Korzara let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding. With the adrenaline rush having faded, she engaged the cloaking device and left the ship to idle, standing up to assess her situation.

     A quick stretch of her arms, legs, and tail confirmed she was uninjured, which was good. With how little money she had, it would have gone very badly if she was seriously hurt. She gave a quick glance around the flight deck for any other signs of damage, and anything else that might be unusual.

     A soft thunk crossed Korzara’s ears as she felt her foot tap against an object on the floor. She looked down, and saw a tiny metal crate beneath her. It was the same as the many other crates that were aboard the freighter ship, but this one was small enough that she could easily carry it in her arms.

     “Must’ve been teleported along with me,” Korzara muttered to herself. Thankfully, the neotonium ore it carried didn’t seem to have gone critical like the rest of the shipment.

     Still... this left her in a predicament. Her client certainly wouldn’t accept a single tiny crate, which meant the job was a bust. Given how temperamental said client was, it would probably be best not to show her face around him again.

     A sigh escaped her lips. “So that’s another Outer Belt outpost I won’t be welcome in. What now?”


     When all else failed, there was one place Korzara could go back to. It was a space station — not the Space Station, but a much smaller one located on the Outer Belt. A run-down and seedy establishment, quite far out of the way of most trade routes, but it had proven to be a decently popular stop among the solar system’s underworld.

     After docking at the station (and making sure her ship’s anti-theft system was active), Korzara made her way through the dirty halls and unkempt bazaar spaces, steadily making her way towards her destination.

     Deep within the station was a single, run-down smoothie bar. A dingy old establishment with dilapidated seats and perpetually-flickering overhead lights. Many would find such a place disgusting, but to Korzara, it was a beacon of familiarity and comfort in a hostile universe.

     The owner of the smoothie bar, a large mutant Grundo named Gnib, was tending to a smoothie machine, pouring a thick yellow sludge into a cup and passing it to a grimy-looking Hissi.

     Gnib’s eyes lit up as he saw Korzara approach. “Well fry me ears and serve ‘em with a side o’ chips! Been quite a while since I saw you around. ‘Ow’ve you been?”

     “Terrible,” Korzara muttered. She sat down on the center stool at the countertop, leading her head against her elbow. “Gimme the usual. I need some sweets to take my mind off of things.”

     Gnib’s brow furrowed, and his lips creased into a frown. “That bad, eh? Hold on right there.” He walked over to the smoothie machine, and poured a thick black sludge into a plastic cup, before sliding it down the counter to Korzara. “There you go! One large voidberry squirp, with extra syrup. Don’t worry about payin’, it’s on the ‘ouse.”

     Despite how badly things had gone, and despite her rough and bitter exterior, Korzara couldn’t help but crack a smile. Across her entire life, Gnib was the one person she knew she could always trust. “Thanks Gnib. You’re too kind.”

     Korzara sipped through the straw, letting the impossibly sweet taste of hyper-processed sugar and artificial flavors wash away her stress.

     “So, what brings a Neopet like you over to a dingy old place like this? Given the size o’ the bounty on your ‘ead lately, I’d imagine you’d be runnin’ a criminal empire by now.”

     Korzara jolted upright from her slouch, and shot Gnib a glare. “Hey! Ix-nay on the ounty-bay! And you know I hate being called that!”

     For a moment, Gnib looked confused. He scratched the back of his head, pushing his elongated ears aside. “What are you... Ah, right. ‘Pologies, I’d forgotten you ‘ave a weird problem with bein’ called a Neopet.”

     “Because I’m not a pet! I’m my own person!”

     “Can’t say I understand what you’re on about, but fair enough,” Gnib said with a shrug. “Anyway, I ‘eard you’d been runnin’ into some trouble lately? Care to talk about it?”

     Korzara sighed. She might as well. If there was one person in the entire galaxy she could open up to, it would be Gnib. And so she explained her situation. Her rapidly draining bank account, her heist gone wrong, and her dwindling supplies of food and fuel. Gnib listened intently to all of it, sympathy apparent in his deep red eyes.

     “Surprised you’re ’aving such difficulty,” said Gnib. “The way you used to talk, you made bein’ a tea leaf out to be a lucrative business.”

     “Being a thief used to be a lucrative business,” said Korzara. “But you know how my you-know-what recently skyrocketed?”

     “You mean your bounty?”

     Korzara shot Gnib a wordless glare.

     “...Right, sorry. Won’t mention it again.”

     “Anyway,” said Korzara, “because of that, it’s not safe for me to look for work in most places. I can’t even show my face in half the solar system anymore.”

     “Sorry to ‘ear about that,” said Gnib. “Anything I can do to ‘elp?”

     “I was wondering if you knew of any jobs available for me around here, actually.”

     For a moment, Gnib hesitated, deep in thought. “Hmm. No, can’t say I ‘ave anything.”

     “Are you sure? Please, Gnib, I need this.”

     “Well... actually, ‘ang on a moment,” said Gnib. “I think I do ‘ave somethin’ for you. I, erm, don’t know if you’d want to take this job, though.”

     “Gnib, I’m kind of desperate here,” said Korzara. “Whatever it is, it has to be better than nothing.”

     “Well, that’s just the thing,” Gnib replied. “It’s an anonymous job post I received over the radio, askin’ specifically for your name. They want you to meet somewhere deep in the Asteroid Belt, far from any safe travel routes. That’s mighty suspicious if you ask me.”

     The problem with taking such a job became immediately apparent. “You’re worried I’d be flying right into a trap.”

     “Well, I’m no expert in the matter. But it sure sounds like it, don’t it?”

     Korzara paused for a moment. It was a risk. Even if it wasn’t a trap, clients who asked to remain anonymous in job postings were notoriously unreliable, and had a habit of stiffing anyone they hired.

     Still... Korzara didn’t have a whole lot of options at this point. More and more, it was looking like the choice was either take the job, or starve.

     “You know what?” she said. “Maybe it is. But I’ll do it anyway. What are the coordinates?”

To be continued…

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