Aike sat in her room not wishing to be around others or to run into Clara right now due to the fact that she was still being treated with a cold command attitude by Clara after the incident with the Black Rats and a very heated argument when Aike learned that the pirate crew known as Hopper’s Hard Kills, led by the pirate Captain James Hopper, would be joining the Wardens escape. Aike had heard the name Hopper’s Hard Kills, as had Clara, as they had raided Galava years ago back when they were only kids, but the fact that they had preyed on the people of Galava and now Clara was willing to work with them ate at Aike and had driven a wedge between her and Clara’s friendship like nothing before.
Aike hated this arrangement, and had hated it from its conception when the Captain of the Beast, Den Xavier, had informed Clara that he had arranged to form an alliance with a crew of pirates and smugglers who like the Wardens didn’t wish to be caught by the Black Warriors for their own reasons. All the Wardens had to do was make sure that the pirate’s Rose class Dropship made it to their smuggler friend’s Jumpship by protecting it with their aerospace and Leopard. That little arrangement had cost the Wardens an aerospace pilot and ship and had hurt the Beast a lot, but true to its nature the Leopard had broken through the light blockade screen and made it to the Tramp class Jumpship.
Just then the young woman Becka came into Aike’s room. “Cap says you are to get refreshed and changed and then report to the briefing room in thirty.”
Aike, not being in a mood to talk, just nodded her acknowledgments to the girl she had saved back on Hilad’s Landing who had been turned into Clara’s Command Aide. At first Aike had agreed with and supported giving the seventeen year old girl a job to occupy her so she couldn’t get herself into trouble, but now with Clara spending time with a pirate and forcing Becka to be around the man it just one more thing that seemed to keep this argument between Aike and Clara going.
It didn’t take Aike long to get changed and cleaned up, but she made sure to be a few minutes late. As she walked into the briefing room, she found that she was the only one there. Slightly annoyed, Aike moved to take a seat and propped her legs up lazily to wait, but her relaxed state didn’t last long when she heard someone walk into the room from behind her when she turned to see who it was she came to her feet with a jolt and her had fell to the grip of her sidearm. Standing in the doorway was Captain James Hopper, who despite his hard looking face was leaning relaxed against the doorframe with his arms crossed and clearly way from any weapons, “You don’t like me much do you girl?”
Aike had the deep desire to pull her pistol and shoot the man right there, cold blood murder was all a pirate deserved, but instead she moved her hand away from her pistol grip. “You’re a pirate, I hate you all and if it was not for the Cap I would kill you without a second’s hesitation. Your kind, are all murders, thieves and rapists who willingly live as you do on the lives of others until you die in some hellhole or another.”
James didn’t even flinch at her words, but just nodded as if agreeing, “It’s true I have done things such as you say and death is what I may deserve, but me and my crew have found peace with our lot and are just trying to live our lives for as long as we can. It may surprise you to know that I have a family of Galava, a daughter and a woman I only think of fondly. So I ask you this, is a man his past or his current actions? Can we rise above our mistakes, the ghosts, and crimes we left behind us? You yourself have your share of ghost and crimes, am I not mistaken Aike?”
Aike’s hand fell back to her pistol grip as her anger rose along with the desire to shoot this man down. How dare this scum lecture her? He was one of the filth that had beset her world and had terrorized her family and townsfolk. It was men like him that had killed her father and took away her mother. “You may have the Cap convinced of your new found soul, but for all my crimes they are nothing compared to what you have done in the name of your own gain. I see you, pirate, for what you are and no fancy words will change that so please do me a favor and reach for your gun so I can shoot you and free the galaxy of one less scum who destroys people’s lives.”
James didn’t answer back for several seconds, but instead seemed to look deep into Aike’s eyes. Then he pushed himself off the doorframe and addressed her with a quite dark tone. “It seems I have found my judge. I will not try and convince you of any such soul, but I will give you the one thing I can. I promise you now on the only thing I care for beyond my own life is that of my daughter and her mother, and that while among your fine company I will do nothing to cause you to raise arms against me or my crew. I know you want your vengeance, and as much as it must sting you set it aside you must. Not for me or you, but for the one thing we share; the love we hold for others and their safety. I promise you one other thing as well once we have discovered and dealt with this threat to Galava I will agree to meet you on the field of battle to face your judgment if you so desire it still.”
With that James, moved aside and into the room before allowing Aike to answer, and that was when Aike noticed that Clara was standing just a little ways down the hall from the doorway. Clara stepped into the room and looked down at Aike’s hand on her gun. Aike removed her hand and placed it at her side. Clara moved on into the room and turned to James. “It goes without saying but Captain Hopper if you do anything out of line I will have to deny Aike the pleasure of your date on the field of battle and will kill you myself. With that said, it’s time we moved beyond our hatreds and past and prepare ourselves for what’s to come because I now know where our search is to take us next, we will be leaving for the Circinus Federation in search of the hidden vault for clues as to who is filling them for the Black Warriors.” Looking sternly at Aike, “We, includes us and the Hard Kills.”
Aike took her seat once more and looked from Clara too James, “Well it seems like you have already come to a decision on this so why am I here?”
Clara took a seat and sighed with something akin to defeat in her manner before looking back up, “Because without you I can’t do this. Aike if you are to fight me on this then the Warden’s will become divided and don’t lie to yourself by saying your action do not affect the rest of the crew. There are a few unspoken truths about this unit that the crew has come to rely on and one of those is that my second would follow me to hell and back and if they see you fighting my lead then they will know our path is wrong and will falter. Aike I need you beside me on this if we are to continue on our hunt of this new threat to the Periphery.”
Aike was taken aback a little by Clara’s words it wasn’t because of the fact that Clara was being so honest as they have always been so with each other, but that the fact that she was speaking this way in front of someone else. Clara usually kept this part of herself nicely hidden away for only those times when she and Aike were alone. Aike took a few moments to thank about what Clara said before speaking up once more, “Okay Clara I know why you are set on this path and understand why you need my blessing and support but what I don’t know is what the pirate’s angle is?”
James just nodded once more and spoke in is steady quite tone, “I’ve made an enemy of the Black Warriors and it has become harder and harder to keep one step ahead of them and if someone is giving them advanced weapons and mechs then it concerns me and my survival, but more than just that I wasn’t lying when I said I had love ones living on Galava and I will do anything in my power to keep them safe. I’m not the only one on my crew who has set roots on your lovely world. Like it or not I have come to call Galava my home and as it and your mercenary unit grows more and more people will do the same and in the end if the Black Warriors are looking to expand the Circinus Federation with their new arms Galava will look more and more like a nice target. We need to find a way to throw a wrench in their gathering of power of arms for Galava safety, not to even speak of the other planets they may attack, and if this lowly pirate has understood what Lady Clara has told me about the Warding Guard is it not the safety of Galava what you are to stand for?”
Despite his quiet tone, the way he questioned Aike’s commitment to what the unit stood for made the muscles in the back of her neck tighten up and bring out ideas of kicking him somewhere that could cause a lot of pain. Aike knew she could not trust James Hopper, as he said one of his main reasons for joining forces was his survival and Aike felt that if it came down to it that would be his guiding light. Aike took a deep breath for a moment to gather her racing mind and as she looked over at Clara she noticed the light shining off of the SLDF Company D button that all Wardens wore and it reminded her of just what she was, a Warden. Throughout Galava’s harsh history the men and women who had come to be known as Wardens had done what they could with as little as they had to help protect the people of their planet sometimes doing dark and dirty work. There were stories of Wardens sneaking into pirate camps at night to cut them down in their sleep and other such dark tells. The Wardens were not ones to let anything hold them back from defending the people of Galava.
Aike stood up and came to attention and addressed Clara, “I’m a Warden, I will defend the defenseless and help those who have need, I will sound the warning for I am ever vigilant, I will walk forth to meet the enemy before they bring harm to those I have sworn to protect, I will do that which must be done not for honors but for the peace of the many under my guard. I am a Warden.”
After reciting the old Warden motto Aike then relaxed a little. “I’m with you Clara as I have always been, and you should have known that from the beginning and I will accept working with Captain James and his crew for as long as you see fit and maybe he will prove to me that his current actions can outweigh the ghost of his past.”
Clara smiled and stood up and moved to hug Aike before realizing she was still in the company of Captain James and stopped in mid step to straighten back up. “I’m glad to hear it so we are set then. I will have a word with our Jumpship Captain and we will set course for the Circinus Federation at all speed.”