by Lauren Hershey & Layman Kingsford (scene 1)
The first time she saw the shuttle it was ablaze with spherical explosions as it broke apart, rapidly venting atmosphere in close orbit to the asteroid. Her father used to casually tell her of this accursed place in bedtime stories, teasing her fears to the surface; he spoke of monstrous death and surviving on your own with nothing but utter desolation carving your path as a shield. He told her that perhaps one day, if she was lucky, she would learn to conquer her fears of surviving alone through confronting such circumstance...
Ranna squinted and shielded her eyes against the glaring light coming from her shuttle’s peripheral displays as she studied the view screen. The silence of the explosion eerily breathed new life into her mission. The time to wait was over now. Her father had sent her for one purpose-- murder the mad Doctor Prant and take the miracle drug back to Bantar Apnan. She did not question his orders, but had wondered why this substance was miraculous. What could possibly equal their arts of healing back in their fortress, deep down in the pits?
She signaled to her compatriots, two veteran assassins much older and more experienced than herself. Course corrections were made to get into position, steering their small vessel toward the rupturing ship. Her eyes settled on the flames, which briefly flickered in the darkness and contrasted the languid movements of the dispersing debris. She imagined the groaning and creaking of the ship played as a harmony to the crackling bursts of energy being released from the flames; how they danced. Something caught her gaze, quickly at first, as if it was an illusion of fire... she concentrated on the spot again, her hand instinctively grabbing the hilt of the dagger at her waist, bracing as if for an enemy attack. Her fingers brushed the air in front of her face triggering the shuttle’s cameras to zoom in on the indicated area. She let her vision settle upon the spot again... to port of the ship's broadside was the glimmer of a body floating in the void, seemingly untouched by the destruction.
"Optics and diagnostics," Ranna snapped to the computer’s audio pickups. She centered the screen to the spot along the debris field and finger-swiped adjustments on the light-projected user interface until a focused image settled before her eyes. The floating figure was lithe, smaller than she expected. The body belonged to a woman wearing a CoP Fleet Operations uniform. Ranna caught her breath in her throat. The woman was at the complete mercy of the trajectory of her expulsion from the shuttle, tumbling debris and ash surrounding her. She was unconscious, or dead, but her uniform’s hood was sealed. She must have been a passenger on the ship at the time of the explosion. Ranna felt something tug at her insides; the sensation was similar to the vitality of the flames, consuming in its capacities. Before she realized what she was saying, she uttered, "Steer us to that woman. We need to extract her." The command sounded questionable once stated aloud. She noted the hesitant gazes of her fellows,
Ranna glared and raised her voice. "That officer was a passenger. She could have been involved with the making of the drug my father wants us to retrieve. Do it! NOW!" The eldest assassin nodded, his emotions masked by his black hood and facial coverings. He input instructions to guide their shuttle toward the floating woman.
They reached her quickly, soft bleeps from the nav system’s collision protocols alerting them to the numerous small, but harmless, impacts of debris colliding with their shuttle’s reinforced hull. One of the two assassins leaned forward and swiped a few quick commands into the computer.
Outside their own shuttle, articulated snake-like arms slithered robotically from a sealed airlock on the stern to grasp onto the woman's limbs then pull her aboard. Ranna watched the surveillance feed from the airlock camera as the Fleet officer’s body limply rolled onto the deck; she was face down and her uniform was filthy and looked about to tear in several places.
Ranna gave the order to turn the shuttle around and head back to their attack cruiser. It was clear that the wrecked ship was nothing but flotsam and should be left to drift endlessly in the dark. As evidenced by the state of the rescued woman's condition, it was unlikely that the explosion had provided mercy to any other crew. The tech of her CoP Fleet uniform was likely all that had kept her intact. The ship’s sensors reported life signs coming from their new passenger, but they were not stable.
Ranna left the two assassins to pilot the shuttle and she moved quickly down the narrow corridor to the airlock to inspect the body personally. She triggered the interior hatch to open and bent to roll the body onto her back. The transparent fabric that made up the CoP Fleet uniform’s face mask was sprinkled with blood.
Ranna glanced down at the woman... no, the girl... perhaps woman... She was so young, yet she wore an expression in her slumber of resonant, deep pain. Pain all too familiar to Ranna. It was the pain of having witnessed too much destruction in a short time period, the pain of being tossed from one reality into another... In short, it was the pain of killing another, of taking a life. And Ranna could sense that despairing sorrow etched into the brow of the sleeper's face, her damp dark blonde hair framing an otherwise youthful visage and pointy, upswept and pointed ears. Clearly the girl was Novanite.
Ranna surveyed the woman up close and started to remove the uniform for a more detailed inspection. She noticed that, even while unconscious, the officer’s, no Corporal’s - Ranna chastised herself for not immediately recognizing Citadel Fleet uniform styles - hands were clenched into tight fists. Her yellow and black uniform had significant frays and as Ranna revealed more pale skin she found it marked with deep bruises and cuts.
Ranna reached out slowly, almost timidly. Something about this woman utterly drew her near and fascinated her. Perhaps it was those clenched fists... Ranna moved her fingertips to the woman's closed palms and softly worked the woman's fingers open, one by one, delicately unwinding them from their silent fury into a relaxed state. Once the Corporal’s hands lay at her sides, Ranna pressed the pads of her fingertips to the woman's and traced a path down those hands, letting her gaze linger along the lines she traced. The woman let out a faint sigh and her eyes fluttered, her brow no longer furrowed by the expression of mingled contempt and fear. She was at peace, tension slowly uncoiling itself from her limbs.
Ranna sat there quietly, keeping the woman in her sights, until the darkness outside the airlock porthole was illuminated by light from the cruiser’s interior hanger bay lights.