13 Months Later
The last year had been hell. Ever since the invasion of their home world the four friends had been scattered to the wind, lost into the cracks and crevices of the Dragon Empire. But Tanya was determined to bring them back together, one by one if she had too. It was the only way to make up for Blaze’s death.
Tanya had managed to escape the clutches of the Imperial war machine but doing so came with a high cost. The only way to survive was to become an assassin for the Black Hole Syndicate, a job that cost her both her legs and most of her soul, but Tanya no longer cared. All she cared about was finding Diana. She had been taken by the Imperials, conscripted into their great army, all in service of the vile red wyrrm Mezzenbone, but what became of her after that Tanya had no idea. Least ways until Rax wandered back into her life.
The last year had changed Rax, maybe more than it had even changed Tanya. Rax had discovered something by living inside the Dragon Empire, a part of herself that she didn’t even know was missing. For one she had discovered she liked guns. A lot. She had an affinity for the weapons that bordered on the supernatural, an almost intrinsic understanding of the weapons, how to use them, how to care for them, how to kill with them.
But next to guns Rax also discovered she liked gambling. After getting out of a four month prison stint for getting caught in an illegal gambling ring Rax realized she needed to make a change in her life and that change started with finding her friends. Using some of the contacts she had made from her gambling connections Rax was able to track down Tanya (now calling herself Tanya Blade for the twin blades she conceals in her legs). Her contacts also gave her a data file that contained information on exactly where Diana was.
Rax didn’t hesitate for a second. She found Tanya and gave her the file. Tanya’s breath caught in her throat as she read through it. Relief at finally knowing what befallen her love gave way to dread and fear. Diana had been taken to the infamous prison planet of Alcavan where, according to the file, Diana was being experimented upon by Imperial Scientists, for what reason the file didn’t say.
For months Tanya and Rax debated what to do. Alcavan was a jungle world in the Domain of Noros, a part of the Empire controlled by evil black dragons. It was home to some of the most exotic and dangerous creatures in the Verse. The Empire, with permission from House Noros, had converted into a prison planet 50 years ago. The prison itself was surrounded by an impenetrable force field, patrolled by hundreds of robot guards and the entire planet was surrounded by a AI controlled auto-mine field that would destroy any unauthorized ships that got too close to the planet. Getting Diana off that world would be impossible.
But still Tanya persisted. She realized that she would need a ship. Not just any ship. Something truly fast and nimble enough to avoid the mines and any Imperial craft in the area. And she would need a pilot. Then fortunate for once went her way. Using her own contacts Tanya was able to solve both problems in one go. She introduced Rax to Desrick Mazlow, a sentient spaceship.
Desrick had been a changeling like Rax (his trust of her is part of why he agreed to work with them) but the Empire had put his soul inside a starship, making him the only sentient starship in the entire Verse. Desrick had been on the run for years, trying to avoid the Empire, who wished to reclaim him and make him a weapon. He agreed to work with Tanya and Rax is they agreed to help him avoid the Empire. And thus a partnership was born.
But there was still the little manner of how to get through Alcavan’s defenses. For months they planned and they were just about to give up hope when a coded message came through the Ansible Network. It was from a man calling himself Sebastian Burroughs. He explained that he was a prisoner on Alcavan but that the prisoners were rioting and he had disabled all of the planet’s defenses. He promised 1 million credits to whoever rescued him.
Tanya, Rax and Desrick almost couldn’t believe their luck. But they had to act quickly. They gathered their supplies and raced off, making the jump to Alcavan mere minutes after receiving Sebastian’s message.
Little did they know that their long lost friend Adam had received the same message and was making his own plan to go to Alcavan, but not to save Diana. In truth he had given up on the hope of ever seeing his friends again. Not given the ways the gears turned in this universe. Adam, like Diana, had been captured by the Empire and would have shared her fate if not for being rescued by the pirate Ruford Acton. Adam joined the pirate’s crew and rose through the ranks to become Ruford’s most trusted crew member. On his death bed Ruford freed Adam from his bond to the crew leaving Adam free to explore the Verse.
Unfortunately exploration is a costly enterprise and Adam had been left adrift with no money to his name and little prospects. When he deciphered Sebastian’s message he realized that this could be his big score. Adam called in a favor from his friend Lars who agreed to fly him to the planet in exchange for half the credits. Adam agreed and the two were off.
The Empire beat them all there.
Beneath black space studded with distant stars, rested the green blue world of Alcavan. From a distance it looked almost peaceful, white clouds floating above large swaths of lush jungles, but that beauty hides a dark reputation as one of the most dangerous prison planets in the entire Verse. Arcane energy coursed through empty space silently building up until a gigantic Imperial carrier craft, the ISC-Syseria, poped into existence, flanked by two smaller destroyers.
The Empire approached the planet in their typical arrogant fashion, hesitating only when the planetary mines began to power up. The commander of the Syseria ordered the codes sent to shut the mines down but the system had been compromised. in a second the mines flew forward, attached themselves to the hull of one of the destroyers and exploded incinerating the ship and all its crew.
The Commander screamed out the order to fire on the remaining mines. Dozens of V-Wing Imperial craft flew out of the carrier along with four troop transports. The mines blew one away before it could get too far but the other three careened down through the atmosphere to land on the planet below.
From their bowels emerged a battalion of Imperial Soldiers in red dragon armor, a phalanx of
AV-98 Mechs and two dozen armed laser tanks. Their objective was to shutdown the prison wall and retake the prison by force.
Opposing them were the 250 prisoners armed only with stolen rifles, the 200 robot guards they had reprogrammed in their defense and the 100 mobile platform robots that careened across the battlefield.
The two sides clashed in an exchange of fire and explosives, the screams of the dying echoing across the battlefield.
No one noticed the ship Desrick suddenly appearing in the skies above the planet. Desrick flew in low and close to avoid the Imperial ships, but he needn’t have bothered. The Imperials were too busy with the mines. Desrick landed in the jungle where he dropped off a broken down armored truck with Tanya, Rax and Desrick’s remote controlled robot body inside.
As the truck tore through the jungle another ship appeared in the skies above. This one was piloted by Lars and unlike Desrick he didn’t want to get close enough to the planet to touch down. Instead Adam was forced to halo drop out of the back of the ship, the fire of reentry burning his vac suit to ash before he was able to parachute down to the planet below.
The armored truck crashed through the dense jungle coming to a skidding stop in front of the mountain. Following instructions sent by Sebastian the three friends were able to open a hidden door within the mountain. They entered a vast maze of hallways, lit by fluorescent lights that flickered to life as they approached, and decorated with etchings of strange varieties of dragon.
After exploring the hallways for several tense moments (all the while hearing the explosions from the nearby battle) the three heard two different noises in the dark. Behind them Adam had scrapped his metal shield against the wall while a different noise echoed from deeper within the mountain.
Rax went back to investigate and when she saw it was Adam she almost couldn’t believe her eyes. He had changed somewhat, his hair was greyer and he now wore an eye-patch, but that was unmistakably her friend. For his part Adam was no less shocked to see Rax. Before he could ask what she was doing here both heard a yell from father in the mountain.
Rushing forward Rax and Adam found Tanya and Desrick talking to an older human they recognized as Sebastian. Next to Sebastian was a large dump truck of a humanoid robot that was acting as Sebastian’s guard. The robot referred to itself as X1. When he saw Tanya Sebastian had expressed surprise at seeing a tabaxi and casually mentioned that he had known only one other such creature, an imperial soldier that the Empire had been experimenting upon, and who’s soul they had transferred into the robot body before them. A woman named Diana.
Tanya’s gasp of shock was the noise that alerted Rax and Adam to trouble. Diana had become this machine. Tanya couldn’t believe it but Sebastian assured her. Tanya tried to argue. Maybe it was a different Diana but Sebastian made it clear there was no other tabaxi in the prison. Tanya tried to talk to X1, to elicit some semblance of memory from her former lover, but X1 could only look on with cold robotic eyes.
Then an explosion rocked the outside of the mountain. Adam reminded them that they were running out of time. Rax took Tanya aside, asking her what she wanted to do, believe Sebastian or ignore him and keep going. Tanya hesitated unsure, but something about the way X1 moved reminded her of Diana. Tanya knew that this was all that was left of the woman she once loved.
She decided that she would believe Sebastian. They needed to get out of there. That’s when Sebastian told them that he couldn’t leave yet. Long ago he had discovered this hidden facility next to the prison and after exploring it he became convinced that it was all created to guard one single relic, an item Sebastian estimated would be worth millions of dollars if it could be recovered. That’s how he intended to pay them.
Rax balked at this but Sebastian pointed out that saving this was the job. “My dear girl,” he said. “Life is full of disappointments and excitements. I’ll leave it to you to decide which one this is, but either way I’m going after that relic.”
With clearly no choice the others agreed to go with Sebastian. He led them through a series of rooms, past puzzles he had already solved, to a room dominated by a single large door etched with lights that radiated from the center like the rays of the sun. This was a puzzle Sebastian had been unable to solve. Desrick examined the room noting that the images in here seemed to hide mathematical patterns. He realized it was the golden spiral sequence and after pressing the lights in the correct order the door opened.
The group entered a large room whose floor was etched with symbols and images and there in the center was giant dais, on top of which was a beam of light. Suspended inside the light was a small copper box. Adam noticed that the images on the floor were crude representations of dragon history, showing the formation of the empire, and the rise of Mezzenbone. He was most surpirsed to discover representations of all of them in this room, up to and including a drawing of Desrick opening the outer door and the group gathered around the copper box on the dais.
Before the could contemplate this a massively muscular tattooed orc in the orange garb of an Imperial Prisoner entered the room flanked by other prisoners and reprogrammed robot guards. He called himself Hoark. He had tracked Sebastian here. He ordered his men to attack and a shootout broke out. Desrick hid behind a wall hacking into the SEED of a prisoner and frying his brain, X1 shattered a prisoner’s jaw with her massive warhammer, Rax shot a prisoner in the head and Tanya slashed Hoark’s throat with her leg blades.
Hoping to grab the treasure and get out one of the prisoners rushed forward, ran up the dais and grabbed the copper box. He screamed in pain as a plant grew out from under his skin, erupting from his mouth. The box tumbled from his grasp and slid across the floor as a quake erupted through the room.
Giant rainbow colored centipedes, winged spiders and all manners of other creatures squeezed through cracks in the walls and descended on the prisoners killing them. Sebastian ran forward and donning gloves, scooped up the copper box, dropping it in a specially prepared briefcase he carried. Realizing they were trapped Adam ordered everyone to gather around him and when they did he touched his eye-patch which glowed with a golden light.
When the light faded the group had been teleported outside the mountain. The entire jungle went crazy with wild animals ripping and tearing into each other. On the battlefield on the other side giant behemoths erupted from the jungle to kill the remaining soldiers, robots, and prisoners. Only a single mech pilot seemingly managed to avoid being killed when he was buried alive under his mech suit.
The group jumped into the armored truck and raced across the jungle as all around them wild animals ripped into each other. Desrick transferred his control to the ship and took off, scooping them up as they jumped off a cliff.
As Desrick’s urging everyone ran to their stations. The ship broke atmo near the battered imperial carrier. It was too damaged to directly assault them so instead it sent a small squadron of V-Wing craft. Everyone ran to their weapons. After a tense dogfight Desrick was able to calculate a jump that took them light years out of the system. They had done the impossible.
They had escaped Alcavan.