Scooby Doo and Havik sat quietly at a long, pressed wood table, in uncomfortable plastic chairs. Havik thought perhaps they'd been designed to straighten the kinks that tend to develop in zero gravity out of one's back. Scooby knew they weren't designed with hangovers in mind.
In front of each a silver tray, too battered and scratched to reflect much more than dim colorizations of the pilots, held a conglomeration that neither would have described as food, prepared as if edibility were an afterthought. It simmered, and seemed to congeal before them under the harsh, bare lights above. Havik poised his fork above a brownish slab of solidity, looking like a hallucinogenic steak, wondering if prodding it may stir it back to life. Scooby, after letting his hand slip from underneath his chin and his head drop for the fifth time, stared through half closed eyes at the coffee cup, fifteen miles away, at the other end of his tray. Suddenly the relative quiet of the cafeteria was shattered by a blood curdling-scream. A figure, tall and thin, rushed between the tables in a ducking run. He charged towards them, rolling around other patrons, his eyes running madly over the room. Havik saw Zajj a second before he leapt onto their table, grabbed a knife from off Scooby's tray, waved it above his head and screamed "Die!!!!!!!!!" He then charged out of the room, knocking down two unknown pilots as they swaggered in.
"I dare ask, who was that boy?" Scooby seemed a fraction more alive than a moment before.
"I'd love to tell ya, Scoob," Havik said, "but no one has quite figured out how to pronounce his name."
Werewolf closed up the access panel on the side of a glimmering Orion, one with its original paint job from Galspan intact. He smiled a wide grin at its owner, leaned back and said, "There you are, Jake, all setup for ya."
The pilot, a bit nervous and excited, pumped Werewolf's hand at a rate that under slightly less-optimal gravity conditions might have induced flight.
"Thank you so much mister Werewolf, sir," he gushed, "I don't know what I would have done without your help."
"No problem," Werewolf yanked his hand away, "Helpin' new pilots is what I do best." A few minutes later, his face still frozen in that smirk, Werewolf was standing behind a thick piece of plasiteel, guarding against the vacuum that was soon to occupy the hanger. Hannibal was standing next to him, complaining.
"Man, I don't get it," he tapped on the glass at the Orion as it began to slowly lift off, "all these new pilots show up, can't fly there way out of a paper bag, all calling themselves 'Jake Logan'. Why? Because some space cowboy decides to announce to the galaxy that he single-handedly won the Galspan-Bora war. Suddenly, everyone wants to fly, and use his friggin' name. And you're out there helpin' 'em. Telling 'em how to fly, what to put on there ship. All our best tricks, man."
He gazed down at the open containers that once held components that could easily be attached to both Bora and Galspan fighters.
"Look at that," Hannibal continued, pointing at the boxes. "You gave him all the newest reserve systems, top-of-line missile defense systems, and, oh my god, you gave him the brand new booster from PPS. I don't even have one of-"
He stopped in mid-breath, suddenly realizing a box was missing, one that should have been with the rest. Slowly, his face turned upwards into a grin as well.
"You didn't give him lats. You evil, evil bastard."
Werewolf turned and walked out of the room, and almost seemed to whistle.
"Commander on the deck!" a yoeman called out as Decon passed through the sliding door.
"What the hell is it?" he barked, annoyed at having his breakfast interrupted. He'd been in command of a convoy for the past three days, as it traveled from spaceport to spaceport, making the long journey to Iconian territory in the Fringe.
"Sir, a warhammer is playing havoc with the front line escorts," a junior officer said after dropping his salute, pointing to a screen.
"Whose?" Decon stepped forward and bent to read the screen. He disliked being irritated, particularly before his coffee, but if asked in private, he would admit that the yelling part wasn't so bad.
"Sir, it's one of ours sir," the officer almost dropped dead from the gaze he received. He hastened to continue, "The ship is designated as MisterFour's, sir." Fifteen levels, almost straight down from where Decon stood, a loud buzz awoke MisterFour from his sleeping bunk. Spilling sheets to the floor, he turned over and reached to flip the comm. switch.
Three minutes later, he passed through the same door Decon had, but with less fanfare. He was still holding one of his boots, not sure whether or not flight boots were necessary without a ship to fly.
"Is that your hammer?" Decon pointed to a screen, a video feed from one of the capital ships near the commotion.
Four blinked through the daze of sleep and immediately recognized the battle scars on his warship.
"Then who the hell is flying it?"
"I... I..." Misterfour shook his head to clear it of sleep; still the only thought that seemed to circle his mind was the fact that he'd let his cat out the night before, and it hadn't returned.
Rah Rah Rasputin tumbled through restless sleep. The nightmare had returned. He was alone in his warhammer, facing a thousand ships. They were armed with missiles, guided torpedoes, rockets filled with plasma. Some of them were so tricked out they seemed to hold infinite amounts of armaments, some flew at incredible speeds, and some, he knew, had almost supernatural accuracy.
"I can't hack it!" he screamed in the silence of his dream, as the ships, one by one, began to engage him.
His radar screen flashed from target to target, designating each as a pilot he knew. He'd flown with them before, had read their bulletin posts, flash messages, and almost thought he'd call them friends. The call signs, all familiar, the clan designations; some even matching his own.
The dream usually ended here. But this time it continued for a few more moments. And in those moments he realized that every pilot in the Fringe besides himself, was Scadian Wraith.
"What do you mean, they won't show it?!" he was furious. How could they do this to him? He was once the famed Nasty Butler. He was practically a god! Was he not the king of puns, the prince of the solaris torpedo?
The TNS reporter shrugged as she packed her things. Although the interview was thrown together at the last moment, she thought perhaps she could have pulled it off. But after finishing and sending the shots over a tachyon communication line to the main office, she'd received a curt denial almost immediately.
Had the original pilot for the interview shown, this would never have happened. But Razor's Kiss was notorious for his lack of scheduling, and the reporter was told he could be anywhere in the New Dawn sector.
"Hey, I've flown forever. I could probably fly circles around Razor. I got wit, I got spunk, and besides," he leaned in closely as if he were telling her a secret, only privy to her, "I don't have a philosophy that bases happiness around a Mexican entree."
"The station decides what it will and won't show. I thought you did great, but it's not my decision," and she meant it. He was witty, spunky, and even kind of cute, for a dirty space pilot. But how could she explain to him that the real reason the station refused to air the story? Hell, even she thought it was a tad silly. I mean, she thought, could the public buy a story about a feared pilot in the Fringe who actually called himself Yellow Snowman? How ludicrous is that?
Griffin Moone stumbled back to his table with SuperFurryAnimal and Twilight Jack. Of course, Jack was in disguise, even this far out in The Fringe. One of his music videos played silently on the television behind that bar.
SuperFurry was sipping at a Nitrolite-n-Vodka, his eyes moving slowly over the thinning crowd. Despite a minor duel he'd fought with Moone over a girl, the two remained friends. Mostly, he thought, because they were both bitter enough over women to have something to talk about on the nights they both struck out.
Jack was musing over a gin and tonic, quickly forming the sounds of the bar into a sort of rhythm; he added a beat, in his mind, using clinking bottles and silverware. Laughter became melody, murmured voices, a good bass line. He thought of a few hypnotic lyrics; within four minutes, he'd composed his song.
Griffin, who couldn't tell you what he was drinking had his life depended on it, closed one eye, then the other, trying to decide if the focus could somehow be stopped on a solid object. Finally he noticed that his glass was empty. With one hand on the glass for support, he spun his chair, and half stepped, half fell to the bar.
Upon his landing he smiled largely at the bartender, pointed down at the glass, nodded and when he was at least partially sure the man had seen him, turned to lean his back on the wooden surface. The corner of his eye caught the figure standing next to him, looking up at the television, waiting patiently for her drink. It took him a moment, but he recognized Valkyrie Princess.
"Hi there," he nodded to her, with a boozy grin.
"Oh, hi," she turned slightly to speak, then looked towards the door. Moone was about to continue the conversation when movement behind him caught his attention. She looked over and her face brightened.
Griffin turned to see what was so special, and Razor's Kiss cold cocked him across the jaw.
That's it. That's all. No more. Good day.