Keona surveyed the building again and again, her eyes flying back and from the blueprints on her port-screen. That window. That hallway. That little blind spot in the corridor that stretches alongside the west-side rooms. The big glass room that overlooks the city.

The room adjacent to it where Luc was kept.

The warehouse on the direct stretch housing the anti-aircraft vessel.

She tossed the port-screen aside and ruffled her hair. Behind her, Leon checked his knives one more time and sheathed them with a few flicks and spins; a move he liked to perform to give himself a little confidence boost..

“Ready?” his ear fins waggled.

She dusted herself down and nodded.

An armed guard, not a soldier, greeted them at the gates alongside one of the scout officers with a smug smile. This covert operation gave them the advantage of easy entry, and they had already been identified as pirates anyway, so the Antaresi officers kept their formalities to a minimum.

They didn’t even bother to do a body check, which was good for Keona, but then again they assumed they had the skill to kill her and Leon right where they stood. She hoped the opportunity to display this myth never arose.

The body language of the officers alone made Keona assume gloating was part of their culture as well. The officer strode in front of them, his head turned high, his long purple silky hair smelling of some exotic soap. His deep red robes trimmed and etched with silver and gold patterns also smelled of richness.

For a moment Keona found herself wondering what Luc looked like if he had kept his culture in practice.

What would he look like with long hair? Would his teal hair be tinged with highlights of green or blue? Would he wear it in a braid or let it hang straight down? What was his face like clean shaven? Would his eyes remain that bright purple? Or that flashing red when he was upset? Would he keep upright instead of hunched over? Would his stupid smile still remain on his face?

She felt a little nudge in her side. Leon touched her elbow, his large black aquatic eyes questioning. She nodded a curt response, giving him a humorless smile. He dipped his head, and continued forward beside her, equally tense.

They were led into the glass room, where the Paragon was waiting .

Her eyes flew to Luc, who stood with his back turned to them, facing the window. His hands were bound behind him with a simple cloth. He knew better than to react hostilely.

“Welcome, Captain!” the Paragon greeted, not bothering to bow.

Keona curtsied, a little tip from Royan in diplomacy; keeping the situation in regard. The Antaresi might think the rest of the galaxy was full of lesser beings, but that was no reason to prove them right. Behind her, Leon bowed stiffly.

Luc spun around, apparently surprised to see them. Upon seeing Keona, his eyes flashed red and he frowned, angry that she accepted the Paragon’s invite. Her walking right into the Paragon’s clutches was the one thing he specifically hoped not to happen. That’s why he allowed himself to be captured. With his return, there would be no reason for them to pursue the Halcyon any further. There would be no reason to expose someone like her to them.

She wore her traveler’s cloak, concealing her wolf ears and tail and feet. But any irking from the Paragon, and her powers stand high risk of being exposed. He couldn’t bear the thought of her being subject to the Anatres empire’s secret experiments. And knowing the bastards they are, he would most likely be subjected to be head scientist for his treason by abandonment. Nothing would give them more sick satisfaction than seeing him in his former job, cutting up and recreating another living anomaly. Especially one he had developed a closeness with.

He shook with rage, seeing the Paragon in such close vicinity to her.

Keona, for her part, felt something snap in her insides as well. That look Luc gave her pissed her off immensely. Motioning for Leon to kick her a chair, she sat down with impeccable timing and pulled out a box of cigarettes.

Luc’s eyes went wide. Was she intentionally displaying her powers to unnerve the Paragon? NO! He was about to lunge forwards, to literally shield her from the Paragon; but then she produced a lighter from another inside pocket and lighted a cigarette she tuck into her mouth.

“You don’t mind, right?” she waved it at the Paragon, her voice flat with coyness.

The Paragon twitched ever so slightly, but shook his head. Luc’s shoulders sagged. What was she doing??

“Alright. So, business,” she blew a plume of smoke and tapped ash at the officer’s shoes. He jumped back, biting his lip in anger to which she merely ignored and Leon stifled a chuckle at.

“Yes, gladly,” the Paragon pulled up a chair as well and sat down carefully, arranging his robes. A glint revealed a beautiful zircon hilt strapped to his thigh; a large dagger of some sort, not bothering to be concealed.

Leon and Keona made no show of even noticing the dagger, which definitely peeved the Paragon. Luc on the other hand, was tinged with uncertainty. His gaze shifted from the Paragon to Keona, to the officers to Leon.

Leon simply blinked slowly, a corner of his mouth fixated in a smile. A fin on the right side of his head twitched in an apparent itch, but to Luc it was a signal for don’t worry, conjured up during their days of bounty hunting.

“I’m afraid your… companion has to refuse further endeavors with your crew,” the Paragon gestured to Luc.

“Really? And why is that?” Keona sucked in another puff, looking so natural Luc’s mouth almost hung open.

“He is to be tried for war crimes perpetuated on his home planet and continental space.”

Keona leaned forward. “Now isn’t that something for the Galactic Council to decide?”

“Well, think of it as world jurisdiction having the bigger influence on this order.”

“A.K.A you got to him first,” Leon smirked again. The Paragon smiled a cold, wide smile that made Keona feel a chill inside.

“You seem to misunderstand our line of work, chief. We’re nothing but criminals,” Keona grinned back, hissing through her fangs.

“Ahh, but Jean-Luc here, he’s a very special case,” the Paragon almost sang.

Luc trembled and turned away, his wrists straining against their binds. “Please don’t,” he whispered, loud enough for the Paragon to hear. Keona’s emerald eyes flew to him briefly, but focused on the Paragon again, feigning interest.

“You see, Jean-Luc was a war scientist for the Antaresi government in the Aurigae Nebula Strafe,” the Paragon conducted as if he were a lecturer in a class. Behind her, the officers sniggered softly.

But Keona wouldn’t be deterred. “Oh? All the more reason to keep him in our circle then,” she sneered.

The Paragon laughed, a highly unnerving, insincere sound. Luc shuddered. Keona’s smile only grew wider.

“Let me put this clearly. Your… doctor? I would assume he has taken such a profession considering his field of expertise; has conducted experiments on… practically everything you have seen in your lifetime.”

Luc shifted uncomfortably, wanting to go to Keona and shut her ears. But the officers in the room had their own iridescent eyes trained on him. The Paragon himself would slit his throat before Keona could rip off that cloak of hers. He bit his lip and tried to steady his breathing, averting his eyes from her.

She pinched her lips together in contemplation and took another puff, feigning no big deal.

“Admittedly, these experiments were commissioned by our superiors; but when one enjoys his job, it becomes so much more bearable, wouldn’t you say? Exciting even,” the Paragon turned to sneer at Luc, who shot him a hateful look before retreating.

“Make your point,” Leon groaned.

“My point being,” he turned back to Keona, his expression unchanging, “that you have been travelling with a man who has ordered and carried out the abduction and slaughter of thousands of creatures from all over the galaxy; possibly even from your own home planets for the simple reason that they were a little… abnormal. Why he would even cut up your partner over there simply because he is, quite literally, a fish out of water,” the Paragon nodded at Leon.

Keona chuckled. “Then why hasn’t he?”

“Intel! He’s not a mindless killer. The main objective was to develop the strongest creature this galaxy has ever seen; utilizing the best qualities each species has to offer. Something that extends far beyond physical traits. Why, captain, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had gotten… friendly… with you all these years simply just to know how outlaw ships make their way around our spaces,” the Paragon laughed again.

Keona’s head fell forwards, the cigarette sticking out from the mess of hair and shadows that concealed her face. Her head cocked slightly in thought.

“NO!” Luc sprang forward. But an officer leapt in front of him and held him back. “No. Keona, you’re not… She’s not an experiment. Please. She’s not an experiment. Please. Leave her alone,” Luc almost fell to his knees, begging the stars.

Leon could slap the Paragon’s smug thinking face and slash his throat. But as long as Keona didn’t move, neither would he. Gaia be damned that Paragon was a piece of work.

Luc held his breath as Keona sat up again, the ember at the end of the cigarette flaring up. She shook the hair out of her face and blew out such a large plume of smoke, it hit the Paragon.

Irritated, he swiped the cloud away and stood up. “Do we understand each other, Captain?” he growled through a menacing smile.

To Luc’s surprise, Keona smiled sweetly, as if Leon had just presented a crate full of scallops. “Of course we do, Lord Paragon. And now I’m sorry to notify that your war criminal is now our hostage,” she stood up, flicking the cigarette away.

“I beg your pardon?” the Paragon tilted his head.

Before he or the officers could react, the large glass window walls behind him exploded into a hail of shards and shrapnel.

Luc, the officer restraining him and the Paragon were thrown forward just as Leon sauntered for cover behind Keona and tripped the other officer down.

The Halcyon hovered dangerously close to the deck, its turrets hot with the launch of a rocket.

“You see, Lord Paragon, with this dangerous criminal of your planet, it seems like the secrets of the biological universe is up for grabs. And, it looks like the creation of the strongest bio-weapon has just entered black market,” Keona bowed deeply to the fallen Paragon.

“We’re kidnapping him!” Leon sang, dragging Luc by the scruff of his oversized duster.

“You know, we’d do this like, the “legal” way, you know a few credits here and there, maybe throw in a cannon, but let’s face it. We pirates aren’t good businessmen unless it involves a little boom and a little bang,” Keona crouched down to speak to the Paragon.

For a moment he could have sworn her eyes flashed with sparks akin to crystal fire.

For good measure, she picked up a fallen beam and laid it as gently as she could across the officers and the Paragon, apologizing when they winced in pain.

“Bye!” she grinned, leaping backwards into the open cargo hangar. Leon tossed a dazed and surprised Luc into her arms and jumped across himself, clicking a cheeky salute to the Antaresi.

The Paragon screamed in rage, but another explosion in the far back silenced him. The anti-aircraft cannon storage facility. With a bewildered glare, he sat up to see Keona staring back with a contempt face.

With a grip of fire, she severed the cloth binding Luc’s wrists and disintegrated the rope. She smiled a cruel, pirate captain’s haughty grin and stared the Paragon down as her ship pulled away from the deck.

Writer’s note: a super duper long post to make up for the terrible absence! slowly but surely the block is dissipating ūüėÄ