A Shadowed Stars short story based around the time of Book One and written by Steven Koutz

Gold Gatling was a Honsho, which is an entire race of pirates and all in service of the Honsho Piracy. Honshos look mostly human in build with the exceptions of longer dropped chins that reach to just past the throat on a human neck. They also have three fingers on each hand and a thumb to each side of the first and third finger. Most Honshos have long blond or dark blond hair and wear it in some sort of braided fashion. Some are even accented with beads. Gold Gatling however, had spiked blond hair. He wore a full military dress style blue uniform with gold trim, along with gold boots and gloves. He adorned himself with gold chains and three hooped gold earrings in each earlobe.

It was not many that could claim to have shot any weapon onto the Dark Lord Epitaph, much less a Honshon stick into his ear but Gold Gatling considered himself many notches above everyone else in the universe. The Honsho style weapon was a powerful negotiating tool and a preferred weapon of the Honshos. It was a twelve to fourteen-inch cylindrical rod capable of shooting electrical stun energy at adjustable rates.

Gold Gatling had negotiated a higher price from the Dark Lord Epitaph, ruler of the Black Guard. 60,000 drekings was a high amount of currency. It was yet an unsuccessful transaction because he still had to deliver the two Books of Prophecy, collect the money, and walk out alive. The life part was the easiest. Gold Gatling had a knack for staying alive. He was though aware that luck runs out. He had guaranteed the price and to not get it would call disfavor on his legion, which was a measure of status along with fame and rank in the Honsho Piracy.

He ordered his pilots to land near the Crying Tears Waterfall on the planet Groidera. The pilot called attention to the capital class Black Guard warship adjusting into near orbit of the planet. It was not the Darkfall, the ship of Dark Lord Epitaph and flagship to the Black Guard. It was just as long and large and just as intimidating. It was quickly identified as the Bloodbath. It was a class 2 warship, which designated that a fright agent was aboard. Fright agent was a title given to the most loyal and most feared operatives of the Black Guard and considered the highest rank. The Black Guard consisted of all human soldiers and officers but fright agents, other operatives, spies, and the leader, Epitaph himself were the only non-humans in the militant might.

The pirate crew looked to Gold Gatling. He displayed no sign of fear or concern. His confidence was his armor and his shield. Despite the image he displayed, Gold was highly intelligent and knew very well that this was not going to be easy and clear.

The female Honsho at the tactics station continued to monitor the Black Guard warship’s orbital adjustments. Their stealth landing was commended. The fact that they had not yet been detected was a great benefit. The Honsho freighters were long and narrow, designed to hold an abundance of cargo. The maneuverability of the vessels sacrificed evasive maneuvers for faster standard speed. The Honsho Piracy believed in quick surprise strikes with four steps; arrive, hit, loot, and flee. Easy in and easy out was a strategy that had always worked and staying out of prolonged combat was the main goal of every raid.

They had disembarked in a close vicinity to the Crying Tears Waterfall and were still undetected but that would not remain true as they moved in closer to their meeting destination. Gold Gatling wanted to keep that element of surprise as long as he could. He instructed two of his followers to continue to accompany him on his foot march to the encounter point at the Crying Tears Waterfall. They were armed with the Honshon sticks as well as a teleportation band secured to their upper arms. They were referred to as jump bands and were the standard evacuation for Honshos when a situation turned bad. Honshos were pirates and fight only if necessary. Escape would always be the preferred tactic. Gold secured the two Books of Prophecy into a satchel that he slung over his shoulder. The three of them continued down the freighter’s boarding ramp for their journey.

Gold and his companions had traversed their way to a serpentine, jagged rock formation and on the opposite side rested the Crying Tears Waterfall. They were just out of any personal sensor range that the Black Guard may have had in place. Gold contacted his freighter and after placing a visor over his eyes, asked a Honsho on his ship for the lay of the land. The other two Honshos with him had also utilized the same devices that they had dubbed, all seers. The devices took sensor information gathered from the ship sensors and relayed it into visual data to the visor devices that Gold and his comrade pirates now wore. Through the all seers, Gold and his two pirate followers saw four humanoid form Black Guard soldiers patrolling the perimeter of the waterfall.

The Black Guard soldiers were donned in black armor with blue highlights on their boots, gloves, and helmet visors. They each had black whips fastened to their upper right or left legs, blaster pistols holstered on a hip and black axes sheathed on their opposite hips. The black axes were excellent and reputable melee combat weapons of the Black Guard. They had a fireman’s style axe head and their handles were forged with a carbon fiber type material. They had all suddenly unsheathed the axes. It was an action that singaled that they were well aware of the Honsho tactics.

There was another figure, also a humanoid form as well who observed the soldiers as they patrolled. He was donned in a light black leather armor and wore no helmet. His face was of a gray shell-like texture that ran up to a ridge at his forehead and then to a point that ran up and rested flat at the top of his head. He had long straggly black hair that protruded from both sides of his shell-like head. His facial features displayed a nose formation with widely spaced nostrils. His eyes were big, shiny, and fully black in color. His earlobes were small and his lips were soft. His race was called Luth Bik, a race that for the most part resisted the Black Guard. He was the only known Luth Bik to be not just supporting but leading the Black Guard. He was one of the three special operatives. He was the Luth Bik male, Fright Agent Kyrak.

Gold instructed each of his fellow Honshos at his side to non-aggressive engagement on two of the soldiers. They had removed the all seer visors and after taking deep breaths of preparation, engaged the upper arm strapped jump bands. With button activation of distance and timing, they produced either swirling or blinking yellow and white portals of light. They quickly stepped into them and within seconds of doing so, the portals vanished. The portals of light suddenly reappeared at locations around the waterfall and as they did with entry, they closed within seconds after the Honshos stepped out from them. The two Honsho followers of Gold Gatling had appeared at short distance from two pairs of Black Guard soldiers and held a ready stance with their arms to their sides and attempting to signal no hostility except for their surprise arrival.

The teleportation portal that Gold Gatling was attempting to use as his exit was held in suspension, almost struggling to open. Suddenly it was forced backward from its intended arrival point and behind Fright Agent Kyrak. Gold was tossed out from it and landed on the ground and on his backside. Gold quickly nipped up to his feet but not to a non-aggressive stance. He had drawn his Honshon stick from the sheath on his upper arm opposite his jump band. He observed four glowing flat discs placed on the ground around Fright Agent Kyrak. It was a repellent field set up and activated specifically to prevent such teleportation points to or from the fright agent’s position. Fright Agent Kyrak stated, “I believe you are the infamous Gold Gatling and I believe you have two items for my dark lord.”

Gold walked through the repellent field and stood face to face with the Luth Bik Fright Agent, Kyrak. Gold stated his impressed state on the repellent field and waited for a response. Fright Agent Kyrak then dismissed any pleasantries and shifted his tone to more of a demand, “I want the two Books of Prophecy promised to my dark lord!” Gold eased his stance just slightly and looked around before asking for the 120.000 drekings that were promised to him. Fright Agent Kyrak scoffed and declared that the deal was for 60,000 drekings and that his dark lord was not offering any more than the settled amount. Gold looked around again at the four Black Guard soldiers and returned his stare to the Luth Bik Fright Agent Kyrak. Within that movement was a subtle sign delivered to his fellow pirates. Gold clutched his Honshon stick a little tighter in his right hand and the motion drew Fright Agent Kyrak’s attention. With that small distraction and a sleight of hand motion from his uniform jacket, Gold was able to trigger a small spherical device palmed in his other hand. The other two Honshos had done the same on his cue. The devices were called shaker spheres. They created a forcefield around Gold and his Honsho pirates, as everything around them vibrated heavily. Fright Agent Kyrak and all his Black Guard soldiers were brought to the shaking ground. Gold and his fellow pirates were unaffected by the action due to the forcefield protection around them. It was much like they were not present and only observers. The rocks, trees and even the water around them trembled. The other Honshos had managed to take the black axes from the Black Guard soldiers as they dropped to the shaking surface. The massive quaking was stopped on cue again by Gold, as they flicked off the shaker spheres. Fright Agent Kyrak was already in an attempt to fight his way back to his feet when the ground shaking stopped. He quickly found himself kicked over and flat on his back with a Honshon stick pointed directly at him from Gold’s outstretched hand. Gold now with his other hand, had put away the shaker sphere and dangled over the fallen Fright Agent Kyrak, the satchel that was previously slung over his shoulder. The other Honshos had already fired off their Honshon sticks and stunned the pairs of Black Guard soldiers all around them. Gold looked down face to face with Fright Agent Kyrak and again praised the teleportation repellent field on how great it prevented the teleportation technology of the Honsho Piracy. He then added that they had much more technology that they had kept secret and even the mighty Black Guard could not be fully prepared. Gold had with a swift motion and more sleight of hand replaced his Honshon stick with a vaporizer pistol, again pulled from his uniform. He first pointed it directly at Fright Agent Kyrak and then smiled before aiming it at the satchel he held. Gold’s tone of voice was calm but firm as he stated that the Books of Prophecy meant nothing to him but to Epitaph, he was certain the double in price that he was extorting would be a better deal than having to explain to Epitaph how the books were destroyed and gone forever.

Fright Agent Kyrak slowly reached for his personal comm device to contact his warship, the Bloodbath and requested an additional 60,000 drekings. Gold cautiously backed up his stance as he allowed Fright Agent Kyrak to just as slowly rise to his feet. A quick small siren sound was heard coming from the armor of Fright Agent Kyrak, who pulled out a small block-like device and tossed it to Gold’s catching hand. Gold checked the currency total recorded on the device as entered into Gold’s private access account. Gold again smiled and tossed the satchel to the ground. As he still with an abundance of caution backed away, Fright Agent Kyrak pulled the two Books of Prophecy from it. He then looked back up at Gold and vowed that this was not over. Gold looked at the flat discs that had provided the teleport repellent field and their scattered formation from the ground shaking effect. He laughed and stated that he looked forward to next time. Gold and his two Honshos activated their jump bands and activated their now accessible yellow and white doorways of light. They stepped through and again the portals closed behind them.

The Honsho freighter had been airborne and had flown closer to the Crying Tears Waterfall location. The large and circular pilot chamber lit up brightly with three yellow and white light portals opening. They closed just as quickly after Gold and his two Honshos stepped from them. Gold observed the recovering Black Guard soldiers and oncoming starfighters called schisms on approach. He told his pilots that it was most definitely time to go and to do so with great haste.

The head pilot stated that the Black Guard was aware of their presence here on Groidera and that would make any stealth flight off planet much more difficult. Gold physically threw the pilot from his chair and took over the position himself. Gold stated angrily, “In situations as these, it is best to fore-go the stealth and put everything into your superior speed.”

The long and narrow Honsho freighter streaked upward with a sudden jerk in motion and with increasing speed broke the atmosphere barrier and entered into the planet’s near orbit. Gold had already set calculations for a hyperspace jump. Another Honsho at the tactics station declared that they had been detected and the Bloodbath was adjusting position to move for an intercept. He added that the two Black Guard warships to each of its sides had launched schism starfighters. The co-pilot asked Gold what they would do if the Bloodbath plotted a hyperspace pursuit course. Gold was clearly annoyed at the rookie pilot’s question. Gold replied that the Bloodbath would not leave orbit. He added that the Black Guard did not have teleport technology and it would not dare leave a Fright Agent behind in an unsecured situation.

Gold’s fingers danced across the pilot console with finesse and grace. As the freighter broke from near orbit, six Black Guard schism starfighters were beginning pursuit. It was not over but Gold still had cards to play. Gold initiated the opening of the hyperspace portal. The schisms adjusted their pursuit to block the access. Gold had done it on purpose and revealed another portal and the Honsho freighter moved toward it. To the Honshos’ surprise another Black Guard warship had tagged the portal and was exiting from it. The Honsho freighter’s turn away from the portal was slow due to its lack of maneuverability. The delay allowed the backward slung wing designed schisms to recover their target and opened fire with intense blaster and laser fire. Gold adjusted the turn to a 360-degree arc and headed back for the original faked out hyperspace portal that he was now trying to actually open. The female Honsho at the tactics station asked what he was attempting. Gold replied that their jump points had been compromised. Another Black Guard warship entered in from a hyperspace portal at that second. To make matters worse it was detected that Fright Agent Kyrak’s shuttle had left the planet and just completed a docking on the Bloodbath.

A massive in size Black Guard warship had exited through a hyperspace portal again intended for Gold Gatling’s escape. It seemed that they could predict his portal open attempts. More schism starfighters were launched and the Gold Gatling’s Honsho freighter was surrounded and most certainly outgunned. He was hailed by Fright Agent Kyrak aboard the Bloodbath for his surrender. Another class two warship arrival had also hailed Gold Gatling. Gold called for the hail to be opened and was genuinely surprised to see a Teon, who introduced himself as Fright Agent Maddo of the Ripper. The Teons were a skeletal race from the middle of Derth controlled space. It was just as surprising to see a Teon serving the Black Guard as it was a Luth Bik. Their dark colored armor was large and provided a tight muscular looking fit. It was a deception to the exposed human skull and skeletal hands. The skull headed Teon spoke in an eerie tone as its skeletal jaws rapidly moved up and down. He also ordered Gold to stand down and prepare to be boarded.

Gold felt all the eyes of his pirate crew on him. Had the legendary Gold Gatling finally been caught? The moment was finally broken with Gold’s own laughter. He followed that with the reply to both fright agents to do as they must. His crew seem startled by the challenge. Suddenly the Honsho at the sensors station reported that the Black Guard tractor beam just engaged by the Bloodbath was unable to gain a lock on the freighter. In that response, the schism starfighters again opened with blaster and laser fire on the Honsho freighter that had before taken the damage and now seemed intangible. The blaster and laser fire passed through the freighter as if it was not even there and hit the schism starfighters also attacking from the other side. As the the schisms annihilated each other, Fright Agent Kyrak joined the communication band and reported that scans revealed a departed hyperspace trail.

Gold was again laughing and even harder this time as his crew had just realized what he had done. Gold ordered both fright agent transmissions terminated from his viewscreen. He staggered from the pilot station still in a state of laughter and even more amazement of himself. Gold said out loud, “Black Guard? More like Overrated Guard!” He continued as he left the circular pilot chamber completely, “Gold Gatling will never be caught unless he wants to be and even then, you will not really have him!” The door sealed behind him.

The Honsho pilot that had now taken the pilot seat was amazed as well that Gold had just pulled off such a clever trick. The other Honshos seemed to be totally confused. The Honsho at the sensor station explained that Gold had tricked them all, even his own crew. Just as the compromised hyperspace portal had become open, Gold had entered a separate portal along the bottom edge of the first, acting like a slide and projected a mirror image bubble. The turn away from the hyperspace portal was the false image created by holographic probes that Gold had launched at his departure, while he took the real freighter straight through the portal. The split-second timing to execute such a tactic was a great feat of its own. The bubble had imploded in on itself by design, so that even the crew would believe they had been trapped and further sell the charade. In actuality the Honsho freighter had slipped right under the Black Guard warship and out the very same hyperspace portal redirected to Gold’s own exit coordinates. The holographic cameras around the pilot chamber provided the image for the Honsho crew and the sensors had been programmed to simulate an assault on the ship.