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Natalie did her best to clean herself up in the bathroom sink.  It had been a very long 17 Falcon hours since 2 Alfa’s disappearance and she was mentally and emotionally drained.  The cool water ran through her fingers as she stared at herself in the mirror.  She studied her eyes and thought she saw what appeared to be the beginning of crow’s feet.  She convinced herself that it was the late night and stress that had caused them, not her age.

The events leading up to this point in Natalie’s life had molded her into rational and deliberate individual.  She was born on Earth’s original and most vulnerable outpost, Milky Way 1.  Her family fled the Wastie Depression on a stowage ship at the height of Galaxy War 7.  Little is known about her mother and father as they were taken prisoner during a Yibbian outlaw raid, her mother giving her up as an infant to the crew of HOPE 9 (Human and Organic Perseveration and Evacuation) as the station was under attack.  Natalie’s rescue landed her on the new human capital planet of Eagle where she fell into the system.

Eagle was a safe haven and Volo was its capital.  The new capital city within the Youk District flourished as the awakened human mind came into contact with technologies and species not previously found on Earth.  Adaptation happened quickly and effortlessly as humans combined old-world culture with new world possibilities.  There were sacrifices, however.  The military state that tried to control Earth after first contact carried over to the Finale Fighters in Galaxy War 7, which carried over to an overall belief that humans needed protection, which carried over to relocation and development act, which eventually has given us Astro Base Command.  ABC being mankind’s sole ambassador to the rest of the Universe, military power, governing body, supply and material distributor, manufacturer, media outlet and broadcaster, health and wellness, educator, career assignment, etc., etc.  Essentially, Astro Base Command is in charge of preserving the human race and ensuring its success. 

Natalie’s childhood was typical, even after losing her parents.  ABC made a conscious effort to provide a high quality of life for all of its citizens and she was placed into a caring and well-respected family.  Being assigned an orphaned child by Astro Base Command was looked upon as a symbol of prestige.  In order to qualify you needed an excellent life history (above average school marks, charitable and community contributions, and a notable work history with progression).   Natalie loved her adoptive parents and they loved her right back.  As she grew older, she learned of her real parents- the horrific night on Milky Way 1, and the ultimate sacrifice her mother made to save her life.  Natalie and her adoptive family made every effort to find them but had little luck.  The devastation after Galaxy War 7 was so grave that most places were left unrecognizable and records were nonexistent.

As a young girl, Natalie learned about disappointment and the realities of life sooner than other children but she embraced these lessons.  They made her strong and fueled her drive for justice.  While her parents’ fate seemed certain, she held on to the hope that one day she’d find a lead, that one day someone would have heard her story and say they knew a couple who lost their little girl on Milky Way 1.  Anything that would bring her closer to them.

Deep within Astro Base Command held the facility’s most restricted area.  Long rumored to be the base’s core nervous system, with access only to top ranking officials and scientists, the wing held unparalleled technology and research labs.  At the center of the wing was what appeared to be a large circular conference room.  A large table lined with transparent chairs filled the center of the room where Schuyler, Jimmy, and Brian found themselves reunited for the first time.

“Ahhh, hey guys!” Schuyler said with a huge grin.  “Good to know I’m not the only one here!”

“Holy shit, Schuyler- what the fuck did you do???” Brian immediately snapped.

“Whoa, what makes you think I did something?” Schuyler said defensively.

“Really?” Jimmy said very condescendingly.  “Why else would we be here???”

“Fuck you too, James,” Schuyler replied, very matter of fact.  “I’ll have you know that this is my first bar fight that has gained the attention of ABC…”

“See, so it was you…” Brian said with total disgust.  “I was having dinner with Zach from Astro Base GO! and I got hauled out of Chili’s by a bunch of FLAC’s (Falcon Legion of Alliance and Control), do you have any idea how embarrassing that is?”

“Yeah man, they took my fuckin’ hover bucket…” Jimmy chimed in.

“It hasn’t been fun for me either, Franklin and I don’t seem to be the friends we used to be…” Schuyler said with a plead of sympathy.

“Fuck Franklin, Schuyler!  Why are we here?!” Brian yelled with zero patience.

As the trio began to argue, a large section of wall parted and several highly decorated ABC officials walked into the room.  “Shut up, you half wits!” One of the men boomed.  “No more.  Keep your mouths shut, now-“

“Who the hell are you?  What the fuck is going on???” Jimmy glared while staring the man up and down.

“Jimmy, I will reach my hand up your ass and use you like a puppet if I want you to speak,” the man’s voice was stern and his presence transcended any doubts of his seriousness.  “This room is being monitored in ways that you would never be able to comprehend- full biometrics from your vital signs, to your limited brain activity, to that giant gut snake crawling around from eating off the SCUNK truck.  Full Sunopschye readings of your thoughts and emotions and even a Soulistic Seisma that measures your ancestorial genealogical history.  We now know more about you than God himself.”

“Yeah, but-“ Jimmy started to say.

“Puppet, you once jerked off to the thought of xenocopulation-with a Duntuese no less,” the man interrupted.

“Xeno, what?” Schuyler said.

“Sex with aliens, you dick turd,” Brian educated Schuyler.

“Oh, well yeah!  That’s no secret!” Jimmy grinned.

“Oh, for Christ sake… Boys, let me be clear.  You are here under direct order of the Commodore.  Regardless if I think you’re inferior pieces of Wastie shit and we’re expending way too much time and resources on certain enviable failure, you will cooperate.”

“What my colleague is trying to say,” a second man in an equally impressive ABC uniform interrupted, “is that we need your help… Desperately.”

TO BE CONTINUED…
 

 

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