Female voice interface: "Agent William Nantucket, Codename Commodore. License to kill. Primary skills: covert operations, unarmed combat, firearm proficiency. Current status: missing."
July 11, 2098
When the voice interface stopped, Director Thane turned around to face the room full of IIA agents.
Percival: "Missing. For over a month. It does not seem to me any of you are interested in finding him."
Agent: "He's a highly skilled operative with money who doesn't want to be found. He could be anywhere in the System by now!"
Percival: "So you've given up?"
Agent: "All I'm saying is maybe it's not the best move to devote so many resources to find one agent."
Percival: "Perhaps you're right. Or perhaps you lack the motivation. That is why I've given the task to someone else."
The screen behind Percival changed to show the image of a rough looking man piloting a starship.
Percival: "This is Wraith Ryker."
Wraith: "Mornin', Director."
Agent: "You hired a bounty hunter?"
Percival: "Mr. Ryker, any updates on the search?"
Wraith: "I tracked him down. He's been laying low at a resort on Toliv."
Agent: "My whole team couldn't find him in a month. How'd you do it so quickly?"
Wraith: "Maybe cause I'm actually good at what I do."
Percival: "Enough bickering."
Wraith: "Sorry, chief. I'll have your boy back in no time."
In a cabin at the resort, a half naked woman lay on the bed. She stretched and moaned and looked up as she heard some movement.
Woman: "Where do you think you're going?" she said in a seductive voice.
A man turned around from the main door to look at the woman. It was William who now had a grown out beard and fraying hair which was longer than usual.
William: "Work," he said very straightforward.
Woman: "We should get some breakfast."
William: "Best I can do is a coupon for the bar. Maybe you can grab something for the road. A vodka with orange, perhaps?"
The woman gasped and frowned.
Woman: "I left my husband for you!"
William: "No one told you to that."
Woman: "You're an asshole, Tom!"
Tom???: "I know. I'm also gonna need my shirt back."
The woman quickly unbuttoned the shirt she was wearing and angrily threw it into Tom's face.
Some time later Tom went to his little bar on the beach which he had named Margaritaville, perhaps because of his fondness of Jimmy Buffet. It seemed there were no licensing problems for him on this planet.
As he was scrubbing down the counter, he saw a mopey looking Nautil approaching him.
Tom: "What can I get ya?" asked Tom when the man plopped down on a stool.
Nautil: "I'll have a sand blazer."
Tom: "Sorry, I only make Earth drinks."
Nautil: "Oh... Well what would you recommend?"
Tom: "Depends on the kind of day you're having. For a not so good day, bourbon. Good day, a vodka with orange, perhaps?"
Nautil: "I'm here on my honeymoon."
Tom: "Ahh," he said in a delighted tone.
Nautil: "MY wife and I just got into a huge argument."
Tom: "Oh. Bourbon it is."
Tom poured the man a glass.
Tom: "I'm Tom by the way."
Slabin-Shaah: "My name is Slabin-Shaah."
Tom: "Let me give you some advice, Slabin-Shaah. You need to fix things with your wife. Cherish every moment you have with her. Because if you don't, you'll start waking up in the morning, look to your side and realize she's gone and you're all alone. And that you messed up the only good thing you had in your life."
Slabin-Shaah: "It... Sounds like you speak from experience."
Tom: "Just two cents from your bartender."
Slabin-Shaah: "I think you are right," he said standing up. "I need to fix this. Thank you for the drink."
On the pathway by the bar, Wraith walked past Slabin-Shaah.
He went up to the unsuspecting Tom's bar.
Tom: "Hey man, what are you having?"
Wraith: "William Nantucket. You're a hard man to find."
Tom: "Uh, I think you're confused, friend. I'm Tom... Tom Cruise. But some people call me Maverick."
Wraith: "That's good stuff, Nantucket. Now why don't you get your ass in my ship? You had your fun running away from home. It's time to get back to work."
William: "Okay first of all, I didn't run away from home. I'm a grown man... And second..."
Before finishing the thought, William leaped over his bar counter and started sprinting away. Wraith quickly grabbed the bottle of bourbon on the counter and threw it at his bounty, nailing him in the head. William fell to the ground unconscious.
When he awoke he found himself strapped to a chair and in restraints. He turned to his left and saw Wraith next to him. He was in his ship.
Wraith: "Mornin', sunshine," said Wraith noticing William had regained consciousness.
William: "Wha- You asshole! You wasted a perfectly good bottle of bourbon! And you kidnapped me!"
Wraith: "Your boss is paying me a pretty penny to get you back to Earth."
William: "You're a bounty hunter? Wait... I know you... Wraith Ryker, right?"
William: "Look whatever he's paying you I'll... Add ten percent," said William calculating his current financial status.
Wraith: "Ten percent?"
William: "Money's kinda tight right now."
Wraith: "I'd rather not make an enemy of the IIA for ten percent."
William: "You gotta land this ship right now. I'm not going back there."
Wraith: "Come on, kid, so your girlfriend died. Move on! We all lose people. We're in the middle of a war."
William: "It's not just about that! Ever since I joined the IIA everything's been going bad for me. I'm done. I'm out."
William remembered all that he had suffered during his time as an IIA agent. Far too many losses.
Wraith: "Alright... But being a bartender is better?"
William: "Well that's not the first thing I did. First I joined some pirates. Got lost at sea, fought a sea monster. Pretty fun until they marooned me. Oh then I taught lacrosse to a village. But they all sucked so I quit."
William: "You got a bathroom on this thing? I really have to go."
Wraith: "Hold it."
William: "I can't dude."
Wraith: "Go in your pants."
William: "You really want that? Because I will. But I don't think you want to sit next to that mess for the next three days."
Wraith: "God damnit," said the bounty hunter as he pressed a button on his console and got up. He then undid William's restraints. "Get up. You are too much work, you know that?"
William: "Hey, Ryker?"
William: "I'm sorry, I didn't really have to go to the bathroom."
Before Wraith could react, William slammed his head onto the ship console and pushed the control stick forward.
As the ship rapidly lost altitude, William let out a sigh.
William: "I really hoped I was done with crash landings."
After some time Wraith woke up startled and realized he was on a life raft in the ocean. He looked up and saw William looking at him smugly.
William: "Mornin', sunshine."
Wraith: "You crashed my ship?! You ass!"
William: "Hey, I told you I wasn't going back to Earth. And a little gratitude wouldn't hurt. I didn't have to save you from the crash, you know."
William: "The crash that you directly caused... Oh man, this was absolutely not worth it. And now because of you, we're lost in the middle of the damn ocean!"
William: "Relax, dude," said William pointing his finger behind Wraith. "We've already reached land."
When Wraith turned around to look at the shoreline in the distance, his face fell.
Wraith: "Oh you idiot..." he muttered. "We have to turn around."
William: "Are you crazy? There's land right there. If we turn around, we'd actually be lost at sea."
Wraith: "Didn't they teach you anything in the academy? This whole planet is not just one giant beach resort! A lot of these islands are incredibly dangerous. Before we crashed, we were flying over Kalibaka."
William: "What's so special about this Kalibaka?"
Wraith: "There are cannibal tribes. The jungles are death traps."
William: "I don't know, Ryker. I think I'd rather take my chances with cannibals than another sea monster."
Wraith sighed and shook his head.
Wraith: "I swear, if you get us killed-"
William: "If I get us killed, I will personally carry you through the gates of Hell and be your servant for all eternity."
When the raft hit the beach the two men didn't immediately make any moves. Instead they stared at the dark and ominous jungle that lie beyond the shore.
Wraith: "Okay, what can we use? We got any weapons?"
William: "We have a flare gun, a couple packs of protein cubes, and I found your flask of whiskey which I'm commandeering."
Wraith: "Wait, where's my gun?"
William: "I don't know, did you have one?"
Wraith: "Great, so our only real weapon is gone."
William: "Why couldn't you have been one of those cool bounty hunters with high tech armor that has missiles and lasers and everything?"
Wraith: "Let's just go," he groaned and stepped out of the raft.
William: "One sec."
Wraith turned around and saw William drinking from the flask.
Wraith: "Is now really the time for a drink?"
William: "It's tactical intoxication."
Wraith: "Can you just stop being a huge gigantic asshole for just one freaking second?! This is serious!"
William: "Uh, Ryker?"
Wraith: "We're lost on a dangerous island in the middle of no where with no weapons worth a damn-"
Wraith: "Also you cost me my ship! I loved that thing! And that's what got us into this mess, your-”
Wraith followed William's gaze and saw several people standing a short distance away.
Wraith: "Oh you've gotta be kidding m-"
Before he could finish, a dart found its way into his neck.
William: "Hey, wait, no, no, n-"
William was also hit with a knockout dart and he collapsed onto the sand next to Wraith.
The two awoke to find themselves tied to wooden poles and being carried through the jungle by what was obviously the cannibal tribe.
William: "Geez, twice in one day? That's really bad for you..."
Wraith: "This is all your fault!" yelled the bounty hunter angrily.
William: "You're the one that hunted me down! I didn't ask for this!"
Wraith: "I really don't need this."
William: "You think I do? I have a dog to feed, man."
Wraith: "Yeah well now, it's us that's food for these guys."
William looked up at their captors and a confused look came over his face.
William: "I thought you said they were cannibals."
Wraith: "They are. That's why we're on these god damn kebab skewers! So they can take us to their camp and have a nice barbecue with us."
William: "But they're not human."
William: "They'd be cannibals if they were human and ate us. But they're not human so-"
Wraith: "They eat people, alright?!"
One of the tribesman said something to them in an alien language.
Wraith: "What did he say?"
William: "He probably told you to shut up because you're being annoying."
Suddenly a thought occurred to William.
William: "Wait, what did you say this island was called?"
William: "Kalibaka... Why does that sound familiar..."
Wraith: "It doesn't matter. Nothing matters, we're dead. Never thought it would end like this... Being... Eaten..."
William: "You never wondered what you taste like?"
Wraith: "Can't say that I did."
The two were then brought into the cannibals' village. They were taken to two much larger wooden stakes which they were once again attached to. As the villagers put down materials to prepare to immolate the two men, William and Wraith realized this might indeed be the end for them.
Until William saw a small gray object just barely sticking out of the ground a couple yards from them.
Wraith: "There's so much I never got to do. So much I wish I could change. I could have saved my marriage, I know I could have."
William completely ignored all of Wraith's sad ramblings. All he could focus on was that object in the sand and the familiar name of the island. And then it hit him.
William: "I know why Kalibaka sounded so familiar."
Wraith: "What are you talking about?"
William: "Right after The Shift, the first outpost the Imperium set up on Toliv was on an island called Kalibaka. General Ethan Talbot was in charge of it. But one day he and his men all vanished. No one ever figured out what happened to them."
Wraith: "They were probably eaten. By the same people that are about to eat us."
Suddenly the villagers began murmuring amongst each other. The group divided itself in half to make way for someone. William and Wraith looked at the man walking towards them. He looked different from the others. William realized it was because he was human, though not a particularly healthy looking human. He also noticed the man was wearing a GI military uniform, even though the color had faded and it was now in shambles.
William: "I don't believe it... General Talbot... You're alive."
Ethan: "Alive? Yes, yes..." said the former General. He didn't seem to be all quite there. His eyes looked dead and he was slightly swaying from side to side, unable to remain still. "Who are you?"
William: "I'm William Nantucket. I was in the army."
William: "You had a base here. What happened? What happened to your men?"
Ethan: "We... We were hungry... But so were they."
William frowned as he began to see the General had lost it. But he still tried.
William: "You have to help us, General Talbot. Tell them to let us go."
Talbot gave William a weird look before turning to one of the other villagers and barking something in their alien language. The villager responded but Wraith and William had no clue what the exchange was about.
Ethan: "Welcome to the island, friends. You came in time for dinner."
Ethan: "We are glad you could join us, yes. You two are very healthy indeed."
Wraith: "Yeah he's totally crazy!"
It was clear Talbot was of no help so William did some quick thinking.
William: "Hey, General, I can't really hear what you're saying. Can you come closer?"
Ethan: "Closer?" he asked walking forwards.
William: "A little closer."
Talbot looked at William to see how close he needed to be while Wraith stared baffled.
William: "Come on, a little bit more."
Finally Talbot was right where William wanted him.
William: "Perfect," he said when Talbot stepped on the object.
A clicking sound then came from the device in the ground. Talbot looked at it and then back at William.
And then he exploded.
Wraith: "What in the holy hell..."
The villagers gasped and stared at William who had a smug expression on his face. Then one by one they began to bow and chant something in their language.
William: "Yes! I did that! ... With my mind!"
Wraith was still looking utterly bewildered, as the villagers began untying them from the stakes.
William: "I am your king! Bow before me!"
Whether or not the villagers understood what he was saying, they kneeled to him. Eventually that stopped and they looked at him for instructions.
William: "Uh... Now I want you guys to stay here. You've all, uh... Done a good job! Now wait while your king and his servant... Go to gather food. We shall return! With some new castaways!"
William and Wraith awkwardly backed away from the villagers who just gave them dead stares.
Once they were a safe enough distance away, they began jogging through the jungle.
Wraith: "I cannot believe we walked out of there alive."
William: "Yeah, well things usually just work out for me."
Wraith: "Where are we going?"
William: "Talbot's bunker. Should be around here somewhere. But, uh, watch your step," he joked referencing the landmines scattered around the island.
Eventually they reached a large silver hatch in the ground.
Wraith: "This it?"
William: "Yep. This is the outpost. There should be a communications array inside. Hopefully it's still working."
Wraith: "And if it's locked?"
William pulled the handle on the hatch and to their luck, it was open.
William: "I guess luck's on our side today. There's an Imperial cruiser up there above the planet, The Anvil. Contact them and they should send someone to help."
Wraith: "Wait, you're not coming?"
William: "I thought I already told you, I don't want to leave. Besides, now I have a cannibal tribe to rule over."
Wraith: "Well what if I decide I still want to collect my bounty?"
William: "Come on, Ryker. I saved your life like twice today. You owe me."
Wraith shook his head.
Wraith: "You really wanna stay here?"
William: "I do. At least for a while."
Wraith: "You're crazy, kid. Don't eat too many people."
William smiled as the bounty hunter jumped down into the old Imperial bunker. He then turned around and looked at the jungle. He wasn't going home. Not now. And maybe not ever.
A man in a suit leaned in Percival's office and knocked on the doorframe.
Percival: "Senator Blackwell, do come in."
Marius: "Hello Percy. It's been a while," said the senator moving towards a chair.
Percival: "Yes it has. How are things in the Senate?"
Marius: "Nothing's changed since you left. So Director of Imperial Intelligence? That must be fun."
Percival: "It has its moments. Tell me, Marius... What do you make of Chris?"
Marius: "Sterling? Well what can I say he's..."
Percival: "An idiot?"
Marius: "That's one word," he said chuckling. "I have found myself questioning his decisions as of late. Any smart one always comes from an advisor, not himself."
Percival: "The man has no instinct for leadership. He's not handling the Aurelian Crisis very well. And he's gone soft on Project Salvation, doesn't want to allocate funds. That station will save us, you know?"
Marius: "What about the Cast army? He made that happen."
Percival: "My idea. I've been whispering in his ear for some time but now I'm tired of it."
Marius: "What are you saying here, Percy?"
Percival: "I've spoken to some others, they agree with me. Marius, I want you to consider a vote of no confidence."
Marius raised his eyebrows and smiled, slightly taken aback.
Marius: "A vote of no confidence against the Commander in Chief... That's bold, my friend."
Percival: "It might be necessary. Please, take some time to consider."
The Senator nodded and stood up. Just as he reached the door, he stopped and turned around.
Marius: "You want it, don't you?" he asked grinning.
Percival did not reply.
Marius: "Alright. I'll think about it," he said before leaving.
Good stuff! Very interesting to see how William's coping with Claire's loss, as well as Percival's ambitions. Also, the ANVIL sure seems to get around a lot hey? :D Great work mate, looking forward to reading more!