02/19/2550- 17:30, Universal time, Planet Duros
Screaming guitar
My head throbbed in time to the pounding music as I swirled the greenish brown liquid in my glass. Calling this place a dive would be elevating it way too high, and why the man I had been in contact with for the last few days had suggested it as a meeting place to set up a buisness deal, I had no idea. Already about 50 guys had come up to me wanting a dance, and it didn't seem to matter whether they were human or alien, they all wanted to meet the strange human women. I had just gotten rid of the latest visiter when a human male, clothed in mostly all black, walked up and sat down at my table.
"Would you like another drink?"
I gave him my steeliest glare over the rim of my mirrored sunglasses.
"As I have told the last 49 males of every species that have come over to me in the last hour and a half, I am here on a buisness deal, to to meet up with the scum of the galaxy."
He gave me a innocent, hurt, look.
"I'm really, really, sorry to keep you waiting for that long, but I didn't expect to be given the rare honor of 'scum of the universe' in our first meeting."
*Oh man* I thought, this was him.
"Ooops. I, uh, didn't expect the 'respectable buisness man' I was meeting with to look...quite like you."
"Hmm, expected me to be dressed in a suit huh? Sorry to disapoint you, but I am a bounty hunter ya know." He extended a hand. "Zander Fell."
I shook it, giving him it a firmer grip than was probably necessary. "Sam Harper."
"What are you drinking?"
"caffine graveyard, Mountain Dew, Pepsi, the works. And suit or no suit, you're just not what I expected."
"If it helps, you're not what I expected either."
"Not all code slicers have white skin and dark rings under their eyes caused by lack of sleep." I said with a small smile.
I got a sheepish smile for my comment. "Right."
"So, why were you late?"
He frowned suddenly. "I got jumped when I landed. They knew I was coming."
"Woah, woah, back up. Do you know who and why?"
"They were a couple of guys working a alien by the name of Akrin Kra'lya, a fairly big time smuggler shipping weapons to finance the war on Uranus. He's been implicated in the murders of several humans, and other things like that. I think I got jumped because I found some info that I learned could put him away with a life term on Earth. Naturally, he wants it back.
Thoughts spun throughout my head, and I tried to make my face remain as impassive as possible.
"So where do I come in?"
"For one thing, I'm currently by myself, and I need some help. Second, and most importantly, the informaion is encryted."
I flashed him a grin. "Sure you not just trying to pick up a girl?"
"I know."
A flicker of hopefulness passed over his face.
"So, you'll do it?"
"Yeah, what the heck.
"Great, let's ditch this place and go to my ship."

02/20/2550- 0:16, Universal time, deep space, onboard The Liquid Dreamer

I jumped and looked back towards the door of my quarters.
"Come in."
The door slid open to reveal Zander, leaning against the doorframe with a cocky smile on his face.
"We're certinly fitting the stereotype tonight-or should I say morning- aren't we?"
I rolled my neck to the side and heard it crack. Spinning my chair back to the door I looked up at him as he walked over and flopped down on my bunk.
"It's an...intriguing encryption sequence."
"Hmmm, right. Better get some sleep, you'll be able to work better rested."
*The nerve* I thought, as I started to open my mouth to retort, but then closed it. He was right, even if I didn't like it.
"Alright, I'm going, I'm going."
He smiled and stood up. "Good, I'll see you bright and early then. Sweet dreams."
"Yes Dad. Night."
I flopped down on my bunk, and was out like a light.

02/20/2550- 3:23, Universal time, deep space, onboard The Liquid Dreamer
I glanced over at the clock. 3:23am, only 3 hours of sleep.
*Might as well get some caff and go back to work* I figured, as I rolled out of bed and laced up my boots.
10 minutes later, I was sitting back at my console, with a large cup of caff, and the newest alternative rock music. I had it turned up so loud that I didn't hear the door buzz or open. I got the creepy feeling that someone was watching me. Crouching a bit lower, I waited until I could feel someone's warm breath on the back of my neck. At that moment, I spun the chair, Standing up before the spin was completed, and pushing the figure against the wall. Taking a deep breath, I looked up at his face, and almost immediatly let go. Zander sucked in a couple of deep breaths before turning to me.
"Remind me never to make you mad."
I was really working on calming myself.
"You won't." I gave him a small smile to show I was recovering my nerves. "Not more than once anyway."
"Right. What are you doing up?"
I avoided his eyes, for fear that he would know I was lying.
"I could ask you the same question."
"You're avoiding mine. Something about this job runs deeper than 'it's an intriging encryption'. There's something personal in this, isn't there?"
I motioned for the computer chair, and he sat, looking at me all the while. I crossed the two steps over to the bunk and sat on it, pulling myself over to the wall and drawing my knees to my chest.
"My parents are on that list."
He blew out a sympathetic breath.
"Sam, I'm sorry, I.."
I cut him off.
"Yeah, I know. Alright, I really don't like talking to people like this, so basicly, this is why this job is a little more personal, and the more I try to make it not that, the more it is. I can't sleep because it's driving me. And frankly, after 3 years of searching, I'm ready to be done, and have my life back to normal, whatever that is."
He came over and sat next to me, and I was instantly aware of his nearness.
"Now you're affecting me, dangit."
Despite the seriousness of the situation, we both laughed. He laid a hand on my arm.
"You need to sleep Sam."
"I know, I just.. Whenever I try and sleep I inevitably wake up in a cold sweat and don't want to sleep for another week. But I am really tierd."
"Yeah, thought so. You sleep, I'll stay and work on some stuff from here."
Instantly I felt guilty.
"Aw, you don't have to do that."
I got a half smile for my comment.
"I know."
He stood up and walked over to the console as I stretched out and let the darkness of sleep welcome me back.

02/21/2550- 11:35, Universal Time, Near Pluto Orbit, onboard The Liquid Dreamer
Beep, Beep
I shook my head to get my eyes away from the screen, and pulled my personal comm unit out out of my pocket and pushed the answer button. The person on the screen looked familier, almost like..
My brother grinned at me pushing a shock of his almost blond hair out of his eyes.
"You're really hard to get ahold of Sam."
"Yeah, well, I'm working. Shoot me."
"Funny, ha ha. Have you found anything interesting?"
"Actually, I found Akkin Kra'lya's hit list. I'm decoding it, but it should be all the proof Earth needs."
"Good. There's someting you're not telling me though."
"I know, it's a long story, I'm working with someone who made teh information possible."
"Yeah, so?"
I winced. "He's a bounty hunter.
"Is he nice?"
"Yeah, he's been very good. I'm not afraid of him."
"Okay. Take care of yourself sis."
"I will."
I shut the comm off and decided to head up to the mess, talks with my brother always made me need coffee.

02/22/2550- 13:06, Universal Time, Jupitar orbit, onboard The Liquid Dreamer

"I got it!"
Almost instantly the door to the main deck opened and Zander raced in.
"You got it?"
"I got it."
"Is it what we thought?"
I looked over at him, leaving him is suspense as I scanned my eyes over the decrypted text, then looked back at his hopeful face, close to mine.
"Roger that Bravo Company."
The ship shuddered, and I could hear metel creaking somewhere.
"What'd you do Zan?"
"That wasn't me." He responded, racing for the nearest console.
"We're under attack!" He yelled back over his shoulder.
I rolled my eyes. "No duh" I said, fairly calm as I jumped into weapons control.
The fighter flew back around for another shot.
*Bad mistake guys.* I thought, as I squeezed down, and took rear engines out.
"Good work Sam, cease fire. They have their radio, they'll be fine."
"Gotcha." I said, and climbed out. "Where to now?"

02/23/2550- 15:56, Universal Time, Earth surface, IDC Command

I stood on the balcony of IDC (Interplanentary Defense Corp) looking out over northern L.A. The door opened behind me, and I knew instinctlvly that it was Zander. Slipping up behind me, he watched me for a second before he spoke.
"So. Kra'lya is going to have some time to think."
"And you and I are still alive."
"Guess so."
"I guess what I'm trying to ask you is if you'd want to come with me, work on more stuff like this?"
"I don't know, can I have some time to think?"
He smiled sypethetically. "Of course."
Squeezing my hand, he turned and walked back through the door, and I turned my attention back to the surrounding area. The thing I had worked so hard for the last 3 years to discover was solved, I could go on with my life. Except, now what to do with it? And yet, as soon as I asked the question, I knew the answer. My future was in my hands, and the only path I saw then was to go with the only friend I had.
Sweeping my eyes one last time over my surrounding, I opened the door-and ran smack into Zander, who smiled guiltily.
"Not anxious to know the answer, were we?"
"Not at all." he responded, but his eyes held the question. I motioned to the door.
"Let's go."
A releived smile was on his face, and he put a hand on my shoulder, guiding me back to the ship.
As we walked back to the ship, I glanced up at him.
"Her goes all normalency my life had."
He gazed up at the stars, then looked back down at me with a lopsided smile.
"What's normal?"