02/19/2550- 17:30, Universal time, Planet Duros
Screaming guitar
I reached over and flipped off the rock music as a new voice came over the radio
"Flight control to The Liquid Deamer. Please follow the landing crew and land on pad 3."
I flipped the comms switch up
"Affirmative flight control."

As the ship settled to the ground with a thud, I had already slipped on a clean shirt and grabbed my jacket. Walking to the back of the ship, I pulled the hatch release, and rode the ramp down. The second I stepped off the ramp, something solid connected with my back, throwing me forward. I spun my foot around and back, connecting with something, that after another rapid spin and hit, slumped to the ground.
"Ameutar." I said, brushing off the dirt his foot had left on my jacket. I searched his pockets for id, and, finding none, dragged him to the nearest med station, and hurried onto the agreed meeting spot.

I slipped inside the door to the club, looking around for the woman I supposed to meet. Spotting movement in a nearby corner, I looked just in time to see a Klerg male leave a table, pursued by a steely eyed glare from a young woman. Grinning slightly, I walked over to her table.
"Would you like another drink?"
She gave me a hard glare over the rim of her 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 meet up with the scum of the galaxy."
*Ouch, that hurt*
"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 galaxy' in our first meeting."
I watched a flicker of suprise go across her face.
"Ooops. I, uh, didn't expect the 'respectable buisness man' I was meeting with to look...quite like you."
*Huh? What was that supposed to mean?*
"Hmm, expected me to be dressed in a suit huh? Sorry to disapoint you, but I am a bounty hunter ya know."
I held out a hand
"Zander Fell."
She shook my hand, and I was mildly suprised at how strong her grip was.
"Sam Harper."
I nodded towards her drink.
"What are you drinking?"
"Caffeine graveyard. Mountain Dew, Pepsi, the works. And suit or no suit, you're just not what I expected."
*Wonder why?*
"If it helps, you're not what I expected either."
She let a small smile slip at that.
"Not all code slicers have white skin and dark rings under their eyes caused by lack of sleep."
*Duh* I gave a sheepish smile in apology. "Right."
She directed that sharp stare straight through me again. "So, why were you late?"
I frowned, thinking of the bruise my back was forming on my back at that moment.
"I got jumped when I landed. They knew I was coming."
"Woah, woah, back up. Do you know who and why?"
"It was a guy working for an 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 human, and other things like that. I'm assuming I was jumped because I've found some info that could put him away with a life term on Earth. Naturally, he wants it back."
I could see the wheels turning in her brain, and though she was trying to keep an impassive face, some emotion flickered through. Then she asked the question I knew was coming, as soon as I had said anything.
"So where do I come in?"
*Hook, line and sinker*
"For one thing, I'm currently by myself, and I need some help. Second, and most importantly, the information is excrypted."
*Which, of course, you knew, you were just confirming it*
She flashed me the first grin I had seen from her. "Sure you're not just trying to pick up a girl?"
*Maybe* "Funny."
"I know"
I let a flicker of hopefulness pass over my face. "So you'll do it?"
She shrugged. "Yeah, what the heck."
I nodded, trying not to let a smile emerge. "Great, let's ditch this place and go to my ship."

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

Sighing, I looked down at my watch. After midnight, and Sam hadn't emerged from her quarters in hours. Finally, standing and stretching, I wandered down to see what was going on.
"Come in."
I hit the door release button and leaned against the doorframe with what I knew was a cocky smile on my face.
"We're certinly fitting the stereotype tonight-or should I say morning- aren't we?"
She rolled her neck to the side and I would have sworn I heard it crack. She spun her chair back to face the door, and I walked to the side and flopped down on her bunk, watching her.
"It's an...intriguing encryption sequence."
Ha. Like I believed that. There was definately something she wasn't telling me, but it was too late to press further right now.
"Hmmm, right. Better get some sleep, you'll be able to work better rested."
I could almost see her brain thinking of some way to retort to that comment, but she finally sighed.
"Alright, I'm going, I'm going."
I smiled and stood up. "Good, I'll see you bright and early then. Sweet dreams."
"Yes -Dad-. Night."
I walked out, fighting back another comment. I wasn't -that- much older than her.

02/20/2550- 3:27, Universal time, deep space, onboard The Liquid Dreamer
I glanced over at the clock. 3:23am, only 3 hours of sleep. Then I heard it again, someone was moving around out there. I immediatly slipped off my bunk and grabbed my boots, pulling over the straps and standing up, cautiously moving towards the source, which was Sam's room.

As I grew closer, I heard a new sound blaring out-loud music. I buzzed, but received no answer, so I let myself in.
*Dang, she's back at work again*
I walked so close behind her that I was literally breathing down her neck. At that second, she spun the chair around and pushed me back against the wall, with her arm across my throat. She took a deep breath and and looked up at me, to which I managed a sarcastic smile.
"If you wanted me that bad, you should have asked."
She blushed and immediatly let go, turning away from me as I sucked in a couple of deep breaths.
"Remind you never to make you mad."
She turned back to me and gave a small smile.
"You won't. Not more than once anyway."
*No kidding* "Right. What are you doing up?"
Okay, now she was avoiding my eyes. "I could ask you the same question."
I tried to meet her eyes. "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?"
She motioned for the computer chair, and I sat, watching her constantly. She crossed over to the bunk and sat down, pulling herself over to the wall and pulling her knees to her chest. *Something big is going to hit*
"My parents are on that list."
And that was the kicker, right to the gut. I let out a sympathetic breath. *What do you say to that?*
"Sam, I'm sorry, I.."
She cut me off, right in the middle of my horribly cliched apology.
"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."
I stood, and walked over to the bunk, sitting close next to her.
"And now you're affecting me, dangit."
We both laughed at that. There was really nothing else to be said, so we just laughed.
I laid a hand on her 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 tired.
*I bet*
"Yeah, thought so. You sleep, I'll stay and work on some stuff here."
Instantly a guiltly flicker passed over her face. "Aw, you don't have to do that."
I gave a half smile. "I know."
I stood, and walked back to the console, as she streched out, and I watched sleep pull her back for it's own.

02/21/2550- 11:35, Universal Time, Near Pluto Orbit, onboard The Liquid Dreamer
I was sitting in the small kitchen/eating area when Sam came in, looking fairly happy and drained at the same time. She poured herself a cup of coffee and sat down.
"You really should sleep if you're as tired as you look."
"I'm not, really...just was talking with my brother."
"I didn't know you had a brother."
She shrugged. "Not many people do. He was just calling to check up on me. He's not very fond of bounty hunters."
"Well, most people aren't."
She drained the last of her coffee, while watching me out of one eye. "One of those darn cliches again. Most people aren't very fond of slicers either.
I just had to grin. "Stick with me kid."
I got a gentle slug on the shoulder for that comment as she stood up and brushed the brown hair out of her eyes.
"Don't call me that. I can't be that much younger than you."
*Okay, I'll bite* "And how old would that be?"
"20. You?"
She turned back to the door. "Okay then. I'm going back to work."
*Point for her* "See you in a bit."

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

"I got it!"
Almost instantly I jumped up, and tripping over my own feet, slammed the door release button and entered.
"You got it?"
"I got it."
I leaned over her shoulder, looking down at the list printed on the console.
"Is it what we thought?"
She looked over at me, then back down, leaving me in suspense as she scanned her eyes over the decrypted text, then looked back at my face, close to hers.
"Roger that Bravo Company."
I straightened up and threw my head back.
Ah yes...finally a new story, even if it is just a rewrite of Future in my hands. For anyone reading this, you have Jasmine Foxflame to thank for being able to read this, go check out some of her stuff.

Oh, and yes. The majority of this was written between 1 and 4 in the morning...so yeah. It's been a nice stress reliever though. Characters belong to me, but if you want to expand upon this, I'll gladly let you. Just e-mail or IM me.

On with the story

The ship shuddered, and I could hear metal creaking somewhere.
"What'd you do Zan?"
"That wasn't me." I yelled, racing for the cockpit.
"We're under attack!" I called back over my shoulder, scanning the information being thrown at me through the HUD.
I could just feel her roll her eyes. "No duh" She said, fairly calm as she jumped into weapons control directly to my right.
The fighter flew back around for another shot, passing directly over us, so close I could look straight into his eyes. I passed him a easy going smirk, as I shifted the ship around, trying to get directly behind him, but he wasn't having any of it.
After about 5 minutes of a wonderful game of cat and mouse, I was growing impatient. We had the info, I wanted to get it back to Earth.
"Hey Sam, start taking pot shots off their wings until you can get a solid hit, I'm tired of playing games with this guy."
She didn't say anything, but started taking shots that slipped silently over the other ship's hull, until finally, one hit the wing, totally shredding it.
I spun the ship around, and we took out the other wing, totally destroying flight capability, yet not damaging the pilot's space. Wheeling the ship around, I snapped my restraints off and set the auto pilot back on.
Looking over at her, I threw my best innocent look at her.
"What do they want with little old us?"
She glanced over at me, and then burst out laughing.
*She has a good laugh*
I just grinned.

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

I nodded and shook the directors hand, handing him the decrypted disk. Glancing over my shoulder, I noticed that Sam had wandered over to the balcony.
"Excuse me sir."
He nodded, and I turned around, nodding to the few people staring at me, and slipped up behind her. She appeared deep in thought, and I watched her for a few seconds before speaking.
"So. Kra'lya is going to have some time to think."
She spoke, but didn't turn around, continuing to look out into the sky over northern L.A.
"And you and I are still alive."
"Guess so."
I sighed. She wasn't going to make this easy on me, but then again, I hadn't really expected her to.
"I guess what I'm trying to ask you is if you'd want to come with me, work on more stuff like this."
*And maybe go out wit-. Give her time Zan.*
She finally turned around and looked at me, trying to decide if I was serious.
"I don't know... Can I have some time to think?"
I gave her a smile. "Of course."
Taking her hand and squeezing it, I turned and slipped back through the door, but staying right behind it.
Leaning against the wall, I slipped into a daydream, when-
Someone ran straight into my chest, and stepped back. I looked down with a guilty smile on my face,
"Not anxious to know the answer, were we?"
"Not at all." I responded, but my eyes held the question, waiting.
She motioned for the door. "Lets go."
Letting a relieved smile slip, I allowed myself to put a hand on her shoulder.

We were about halfway to the ship when she glanced up at me.
"There goes all normalency my life had."
I grinned, glanced up at the stars, then back to her.
"Whats normal?"