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Notorious criminals mar the universe and terrorize galaxies both far and near. A fearless vigilante rises to pursue the monstrous scoundrels that plague the planetary systems, searching only for the answer to a grave question. Will that answer be found beyond the stars, or is it already too late?

There is a star in space that shines bright, just as any other star, and gives light to a celestial galaxy orbiting its very existence. This galaxy is host to a number of misaligned planets, and these galactic orbs circle around and around the star's gravitational pull. Some of the planets are completely inhabitable and totally void of life, while the remaining have been discovered and explored by the original space pioneers, in an age long ago. Shortly after their discovery, although to humans it was the expanse of several lifetimes, these planets were colonized and inhabited with more than their native origins provided. Space stations were built as the initial skeletons of society, though after a time they expanded into miniature civilizations, until finally transforming into vast cities. Embedded deep on one of these distant planets, and within the confines of a galactic spacetropolis, the story recommences.

The planet Arneid, which is known for its considerable plethora of wild vegetation, is home to many forms of life and matter.  Originally the aliens known as dendoids inhabited the planet until it was discovered, charted, and cataloged. These dendoids are a peculiar species, though they are rather friendly when their trust is earned. They welcomed, and even aided in the expansion of a space colony on their home planet with unrelenting hospitality. 

With the combined knowledge of the terrain given by the natives, and the advanced technology of superior alien races, Arneid quickly flourished into a world burdened by the weight of civilization. Aliens from the very stretches of space emigrated from their distant solar systems to settle on the new world, and even humans from planet Earth found the environment agreeable and the atmosphere tolerable, apart from the insufferable humidity.

Among the cities that arose and expanded from the thick forests of the planet's landscape, there is none that can exceed the amazing splendor of Myris. Its grandeur cannot be compared to any other likeness, and of all the places on Arneid there are none more beautiful or equally divine. The trees that were once little more than giant boughs and a legion of branches; these became the foundations of Myris, and the city is carved and built both in and around the vegetation.

Spiraling stairs wrap around the trees; from places near their roots, to their ever leafy tops. Advanced architecture was built among the towering branches well above the ground. The view from such heights is beyond breathtaking, and the sunrises and the sunsets which ink and blot the skyline are far more radiant than any seen on the planet Earth. The city is a spectacular wonder in itself; the craftsmanship rivals that of the great cathedral Sacel'lu, though it was not the dendoids but the masons from planet Petreus who constructed such a flawless fortress of galactic religion.

However, Myris boasts a unique beauty that cannot be imitated by even the greatest architectural genius. Growing as lichen on a house, though not of the same hue, there are flora that creep up the winding stairways, and hang off of the wooden bridges that connect Myris' many buildings and tree boughs. The plants are a hybrid species known as the mistura membra, but they are more commonly referred to as moon moss. During the hours of daylight they remain achromatic and docile, yet the air around them contains a lingering aromatic freshness. At night, when one of Arneid's moons shines bright upon the moon moss, a strange effect brings both surprise and delight!

The plants absorb the moon's beams, and they in turn gleam with a technicolored brilliance that dresses Myris in a veil of majestic radiance. The color of each moon moss varies according to the amount of moonlight absorbed, and at times they will shine or fade from one hue to another. It is known that this type of flora contains a certain mineral that is attracted to the gravitational pull of each moon, and this causes the plants to move and shift about, as if they wobbled and danced excitedly through the night. The moon moss grows thickest toward the tops of Myris, and its beaming glow faintly reaches the ground from which the titanic trees sprout.

It seems humorously impossible how quick one exacts expediency when dealing directly with habitable celestial climate, welcoming and knowledgeable natives, and a lustrous landscape full of beauty and wonder. If ever Arneid was considered a paradise; that name which is given to a pure land unsullied by the disease of capitalism, then truly it was before transforming from a planetary paradise into mere personal property. 

Short were the years of political peace and unified prosperity that reigned in Myris' infancy. Hungry eyes and greedy minds eventually migrated to the city, and before it ever flourished from a space station into a spacetropolis, it became divided by social class and financial savvy. The wealthiest individuals claimed the very tops of the trees where the moon moss grows rampant, and bathes the fortunate in a sea of unending night-lights. The further down one descends in Myris, the less currency they have to offer the world of the wolves that prey on the weak and the oppressed.

The very depths of Myris is home to vagrants and villains alike. These slums can only be illuminated by the power of electricity, because the moon moss is too sparse to light the city in its entirety. Compared to the brilliant lights that shine aglow in the evening well above the ground, the bottom of Myris is little more than a candle's flickering flame in the dark. In these dregs the scum of society accumulate and mix with the misery of the downtrodden, and the outcasts of Myris dwell in wretched poverty. Underneath the spectacle of the city's natural allure remains the very beginnings of Myris, although presently many of the buildings have become dingy and dilapidated. The initial buildings were merely camps for the workers who labored to erect such divine edifices, though now they house common criminals and their plighted victims.

Of all the wretched places that plague the slums and ghettos of Myris, there was none that could compare to a particular establishment known as Grigg's. The building was one of the few in its neighborhood which remained mostly intact, despite the frequent and sometimes violent outbursts from its visitors. Outside its exterior were signs written in different alien languages, including that of the universal tongue of Earthians, and these markings were used to distinctly identify the property and its owner. Grigg had been fortunate enough to afford moon moss to be embedded in most of his signs, and at night his was the only place in the ghetto to glow like the neon lights of the early Vegas Strip found on Earth. Inside the building was a division of a large corridor, and it was split into two different chambers.

On one side of the building there was a place that was considered a low rate counting-house. Aliens could exchange other planetary currency for that of the current gubul; a popular currency used on Arneid, mostly because it is both a natural resource and is nearly impossible to replicate or reproduce. Of course the exchange rate often varied in accordance to Grigg's personal opinion, and he cheated nearly all of his alien customers for lucrative personal profit. The counting-house also contracted simple monetary loans, though they were only for any alien so desperately down on their luck, and nearing the inescapable end of their rope, that they would risk life and limb to be indebted to someone like Grigg.

The other chamber of his establishment was generally the main attraction of the building. It was a makeshift tavern that served and sold alcoholic beverages to its patrons. In the upper class societies, any alien who tends to the service of others is known as a garçon; this is the proper title to award these kinds of servants, and their positions are usually revered and respected. This was not the case for the bar maidens of Grigg's tavern, however. No respect was given to the poor wretches that lived in service to the scoundrels and gangsters that frequently occupied the bar.

Most of these servants were runaways with dark pasts from distant planets, and coincidently all of them were female; this was because Grigg was an alien with a licentious appetite and a relentlessly dominating demeanor. The women were treated equally, which is to say they were more like slaves than servants, and Iren was no exception.

During the miserable days when Iren was employed at Grigg's; the insufferable agony she endured and the constant berating and beatings she received, these were surely leading to her inevitable and untimely death. Falling on hard times had landed her in the service of one the galaxy's worst kind of villainous deviants. In utter desperation she signed a contract for a small loan at the counting-house, when her mother fell terribly ill shortly after emigrating to Arneid.

The very moment the contract was signed a looming regret weighed heavy on Iren's heart, only adding to the great despair that she retained for her dying mother. Grigg begrudgingly listened to Iren's unfortunate circumstances, and though her story was touching and her motive was pure, he only focused on his personal gain, and seized by his terrible greed he issued the Felisian woman the worst kind of contract with the most unreasonable interest rate. Taking what little finances she was given, the tiniest fragment of hope sparked inside Iren, and her thoughts turned to whatever medical treatment she might afford with such a pitiful amount of gubuls.

Grigg was no fool, and his mind was always designing some terrible or opportunistic scheme. His sense of opportunity was exceptionally keen the day Iren entered the counting-house. After he had heard what he considered to be a pathetic sob story of a third rate Felisian, he conceived a wicked thought from the darkness of his heart. Iren trusted too much personal information to such a nefarious stranger, and Grigg learned of her mother's circumstances and of her recent emigration to Myris, then he surmised that the pair lived alone and unsecured.

There were many, not just lowly runaways, that fell into debt with Grigg, and he employed more than simple bar maidens. When Iren exited the counting-house, he had devised a way to monopolize on the poor woman's situation, and he had ordered two thugs to follow her and retrieve the gubuls he had loaned out to her. That is a night Iren will never forget, no matter how many tears are shed over the dastardly events that followed.

Leaving her sickly mother to rest, Iren departed to Grigg's and sold whatever merit her name was worth, so that she could aid in prolonging the life of a loved one. With her hope kindled once again, she began traversing  toward her home through the dim streets of Myris' ghettos. She remained unaware of her growing danger and that lurking close behind her every step was a pair of menacing silhouettes. Iren blissfully hurried along to return to her mother's side, and inside the shadows thugs stalked her until they were lead to her impoverished residence.

She entered the meager hut, but before she could close the door behind her in time, one of Grigg's vermin forced his way through the entry, and the second followed after him. Iren was struck to the ground, and when she fell the small sack of gubuls spilt out and scattered onto the floor. She still regrets what happened next, but even if Iren had not screamed out that night, there is no certainty her mother would have remained in a peaceful slumber, and unaware of the presence of her daughter's assailants.

The horrible and nightmarish acts committed upon such an undeserving family is beyond unjust. Words cannot begin to describe the emotions which are conceived in hours of vileness and wretched hell. Iren had such a peaceful and happy childhood on her home world, long before many of her kin were forced to flee from the planet, which was completely obliterated by an asteroid. The only true misery to graze her heart was the wavering health of her mother, who was slowly dying from a disease afflicting her spine. 

That night despair had brooded over Iren like an ominous rain cloud, and it poured out its treachery and anguish upon her until she was nearly drowned by its torment. Her body received its first taste of physical torture, and by her ruinous misfortune she was cruelly beaten and raped. Her initial scream had awoken her mother, and by some sick tether of shared doom, the same ill-begotten fate that fell upon Iren became her mother's burden as well. The illness which plagued her mother's body whittled her strength away year after year, and she was unable to endure the abominable and profane assault. The thugs departed after their heinous crime was committed, but not before collecting the loose currency that was painted with fresh blood and mocking the woebegone Felisian women.

Iren and her mother wept softly in each other's arms that night, while the majesty of Myris gleamed on, as it ever does. In that very hour of bleakness, as the kindled flame of hope abiding within Iren faded, her mother whispered the only gentle words she had strength enough to utter and passed on, bidding her daughter the last farewell they ever shared.

A mother's intuition is a substance that transcends space and pierces the collective universal soul; thus Iren would have given up her own life, and followed her beloved guardian and friend into the chilling void of death, but she swore an unbreakable promise in such a dreary and dismal moment. Her mother requested with her last dying breath that Iren would strive to live on, and never forget the love they held for one another; that fierce passion which bonds through the blood of kin, and burns on like a flame even after death. All of Iren's internal strength and resolve faded as the star which Arneid revolves around dawned the light of a new day, and the shining revival of her reality sickened her heart with hopelessness and utter despair.

She had no income or finances, no relations or contacts, and no future among the stars of the universe; fate had abandoned her and misery had revealed its ugliest visage, but Iren held true to the oath forged in the shadows of sorrow. She found herself at the detestable establishment known as Grigg's once again, and submitted to the service of the tavern as a bar maiden in order to repay the contract loan she had taken out in her own name. The secret about Grigg's involvement with her mother's death remained like silence upon virgin snowfall. 

Her work was grueling and the patrons were rowdy. Every day Iren became more and more abject and filled with sorrow. She was considered beautiful for a Felisian, and she was beyond lovely compared to the despicable scum that surrounded her in those days, like choking weeds growing around a solitary flower struggling for survival. Her youth was as lucid as a golden dream; her mixture of humanoid and feline features added to her daintiness; her eyes were as soft as plumes, and shined like auburn flames. Iren's lovely appearance caused a constant attraction from the depraved and the lewd. Countless times she was the recipient of unwanted groping from the strange appendages of muddled and inebriated aliens.

On one such occasion, during a night which has been forever scribed into the banks of her memory, Iren received more attention than desired from a rather notorious alien; the result of which liberated her from Grigg's wretched grasp, though not without the violent shedding of blood. She can still remember the humidity which hung in the air like an unavoidable heaviness, and she can recall the dark cloud of uncertainty that filled the atmosphere during the moments that had passed.

A group of gangsters was travelling through Myris when they had decided to stop by Grigg's tavern to wet their thirsting vices. Among the rotten squad of repulsive scum, there was an especially loathsome alien whose infamous alias translated to Big Lizard. The size of this creature verified his name's measurement, and smooth scales that slicked back to rising slender spikes covered his epidermis, as did six ugly scars.

The reason he found himself on Arneid was due to the fact that he was a violent and wanted criminal. He and his band of equally wretched cohorts decided Myris' ghettos were the perfect place to lay low until their current circumstances changed for the better, and it was agreed upon to spend their miserable time under the city's gloriously glowing lights drunk, all the while terrorizing whatever simpletons they could. The cloud of gloom that hovered over Iren's life presented itself once again when she was called upon to serve the foreign miscreants.

Of course anyone in her position would dread being forced to comply to the demands of drunken cretins, and under normal circumstances Iren would bare her misfortune of interacting with lowlifes in strides that surpass mortal strength, however this night proved different from all others. She recognized the faces of two of the thugs who counted themselves among the sparse number of lackeys Big Lizard had attained while living a life of crime.

To her horror, Iren's heart sank lower than low as she identified the monsters responsible for her sweet mother's ruinous death, and the endless nightmare of her day-to-day life. Can anyone sympathize for Iren, or bare the heavy burden of her emotions that night? Every time she was beckoned, every step she took, every moment she stood so near those hellions she could have reached out and touched one; the terror overwhelmed her, and she knew not whether they remembered her or the route to her residence, and she could not guess their dark and concealed thoughts, and yet with each passing minute she was ever reminded of that horrible night. 

If it were not for her unwavering Felisian spirit, Iren would have lost control of herself and wept right there, and laid bare her unyielding sorrow. Despair was not the only feeling to overtake her in those grueling moments. Deep down, a hatred that had remained hidden and seeded in Iren's heart began to swell and boil within her. More than once she pondered how she may exact some kind of revenge on her mother's behalf, no matter how pitiful the attempt may be, but to her dismay any opportunity for vengeance fled far from her.

 

 

 

If you wish to know how Iren's contracted agreement ended, and whose blood was shed that very evening, then you'll have to read on through the next installment.

 

 

The End

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