The Godless Matron
Shroud Nebula - Antei system fringes
The streets of Chute Town were bustling with activity, as was the norm, yet there was something off. What that something was could not be said. It was a feeling that stood out even to those who merely frequented the superficial storefronts and didn’t delve into the politics of the town. The people carried themselves differently. They were on edge.
Something was off in Chute Town.
The echoing clack of boots on metal could be heard over the din of the streets. The crowd surged and shifted, giving way for the woman that held command over the Godless Matron. The Herald of the Brotherhood’s face was locked into a scowl as she advanced. She was flanked by her first mate, C’ree, who’s stalking form — for there lacked any better term to describe the manner in which the tribal carried herself — belied her constantly simmering aggression. Their presence alone would have been enough to clear their path, but they weren’t alone. A contingency of the Matron’s crew formed a wedge and placed themselves between the captain and the vagabonds that frequented the vessel.
“Were there any others?” Morgan asked without looking at her first mate.
“Yes. Pilot, locked down in hangar,” C’ree responded.
The group turned the corner and continued on before finally coming to a stop outside one of the main shanties that had been converted into rooms for rent. It was there that Morgan’s crew had brought their captive before alerting her. “Stay here,” the Herald ordered.
C’ree gave her a quizzical expression only Morgan could read.
“Stay here,” Morgan repeated with a stern glare that could shatter the most stalwart of men. “I can handle it myself.”
The first mate’s eyes narrowed for but a moment, the edge of her lip twitching as she fought off a snarl. “Fine.”
Morgan didn’t say anything else, but she knew the crew was becoming uneasy. The Godless Matron was still new and the expanded domain was taking some time to become accustomed to. With so much scum in one place, things were bound to become tense. It was something the Herald needed to address before it became a problem. She held her ground against C’ree just long enough to make her point before turning away once more.
Despite its outward appearance, the shanty was surprisingly well constructed on the inside. If not for the unstable illumination panels that insisted on flickering, it could pass for a proper guest room. It was that inconsistent lighting that forced Morgan to wince while her eyes took longer than normal to adjust. The captive sat calmly in the center of the room, cracking the knuckles of his right hand as he fought back a yawn. The majority of his features were hidden by the wide-brim hat sitting firmly upon his head and the long, dark brown trench coat that hung over his shoulders. No matter how he changed his wardrobe, the one thing the man couldn’t disguise were his grey-gold eyes.
“The hell are you doing on my ship?” Morgan asked bluntly.
“Hello to you too,” Atra replied with a raised eyebrow. “Does everyone get such a warm greeting or just your favorites?”
“Folk out there aren’t the Voice’s pet Combat Master.”
Morgan could feel the Umbaran bristling beneath the surface in response to her words. It was a fleeting sensation before he managed to lock it down, but it hadn’t escaped her notice. “You’re on my ship, Ventus. It’d be best not to make me repeat myself,” she continued.
A pregnant pause held between them. Neither looked away, nor did they break eye contact. The Combat Master seemed to be weighing the odds of the situation. Morgan didn’t care either way and, frankly, wouldn’t lose any sleep over having her crew end him. Beyond that, she was the Herald. The advantage of the situation was firmly hers. The silence was broken by a heavy sigh escaping Atra’s lips. “Is it a family trait or do I just have bad luck with Sorenns?” he asked rhetorically. “Alethia Archenksova,” the Combat Master declared after a moment while rising to his full height. Well, as close as he could considering the low ceiling in the shanty.
Morgan watched while carefully controlling her features. She knew Alethia, in passing at least. They didn’t like each other much, but the Herald wasn’t going to give anything away easily to the Umbaran. She merely waited for him to take the hint and continue.
“One of your brother’s operators, high ranking at that, within his so-called ‘Sentinel Network’,” Atra elaborated. “The trail has led to your little operation here.”
“I don’t see how that’s my problem,” the Herald pointed out.
“Oh, it’s not. Not really.” Atra shrugged and adjusted the brim of his hat. “I mean, unless you want to add a few more wrinkles to that lovely face of yours?”
Despite the Umbaran’s smirk, Morgan refused to rise to his remarks. She was the one in the position of control after all. “Get to the point, Ventus,” the Herald stated flatly, “if you even have one.”
“Fair enough,” Atra consented. “The way I see it, you spot one vermin and you’re sure to find more. They’d be under false names, of course, but… By your leave—” The mocking tone in his voice practically dripped off his words. “—I’d like to shake up the nest.”
Morgan shifted her weight to one side, jutting out her hip slightly as she folded her arms across her chest. Her mind worked over the Combat Master’s words as she played the angles. She couldn’t just space him, there would be too many questions left in his wake. Especially if there were questions as to the Resistance using the Godless Matron as a staging ground. The Herald wasn’t about to roll belly up for the Brotherhood either. The Matron was hers.
Perhaps there was a way for her to benefit as well.
“All right,” Morgan finally announced, “but it gets done my way.”
Atra inclined his head, a subtle motion of acknowledgement. The Herald knew exactly what she was going to do, and it would allow her to put her crew back in line. It wouldn’t due to keep them wanting. A little entertainment would get the blood flowing once more, and help them all to remember that aboard the Godless Matron the Herald called the shots. “You’re not going to be leaving 'till you’re satisfied, I take it?”
“That’d be a safe assumption, Sorenn,” Atra said, the lilt of his voice thicker than normal.
“That’s ‘Captain Sorenn’ to you.”
Atra’s smirk turned into a full grin though he didn’t test his luck further with another remark. He had gotten what he wanted after all.
“Looks like you’re going to learn exactly how we treat our ‘guests’ on the Matron,” Morgan declared.