Chapter 48 – A Sun’s Introduction

Chapter 48 – A Sun’s Introduction

The Next Day

“…and finally, don’t forget that we have a school trip coming next week! I’ll go over some of the details tomorrow, after your practical lessons. But for now, class is dismissed!”

“Finally…” Austin muttered to himself, his chin resting on his hands and his elbows on the desk in front of him as he watched Kaoné grab her presenter hologram and leave the room. He then leaned back and stretched his arms, momentarily wincing when the light of the late afternoon sun pierced his eyes. I know it’s supposed to be winter here, or something, so I get that the days are shorter… but still, do we really need to spend all day learning about Chaotics and Chaos Energy and all that crap…?

“Spacin’ out already, huh?”

Austin glanced to his left, where he found Spike slowly standing from his seat. “…Long day,” Austin muttered in response as he began to do the same. “Especially after such a long weekend.”

“You’re not wrong about that…” Twy said, approaching from the right alongside Sky. “It’s all… a bit much.”

“A little, yeah…” Sky said, “but c’mon… last weekend is over. It’s done!”

“If only more people could share your attitude,” Conrad remarked from his seat halfway across the room. “No use worryin’ about the past, I always say.”

“You also just never worry about anything,” Phoenix pointed out. “I agree that most people worry too much, but I think you worry too little.”

Conrad responded with a simple shrug of his shoulders. “Meh. If you say so.”

“I guess I’m not the only one feelin’ down about the last couple days, then…?” Austin questioned, while looking each of the others in the eye.

“Ha!” Pierce snorted in derision. “The only thing you have to be ‘down’ about is that you didn’t do anything to help.”

“This is not the time for this, asshole,” Phoenix interjected.

“I’m just saying,” Pierce insisted, “if you’re going to feel down about this, then remember that for next time, and then actually get off your ass and do something.”

“You mean like lettin’ the enemy get away?” Austin shot back.

“I didn’t let them—“

“Well this is goin’ no where fast,” Spike cut in, while also moving to physically interpose himself between Austin and Pierce. He then turned toward his friend, asking, “you got a bunch of free time now, right? You brought stuff with you for just somethin’ like this, right?”

“…I guess,” Austin responded slowly, momentarily peeking around Spike to see Pierce turn away in a huff. He then returned his attention to Spike as he continued, “there’s a couple things I wanted to do… and a couple games I wanted to play, too. Hey, that’s right!” Austin’s eyes brightened as he looked up at Spike, and then over at Twy and Sky. “I started workin’ on that old campaign setting I had, recently. I think I should be good to go for a couple gaming sessions, now — are y’all in?”

“Campaign setting? Gaming sessions?” Pierce echoed incredulously, only to chuckle derisively as he shook his head. “Damn, you really are a fuckin’ nerd, dweeb.”

“I’d rather be that than an asshole,” Austin retorted.

“Whatever, dweeb.” Pierce snorted and made for the classroom’s exit. “I have actual things to do — like hitting the town, grabbing a few drinks, and finding a new girl. See you losers later.”

Twy gave him a deadpan stare as he left, her gaze lingering on the empty doorframe for a brief moment before turning around to give Phoenix an incredulous look. “Is he serious?”

“Don’t listen to him,” Phoenix replied with a spiteful smirk. “He’s just as much of a nerd as the rest of us — the fact that he even knew what Austin meant by ‘campaign setting’ should be proof of that. He just doesn’t want to admit it.”

“You’re sayin’ he actively chooses to be an asshole?” Austin questioned.

“Toxic masculinity at it’s finest.” Phoenix sighed and shrugged. “He wasn’t always this bad, but… well, his idea of hitting the town isn’t a bad one, at least. I think I’ll do the same.” She then looked around the room at everyone else present. “Anyone else interested?”

“In going to a bar? No thanks,” Conrad replied. “Too loud.”

“You’re literally the one person here who can do something about that.”

“…Eh. Too crowded.”

“Right,” Phoenix deadpanned, and then shifted her gaze to Kestrel. “I suppose you aren’t interested, either?”

Kestrel shook her head in response.

“Alright… well, you’re all missing out,” Phoenix declared as she turned to leave the room herself. “If you change your mind, just ping me, and I can show you around!”

“…Show us around?” Twy questioned after Phoenix had stepped out of the room. “How familiar with Tresnon is she? We haven’t been here for long…”

“That’s Phoenix, for you,” Conrad remarked, finally standing from his seat and sauntering over to the remaining group, with Kestrel just behind him. “Give her two days, and she’ll have a new place all scoped out. All the best clubs, bars, restaurants, stores, hang-out spots…”

“Yeah, but she and Pierce have been going to bars a lot more frequently over the past week or so,” Sky said. “Is this because of that bet they made? The one about the dates?”

“Ha… maybe.”

“Do they often make bets like that against each other?” Twy asked.

Kestrel nodded once, to which Conrad responded with a smirk and a brief chuckle.

“…Yeah…” he commented, “they’ve always been trying to one-up each other, always trying to prove that they’re better than the other. This is the first time they brought relationships into it, though…”

“Who do you think will win?” Sky began, only for her eyes to widen and her mouth to spread into a grin. “Oh! What if we bet on which one of them would win their bet?!”

“I think everyone here would end up pickin’ the same person…” Spike pointed out.

“Ha!” Conrad let out an amused laugh. “I’ll take that bet. No matter how good Pierce or Phoenix usually are at something, the moment they get into a challenge about it, more often than not, they end up dragging each other down… rarely do they actually benefit from it. And rarely is there an actual winner.”

Kestrel nodded again, as if to affirm Conrad’s statement.

“…Why are we even talkin’ about them this much?” Austin questioned irately after a moment of silence. “We have a whole evening to spend, and we’re burnin’ it on gossip?!”

“Oh, shit, good point,” Spike remarked, hastily grabbing a notebook from the table and beginning toward the classroom exit. “I told Karísah and Mark I’d train with ‘em after class today. See y’all later!”

“Oh! Right! And I wanted to watch!” Sky exclaimed as she bounded after her boyfriend. “Hey, Spike! Give me a piggy-back ride!”

“Just like the last time you asked, the answer is no!”

“Aw, c’mon! You’re super strong now, it should be easy!”

“We’ve been over this, that’s the whole problem…!”

The echoes of Spike and Sky’s banter faded as the two disappeared out of the room and down the adjacent hallway.

“…But…” Austin stared after them dejectedly. “…But what about my game…?”

“Wait, did you mean tonight?” Twy questioned. “Isn’t that a little…”

“I guess it is short notice… I have a couple other games we could play, though. Are you up?”

“Oh… sorry,” Twy responded with a sheepish smile as she averted her gaze. “I was hit by some inspiration for a new painting in class today, and I wanted to sketch up a draft before I forgot…”

Austin frowned. “Oh…”

Just as Austin began to look down himself, Twy’s eyes briefly widened, as if realizing something, at which point she looked Austin in the eye again and quickly added, “b-but I should be free in an hour or two! If you still are, at least…”

“Well… you know me, I’m not exactly the busiest guy on the planet,” Austin responded with an uneasy chuckle.

“So you paint, huh?” Conrad questioned, drawing Twy’s attention to himself. “What kind of painting were you going to make?”

“Ah…” She averted her gaze again and fidgeted uneasily as she replied, “I… don’t usually like to say what I’m painting until I’m done. It’s inspired by what we saw in Relédiaka, at least.”

“We did see a lot of… unique views,” Austin remarked.

“Especially the trees,” Conrad said.

“…Right, yeah, the trees…”

“Anyways, I’m… going to go do that,” Twy declared, backing away from the group for a moment before spinning on her heel and rushing out of the room. Austin eyed her retreating form warily; it seemed that her gaze had lingered on him for a brief moment, but he had no idea if that was the reality or if his mind was playing tricks on him.

“Everyone left in the end, huh…” he eventually muttered to himself.

“Hey, we’re still here,” Conrad stated, nodding toward Kestrel as he did. “You mentioned a game or something earlier, right? We’d be down for that.”

“O-oh…” Austin glanced over at them, his attention slowly switching between Conrad’s laid-back posture and Kestrel’s blank expression. Conrad and Kestrel… I still don’t know too much about them. And from what I do know, they seem to be friends with that asshole, Pierce, for some reason… I don’t know about them. Not to mention getting rejected outright by Spike, and Twy, and Sky… oof. Maybe I should just do some solo training…  “Uh… sorry,” Austin eventually spoke up again, adopting an apologetic smile as he did. “I think… I’m just going to go train a bit, instead.”

Conrad simply shrugged in response. “Alright, dude, if you say so. But if you change your mind, let us know. Kestrel and I are always down for a good game, no matter the game.”

Kestrel nodded again. “Mmhmm.”

“Welp. Let’s get outta here,” Conrad remarked, his hands in his pockets as he sauntered out of the room alongside Kestrel, leaving Austin alone.

“…Way to go, me,” Austin muttered to himself. He glanced around the empty room, his gaze lingering for a second on the windows and the skies beyond them. A moment later, he dropped his attention to his right hand, into which he summoned his blue and gold claymore. Well… might as well get to that training, then. Back in Relédiaka, I figured out the basics of using my Imperator powers to control my sword from afar, but I couldn’t quite get the hang of it. Let’s see if I can fix that.

And with that, Austin stepped out of the room as well, finally leaving it completely empty.

“Wait, so… these? Are these what you’re talkin’ about?”

No no, that’s sugar. I need the flour. It’s in a tan bag, in the back.

“Oh, right. …The tan bag? Which tan bag? There’s a dozen of ‘em!”

Just pick one, they’re all flour.

“Why do you have this much flour?!”

You can go through flour very quickly when making daily meals for ten people. Besides, there’s only a few kilos there. It was on sale, after all.

“Right…” Luke shook his head in disbelief as he retrieved one of the bags of flour and dropped it on the kitchen countertop. Mark stood nearby, his sleeves rolled up as he held a large mixing bowl with half-beaten eggs in one hand and a whisk in the other.

Thanks, Mark acknowledged, continuing to beat the eggs as he nodded toward the refrigerator. Now, can you get the sand mots and put them out? Ah, we’ll need another cutting board…

“The… the what?” Luke questioned in confusion as he opened the refrigerator and peered inside. The device was filled to near brimming with all manner of ingredients, ranging from raw fish meat, to leafy greens, to a handful of containers filled with a white liquid that he assumed to be milk. Aren’t we in the middle of a desert, or something? How the hell did Mark get his hands on all this…?

Ah, sorry. Sand mots look kind of like sandy tomatoes.

“Sandy tomatoes?” Luke echoed incredulously, but Mark’s description was good enough for Luke to quickly identify the correct bag of produce. Sure enough, its contents bore a similar shape and green top to a tomato, though their skin was sand-colored with subtle streaks of green, and slightly rough to the touch. What do these even taste like…? Luke wondered to himself, the corners of his mouth turned down in doubt as he closed the refrigerator and turned to place the sand mots on the counter. “…Are these actually good?” he questioned a moment later, “they look like… well, sand.”

Don’t worry, they don’t taste like it. …Too much, at least, Mark replied. They do have a bit of a sandy texture, but for the most part, they actually have a similar taste and texture to an actual tomato, though a little bit more bitter.

“More bitter, huh,” Luke mused.

Mark shrugged. It’s the closest analogue to a tomato that I could find around here. Most of the produce grown in Treséd seems to have bitter undertones…

“Yeah, well, that’s Treséd for you.”

“Huh? Luke and Mark both turned toward one of the kitchen entrances, where there now stood a man with light skin and an average height — about the same as Luke’s, in fact. Silver hair adorned his head and face, forming a rough goatee accompanied by short bangs and a short ponytail that gave him a gruff appearance. Despite the gruffness of his hair, his sharp eyes and the thin, well-defined contours of his face gave him a youthful, yet mature look, such that Luke estimated the man to be in his 30s. Drab desert robing covered the rest of the man’s body, making it difficult to see what kind of build he had, but under the robing peeked through a few clothing garments colored primarily black and navy blue, with hints of silver.

Upon Luke and Mark greeting the man with confused silence, he adopted a disarming smile. “Sorry, I suppose it’s a little weird for me to just appear like this, isn’t it?”

“We are in the student dorms of WCU,” Luke pointed out.

“And I’m not a student, true,” the man replied, “but neither are you, now, are you?”

“Well… no, but—“

“Ha! It’s fine, it’s fine. I’m new here, and was just taking a look around.” The man extended a hand toward Luke. “This is how Earthians greet each other, right?”

“It is,” Luke replied, moving to grasp the man’s hand as Mark watched on warily. The man returned the grasp firmly, shaking Luke’s hand once before releasing it. “Uh…” Luke stared at his hand in confusion, and then looked up at the man. “…Who are you?”

The man chuckled briefly before bowing his head. “The name’s Gavon Savénos. I’m a guest instructor. Just arrived today, in fact.”

“Ah, I see.” Luke nodded along, glancing out the corner of his eye as Mark returned to his food preparation. A second later, however, realization crossed Luke’s mind, and his body reflexively stiffened. “Wait… are you with the Black Suns?”

“Sounds like you’ve done your research!” Gavon remarked. “But yes, you’re right. Master Captain Gavon Savénos of Sector 1, at your service.”

Master Captain…? Mark echoed cluelessly.

“Ah, it’s just a useless formality around here,” Gavon replied dismissively. “There’s no one for me to pull rank on around here, ha! So just call me Gavon.”

“I take it you know who we are?” Luke questioned, his arms crossed. “You knew we were Earthians, after all.”

“That much is obvious based on what language my RTA implants are translating,” Gavon countered, and then smirked. “But yes, I’ve done research of my own. The two of you are from SERRCom, aren’t you?”

“That’s right…”

“I’ve always wanted to meet someone from Earth, especially a SERRCom officer,” Gavon commented. “I’m a Nimalian, myself. Born and raised right here on Nimalia, in fact — in Riverana, specifically.” He then leaned to the side, as if trying to peer beyond Luke and into the kitchen proper, where Mark had just set down his bowl of beaten eggs and was now flouring some fish meat. “…What are you making, there?” he asked.

Oh, this? Mark paused for a moment to glance back at Gavon, and then stepped aside to let him get a better look at the raw meat. This is just some breaded fish. That’s the goal, anyways; I wanted to see how well the local ingredients would work with this cooking technique.

“Really? So none of these ingredients are from Earth?”

Some of the flour is, but the rest I bought from the markets here.

“Really? Hmm.” Gavon began stroking his goatee in thought as he eyed the fish, as well as the sand mots off to the side. “Now that I think about it, I’ve never had Tresédian fish, or produce. And you’re using them to try and make a dish from Earth? Now this is interesting. Would you mind if I helped?”

The corners of Mark’s mouth turned up into a pleasant smile, and he began to respond — only to stop himself halfway and pass Luke an uneasy glance.

With a sigh, Luke shrugged and answered the unspoken question. “It’s fine.”

“Glad to hear it!” Gavon replied with a grin. He promptly removed his desert robing, revealing the gray short-sleeved shirt, black elbow-length heavy-duty fingerless gloves, and black cargo pants tucked into the thick black and navy-blue boots he wore underneath — the typical casualwear of a Black Suns soldier. Just as quickly as he removed the robes, he also pulled off his gloves; with his arms exposed, it was now obvious to Luke that Gavon possessed an athletically toned build, emphasized by his form-fitting shirt.

After a brief moment, Gavon noticed Luke’s attention and passed him a wink. “Like what you see?”

“Uh…” Luke drew back in surprise, his face flushed. He then quickly averted his gaze. “Uh, s-sorry, didn’t mean to stare…”

“Ah ha ha ha ha!” Gavon released a hearty guffaw as he placed his hands on his hips. “There’s no need to be so uptight! …Though it occurs to me that I didn’t get either of your names.”

Mark replied first. I’m Mark Cox, a 1st Lieutenant with SERRCom.

“And I’m Luke Travis, a Captain,” Luke added.

“Well it’s nice to meet you, Luke and Mark,” Gavon replied warmly. “…Is it alright if I call you Luke and Mark?”

Mark smiled back. That’s fine by me.

“Great!” Gavon responded with a grin, and then stepped up to the counter next to Mark. “Alright. This isn’t my first time in the kitchen, but I’ve never cooked with these ingredients before. Or this technique.”

That’s no problem, I’m used to managing extra inexperienced hands in the kitchen, Mark replied. If you’ve cooked before, then can you slice vegetables?

“I can indeed.”

Great. How about you take care of those sand mots, then. Cut them up into nice slices, and then, when you’re done with that…

Alright… with that, we just need to wait for it to bake.

“Good!” Gavon remarked as he wiped his hands with a towel, having just washed them with the nearby faucet. “I must thank you for allowing me to assist. It isn’t often that I get to try my hand at foreign dishes.”

My pleasure, Mark responded with a smile. Do you like cooking, then?

“Well… not more or less than anything else, really. What I enjoyed more was seeing how you do things.”

I see. Mark nodded along as he stepped up to the kitchen table, where Luke was already sitting. Gently, Mark pulled out one of the chairs and took a seat next to Luke, while Gavon approached the other side of the table.

“Would you mind if we continued chatting?” he questioned, with one hand on one of the unoccupied chairs.

Luke and Mark exchanged a wary glance, and then Luke looked up at Gavon doubtfully. “…Why do you want to talk to us?” he replied bluntly.

“So cold…” Gavon withdrew his hand, but remained where he stood as he released a sigh. “If I may answer your question with another question, why are you so suspicious of me? Is it because I’m with the Black Suns?”

“Is that not obvious?”

Luke… Mark sidled up closer to Luke to whisper to him, wasn’t it you who said that the Black Suns Sectors are independent? This man is from a different Sector than Commander Rabine was… do we need to be so on our guard?

“You never know,” Luke whispered back, and then turned back to Gavon. “You have to know that we’d be suspicious of you. You’re in a PMC.”

“It’s interesting that you’d say that,” Gavon replied. “The Black Suns, as well as our biggest rival PMCs, all have mostly favorable ratings from the galactic public. Sector 1 in particular. Now, I’m not trying to brag, or flaunt anything here. But if I may ask, what has caused you to become so suspicious of us? I can’t think of any incidents between SERRCom and the Suns, recently…”

“The op was likely classified. I’d bet that’s why.”

“Ah… I see.” Gavon crossed his arms as the corners of his mouth turned downward. “…If it’s classified, I understand if you can’t speak to the details. However, I am confident that you weren’t working with Sector 1 at the time; I would’ve been made aware of any SERRCom-Sector 1 interactions before I arrived. And for the operation to be classified to the point of me not knowing about it, I doubt you were working with Sector 4 — they don’t handle small operations. That would lead me to believe that you worked with either Sector 2, or 3… am I right?”

Luke stared at Gavon for a moment before responding, “…and if you are?”

Gavon released a brief chuckle and shook his head. “We’re answering each other’s questions with more questions rather frequently, aren’t we? Anyways…” He grabbed one of the table chairs and pulled it out, finally taking a seat himself as he replied, “Sectors 2 and 3 have always been too guarded and self-serving for their own good. Sector 2 in particular is a little too liberal with the ‘classified’ label, and the officers of 3 will often do whatever it takes to get their hands on a new piece of technology to research or manufacture. I can assure you, Luke, that Sector 1 is different. In fact, you don’t even have to take me at my word — a foray onto the Relaynet should show you that the galaxy views Sector 1 in a far more favorable light than the others.”

“Why? What makes 1 different?”

“I’m not sure how much you know about us, so forgive me if I explain something you’re already familiar with,” Gavon said, “but the 4 Sectors all have different focuses. Sector 1 are the elite of the elite; we have high expectations of our members, and take up the most difficult contracts the galaxy could possibly throw at us, with an emphasis on protection and retrieval. Sector 2, on the other hand, is much more well known for espionage and other underhanded activities.”

Well known…? Mark echoed uneasily, isn’t that a bad thing…?

“The Black Suns are a PMC,” Gavon replied with a bitter smile. “We can’t sell services that the galaxy doesn’t know we can do.”

“Should you really be telling us this?” Luke questioned.

“…Heh,” Gavon chuckled briefly. “Officially, technically… probably, no. But the fact that Sector 2 engages in espionage is an open secret amongst the galactic governments, because they’re the ones that hire Sector 2 to do it. Either way, I’m not one of them; my loyalty is to Master General Greant, not Icowe.”

I guess the different Sectors really are like totally different organizations… Mark observed.

“That’s more true than you would think, though less true than it should be…” Gavon sighed, and then shook his head. “Anyways. As for the other two sectors, 3 is focused on research, development, production, and logistics, while 4 is a conventional army, as opposed to the special ops teams that fill the ranks of Sectors 1 and 2.”

“You’re special ops, then?” Luke asked.

Gavon nodded. “I am. I’m a member of the White Suns, in fact.”

“…What? I thought you were Black Suns…”

“Ah…” Gavon chuckled again. “Yes, I find that the naming scheme sometimes confuses people. ‘Black Suns’ refers to the PMC as a whole, but within it are a number of specialized Suns units, each named for a different color. Sector 1 has the White Suns, which perform the most dangerous tasks, as well as the Green Suns, which specialize in rescue, escort, and medical ops.”

Dangerous? Mark passed Luke a doubtful glance. Are you saying your mission here is dangerous?

“Hardly. The Bleeders are a fifth-rate threat compared to what the Black Suns sometimes face. It’s my understanding that my presence here is a favor from Master General Greant to the Deans of the Schools of Chaos.”

“Politics, huh?” Luke remarked with a bitter smirk.

“That, too, is part of our job, sometimes…”

“Why are you sharing all of this with us, though?”

“I’ve always believed that transparency is important for building any kind of solid relationship,” Gavon declared. “Sector 1 believes this, as well, which is a large part of why I joined them. That said…” He glanced to the side and began scratching his beard sheepishly. “…Apologies, I should’ve opened with this. But…” He then looked over at Mark. “…I knew you were one of SERRCom’s Eximius Vir before I arrived.”

What? Mark’s eyes grew wide with surprise. Really? How?

“It’s not exactly a secret,” Luke pointed out. “Remember, Rabine said the same about you Eximius Vir, and she’s right. For years, the four of you were Earth’s only Chaotics — and the rest of the galaxy knew it.”

“Exactly.” Gavon nodded. “So, I’ll admit, I was a little curious to see what you could do.”

Oh… Mark nodded back absentmindedly. That’s what you meant. Uh, well…

“Ah, don’t feel like you have to show off for me. I know some Chaotics believe that a good spar is the best way to greet a new Chaotic, but I think that’s a little crass, personally.”

“So you are a Chaotic, then?” Luke asked.

“Indeed. A Gravitatechnic, to be exact,” Gavon replied, and then gestured to the empty chair beside him. A second later, it slowly began to lift into the air, as though it were unbound from the gravitational shackles of Nimalia.

Controlling gravity… that’s neat, Mark commented. Come to think of it, I’ve never met a Gravitatechnic before.

“We aren’t very common, as Chaotics go — competent ones, even less so. Despite being a phenomenon that everyone interacts with on a daily basis, gravity seems to be a difficult subject for many to truly grasp, not to mention the ability to control it.”

Luke nodded in agreement. “It’s just something that everyone takes for granted. I bet anti-gravity tech makes it seem easier to manipulate than it really is, too.”

“Yes, exactly!” Gavon remarked. “Once the ability to control gravity became mundane, so too did people’s imaginations of what they could do with it. Few Gravitatechnics think to apply their powers in non-obvious ways, I find. For example, a simple application of my power is to remove gravity-based bullet drop. It can make sharpshooting much easier.”

“…Really?” Luke leaned forward, placing his elbows on the table in front of him. “So you have experience with rifles, too?”

“Everyone in the Black Suns does. We may be a Chaotic-focused PMC, but it’s important for Chaotics to not rely wholly on their abilities. CENT fields and Dead Space exist, after all. Though I will admit to an appreciation for taking my rifle to a shooting range every now and then.”

Sounds like you and Luke would be great friends, then, Mark commented with a grin.

“Yeah, yeah.” Luke rolled his eyes before returning his attention to Gavon. “Did you bring your rifle with you?”

“Not my typical rifle, no,” Gavon replied. “An SR-24 would be overkill against the Bleeders. Or at least… that’s what I thought until I spoke with Deans Wrikax and Densalin earlier today…”

“I assume they told you about how the Bleeders had Black Suns powered armor?”

“Yes…” Gavon frowned warily. “I don’t know where those armors came from, but I do know their limits. If the Bleeders have more of them, then the power of an SR-24 might be necessary.”

“A handheld railgun with an effective range of 7 kilometers? Yeah, I’d say so too. That’s twice as far as SERRCom’s Gauss-SR02!”

“True, but at that range you’re relying more on the instrumentation and computer aiming than your own skill. And the 7 kilometer figure is only really achievable by Black Suns operators, what with our prosthetic arms. An un-augmented person wouldn’t be able to steady the rifle well enough, or brace themselves against the recoil well enough.”

“Oh… right.” Luke’s gaze momentarily dropped to Gavon’s arms. …Neither of them look fake, he mused, but I know that at least one of them must be a cybernetic prosthetic… just goes to show how advanced Black Suns technology is, I suppose.

“Anyways, I put in a requisition order for an SR-24 to help deal with the Bleeders,” Gavon remarked, drawing Luke out of his thoughts. “Once it arrives, I can let you give it a shot.”

“Whoa. Really?!”

“Of course. This is the first time I’ve met an Earthian rifle enthusiast, after all. I’m interested to see what your take on it would be.” Gavon then glanced away, as though distracted my something; a moment later, he pushed back from the table and stood up. “Anyways, I have some more business to attend to. It’s my first day here, after all; there’s a lot to do. But it was nice talking to the two of you; let’s do this again sometime.”

Of course! Mark responded warmly. …Oh, but wait! You won’t stay to try some of the fish you helped make?

“Ah ha ha…” Gavon laughed uneasily. “Sorry, but another time. Besides, you were making dinner for those Earthian recruits, right? I don’t want to intrude on that.”

I see… that’s a shame.

“I appreciate the offer, though. Anyways, I’ll be off!”

Luke and Mark both watched the Black Suns officer confidently stride out of the kitchen and down the hallways of the WCU dormitory. Eventually, Mark turned to pass Luke an amused glance. You really warmed up to him, didn’t you?

“Yeah, yeah…” Luke waved him off and began to stand up, preparing to return to the kitchen counters. “At least he isn’t an asshole… for now. But let’s focus on finishing up the dinner prep for the moment…”