"I want to be one of you!", Atras stated decidedly, but quickly roaring laughter spread through the crowd of men who had been scrutinizing her admiringly just seconds before. Humiliation glinted in her eyes. She, Artas, descendant of Xayides, just wanted to be treated the same as anyone of this bunch of unshaven mercenaries who had nothing more than alcohol and women on their minds. She wanted, like them, to fly her Blastershuttle and earn money through carrying out the jobs of corrupt businessmen, who hired the mercenaries occasionally to undermine their competitors.
"This is no job for a woman" one of the pilots snapped stepping forward, out of the group of men. "No woman will ever become a member of the "Raging Order"!". After a short break where the men scrutinized Atras benevolently from head to toe, he added "But I think, we could have a use for you..." "Don't you dare..." Atras hissed, stood upright and held the protruding collar of her jacket with both hands, just to give a more impressive air. She was proud of the outfit she had made especially for this meeting and which complemented her beautifully. It consisted of of a black leather jacket with a bright collar, which reached down to the waist-band and almost to her shoulders. Over her black, skintight leatherpants she wore some heavy knee-high boots with large, golden knee-shields. Her Wesson Renegade gun hung coolly in its bright belt across her whist. She was extremely proud of her gloves, which reached to the elbows and with its lacing and padding gave her outfit still quite a feminine touch.
"I can fight like you, and as for flying? Well, every one of you could take lessons from me." Embarrassed the men looked down. They knew Atras' reputation and had heard of her unconventional but exceptionally successful training-methods in the torture-chamber, which was the flying school where she taught. She was unquestionably one of the best, for it was her who did the test flights on the blastershuttle, as soon as the very first prototypes became available. It had been her whom they owed reverence for the ability to fly one of the most technologically advanced One-man-fighters. It was her who had the complete display panel removed and exchanged to the one they had learned to love due to its clarity and fast readability. Strictly speaking they flew the shuttle she'd"designed because she'd been the only pilot held competent enough by Cellent Industries to judge this shuttle. She was a test-pilot who had managed to take the hurdles in a world dominated by men and had even won the respect of managers of a mega-combine like Cellent Industries.
But what made this woman leave a clean, well-ordered life and become a mercenary who would lead a life in the shadows forever and whose existence would be denied and hushed up? "Let's call it an interest" Atras answered slyly as though she could read each of the men's minds like an open book. "I want to know what it is like to be in your business. The stimulus to really get into the action and not to follow a given terrain, while being hunted by novice pilots who could be dead even before they left the ground. That doesn't give me much excitement, anymore!" Again, the men became embarrassed. Suddenly it occured to them that no one knew the pilots they were pursuing day after day better than Atras; she'd been their teacher! All the tricks and techniques of the 'Cleanos', what the cops were called commonly, had been mastered from her!
At last one of the men spoke, before the mercenaries were completely overrun by this woman. It was Sick, their leader; a young shuttlepilot who was more intelligent than the rest of the pack. When it was realised that it was him who had the best ideas, strategies and plans they decided to subordinate to him casually.
No one would ever admit to him being in charge, but everybody knew it, and tolerated it. So it was Sick who felt most uncomfortable in this position, from the sudden appeareance of this idol-like Xayide.
"I won't allow you to come here, to spy around, analyse our tactics and check our abilities to sell information undercover to any one paying the most or to even go back to your cleanoschool and teach those guys new techniques to stand against us. Do you seriously think you can cheat us that easily?" "Oh, brilliant!" Atras replied sharply but with a smile. Of course she had been prepared for this argument and was now anxious to bring up her prepared answer. She neither wanted to sell out the mercenaries nor did she want to cheat them; she was true in her intentions. It was just a case of being well prepared for this meeting. It was obvious which arguments would come up. "I don't know whether you can allow yourself to reject someone like me." A murmurring went through the crowd and Atras felt the weight of the men's stare on her body. She enjoyed, playing with them for she knew they needed her. "Further you should not forget my relations to Cellent Industries. As soon as there's a new fighter, it'll be me flying it first!"
"As a renegade? Never!" Sick replied violently and turned away. "Further" Atras thought herself safe and prepared to play out her joker. "Cellent Industries would, under certain circumstances, be interested in taking advantage of the Raging Order." "Anything else?" Sick was unnerved and tried to make her look untrustworthy with his sharp comments.
"Why should they do that?" one of the mercenaries yelled from the crowd, the rest could only wonder.
Atras turned away from Sick, to the men. "Who would not take the chance to be one step ahead of their competitors if given the opportunity and the other party is trustworthy?"
There were confirming murmurs from the men. They well knew Cellent Industries weren't interested in them, but in Atras, but they didn't care. Money was money and this was really good a chance to profit. Sick looked at his men sternly now, knowing well what would come next. Atras, too, knew.
"Well, I think we shouldn't reject her all too easily, Sick" Skull Warrior, one of the senior members of the staff bleated hesitantly, throwing a cigarette-butt to the floor in front of his feet. "Experienced pilots have become rare these days and I guess, we'll never find one more experienced than her." He extinguished the butt with circular motion of his foot and watched himself concentrated, only so that he didn't have to look into Sick's eyes. Atras practically laughed aloud when she saw this behaviour. "And how the hell are you going to ensure she won't betray us? Well, I mean, she could sell us whenever..." Sick stopped right in the middle of the sentence, obviously because he had ran out of arguments.
"There's no reason why we should mistrust her. Just 'cause she's a woman? No, I don't think so. The way I see it is that you are the only one taking the view she could be a problem. I believe her when she says that it's no fun anymore playing with the "cleano-pupils". Which of us hasn't experienced the feeling when they want to be more challenged? Who doesn't have the dream to go to the limits of their abilities? Well, I think this is exactly what is happening to her and with us she could really have a good chance to go to the limits and even beyond." At least he dared to look up, right into Sick's eyes. "Who could she sell us to? Cellent Industries? Be realistic. They would keep their dealings with us secret and really, what could she tell them of interest? That we're flying their fighters?"
"No, you whimp" Sick yelled unnerved "The cops!"
"The cleanos? Get real, Sick. Even if she alarmed them, what's the use? We'd detect them with our radarscopes before they even knew we're looking for them. I mean, we should give her a try. If she really tried to cheat us, well, she'd always be near....BOUMMMM!" He made a sweeping gesture and started to laugh. After he had caught and lighted another cigarrette which he produced from the depths of his coat, he turned to the men, still laughing and asked "What do you mean?" Sick didn't like the way Skull Warrior had taken his domination to himself but he had to accept it because the men had now started applauding and hailing Atras. "Does she have to stand the test and swear the oath, or is this void for women, too?" Sick yelled totally out of control now. "What test?" Atras wanted to know moving away from the men. She quickly approached Sick and gripped her collar again. "What oath?" "Well" Sick started slowly. "Everybody here has stood a test to prove themselves not only capable of flying but having a great deal of courage, too." "A test of courage?" Atras replied condescendingly. "And you stood it? Can't be too much of a problem then." Sick quivered but didn't comment. "Further, each of these men has sworn an oath which at least makes him a member of the Raging Order..." "What must you do?" Atras intervened, flicking her long dark hair over her shoulders. "One thing at a time. I just want to let you know this much. The oath obliges you to live by our rules. If you'll do that you'll find a lot of friends from all over the universe who will risk their lives just to save yours. But if you decide not to, well, then you'll have real problems because there will be a lot of hunters out there who just have one thought on their minds, to find you and obliterate you! A small tattoo will mark your, oh so gorgeous body and make you a renegade forever" Sick replied coolly and produced a crumpled map from his cockpit-depositor. Tou know this?" he now asked condescendingly.
"Righto, and here" he pointed to a black area on the map "this is where it will take place." "In undiscovered territory?" "In undiscovered territory" Sick reiterated. "If you manage to pass this area and map the planets then you're ready for the oath, but no sooner!" "When?" she asked. "Whenever you're ready. And don't think you can trick us. Our radarscopes will always be with you. A direction-finder will tell us where you are, at any time." "If your finders reach -that far, why then is the area undiscovered and unmapped?" Atras asked. "Let me put that another way" Sick answered folding the map, "this area is not so much undiscovered to us. But undiscovered to you!"
It is your turn now, to take over Atras' part in this actionloaded Adventure and prove to the pilots of the Raging Order that you are the best pilot that has ever walked this earth! Lead your Blastershuttle over the screen using the joystick. Take care thereover, not to collide with the landscape for this will cause immediate destroying of your Blastershuttle. From time to time weapon-symbols will appear on the screen which you should collect with your shuttle since some of them increase your firepower amazingly. But you should spend a well thought on which weapon to pick up because not all of them can be combined with each other. Also, from time to time symbols will fly across the screen. You should try to catch them as well since they might drastically increase your chance to survive. You should take care on not colliding with aliens or their bullets because these will either decrease your shield's energy or bring your shuttle to instant explosion. Although your Blastershuttle is supplied with an energy-shield, its strength will be decreased with every contact, depending on its impact. Once the energy of the shield is void, the next contact will definitely kill you! So try to refuel energy in time to reload the shield. Remains to wish you the best and to hope that you weren't too cheeky against the pilots and manage to prove them that nothing and noone can stop you. Good luck...
(Text by Guido Henkel)