Dark. The word had become a term for an entire way of life. Spacers lived in the dark. Everyone thought traveling through space meant you were surrounded by starlight, passing distant suns, seeing strange and wonderful worlds. No. It was mostly just dark. Deep, all encompassing dark. Being in space for a long time sometimes made you go a little crazy. Then there were those who were comforted by the solitude, by the adventure of trying to exist in an environment that was completely hostile to any conventional life. The Dark was where Beretta felt most at home. Crowded space ports and colony worlds were dirty and loud and full of... people. But out here it was just her. White teeth gritted behind grey lips as her comms crackled, startling her out of her meditation as she stared out her cabin porthole. "Approaching the target, captain," came the subdued voice of her first mate, Hadden. Ok, so she wasn't completely alone. There was the crew. They were a small outfit but they'd had their fair share of reputation making successes. "On my way," she replied, levering herself up from her cross legged position on the floor in front of the porthole. She wore a brown and grey one piece, an armored sleeve on one arm, the other bare. Her skin was grey. Long time spacers sometimes got pretty pale, almost albino if it had been years since they'd set foot on a planet without sun-shielding. But Beretta was different. Every company had their own Gray Division, children enhanced with gene therapy and cybernetics to be vicious and hardy soldiers. The array of micro-filaments under her skin, carbon mesh over her bones, actuator servos in her joints and muscle tensors throughout her body made her strong and durable, so much so that it took military grade ammo or a thermal cutter to seriously wound her unless she was shot in the eye or something. Grays were big during the corporate wars ten years ago. Her family had been colony farmers but they'd fallen into debts they couldn't pay. The company needed soldiers so they offered up their eldest daughter. She'd only just turned fifteen when she was put on the front lines, worked her way up to command her own squad before a botched mission got her demoted again. She'd served out her time then put in for a discharge. It had been almost twenty years since she'd last seen her family and after leaving the corporate military, she'd never bothered to find them. As far as Beretta was concerned, those people stopped being her parents as soon as they'd given her up. The door to her quarters opened with a hiss as she slung a rifle lanyard over her torso, clipping her snub-nosed Hex-Corp SMG to it and letting it hang there as she buckled on her hip holster. She made her way through the cramp corridors of the Charon's Crossing, a sleek blockade runner that she'd re-purposed into a raider rig. The dim lighting glinted off the black steel insignia on her shoulder, reminiscent of the blue ones worn by Corporate Police. The same symbol was emblazoned on the hull, a sign that she was a licensed corporate privateer and mercenary. "Talk," she said calmly to Hadden as she entered the small bridge. Unlike a corporate cruiser with its spacious compartments and surgically white finish, it was compact, dimly lit, surfaces of black steel and blue holo-displays. Hadden sat in the captain's chair near the rear of the bridge, standing as she approached. She easily slid into the chair, reclining as she looked at the main view screen. Hadden was almost too tall to stand upright in the low-cielinged bridge. He was broad shouldered with a face like a potato, bald, with that pale, spacer's complexion. He'd been a military man a lifetime ago but had killed a commanding officer during a disagreement, labeled a fugitive. He'd been on the run for years when she'd recruited him, securing him a corporate pardon. He'd been devoted to her ever since. She didn't return his feelings and he'd channeled them into being the best first mate he could be. The display showed quite a bit of data but she was most interested in the far away speck that was their target. It was getting larger slowly but she pressed a key on the holo-UI of her chair to zoom in on the pleasure cruiser, the one she'd been contracted by its owners to clandestinely board and kidnap a high value target. "We're several minutes out. Would you like to lead the boarding party?" Hadden had learned long ago not to try to keep his captain on the ship. She liked getting her hands dirty. It was a vestigial habit from her days as a corporate grunt. "Yes. Move in close for us to dock, engines quiet, then punch out, keep them distracted while we secure the target, then pick us up in the main hangar," she said as she keyed a few more commands, bringing up a schematic of the ship they were preparing to board, rotating the 3D model before her. There was a docking port on the starboard side near the underbelly that would make for a good approach. They had the codes to the ship's sensor array so they could slip in undetected. The main hangar was near the top at the bow of the ship, a trough leading down into the belly for approaching small craft. That would be their exit. "Don't break my ship, Hadden," she said gruffly as she closed the display and stood, walking toward the door as she keyed her comms, calling on the small band of fighters aboard to meet her near the airlock in breach gear. This was not a mission to build her rep. A scan of the ship would turn up a false registry, one she rotated on a weekly basis and she'd given instructions to wear identity concealment tech for this op. She pressed a command on her wrist-link, a watch-like device that could interface with multiple systems. This one was linked to a small implant behind her ear that emitted a distortion field, breaking up her facial features using refracted light. It fooled scanners and the naked eye and any cameras would get an ion burst as soon as she came into view. Most of her compatriots wore either masks or a similar device. Her team was not the uniform-clad ranks of grays she'd once commanded. But they were good fighters and they specialized in surgical breaches of larger ships. "Bragg," she said to a burly man with dreadlocks as she pulled her own into a ponytail, "you'll be responsible for the package. Use it as a shield if you have to but I order you not to let yourself or it get damaged." The other three consisted of a square jawed woman who looked like she could barely lift the heavy concussion rifle she was toting given that she barely broke four feet, Amaya, Tess, her mechanic and gunner who happened to be good with computers, and Zed. He was the real enigma. He never took off his helmet. He barely spoke. But he was good with a blade, the only other gray she'd ever been able to recruit. He'd been black ops once. Real ninja, loner type. She heard the engines cycling down as they began to drift, impulse thrusters directing them under the belly of the corporate pleasure craft transporting the HVT. "No mistakes, kids. Any of you die and you're fired." There was a clunk and a hiss as they made contact, the airlock outer ring sealing onto the other access hatch. The light turned green, the doors opened and pirate's boots thundered on surgically white floors.