This is the first part of a multi-part fic now. Oops.
“After that truly spectacular loss, I wouldn't want you to get cold feet." The words were followed by jeers and laughter and then the sound of fists and feet hitting a body.
Stinger couldn’t see much of the tribe’s thugs from where he was hiding behind a stack of fabric but he could hear them. One of them - the ringleader - was taunting his brother. And the others would beat his brother using their fists or even weapons, kick him until he went still.
Curling up into a small ball, Stinger covered his ears and willed the sounds and images away but of course they would not leave him that easily..
Why were people so mean to them? Everyone was always mean to him, everyone except for his older brother. And Scorpio was being treated the same, if not worse, really. He knew his brother never told him what the others did with him at night - like right now - but Stinger knew. He had seen it and was seeing it again right now.
He made his way back to his brother’s and his own tent. It had been slashed again. So Stinger got some thread to patch up the worst parts. His brother had taught him how to knit and sew and Stinger had become quite good at it. At least that’s what his brother told him. And well, the tent was usable again even before Scorpio returned. So Stinger crawled inside first and curled up on the bedding. He knew his brother would stumble in soon and curl up around him protectively, sharing body-heat and comfort.
Things continued like this for a while but then they started to change. Stinger noticed because he was getting bullied less and suddenly people started treating him like a normal person - a member of the tribe. It was strange but Stinger welcomed the change.
His brother also did not come back at night bruised and bleeding anymore. Instead, Scorpio returned to the tent one night bearing the customary braid of a tribal warrior. Stinger remembered touching it in awe and looking at his brother with wide, disbelieving eyes.
“You’re awesome, big brother!”
“Right?” Scorpio had laughed softly and ruffled his hair. “You’ve been looking better, little Scorpling. And your needlework is getting a lot of praise, I hear. It’s something you can be very proud of, Stinger. After all, needlework is a skill just as valued as fighting prowess. You will also become a fine Scorpionman warrior in the future. I’m sure.”
“I want to be like you, big brother,” Stinger nodded. “I’ll do my best! So please teach me again?”
Moments together like that became rarer as time passed because Scorpio became more and more involved in the tribe’s doings. Stinger did not know any details but he had heard rumors about their planet being targeted by Jark Matter. There had been fights going on somewhere north from them and apparently other tribes had sent for help.
Right before Scorpio had to head out for the first time was the last time the two of them could share a moment again. It was then that Scorpio gave him the pendant.
“Don’t feel lonely. I will always be with you.”
It sounded like his brother was saying his farewell - forever. It was a tradition. For none of them knew whether or not they would return alive.
Stinger groaned and put an arm over his eyes when light hit him and roused him from his slumber. He quickly wiped the remnants of tears from his face with his sleeve before he sat up and looked around. He was in his new room on the Battle Orion Ship. Everything was quiet. The light had come from the alarm clock set to daylight simulating mode.
Why was he dreaming of the past now? And why was it a dream that did not involve the bad things that had happened to him? Happened between him and his brother?
It was the first time in a long time for something like this to happen.
Maybe it was because of what had happened on Lucky’s home planet. Some of the events had hit pretty close to home for Stinger.
Looking into the mirror in the bathroom and splashing his face with water, Stinger wondered whether he was a little jealous of the other. It really wasn’t something he should be jealous about but Stinger couldn’t help it. He wondered whether things would have been better if it had turned out to be a fake Scorpio who had massacred their entire people. If it had been an imposter who had committed all the crimes and cruelty throughout the universe.
In that case he could have just mourned for his brother and remembered the other as the gentle older brother that he had been once. But unfortunately reality was different. Reality was cruel.
Of course he had mourned his brother and of course he remembered the other but he remembered Scorpio as both, the gentle older brother he had once been as well as the cold and ruthless assassin of Jark Matter. He couldn’t just gloss things over, couldn’t just selectively remember the good things only.
That Scorpio had not been an imposter also threw up many questions that Stinger wanted answered but could no longer get an answer to because the only person who could give him an answer - Scorpio himself - was no longer alive.
Stinger was pulled out of his thoughts when he felt a head gently thunking against the back of his neck. He could see a shock of white hair in the mirror.
“You got up so suddenly. Are you okay, Stinger?” Naga’s tone was flat but Stinger could tell that the other was worried about him and was trying to comfort him. Naga wasn’t pressed close against his back because the spurs from Stinger’s tail would hurt him if he was even with the shirt in between but Stinger could feel Naga’s hands holding his shirt.
“Sorry. I just had a bad dream.” He sought out one of Naga’s hands to place his own over it.
Had it been a bad dream? Not really and yet, it hadn’t been exactly good either.
“I see.” Naga left it at that. It was one of the things Stinger appreciated about the other. Naga never asked questions about others. He did not pry. He would accept information when it was given to him voluntarily and not seek out more. He would only ask questions when it came to himself and his developing emotions.
“I’m sorry for waking you up.” Stinger apologized.
Naga shook his head. “We need to be up anyway. Mission.”
Ah, right. There was that, too. Stinger had almost forgotten about it. “Let’s get ready then.”
They got ready and after eating breakfast with the others, all the Kyurangers met on the bridge of the Battle Orion Ship. Shou Lonpo then started to go over the mission details.
“We received a distress call from the Rebellion Headquarters. A large number of members, as well as civilians, was captured by Jark Matter and they are all being transported to one of the Jark Matter re-education facilities in the Norma System. We are to free them. It is in our interest to get them out because they were working on gathering intelligence on the Kyutama we need to break through Jark Matter’s shield for us.”
Tsurugi looked up, “Holy moly! How did they fall into Jark Matter’s hands?”
“It seems like Jark Matters troops are being depleted rapidly due to uprisings all over the galaxy following Hoshi Minato’s call to do so. They’re getting desperate. So they’re capturing as many people as they can to brainwash them into becoming Jark Matter soldiers.” Raptor reported.
“They are targeting Planet Ari next. This will be where we sneak onto their ship.”
The plan was simple. Three of them would sneak onto the ship to free the prisoners. The others would start an diversion attack to distract the Jark Matter forces. Once all civilians were taken care of, they would wipe out as many Jark Matter forces as possible before retreating.
“Let’s see who’s going,” Shou Lonpo spun the Kyulette, while everyone else watched. Three Kyutama fell out: Orange, Silver and Gold.
“Stinger, Naga and Balance will sneak onto the ship. The rest of you, go wild!”
“Alright, lucky! Going wild is one of the things we do best,” Lucky grinned. “Good luck everyone!”
Said and done. Once they arrived on Ari - they had taken Chamaeleon Voyager because it had the best stealth mode - Stinger, Naga and Balance split up. Stinger was going to let himself get captured and get more intel on the layout of the ship and prisons and distract guards if necessary so that Naga and Balance could get into the more high security areas of the ship. The two were experts when it came to getting past security, so it was a good division of duties.
Getting himself captured was more than easy. Jark Matter just rounded up all the people they could find and hoarded them onto the ship in groups. They didn’t even check who they captured. That screening would probably happen later on.
Stinger let himself be led into the prison area of the Jark Matter ship. He looked around, trying to find familiar faces among the rows and rows of prisoners. There were none. Since he had gone ‘undercover’ for this he had not been given the same bounty or priority as other Rebellion members most likely. Plus, the Jark Matter forces seemed to be pressed for time and hadn’t checked faces or identities at all. Maybe they were expecting an attack. It would come soon.
So Stinger figured the Rebellion members had to be in the high security prison that was further down. They had been captured earlier and it had become known that they had been captured.
He hoped Naga and Balance would have more luck sneaking down there. He’d send them a message once the guards left him alone. The guards had not even checked him for weapons, so technically he could have done without hiding his Seiza Blaster but well, better be safe than sorry. That was what being a spy had taught him.
The guards shoved him into a cell roughly and then left. Stinger got back up and brushed the dust off his coat. He pushed a button on his Seiza Blaster to send the message to the others. He would start a distraction maneuver once they gave him a signal.
His tail curled and uncurled a few times as he stretched it unconsciously after having it curled up against him as not to give his identity away.
The other prisoner inside the cell noticed it immediately, though. “That tail! You are a Scorpionman! I thought your people were extinct. Your home planet was taken over by Jark Matter and sucked dry of it’s Planetium, turning it into dust.”
“You seem to know an awful lot about my people and planet.” Stinger narrowed his eyes and looked at the other figure in the cell. It was an elderly looking male. He was wearing dark brown robes, which looked a little bit like Stinger’s own, and had red eyes, ebony skin and white hair. A mark on his clothes identified him as an intergalactic merchant, a planet hopper.
“I visited many times. Did business with some of the tribes that lived there. Your people made fine weapons and even finer fabrics and other textiles. Those were rather popular all across the universe.” The merchant smiled. “I merely kept one piece for myself because it was a present from a kind man.” He pulled out a scarf. It was a gradient going from black to an earthy gray.
Stinger’s eyes widened. “That needlework!”
“Oh? You recognize it? Yes, it is the fine needlework of one of the best Scorpionman Warriors I have ever met. The kind fella gave it to me when I came to your planet for the first time. I had underestimated the cold of a desert.” The man smiled. “I remember him well. He was called-”
““Scorpio.”” Both of them said at the same time.
The merchant blinked, “Ah? You know him?”
“I would recognize this needlework anywhere.” Stinger reached out to touch the scarf with a shaky hand. The other seemed to haunt him today. “He was my older brother.”
The man’s face fell. “Was? So he too…”
“Yeah. He was killed by Jark Matter.” It was the truth, really.
The merchant sighed sadly. “I’m sorry to hear that, lad. He was such a good person. Despite everything he was going through back then.”
“What do you mean?” Stinger blinked. “Everything he was going through?”
“Ah, if you’re his younger brother, maybe he never told you about that. Maybe it was easier to talk to a stranger like me.” The merchant settled down and offered Stinger a seat. “Thinking about it, you must have been the bundle he was carrying at that time, when he gave me this.”
“We lost our parents early. I didn’t know them.” Stinger nodded. “He raised me.”
“Yeah. He told me that his father had fallen in a battle and his mother had been killed protecting him and his younger sibling shortly after giving birth. Giving birth to you, I guess?.” The merchant remembered. “I was wondering why he was all by himself, considering that the tribes and people of the Scorpius System were usually pretty sociable and lived in groups to survive in the harsh environment. He told me that those who no longer have a mother or guardian, are cast out of their tribe or even the entire society for they cannot undergo the proper maturing rituals. Warriors in your system were taught by their parents. Nobody else would take them in. He and I guess you, had been left by your people to die.”
Stinger suddenly felt cold. Nobody had ever told him that. Or what was more likely was that Scorpio had made sure that nobody would tell him.
“But he said that he wouldn’t give up. He had promised your mother to take care of you and she had died protecting you both. He owed her that much. So he decided that he would become stronger and protect you in your parents’ stead. He knew it would be difficult but he wasn’t just going to give up. I offered to take him off the planet but he declined, saying he wouldn’t be able to do anything useful on any other planet. Plus, running away would feel like losing.”
“That sounds like him alright.” Stinger looked down. Scorpio had been a proud man. Back then he had never really showed it but after joining Jark Matter that side of him had come out more.
Listening to the merchant’s story, Stinger was able to fill in gaps in his own memory. So that had been why his first memories were of just him and his brother. They had been alone until one day, they had started to live with a nomadic tribe. That’s when Stinger had been bullied by others. Scorpio had always been there for him and defended him. And only Scorpio.
And gradually the bullying had stopped but it hadn’t been because people had come to accept him, accept them but it had been because Scorpio had grown stronger, strong enough to have his way, strong enough to be recognized by the tribe - or maybe even feared by its warriors at that time because of his strength.
By the younger ones he was revered, as the strongest warrior of the tribe. They had been oblivious to what had gone on behind the scenes. To them, he was their hero and role model. Stinger had been one of them. Back then he had been too young to understand.
Scorpio had been taught that strength was everything. Having strength had been what had kept them alive, what had allowed them to be accepted into a tribe without their parents. They had not been viewed as children or even as people. They had only been accepted for their strength. His brother had had to grow up too fast. So fast, that he forgot the warmth and love their parents had raised him with. That he forgot that he grew strong because he had something or someone to protect. And not just for his own benefit.
Stinger recalled the images from his dream. He remembered how Scorpio had come back to their tent sometimes with bruises everywhere. After bullying Stinger and being stopped by Scorpio, the others had focused on his older brother instead. They had beaten up Scorpio to show him how weak he was. With time, the bruises had become less and less as Scorpio had grown stronger and stronger and retaliated.
It explained so many things.
Scorpio had always been kind to him but when he had looked at the other members of the tribe, his eyes had been cold and distant.
That had been the reason why Scorpio had so easily murdered all of their tribe. It had been something that he had wanted to do, deep down in his heart all along.
And it had been why he had spared Stinger. Even with evil taking over and poisoning his heart, the feelings towards Stinger had been stronger. Not strong enough to stop him entirely but at least subconsciously. During their confrontation, Scorpio could have easily taken Stinger’s life but he hadn’t. He had spared the other. And by knocking him out instead of killing him, he had taken Stinger off of the Jark Matter forces’ radar and given him the opportunity to escape.
It made so much sense.
There had been two sides to Scorpio. The kind and gentle one, the original personality he had been born with. And then the cold and cruel one, which had been born due to their circumstances and environment. Both sides had been at constant conflict within Scorpio.
He had been torn between telling and teaching Stinger to become just like him, by torturing him and showing him just how cruel life could be and protecting Stinger and wishing only the best for him, by giving him the pendant and by showing how happy he was at the fact that Stinger had found real friends and a proper family to be with, one that accepted him and one that would help him to grow up into a good person.
At the very end, the kind and gentle older brother personality had won over the evil one. Just mere moments before Scorpio’s death. It was painfully similar to what had happened with Mika. Both Mika and Scorpio had been warped by their environment and Jark Matter. And died just after they had been saved. Or maybe moments before.
Suddenly Stinger felt like he could finally and truly forgive. He could forgive the monster his brother had become - had been turned into. His brother had never been inherently evil. The thought and realization were liberating for Stinger somehow. And finally, finally all the questions he had had about Scorpio and his motives and reasons had been answered. Something Stinger would not have thought possible had become possible.
Stinger blinked when he was pulled out of his thoughts again by the scarf being wrapped around his neck. “I’ll give this to you lad. I feel like it should be with you.”
“They say you shouldn’t carelessly accept a present from a merchant,” Stinger looked at the other again. “What do you want in return?”
“Getting out of here would be nice?” The man chuckled. “You do not look like someone who’s just going to stay put in a Jark Matter Prison.” He looked at Stinger’s Seiza Blaster. “You are with the rebellion, aren’t you?”
“I am. And I think that can be arranged,” Stinger checked his blaster as well. Just as he did, it lit up with a message. The signal. “Well then, old man, it’s time to leave this place.”
The diversion by the others seemed to have been successful. The ship had been left with a minimum of guards for the most part. The high security area had had a couple of stronger guards stationed inside of it but Naga powering up to his Metal form had made short work of them. When Stinger arrived with the prisoners from the normal wing, Balance had already started moving people onto the transport vessel they had prepared that was pulled by Tenbin and Hebitsukai Voyager. Things were going too smooth for Stinger’s taste.
Balance looked up. “Crap! Guys, we need to hurry. If the big boss of this thing decides to use the ship to fight the others we won’t be able to get people out anymore! I just heard he’s heading back this way to do just that. We’ll either have to disable the function or get a move on!”
Naga looked at Stinger. “Let’s keep the ship from activating. We cannot make this progress here any faster. We’ll either be able to buy Balance and everyone here more time or we’ll be able to take care of things without having to resort to fight with the voyagers.”
“Good idea.” Stinger nodded and the two headed towards the control room.
They got there just before the Jark Matter general did. Naga was working on the control panel, while Stinger stood guard. He used his spear to deflect attacks that came in even before the Jark Matter general stepped in - they had expected them to be here. A bad sign.
“You have angered me, the great Pamola!”
Pamola - a Daikaan or maybe even Karo, judging by the insignia he bore - was flanked by two guards wearing long, black tunics. They moved forward when Pamola commanded them to, to attack Stinger and Naga but then stopped just out of close-range combat range.
Stinger blocked the attack that followed with his tail more by instinct than by will and his eyes widened. Scorpion tails. That could only mean one thing.
“Oh, how very interesting. We have another specimen of the Scorpionmen here. So unfortunate your people were almost wiped out. Survivors fetch quite a good price on the slave market these days, you know? Excellent soldiers. And these two guards are really the best of the best.” Pamola laughed. “Get them boys.”
Before the guards could move, Stinger lashed out with his tail and drove them back. “Naga, take care of Pamola. I’ll take care of them.” Naga didn’t oppose his order and went straight for the general after transforming and powering up to his Metal form once more.
Fighting two against one was tough but Stinger held his ground. At one point he managed to rip off he tunics and he stopped for a moment because they revealed familiar faces.
These two had been from his tribe. They had been among those who had taken a liking to bullying him and to beating up his brother afterwards. He had just seen them in his dream, how funny that he was seeing them in real life as well. Especially so soon after. It was ominous.
And they did not just look the same as they had in his dream - although slightly older, even though Stinger’s people did not age quite the same as other people - they still sounded exactly like they had back then. “Look at that. It’s little Stinger. You just continue to be a disgrace to our people, don’t you? If it wasn’t enough that you are openly rebelling against Jark Matter, you are also with one of them?” One of the warriors whose name Stinger vaguely recalled as Hari, spat out a couple of insults, all directed not at Stinger himself but at Naga. They were the worst insults in Stinger’s native language that he had ever heard. It made his blood boil.
“Stop it. Right now!” The grip on his spear tightened. “The disgrace to our people is you!” He hollered at the pair. Stinger could take insults against him. Heck, he was used to them. He had been insulted and worse by these two. But he would not tolerate insults against his friends.
Before he could give in to possibly blind rage, though, he was snapped out of it by a cheerful voice. “Hey ‘sup Naga, Stinger! We’re done here so you can beat it. We can blow this place up any time now!” Balance reported. “And well, we’d appreciate it if you made it out before. Just saying. So if you’re not terribly busy, please get going. And give us the go for the destruction!”
It wasn’t wise to continue fighting now so Stinger - after making eye contact with Hebitsukai Metal - decided to bail as instructed. “Henshin!” Stinger transformed and then Sasori Orange and Hebitsukai Metal blasted their enemy in order to make their retreat.
They got onto Sasori Voyager and just as they did so, KyurenOh struck the Jark Matter ship with an attack. Instead of fighting back, a smaller ship detached itself from the bigger one and blasted off into space. The Jark Matter general had escaped instead of engaging with them in battle. Stinger felt a little uneasy when he saw it but they did not get any order to stop them, so he let it be and went to rendevouz with Balance so Naga could help to pilot the Hebitsukai Voyager. Sasori would shield them if needed.
Balance appeared on one of the monitors once they had successfully met up. “We’ll bring these people to planet Chou in the Scorpius System.”
“Ooh, this is the system where you’re from right, big bro?” Kotaro smiled at Stinger from one of the other monitors. “I’ll get to see where you’re from!”
Well, it wasn’t exactly where he was from - his homeworld had been destroyed - but well, close enough. He tried to give Kotaro a small smile back but it was hard for him to do so. Everything that had happened was leading somewhere bigger. Stinger could feel it. And he wasn’t sure if he liked that. He remembered the last time that he had gotten this feeling.
It had been before he had gone to confront Scorpio for what he thought would be the last time.
And they all knew how that had ended.
Stinger could feel rather than see Naga’s eyes on him as he took course for Chou. They’d probably talk. Soon. Not now. Not with everybody listening.
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