Previously on Warpt Factor:
Isabelle “Izzy” Warpt dreamt of becoming the greatest spaceship captain to ever graduate Spiral Reach Academy, the Milky Way’s most prestigious academy founded on a mission of spreading peace, prosperity, and good across the Universe. On her 18th birthday, thanks to a modest donation by Izzy’s Gammy Margaret, Jett Sketter–Spiral Reach’s most famous, most handsome Captain–made a special guest appearance to give Izzy the good news that she had been accepted to begin her first year as a cadet at Spiral Reach Academy.
Shortly after arriving at the Academy, through a curious incident involving her future self, some time travel, and a bad pun featuring two innocent dachshunds, Izzy found herself having gained the attention of Headmaster Archibald Cosgrove as well as High Chancellors Bennett Kadimova and Cecilia Amadeus Driscol.
Instead of facing punishment for potentially dismantling the fabric of space-time, Izzy was told the Academy needed someone of her enthusiasm and energy to help revive Spiral Reach. She’d been selected to be fast-tracked through the Captain’s program. High Chancellor Kadimova assured Izzy he would explain the details along a short walk.
The good news was that Izzy would be a Captain far sooner than expected. The bad news? She had to steal a ship to do so. Under Kadimova’s instruction, Izzy commandeered the Lofty Albatross, the only ship without a captain, and met her crew – First Officer Fontaine deCourville, a Cicardox with a chip on his four shoulders, and Professor Brannigan Everest, the ship’s mechanic. They had little time to get to know each other before they received a distress signal from Chief Medical Officer Melissa Carter.
Izzy, a Captain whose bravery knew no bounds, ordered the crew to chart a course for Rigel Six to answer the call for help. They arrived to find the Ruklan Liberation Army had launched a rebellion against the ruling Rigellians. Facing insurmountable odds, Izzy decided she needed to face the Ruklans in-person.
“Forgive me if I’m unfamiliar with all of the current approaches to Gamma Class crises,” CMO Carter said, the first to break the silence. “It’s been a few years since I’ve been in a classroom. Did you just suggest, perhaps, that we enter a hostile battlefield while vastly outnumbered?”
Izzy nodded. “Find their leader and talk it out with them,” she replied. “Oh, hey. Do we have any tea? Fruit baskets? It’s bad manners to show up without something. Makes you look cheap.”
CMO Carter arched her eyebrows. First Officer Fontaine chittered and clicked his mandibles, the secondary membranes on his eyes allowing him to look both concerned and furious at the same time.
“Captain Warpt has herself a bit of,” Professor Everest said, pausing to consider the rest of his thought. “She’s not the most orthodox in her approaches, but she’s got a good head on her shoulders that one.”
“Which will make it all the more troubling when we get court marshaled for letting her get it shot clean off in what is clearly,” Fontaine shouted, his voice increasing in volume with each word, “a suicide mission!”
Izzy shook her head. “I doubt we’d have anything too fancy in our rations,” she muttered. She noticed all eyes were on here.
“Oh wow, I’m so sorry,” Izzy added. “Spaced out for a second there. Deep in thought. Did I miss something important?”
“Captain Warpt, do you have a plan?” CMO Carter asked, her brow furrowed. It was an expression Izzy was used to seeing her mother wear when she’d discovered Izzy had come up with big ideas that could be misconstrued as minor crimes in the wrong light.
Izzy tapped a finger to her lips, her focus clearly nowhere in the room. “I remember some things I learned about the Ruklan people,” she said. “I’ll need you to follow my lead, though. No weapons.” She eyed Fontaine suspiciously.
“Give me one reason to not relieve her of her duty right this moment,” Fontaine snarled.
Professor Everest cracked his knuckles, his neck, and a number of other joints in rapid succession. Recordings used later for archival purposes picked up a sound not unlike the ancient wooden roller coasters of Earth.
“I’ve got two compelling reasons for you right here,” Professor Everest replied.
“And you, Chief Medical Officer Carter?” Izzy asked. “Are you packing heat? Got an omni-plasma bazooka you’re hiding?”
CMO Carter smiled. “I’m a medical officer,” she replied, a chuckle escaping as she spoke. “Not a single weapon on my person.”
“Good, good. But I’ve got my eye on you all the same!” Izzy replied. She waited patiently while both First Officer deCourville and Professor Everest disarmed.
Professor Everest set aside two sidearms, a matching pair of plasma knuckles, and a weapon with a barrel large enough Izzy could fit her head in it with the word “Persuasion” engraved on its handle.
First Officer deCourville produced one sidearm. He hesitated, then removed what looked to be a walking stick from his side. Izzy eyed it with no attempts at masking her curiosity.
“Don’t even think about touching that,” Fontaine said. “I’ll know. And now, Captain, I must ask how you expect an audience with the Ruklan leader.”
Izzy rolled her eyes, huffing for emphasis. “First we need to get transported down to the surface,” she explained. “Each of you has an emergency return, yeah?”
One by one, the others nodded.
“Good. Cool. So only use them if we absolutely have to, but otherwise we zip down to the surface and immediately surrender,” Izzy said.
CMO Carter blinked. “I’m very sorry, I don’t wish to come across as insubordinate,” she replied. “Did you say surrender? I must’ve had something stuck in my ear.”
“That she did, I believe,” Professor Everest said. “Clever enough plan, too.”
Fontaine started to speak, but was quickly hushed by Izzy. “On my mark, we teleport to the surface of Rigel Six. Middle of the fray. Ready?”
“As I’ll ever be,” CMO Carter replied.
“Let’s get diplomatic!” Professor Everest responded.
First Officer deCourville sighed. “At least I’ve ensured my family is well taken care of,” he huffed.
The world shimmered and stretched around the four of them as their synchronized transports initiated. In a flash of blue light they all landed softly on the soft red sand that made up much of Rigel Six’s coastal landscape–the planet’s landmasses consisting of a handful of islands largely covered in resorts that, at a glance, looked to have been converted into expensive-looking fortresses. Several Ruklan soldiers stormed past without giving Izzy or her crew a second look. They towered over all of them save for Professor Everest, their normally sparsely-clothed bodies covered in some of the best armor on the market.
Izzy watched the soldiers charge past in small packs, each one armed well enough to act as an entire militia. She spotted one who looked to be moving a little slower with a bit more calculation to their movement, took a deep breath, and stepped in front of the soldier.
The soldier clearly had not planned for this, attempting to stop so as to not bowl down the sudden intruder in its field of vision. The terrain did not lend itself well to a sudden shift in momentum. The soldier stumbled forward awkwardly before it planted face-first into the sand. It leapt to its feet, weapon at the ready–it pointed a long, two-pronged pole at Izzy, jagged arcs of starlight jolting between the prongs.
“We’d like to offer our conditional surrender,” Izzy said cheerfully, hands in the air.
The Ruklan soldier cocked its head, its facial features hidden by the helmet’s visor. It replied in a series of guttural growls and grunts, pausing periodically as if waiting for a response. Izzy offered a polite shrug, at which point the soldier tapped on a circular interface on the chest plate of its armor. It pointed to its helmet around where its mouth would be, then pointed to Izzy and her crew.
“Talk? You’re in luck,” Izzy said. “I could do that all day long if I have to, or if I want to even.”
The interface flashed a dull, white light with each word Izzy spoke, settling on a steady pulse after she’d stopped speaking.
“Calibration complete,” spoke a robotic voice from the armor. The Ruklan soldier pointed to Izzy, then to where its mouth likely was beneath the helmet again.
“Right, sorry,” Izzy said. Behind her, Fontaine began to step forward but was stopped short by Professor Everest. One hand was enough to stop Fontaine from continuing forward and the other covered his mandibles completely.
“Conditional surrender,” Izzy repeated, smiling. “Old movies used to have aliens say something like take me to your leader, I think. Do that, please?”