My Quest to Become Empress of the 'Verse, Part 1
“Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate's life for me.” - Pirates of the Caribbean
Jade was born on a small moon out in the middle of Maverick Space, called Mimas. This (and many others) orbited the very large and stunningly beautiful planet, Saturn. This location was suitable to her family, who had just moved out to the Rim from Belarus on Earth with their infant son, Ivan. They wanted to remain efficiently off the radar, undetected by any Earther patrols which might be circling the area, but they still needed to be somewhat close to a center of power. Another of Saturn's moons, Titan, was the capital of Maverick space. On Titan, a person could do just about anything and go just about anywhere. It was also very easy to get to Titan from Mimas. All one needed to do was stow away on one of the many supply ships or smuggler's craft flying to and from the place every day, and they'd be set.
The scenery itself was stunning. Saturn was the dominant object in the sky, giving all the settlers on Mimas an excellent view of its majestic rings. In the other direction, they could see Titan, which appeared as an orange-ish orb about the size of Luna when viewed from Earth. They could also see the star Sol, but it was only slightly bigger than any of the other stars in the Maverick sky. It would have been a spectacular life... if life on Mimas was ever anything but terrible. Many of the moons out in the Rim were not really suitable for human life, and yet had humans attempting to live on them. These people were living the most difficult of lives the 'verse could offer them, and most of the time, like with Jade's family, it was all because of the materialistic douches on planet Earth. They were trying to control everything, mainly by controlling the economy, and not caring how many worlds they destroyed in the process. Earth nowadays was basically just made up of a lot of warring corporations, all wanting the same thing, but all wanting to be the only ones to get it. The thing they wanted? 'Verse domination.
Everyday life became simply a struggle to stay alive, and, while it brought some people closer together, it tore most families apart. Many wars were fought over the most insignificant things, blood feuds began and never ended, and the death rate was higher than it had ever been on any main planet. Jade's mother and father were both so caught up in the war effort that they stopped caring about her and her older brother, Ivan. After days or even weeks of fighting, they would come home and go strait to bed, ignoring their children. Jade and Ivan had to stay at home the whole time, learning how to care for themselves and learning that they weren't ever going to get any attention from their parents. They may as well have been orphans on the streets. Ivan was ten years old. Jade was only eight.
One day, Ivan suggested that they should run away from home and live on their own. He said they could gather as many other kids as they wanted, and they could start a band of thieves, a sort of children's gang as it were. Gangs were very common in Maverick Space, and from Jade and Ivan's point of view, they had all the real power. They may be young, but both of them could easily see that power was the one thing that kept anyone alive in this 'verse. They needed to gain as much of it as possible, and fast, or they were certain they were going to die.
Jade, of course, immediately agreed with this plan. Her brother was the one person in the entire world that she trusted completely, and she knew that if the two of them stuck together, they would make it out okay. And, even as an eight year old, Jade was very charismatic. She found very often that she could convince almost anyone to do things for her, and they would not object. She didn't know at the time if it was just because she was a child and they felt sorry for her, or if she actually had some kind of real power already.
With their plans decided, Jade and Ivan went running from house to house, looking for kids who were in similar situations as theirs and who wanted to join their new-found gang. Surprisingly, or maybe not-so surprisingly, they got a lot of supporters, including Jade's friend Cait, a girl who saw life in about the same way that Jade did, and an older boy named Lucien, who was as charismatic as Jade herself was, and who seemed like he knew what he was doing. They all kept recruiting more of the neighborhood kids, and soon Jade and Ivan's band was a good twenty kids strong. They abandoned their surname and nicknamed themselves “Darkshadow” in its place. It was a name that they thought should help them build an airtight reputation, one that other gangs would learn to fear. They felt that with that and their numbers alone they could take on the world, and maybe even win.
Four years later, Gang Darkshadow had indeed become what they had dreamed it would be when they formed it. Of all the gangs on Mimas, theirs was the most revered and feared. They felt powerful, and they wanted more. Jade had become the official gang leader, but the real leader was Ivan. Jade looked up to him for advice, and when he gave it, she never turned it down. Together they were indeed unstoppable, or at least that was what it seemed like to them at the time. However, there was not much else they could do on a backwater moon like Mimas. They decided that it was time to move on to the big leagues. At only twelve years old, Jade decided it was time for her and her gang to go to Titan.
The Birth of a Villain
“Time for some thrilling heroics.” - Jayne Cobb
The members of Gang Darkshadow stowed away on a cargo ship that was headed to Titan that very afternoon, and when they got there, they were amazed at what they saw. For just a minute, they were not a gang of Maverick teens, but simply a group of tourists on their first visit to the capital. Despite the methane snow and the terrible stench that filled the air at all times, they thought that Titan was well-deserved of all its praise. It was a magnificent sight.
For the rest of the day, as well as most of the next, they wandered the streets as per their usual routine, but they were less interested in searching out rival gangs to defeat and more interested in having a look around the planet itself. Titan was everything they could have asked for, and more. The thick clouds swirling above, the orange color that surrounded pretty much everything, and then, of course, everything itself. The civilization on Titan was like nothing they had ever seen. These people, unlike the poor settlers on the outer moons, seemed to have everything they needed. Jade and Ivan were amazed at the power the Mavericks displayed here.
They decided to see where the center of activity was here, and they found it quickly, in the nearest bar. The Mavericks were fond of drinking, and on Titan there seemed to be a bar on every corner. Laughing, Jade led her gang toward the bar called the Clockwork Cheshire, eager to decipher how they could climb the ranks and make themselves known on this new world.
An older boy sat down at the bar in between Cait and Lucien. Jade was sitting on Lucien's other side, watching and listening.
“New gang in town, huh?” he mumbled under his breath, looking back and forth between Cait and Lucien. “Which of you two is the leader?”
“Jade is our leader,” said Lucien, gesturing to her as he spoke.
The new boy looked slightly surprised for a moment, then regained his control. He smoothly switched places with Lucien so as to be situated closer to Jade.
“Jade, huh?” he said. “You, uh, want to test your gang's strength against mine?”
Jade looked him over. He was at least four years older than she was, if not more, and he looked like he really meant business. For one thing, he was dressed like some kind of steampunk space pirate, with a coat that had one of its sleeves torn off to expose his obviously cybernetic arm, and a top hat with a pair of goggles strapped to it. He was looking at her as if she was something disgusting that had intruded into his private estate and needed to be exterminated.
“That depends,” Jade said to him, unsure of whether or not fighting this guy was a good idea; “Who are you?”
“We're known 'round these parts as the Cast Iron Jabberwocks,” he replied, a fierce tone in his voice and a proud gleam in his eye. “And... who are you?”
“Gang Darkshadow, the most feared gang on Mimas.”
The older boy laughed icily. “Mimas? You're serious? And you expect to win here?”
Jade was confused by his tone. “What do you mean?” she demanded of him.
“Let me make myself clear, little girl,” he snarled. “This is Titan. The big leagues. My turf. Your kind doesn't last a day here.”
“You threatening us, sir?” asked Ivan dangerously, spitting the last word out as if it were an deadly insult, and standing to face the stranger.
Immediately, every gang member in the bar, be they from Gang Darkshadow or the newly announced Cast Iron Jabberwocks, stood up and took a side behind their respective leader. Jade carefully positioned herself in between the new guy and her brother, trying to look as threatening as a twelve-year-old Maverick girl with no cybernetics could, while gauging the danger of the situation at the same time. Surprisingly, she saw that Gang Darkshadow actually outnumbered the new gang by about five people.
Behind her, Lucien, Ivan, and Cait, as well as many of the other members of her gang, unsheathed different kinds of blades. The steampunk gang leader in front of her unsheathed one as well, motioning for his gang to do the same. Jade pulled out a vibro-dagger, noting again the look of surprise on the Cast Iron Jabberwocks leader's face as he saw it.
“Jadie,” Ivan whispered to her, “We outnumber them. We can take these guys!”
“Wait,” she whispered back. “We don't know these people. They could be hiding something.”
“Do you want to fight us or not?” demanded the rival gang leader. “We're all here, drawn and ready! You cowards or something?”
That was the last straw. This guy had been getting on her nerves already, but calling her and her gang cowards was over the line. Jade uttered an indistinguishable cry and lunged at the older gang leader, fury in her eyes.
She found herself blocked by the bartender. He stood right in between her and the Cast Iron Jabberwocks, a firm grip on her wrist, stopping her from stabbing anyone.
“Whoa there, girly, calm down now,” he said, holding her back; “I know you two wanna fight, and I fully support your right to do so, but this ain't the Nest. You'll have to take it outside.”
The two gang leaders stepped back and glared at each other.
“Back ally. Ten minutes.” the space pirate said coldly to Jade.
“I'll be there.”
Ten minutes later, Jade, Ivan, and Gang Darkshadow convened in the ally behind the bar. The older boy and his gang stepped out from the shadows and stood facing Gang Darkshadow in the middle of the ally. There was a moment of stare-down between Jade and the boy.
Before anyone knew it, Ivan had shouted something like “Let's do this,” and charged forward at the other gang. The ally erupted into chaos. Slashes were made on both sides, and blood ran in the streets. No one involved could tell what was going on, they just fought to keep themselves alive.
Out of nowhere, Jade heard someone whistle sharply, and she looked to see about ten or fifteen more people emerge from various hiding spots. They all belonged to the Cast Iron Jabberwocks.
“That low-down, cheating bastard!” Cait screamed. “He tricked us!”
“They outnumber us now,” observed Lucien, quietly fuming as he stood in a pool of blood.
Jade looked around for Ivan. She loved him to death, but she knew that when he was deeply involved with something, he had a tendency to not notice things around him. Like the fact that they were outnumbered now, and probably wouldn't win this fight.
She caught a glance of him fighting with another of the rival gang members and started heading over to help him, when a glint of something silver caught her eye. She turned to see the rival gang leader, half hidden in shadow, holding a shiny silver gun. He was staring at Ivan with a look of hatred and bloodlust on his face.
Jade turned and ran towards Ivan, shouting a warning, but was intercepted by yet another Cast Iron Jabberwock. It was a girl about her own age, who laughed as she slashed at Jade with her dagger.
A gunshot sounded. Jade stopped fighting. So did the laughing girl. All around them, people stopped and turned to see who had been shot. Jade turned, too, already knowing what she would see, but hoping that it wouldn't be true.
Ivan was standing stock-still in the road, with a look of shock on his face. His knife dropped to the floor. He brought both hands to his chest. A blossom of bright red blood appeared there. Slowly, as if falling through molasses, his body dropped to the ground.
Jade sheathed her blade in the laughing girl's chest and hurried to her brother's side. As she cradled his body in her arms, she felt tears come to her eyes for the first time in four years. As a last, desperate hope that she might be able to save him, she looked into his eyes. He stared back at her with a sad expression on his face.
“Jadie,” he murmured, speech obviously being difficult for him right now, “Jadie...”
“I'm here, Ivan,” she said, through her tears. “I'm here, I'll always be here...”
“Jade,” he said, with his last effort, “Avenge me.”
As he collapsed into unconsciousness, Jade felt someone gently touch her shoulder. It was Lucien. He handed Jade a silver gun like the one the Jabberwock leader had used. He didn't say anything, just nodded at Jade with a meaningful look in his eye.
Jade took the gun, stood up, and looked at the surviving members of her gang. They were all looking at her with sorrowful expressions, as if they knew what she was feeling inside. How could they know? All her sorrow for Ivan's death had been replaced with an undeniable rage and an urge for vengeance. She wanted that bastard who shot her brother dead at her feet. No, wait. She wanted him to suffer first. He didn't deserve a quick death.
She turned around and saw him standing there, right where he had been. He hadn't moved at all. She cocked the gun and gave him the most scathing look she could possibly muster, filled with all of her hatred and loathing of the very person he was. Something of it must have registered with him, and he realized that by pissing this girl off he had made a grandiose mistake.
He turned and ran. She pursued him, shouting insults the entire time, and occasionally firing a shot or two his way. They all missed. He eventually outran her and she was forced to return to her gang unavenged.
They buried Ivan there on Titan, mainly because none of them wanted to try to stow away on a flight back to Mimas with a corpse. It would be hard to hide.
“Jade,” asked Cait, tentatively, “What's going to happen now?”
Jade was silent for a long time, and then said: “Go back to Mimas. I don't want anyone else to die today on my behalf.”
“But boss,” another gang member protested, “We can't just leave you.”
“You have to!” she cried. “Cait, you're team leader now. Go back to Mimas. I'm not coming with you. I'm not going back to that godforsaken moon even if my life depended on it.”
“Cait's team leader?” asked Lucien, skeptically. “But Jade, I don't follow her, I follow you.”
“Fine!” Jade snapped. “Anyone who doesn't want to follow Cait can follow Lucien. Go make your own gang. I'm leaving the group.”
“What are you going to do?” Lucien asked.
“I'll stay here for now,” she said decidedly. “Titan is the capital of Maverick Space, and that's the perfect setting for me now. I'm going to get my revenge.”
“The world is a mess, and I just need to rule it.” - Dr. Horrible
Jade wandered through the streets of Titan dejectedly. It had been weeks since the rest of Gang Darkshadow had left, and she still hadn't come any closer to finding the leader of the Jabberwocks. She had managed to get herself involved with a few of the bigger gangs on Titan though, including the Knaves, the Hellcats, and through them, the Cogs. She'd used a different name each time, so that none of the gang leaders would realize that she was a “double agent” so to speak, and she had gathered several important pieces of information from each gang that she thought might come in handy some day. She knew that having information gave you a sort of leverage over others, and that was a kind of power she rather liked having. However, here Jade saw that she not only needed power to get ahead, but also money, preferably a lot of it. The problem was getting it.
A few days ago, a fellow gang member had given her the name of a guy who might have some useful information for her, and she had left in search of him. However, he was hard to find.
“You looking for someone?” a stranger asked her. She glanced at them. It was a woman, who looked like she was in her twenties maybe. She seemed nice. Trustworthy, even. Jade decided to see if she knew where to find this contact.
“I need to find a guy named O'Connell. You don't know where he is, do you?”
To her surprise, a glint of recognition shone in the woman's eye. “Who is looking for him?” she asked quietly.
“I don't work for any gang,” Jade said quickly. “This is purely a personal matter.”
The woman smiled then. “As a matter of fact, I do know him,” she said smoothly. “What's your name again?”
“Knives,” Jade lied. “Knives Palenken.”
“Follow me, Knives,” said the woman to Jade. “I'll show you where he lives.”
About ten minutes later, they were standing outside a crumbling old house with lots of graffiti on the walls. Jade was surprised that anyone lived here, but the woman seemed convinced, and so she gently pushed on the door. It swung open, and, with an encouraging glance from the mysterious benefactor, Jade slowly walked inside.
She walked through the house, looking for signs of life and finding none. Just as she was about to turn around and go back, she heard a man's voice from behind her, and whirled around.
“O'Connell?” she asked, hoping it was him.
“What are you doing in my house?” he demanded. “How did you find me?”
“Long story,” she said, not wanting to mention the woman who had helped her, “And it's none of your business. Now, do you know anything about a gang called the Cast Iron Jabberwocks?”
“Why should I tell you?” he demanded of her, looking at her with hatred.
Jade scowled at him dangerously and repeated her question: “You don't want to make me angry. Now, what do you know about the Cast Iron Jabberwocks?”
“Heard of 'em,” he said hesitantly. “Don't know much else.”
“Do you know anyone who might know how to find them?” she asked, frustrated.
“Well...” he muttered, obviously trying to hide something from her.
Jade unsheathed her vibro-dagger halfway, just to show the guy what kind of person he was dealing with, and to show him he should be honest with her if he knew what was best for himself.
“I've heard of a guy named Radical Doitzel,” he stammered, eyes wide. “He's... well he's supposed to be from the Cartel, he might know something!”
The Cartel. Interesting. She had heard of this gang before, apparently it was a powerhouse of information, a super-powerful spy network, centered on Europa and run by a man who called himself “the Gambler.”
“Where can I find this... Radical Doitzel?” she asked.
Later, following the directions the man had hastily given her, Jade made her way to the bar called The Drunken Womprat. As she entered the bar, she saw a very chaotic scene. However, this was not the usual chaos one finds in Maverick bars, as this was not caused by a fight. This chaos was caused, apparently, by some kid who was buying rounds for everyone there. This was so unexpected, Jade paused a bit before actually walking in.
Regaining her concentration, Jade walked up to the bar and seated herself next to the crazy kid who apparently felt like wasting all his money on drinks for other people. He was about sixteen years old, and seemed to be of an average height, although there was something fundamentally wrong with his height that she just couldn't describe. He was also wearing a pair of goggles on his head that reminded her too much of that bastard who had shot her brother, and a T-shirt which read: “WARS not make one great.” He looked insanely happy, as if he had just successfully pulled a prank on someone very important who did not tolerate pranksters, and lived.
“Um, you wouldn't happen to know anyone by the name of Radical Doitzel, would you?” she asked the kid, unsure of how to go about this.
“Doitzel? He's only the coolest gorram Cartel agent this side of the Belt!” he replied enthusiastically. “You mean you haven't heard of him?”
Jade sighed. “You're him, aren't you?”
“Zounds! I am discovered,” he exclaimed. “What can I do for you? You want a drink?”
“No. I need info. What can you tell me about the Cast Iron Jabberwocks?”
“What do you want to know?”
“Where's their hideout?” she asked.
“Their hideout?” he repeated. “No one knows. Rumors have it they move it every month, so as not to be ambushed while unprepared.”
Damn. No chance of surprising them at home. So that plan was crap.
“They have a meeting place?”
“A bar 'round these parts, the Clockwork Cheshire, last I heard.”
Jade knew this was a lie. She had staked out that bar every day for a week, and no sign of any Jabberwocks. Maybe it used to be their hangout, but it wasn't anymore.
“Who is their leader?” she asked him, hoping this answer would be more helpful than the last two had been.
“Hmm,” Doitzel muttered. “You sure you don't want a drink? I'll pay for it!”
“I don't want a drink,” said Jade, annoyed. “Who is their leader?”
“Don't actually know myself,” he said. “Though I know a guy who knows a guy who could maybe help you out.”
“Oh? And who would that be?”
“Dathan Osterberger. He's with Cube 2 Hypergang. They're supposed to have some dealings with the Jabberwocks. He might know something.”
Making a mental note of this new contact, Jade stood to leave.
“Wait!” Doitzel exclaimed. “It's dangerous to go alone. Take this.” He handed her a small steel marble. It was shiny, but it looked worthless to Jade.
“Uh, thanks,” she said, unsure what to think of this kid. She then left the bar, thinking that this Radical Doitzel guy was not all there, and that someone should lock him in an asylum somewhere. Or just shoot him. The guy was pathetic, and completely insane.
When she walked outside, the same woman who had shown her the way to O'Connell's house earlier was standing there in the ally, as if waiting for her.
“You're determined, I'll give you that,” she said smoothly, “and you seem to know what you're doing. Would you like a job?”
“Who are you?” Jade asked, suspicious. “And what kind of job?”
“The kind that would get you money, power, and the reputation you want and deserve.”
Jade paused for a minute. She did want that, a lot. That had been the reason Gang Darkshadow came to Titan in the first place. Could this woman really help her get it?
“That Cartel loser didn't give you any useful info, did he?” asked the woman.
“No,” Jade admitted, “he didn't. He just pointed me to someone else, like they all do. 'Sorry, I can't help you, but here's someone who can!' I'm sick of it!”
The woman smiled. “I thought so,” she said. “You know, with the Accord, you wouldn't have to deal with that. People would respect you, and fear you. Forget Cube 2 Hypergang. Join the Accord.”
Jade was stunned. This was the kind of chance that could get her to the top, the place where the biggest gang leaders ruled, the place where the winners were. The other gangs she was involved with were nothing compared to the might of the Accord. This was her chance.
“Okay,” she told the woman. “I want to join.”
“The Accord will be glad to have you, Knives.”
As she followed the Accord woman toward Titan Station, Jade looked back at the dirty alleyways where she had spent most of her time these past few months. Ha, she thought, no more bottom of the ladder for me. I'm with the Accord now, I'm in the big leagues. Now I'll be able to find those Jabberwocks for sure! I'll avenge Ivan, and then I'll show the world they never should have messed with Jade Darkshadow!