What a time to be alive.
(I wasn't directly paid for this, hence no actual law-breaking. Nice. So have some ficcage! If you like my writing, it might be Of Interest. And especially if you like obscure Don Bluth movies about aliens. And ships involving characters of.... questionable moral character. Korso and Preed are my terrible garbage children and I love them. This isn't a complete work, just the first chapter that I have done, but it'll likely get updates. Don't know if I'll post them on Patreon, but feel free to follow on AO3!)
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Title: Sting Operation
Fandom: Titan AE
Before Earth was destroyed, Commander Joseph Korso had a steady job and a pretty good handle on life. He even had a useful informant on potential alien threats - Preed, a small-time black market player and upstart akrennian punk. When a lethal poison and biological weapons dealer threatens all of humanity with a deadly virus, it's time to put this uneasy partnership to the test. Contains snark, suffering, dysfunctional dynamics, espionage, daring rescues, and more questionable akrennian flirting than you can shake a stick at.
For Eri, who has been my companion and enabler in this wonderful, terrible verse and horrid ship for years. Takes place around 5 years before the destruction of Earth, so around 20 years before the start of the film. Korso is still with Earth's National Guard but hasn't yet been stationed at the Titan.
... Please imagine 'Hemlock' as an alien who is virtually identical to, but technically distinct from Thrax, from Osmosis Jones. It's him. It's impossible for this crossover to actually exist, and yet, there he is. My brain wouldn't allow anything different.
Chapter 1: I Can Never Resist A Secret
Commander Joseph Korso stepped into his office, and immediately tightened his teeth to suppress any visible reaction or tell. His features slipped into their practiced pokerface, and his only hint of annoyance was a slight stiffening of his broad shoulders. He didn’t fold his arms or speak, or even frown. Give him a few years.
His informant was sitting on his desk again.
Long legs dangling off, one toe tapping the linoleum floor, the other foot jiggling in the air to the beat of a song he didn’t know, but the alien was happily humming as he tipped his head back to gaze at the ceiling. He looked like he’d borrowed the pose from a lingerie model on the hood of a hot-rod car, and Korso wondered if he’d caught a glimpse of the calendar in the break room.
He waited. Nothing. The lanky Akrennian - teenager, probably, Korso wasn’t the best at guessing ages, especially not alien ages, but this guy had to be somewhere just above legal - might as well have been cloud-gazing all by himself, without a care in the world. Kept toe-tapping, kept lounging, kept humming.
Korso didn’t sigh, or clear his throat, or give him the satisfaction of making him ask for his attention. Not this time.
He crossed the room and sat down at his desk. With the alien still sitting on it.
“You’re early for once,” he said, just pulling the folder he needed right out from under his ass. “Better than an hour late."
“Oh! Hello!” Preedex Yoa exclaimed as if he’d just noticed Korso was in the room. He tipped his head even further back to look at him upside-down. “That’s because you sounded like you actually had something interesting to say this time."
“I didn’t say anything in the message,” Korso didn’t look up, instead opening the folder and pulling out a glossy piece of photo paper. Mainstream military tech had long since advanced to holographic imagery, but record jockeys still liked to keep some things traditional. “That’s what ‘confidential’ means."
“I know. It’s a secret. Secrets are interesting. Unlike everything else you have me do."
“If it’s so boring, why do you keep coming back?"
“The incomparable company, of course."
Now, Korso couldn’t resist rolling his eyes just a little - lucky he was still looking down. Walked right into that one. Still, he wouldn’t rise to the baiting of an alien punk wearing less than he’d call underwear. He held up the glossy photo - a mugshot of another alien, different species, lot bigger and more menacing than the one who hadn’t moved an inch from where he was sitting, very close.
“You know this guy?”
The akrennian gave a small intake of breath, and stopped his foot-jiggling. It actually made Korso look up. He knew enough to recognize when someone was trying to keep a cool pokerface.
“We’ve met,” Preed gave a little sideways nod and just-as-sideways smile, a little nervous wiggle before his regular motion started back up again, foot swaying to the silent beat. He went back to looking at the ceiling. “Why do you ask?"
“He’s been making quite a name for himself… a lot of names, actually,” Korso frowned at one particularly baffling row of symbols. “Kchhk… Chh-kar-"
“Please, don’t trouble yourself,” Preed gave a tight, high laugh that didn’t sound like he found anything funny at all. “It’s unpronounceable for your species. 'Hemlock' is just fine for human tongues. Well actually, it’s quite deadly, from what I understand. Just like him…"
“That is one on the list,” Korso assented, noting that the akrennian’s intelligence was at least as good as theirs on this particular point. “So you do know him."
“A bit.” Preed swung his head back to look the human in the eye, and asked for a second time. “Why? Sounds like you know around as much about him as I do. And I must say, Commander, if I knew much more, I’m not sure I’d tell you. There might be more dangerous things to do than playing with his particular brand of poison, but…” He stopped, going still and closing his mouth. “Well, I’ll let you speak first. Rude of me.”
“Right.” Korso glanced from the clearly nervous alien to the mugshot and vitals, then back up. “Well, if you him, you know he’s pretty big player on the black market. Specializing in drugs, poisons, biological warfare, selling custom-made plagues to the highest bidder. The damage this guy and men like him could do if he’s left out on the street is incalculable. He’s killed before, and-"
“Yes, yes, he’s a virulent strain, a cancer on the galaxy, and I suppose you’re the cure,” Preed rolled his eyes. Korso had no idea if it was an akrennian gesture, or if he’d specifically picked up the human one to express his annoyance in a language Korso would understand. “You have no idea how many times and ways I’ve heard this speech from men in uniform. Like I said before, save your breath. You’re trying to talk a language that isn’t for human tongues."
Korso shut his mouth. He felt a change in the energy of the room, but couldn’t say what it was. “Just what the hell do you think I’m trying to do here?"
The alien sighed, long limbs sagging and head drooping as if under the weight of the world. A heavy, dramatic gesture, but with the truth behind it. All of his movements had that quality. Exaggerated, but not fabricated. "Yes, I realize the galaxy is a scary place! I know there are bad guys in it! You don’t have to invoke the name of a demon to make me realize that! But it’s not going to change anything.”
Korso paused. “Wait. You think… do you think i’m trying to scare you straight?"
Preed folded his arms across his thin chest. “Well, aren’t you?"
“Holy shit…” Korso actually smiled. Almost laughed. “No?"
The young alien stared at him, hard. “So you’re not about to give me the ‘come on now, sonny, you can still turn your life around’ part in a minute? Appeal to the better angels of my sweet nature?"
“Nope.” Korso’s smile got wider. Couldn’t help it. Hoped he wouldn’t regret it. Something about this whole thing was just funny as hell. “Because then you couldn’t help me bring this asshole down."
Now it was Preed’s turn to pause and fix him with a studying gaze. “What… exactly are we talking about here?"
Korso leaned back in his chair. Put his feet up on the desk Preed still sat upon. “Something that’ll be of great benefit to humanity, and earn you some serious goodwill from Earth’s authorities… which I understand you could use. For someone so young, you’ve gotten on quite a few people’s shitlists."
“Hmm.” Preed shrugged, looking like he was preening under high praise. “And why, exactly, do you need my help with something involving Hemlock? Surely Earth has a fine and competent military force - if it includes soldiers like yourself, Commander."
“Later.” Korso said, going back to subtly watching his informant’s reactions, the way the young akrennian’s eyes kept going back to the the mugshot of the imposing alien with the very long claws. “Just wanted to feel you out, see if you were interested."
“And if I wasn’t?"
“Well, you are." Korso said easily. Preed didn't need to know what Korso's orders were. That if he'd said no, he was never supposed to leave this room. That Korso had specifically asked for this assignment, so he was the one in the room with Preed when the assignment was offered. To make sure he said yes. That if he said no... he really wasn't sure what would happen. "That’s all that matters."
“Mmm.” Preed’s long fingers traced the photograph and records. His eyes flicked back up to Korso, and he actually smiled back. “What can I say? I can never resist a secret."