The Red M
The paper of the cigarette was wrinkled. There was a slight bend in the roll, and bits of tobacco were poking through the small tear that had formed as a result.
Richard frowned and placed it between his lips. Five hundred years after the commercialization of smoking tobacco and the cigarette lobbies were still fighting good fight. It had probably been colonization that had saved most of the major corporations from going under. Up, up, up the taxes went, and people just couldn’t stomach the money anymore. Then along came the New Frontier, and the Marlboro man had been one of the first cowboys to explore it. Go figure. What was surprising is that they had managed to beat Budweiser.
He flicked up the top of his lighter and brought the flame up. The end of the cigarette burned red-orange, and smoke started to swell up at the tip. Richard inhaled and then released a breath of hazy gray smog.
The rhythmic vibrations of the shuttle’s rear thrusters gently dissipated as their ship descended upon the rotating series of rings that was Colony A16, or Canaan. The Chinese Confederation saw most colonial ventures like this in more numerical terms, monetary even. You were either profits or red marks on a budget. Canaan, unfortunately, held the latter distinction. But, despite its dwindling success at remaining useful, in this part of space, it served as a semi-convenient meeting ground for freelancers, travelers, and ship captains looking for either work, passage, or men.
“Don’t act like I haven’t done anything,” grumbled a coarse voice.
Richard sighed inwardly as he took another drag off of his beat up cigarette. “You’ll get your cash, but damn, I fly better than you drunk. Put another dink on a loaner like this and you won’t be worth the pot you piss in. We could find five other pilots here that could out preform you, and I’m willing to be at least two of them are desperate enough to go without the pay.”
Laurie, the ugly fuck of a pilot they had hired a few jobs back, didn’t respond. As irritating at the boisterous son of a bitch could be, another job with them and he could be a permanent stay-on, which was less than amicable and seemed to say more about their current financial state than most other things. More likely than not, they weren’t going to find a new pilot, and until they got another pay-day, there wasn’t like to be a cheaper one. “Once, we get some fuel, go head and warm up the engine. I don’t plan on staying long.”
“Why the hell did we dock on Canaan, anyway?”
“The A.M.C. referenced us to a few freelancers operating in this area. A couple of them are looking for work, and we’ll probably need a few more hands for this job.”
"Fuck's sake..." Reiker muttered under his breath. He hated docking on colonial planets. Even so, he could not deny that his crew was desperate. What was left of his crew, that is. After the the conflict with Lao Tzu everything had gone to shit. While they managed to find the traitor, over half the team was killed in a showdown against EPE Imperial Guards. As a result, all that was left of the team happened to be Laurie, Richard, Cassandra, and himself. Despite that, they were given a new contract without any supplementary equipment from the AMC. They didn't even have enough people to man the ship, let alone form a strike team on top of it. So, it was up to him to try and increase their numbers, and that was not working very well either. Reiker was already picky about adding members for the team, and he was loathe to recruit colonials, or anyone from outside Earth, for that matter.
Even so, desperate times called for desperate measures...which also were not turning out very well. Canaan's patron nation was the Chinese Confederation, mostly composed of colonists originally from Israel and the Samaritan communities. This was part of the Chinese Confederation's negotiations to convince Israel to join the Confederation and solidify their Middle Eastern borders. This included giving them the leading province in the Middle East, as well as the funding for their own colonial project.
That said, the colony is mostly geared toward agricultural terraforming, and of the few combat capable individuals there were, the vast majority of combat capable pilots are part of the Confederate Naval Forces, nearly all of which were dedicated to defending the developing colony.
As such, there were even fewer people interested in working for an extension of the North American Union. Nevertheless, this was the closest planet to their next mission, and they only had a small window of opportunity to complete it.
"What the hell are the AMC thinking?" he growled, looking around for the-would-be recruits on the planets. All the while he clenched his fists, holding back his desire to slam them against the wall. 'And more importantly, where are the freelancers?'
Do you know what made a good drink great? Some would argue the level of alcohol in it. Others, the preparation. Shaken versus stirred, for example. Others would say the bartender themselves. Jacob had always found that the glass was what made it for him. The feeling of the sweat droplets rolling down the side of the glass, cold just enough ot make his lips salivate. Jacob pressed his head to the glass once, sighing from the rush of cold air to his forehead, and started to press his lips against it when a bullet went whizzing past, exploding the bottom of the whiskey and spilling it and shards in every direction. Shit.
Jacob fell back, dropping awayto the floor as two more shots rung out through the bar, and a body slumped in the corner. The silver lining being that Jacob was not the target made him scramble to the wall away from the bar table, noting from the corner of his eye that the man lying dead was a Hunter, someone who devoted his life to bring in bounties. He used to do that work on the side. The original target was already out the back door as a passing Confederate Agent pushed inside to find the source of the commotion, gun drawn.
This was just one of the reasons that Jacob was done with Canaan. The promised land just wans't working out. It wouldn't be long, he surmised, until the Palestinians were granted a space near here by the EU and then the old war would begin fresh, some couple hundred years over like a vicious cycle. Looking down at the spilled whiskey covering his shirt and pants, he shook his head in fear and a twinge of anger. The shock would fade and he'd realize the absurdity of it all, but for now he was to meet with the captain of a ship, someone his friend had passed word along was looking for a pilot. But first, he needed to throw up.
He wiped his face down, hands still slightly shaking as he tossed the paper towel in the bin. He fought off the need for a stim, heading back out the door and towards the exit as more Confederates entered, beginning to investigate. He didn't have time, and he hadn't seen anything. He passed without so much as a second glance.
The footfall of heavy boots filled the back alleyway as sirens swarmed the area, no doubt hunting for the man. He paid no attention, knowing the first sign of apprehension would be his end. Instead, he headed to the rendezvous point. Sticking his hands in his pockets and pulling the old jacket up around him a bit closer, Marley Tso headed towards the docking station on Canaan. He pulled out his cred card as he approached the gate, swiping for entrance towards the turnstyle, and reached the bay a few minutes early. The hounds were out, sniffing for any paraphernalia He leaned up on an empty wall, scanning the area for anyone that seemed out of place. Civilian clothes with Agency eyes. He saw none. He was so transfixed on seeing someone that he didn't even notice the man stand up next to him.
"You the guy from the bar, huh?" the man said. He was shorter, bald, and wearing an old brown jacket. It looked like he had pissed himself.
"What of it."
"Just that a man that guns down a Hunter doesn't usually walk so calm to a docking station like this unless he has plans... or connections out." Jacob drew out his electronic cigarette from the carton shaped charger, drawing a drag. "And the only connections working out of this sector are for the NAU."
Marley felt the blood start to boil. His hand went for the gun at his side, and it took all his strength not to waste the white punk.
"You sound very cock-sure Mister American."
"That's because if I'm correct, we're waiting on the same thing." The bald headed man raised his hand in a wave as he saw some moving towards the crowd. "Jacob, by the way. Let's hope our mutual benefactor's as good as they say they are."
Unlike both her, now what to call them, fellow captain? Partners? Associates? Anyway, unlike them she was in a rather happy mood, well of course she was she'd settled a few old grudges and she hadn't much liked the old crew anyway. Cass made the distinction between work and personal life, though not many would be able to tell as much, especially when she was in such a mood. Perhaps it was the pungent but sweet smell of lime vodka on her breath that had elevated her to such heights but she had practically skipped out of the ship with the clicking of metal heels on metal walk way. Her long skirt, mint green was today's theme, swayed back and forth while the chocolate-hued corset and bustle, both of leather, flattened out and held her chest steady.
Cassandra was pale, while she looked Japanese to an extent her roots clearly once lay in more Russian territories. She had thick dark hair, pale snow white skin and pale blue eyes. While her build was slender there was enough definition to make her appear neither formidable nor weak and when she spoke her voice was wrapped in the warmth of an accent her physical features would not allure to. “Re-ik-er” She sing-songed to the grumbling fellow Captain, upon the last syllable of his name she slipped an arm over his shoulder and placed her chin on the other. “Don't worry, they'll come.” It was almost as if she could read his mind but then again the way he glowered at the empty space and the reason they were here gave even an imbecile enough information to work with. Her lips broke out into a vixens smile, playful but with an edge of danger. “Of course.” She cooed, “If you keep glowering like that you might scare them off.”
Clearly she was teasing and once giving his shoulder a firm slap she stood up straight and stretched. “Guess I better go gather the supplies.” Stepping in front of him she saluted, “Please Captain, don't go killing anyone.” She went to turn but paused and looked back, “Until I get back.” With that she winked and stepped out towards town as she came level with two waving men she chuckled and shook her head lightly. Fresh meat, she'd love watching them get broken in, the first week was always the best, the squirming and the realisation between reality and imagination was the sweetest then. Of course briefly she wondered if her face had looked like that upon her first week with the crew but she didn't waste too much time contemplating it.
With a flick of her wrist she unfurled the paper and wood parasol she had snagged from that delightful detention centre. The things they'd kept from the people they'd taken were just too good to abandon. Spinning it in one hand she hummed lightly, offering the pair of men a wink before returning to being oblivious to them. Out into the town she stepped, sirens wailing around her but there was a certain person, a certain store she had to visit. Or a certain other captain would have a certain pissy fit over missing a certain favoured past time. While this job usually fell to someone else all three agreed that Cassandra was pretty good at negotiations, as long as she left the surgical tools on the ship.
Whoops. She thought to herself, sliding her fingers over a favourite scalpel of hers, Of course, a woman does need to take care of herself, especially out here all alone. Her mind reasoned, of course most people here were too busy trying to find ways to fuck up their own lives that she really didn't have too much to worry about. She was how they made their living, well, travellers like her anyway. The most she had to worry about was getting mugged but with no visible bag they'd have fun trying as much, pick pocketing would be hard as well considering her lack of pockets.
Strolling to a cash machine she reached into her corset to bring out the card they were to use. Swiping it it registered 'Elizabeth Turley' and a very modest amount of credits. Still Cassandra withdrew the lot and then, simply, abandoned the card. The credit's were placed discretely where the card had once been and she worked her way between the streets until she came upon a very small, shoddy little place. It figured Richie would get his 'things' from a little back alley place like this and he'd been very firm on the matter, it couldn't be any other merchant but this one.
Within twenty minutes Cassandra had secured a good pouch of the messy brown stuff and the weird, thin paper Richie insisted on rolling it in. Cass personally didn't smoke, though for her secondary job on the ship she was more than happy to play the smoker, cigarettes were a great incentive for people, especially when their glowing amber end was an eyelashes width from said persons eyeball. That had been when that little fuck bag had finally broken, caved in and told them all he knew, which hadn't been much but had been enough to start with. It was a shame they'd lost so many crew members, while they weren't all competent they were familiar and she rather liked familiar.
Richie's shopping done, the pouch smuggled in the same place as the credits, she head for their main collection point. A merchant who would be expecting an order for their ship and to be paid in cash, hopefully the idiot man had a trolley, the last place hadn't and Reiker and some of the boys had had to carry most of it.
The port of Canaan; it was the patch of desert resting at the center of an oasis and the struggling space port wasn’t about to apologize for that bit of fact. In a solar system full of similar colonies, it wasn’t high up on anyone’s list, but then, you didn’t always have to be to get a regular flow of imports and exports. In a day and age of space travel, the scarcity of some of society’s more pedestrian goods were less of problem now than in the days of their development. It was your more essential resources that the small, agricultural colony required: metal and fuel. Even a week without either of those materials and difficult wouldn’t even begin to define the immediate flood problems the everyday residents would have to face. Fear of condemnation is a daily stress weighing on the heart of any administrator working in a colony on the periphery, and in Canaan it was a very real fear.
Despite its woes of impending doom however, there is one thing that could possibly save the small station.
“That’s correct. He and his crew just landed a few hours ago,” said a short, business-attired man to his phone. “No, Liang didn’t deviate from the typical inquiries, so there was no need to detain them. A standard resupplying run seems to be the extent of their affairs here, which checks out from what the others have reported in.”
He was an older man, judging from the hard lines adorning his face, and likely Chinese in descent. He observed the passing swathe of people as they each moved in one direction or another, and not one of them escaped the subtle notice of his dark eyes. “Now, now, let’s not jump to any rash decisions just yet,” he calmly stated to the speaker of his phone, “Any overt movements are likely to put Administrator Stern into fits again. Just wait for the confirmation of…oh? Well, by all means then, kill him. Kill the others if you must, I don’t really care at this point!” And as the man’s voice increased in volume the number of looks he received increased as well. “After what the fool cost us on his last visit, discretion is the very last thing on my mind! So you listen to me, and you listen very carefully. If it takes a mountain of burned corpses to bring me this Laurie’s head, then I had better smell the smoke by the time I reach my office.”
“No, he was very clear on the point, so get it done. Report back to me when you’re finished.” A man sporting a similar suit to the one that the old man from before had worn pocketed his phone before turning his attention back to the crowd of people he was currently swimming in. Despite the sheer number of them, his eyes only recognized one amongst the mob—a man, moderately tall, dark hair, and a less than sunny disposition.
The man in the suit wasted little movement in closing the distance between he and his target, and seemed to simply glide through, uninhibited by the mass of persons surrounding him. “You hired the wrong man,” he uttered silently, and delicately drew the shape of a silenced pistol out from under his jacket. Not bothering to aim, he pushed the barrel into the man’s back and subsequently went to pull the trigger.
The small, dark-toned man stood hunched over in his brown overalls as he saw Cassandra approach. He smiled at her and placed his phone in the front pocket of his jumpsuit. Taking a dirty rag from a back pouch, he wiped his brow and waved her over. “You must be one of Laurie’s shipmates, huh?” He replaced the rag and drew a long slender knife from the pouch in its stead. He kept it hidden behind his back. “Thought you’d never show up.”
Richie yawned as he looked over the few text files that spanned the width of the monitor resting in his hand. He was reclining in the Captain’s chair and only paused occasionally to either take another drag of smoke or to glance up and see Laurie run diagnostics. “Any word from Reiker or Cassie, yet?”
Laurie simply shrugged and shook his head. “It’s only been two hours,” he said, “You won’t know until they’re back on the ship.”
Richard sighed and set the pad down on the small table next to him. He exhaled and glanced at the rusted hands of his watch. It didn’t do them any good to waste time on this pissant town of a colony, but what was stressing over it going to do. He took another long drag and continued to read. Maybe he was just bored. The two people he’d known the longest were busy stretching their legs while he was stuck ship sitting with three people he barely knew and two he didn’t particularly like. Still…he couldn’t help but think he’d end up with the better deal in this one. He usually did.
“Hey, Rich,” Laurie chimed.
“There’s a small security team outside looking to search the ship. Anything in particular you’d like me to tell them?”
“Ah, fuck…” Richie sighed and stood up. He usually ended up with the better deal.
"Two pair," The man to Mark's right at the table called out, laying sets of fives and nines face up on the table. Mark had met him and the other man at the table at a bar several days prior, and had since played with them several times. He had broke mostly even in their games before now, but was having a losing night and this hand didn't seem to be any different. He wasn't particularly poor or stupid in his betting, but he had lost a good bit of money.
"Well that's too bad for you, my friend. Three of a kind, Aces." The other man at the table said, laying down three ace cards. He didn't even wait for Mark to show his cards and began reaching out for the draw's pot. Upon seeing the man's hand, Mark was confused for a moment, and then became incredibly agitated... there wasn't much more annoying than having a long losing game of cards and then realizing you had been playing with a cheater. Silently, Mark drew the small pistol he had been carrying with him in Canaan while staying in the city. He'd need to show this man what happened to people who tried to cheat Mark Stone.
"That's awfully strange, 'my friend', because I have a pair of Aces," Mark called. Upon hearing this, the man's face was overtaken with a mask of sudden shock. Before he could react, Mark had grabbed the significantly smaller man by the back of the head and smashed his face into the table. "Give me one reason not to kill you ri--- actually I won't even bother with that." Mark slammed the man's face into the table a few more times, until he finally went limp... dead or unconscious, Mark didn't really care. He lifted the man's head, his face was a bloody mess; his nose was obviously broken and he had lost or broken a large number of his teeth. If he survived, he wasn't going to be pretty.
"Serves him right, damn cheater." The other man said, looking up to Mark with a forced friendly expression.
"It does," Mark said, quickly pulling up his gun and shooting the other man in the chest, "but you seem to have forgotten that you introduced him to me as a 'trusted associate' of yours... and you think I didn't you grabbing that gun of yours as soon as soon as shit started?" Since he was already shooting, Mark threw the unconscious man to the floor and put a bullet in him as well before holstering his gun.
"What a fucking shame..." Mark said, collecting all the credits the three had been playing with. He then grabbed a bottle of liquor they had been drinking from and poured it over onto the carpet flooring of the apartment they been playing. He also grabbed the box of fine cigars the three had been smoking over the several days they had played together, they had smoked a few times but it was still mostly full. He pulled out one cigar and a matchbox they had stored in the box from it. He prepared and lit the cigar before throwing the still burning match onto the puddle of liquor; within moments a large portion of the carpet was up in flames. "Fucking shame..."
Mark carried the box of cigars with him out of the apartment building and back to the motel he had been staying at whilst in Canaan. "I go to one last game with those idiots and everything goes to shit, at least I am leaving town anyways..." He'd been hired to work on some privateer ship for the NAU, from what he heard they needed new men after losing most of their crew in fighting. He didn't like having to work under some fucks who'd already managed to get most of their crew killed, but the job payed well enough and Mark was a survivor. He'd already packed up most of his gear earlier; he slipped the cigar box into his bags and changed out of his now bloody white t-shirt into a cleaner, oil-stained one. He was then left with a few more hours to prepare for the trip, which he did professionally, due to planning on being at the poker game longer. Once it was time for the meeting, he got set up and made his way there.
Cass always got lost when she was out, well, lost was a dramatization, she got confused and thought she was lost only to find that in fact, she wasn't and she knew exactly where she was the entire time. Right now though she wasn't quite sure which of the generic looking shacks was the one with their supplies, there were a couple of options and she hadn't bought a map, mainly because they didn't have one. Apparently she'd know which one it was when she got inside, one eyed Joe was a man you couldn't miss and not for the reasons one would think.
When a dark skinned man waved her over she was immediately suspicious, why wouldn't she be? Of course her posture and facial features didn't change despite this. Turning to walk over to him she beamed a smile, “Well ain't that just the stroke of luck, here I was thinking I'd gone and lost my way and who should arrive but a knight in dungaree's.” Reaching out a hand as if to shake his the girl's grin only got wider, what transpired only took a moment. As the dark-skinned fellow took her hand she stepped in towards him, using her own momentum to push him back against the wall he'd been busy by. In this time her other hand had sidled up and the scalpel she'd been carrying was pressed dangerously close to his jugular. Cass didn't fuck around mind so behind the sharp edge beads of blood were already forming from the split skin.
Richie would call this a 'rookie mistake' by the man and Reiker, well he'd likely do that low whistle he did whenever someone had done something stupid which was about to blow up in their face. They would have noticed how her smile had left her eyes and how the two cold orbs had turned glacial. “Now friend, the only problem is we never use our real names for our supply runs. Makes us too easy for people like you to find us. So that leaves me with one question, will I care enough who you are to not kill you?”
The man merely flinched, his muscles tensing, preparing to try and barge the woman off her feet and regain the upper hand and found the blade digging further into his flesh. This bitch didn't fuck around that was for sure and no one had warned him just how crazy, or just how suspicious she was. Then again he was being paid to detain her if not out right kill her so he couldn't just stand around all day right? Twisting slightly and pushing forward he felt his skin cut, however luckily with the changed angle it wouldn't be deep enough to have hit the artery and render him meat. Once he'd gotten free of the scalpel he shoulder barged the girl backwards and swung at her as she staggered with the blade he'd had behind his trapped arm.
Cass had hoped to avoid drawing too much attention to herself, it was never good, especially when you had to do business at the place again. Dodging back she avoided the knife blow that would surely have split her stomach clean open had she not moved, of course it did tatter her frilly skirt. Cutting right through the expensive material and leaving a huge gaping hole in the front. “I just stole this!” She said in dismay, now less worried about attracting attention despite the confession of theft. Beneath her skirt one could see the kevlar 'biker' pants she wore beneath at all times. It paid to be paranoid in their line of work so she rarely took her more enforced layers off if she could avoid it.
The man swung for her again with all the grace of a drunken kangaroo and with effortless ease the woman moved aside and let them an fall flat on his face in the dust. With a quick tear she had removed a layer of the fabric skirt, leaving an even bigger gaping hole in the skirt's front and as the man got up she wrapped this like a noose about his neck. Tightening it off with one hand by the back of his throat while the other yanked back and up. The man flailed his arms wildly as he choked and gasped for air, a lucky wild shot catching Cass's arm with the hilt of the blade and the sudden jarring motion causing her to drop her fabric noose. Cass shook her hand wildly to get the strange pins and needles feeling to retreat as the guy removed the strip of skirt and got to his feet.
Cass didn't give him time to whip around but aimed her steel capped boot right between his legs and upon feeling the satisfying squelch she listened in delight as the man gasped and then promptly threw up as he fell back to his knees. Cass grabbed a fistful of his hair and yanked his head backwards. “I was going to ask ya to give a message to yer employer for me. Sadly it seems yer not going to be able to.” The street had stirred up around her, shouts, screams, blind panic as people tried to cope with the idea that their shitty little planet wasn't perfect. Cass didn't pay much heed mind you and without further ceremony cut the mans throat from ear to ear. It wasn't the deepest wound, she didn't have the physical strength to do that in the time she had -for no matter the agony he was in surely this would be assassin would be getting up soon- however it did the job. She heard the man flounder, saw his throat turn crimson and the blood pour down to stain his shirt. If he was going to get up it wouldn't be to attack her again but find a doctor before he bled out, not that he'd have much time.
Releasing his hair she paid no attention to the sirens that began to wail or the body as it began to slump on the ground. With a tut of sheer annoyance she removed the remainder of her skirt and threw it atop the soon to be cadaver, shifting her previous shopping and credit's into the pocket of her pants she removed her corset and the shirt beneath, throwing them and the umbrella on top of the pile she was making. “They were a matching set.” She irately told no one in particular, kicking dust into the dying man's eyes. Fucking asshole.
With a brief glance behind her to where her minds eye could see the ship she gave a sigh, a shrug and knelt down to pat the guy down. The sirens were getting closer but they weren't here yet and by the time they arrived on the scene Cass was gone, the assassin's phone and any other worth while trinkets tucked away into her pockets. She was certain to catch a few stray looks as she walked without haste or concern down the streets, though it wouldn't be the concealed scalpel in one hand, or the phone to which she was attempting to dial a number in the other. It would be the fact that other than kevlar pants and rocking boots she wore, what could only be described as, a strapless bra and nothing else. They were on a schedule so Cass hadn't the time to go back and get changed, she'd just hope that she was only assigned one hit man, or that if there was another he was a lousy ass shot.
Finally having gotten the phone to dial she attempted to patch in with Reiker, “Yo boss, I think we got trouble, or the locals here have a thing for attacking pretty women.” Despite the way she spoke she wasn't conceited, her tone was jovial and jestful. A woman like Cass couldn't be vain, not with the scars that littered her back like silver and pink confetti and streamers.
Jacob was wrong, by the looks of the man. It wasn't their contact. Gods, this was taking forever. Whoever had summoned them here was taking a damned long time to get them. Shifting uncomfortably, he looked to the Chinese man, finally marking some details about him in case ever he needed to pick him out of a lineup. His hair was medium length, somewhere between a fauxhawk and business professional. the look of not caring unkempt style was actually legitimate. He hadn't bothered his hair in at least a few hours. His attire, consisting of a vest with white dress shirt was concealing tattoos. Every time the man shifted he could see that above the wrist he was most likely covered in sleeves and a full body design. The man reeked of Triad.
"There's trouble brewing." the Chinese man said after a moment, ignoring the fact he was basically being looked over like a prize dog.
"How can you tell?"
"Sociology degree." It was a joke, but he wasn't good with them. "Look at the people. Criminals. Black market merchants. They're all packing up their things... and moving. They have a fifth sense for these things."
"They have a sense for these things. And if you correct me again you'll be tasting blood for a week."
Jacob straightened up at that, watching what Marley was describing. It was true. They were preparing themselves for what seemed one Godbomb of a shitstorm. Jacob pressed his back against the wall as a group of security personnel walked past, headed towards one of the docking bays. "Think they're going to our guys?"
"NAU don't come to Canaan often. Chances are yes."
"Lovely. And I thought I'd be able to get off the colony for a change."
Marley could only grunt. He had been in the sector for 10 years now. This gwai-lo knew nothing of being stuck in an area. He doubted the man had even served a prison sentence. And through all the hell Marley had witnessed in the last three months, he'd be damned if a few security personnel would hold him back from getting out of here.
"Follow me." he said, flatly as his hand unstrapped the gun at his side.
"Wait, what the hell are you doing!?"
"Making sure my insurance out of here hasn't gone belly up."
Jacob followed close behind, trying to hold his breath as they weaved through a crowd that suddenly had the intelligence to move the other way. This was insane. This man was clearly out of his mind, clearly Triad, and clearly running with a short fuse. This was not a good combination, and the more that Jacob followed the man the more that the little buzz in the back of his brain ringed with an old memory. Why did this guy seem so familiar? Where had he seen him? His eyes glanced across the halls towards a station for security, noticing it was empty and that a hologram of the very man he was following was broadcast. Ah. That's right. Marley Tso. Escaped prisoner. Lovely. So lovely. That meant he was aiding and abetting a known criminal by default. Well, it didn't matter all that much to him, he was done being a freelance bounty hunter. Piloting paid better and the risks were slightly more in your favor. Granted, that was one hundredth a percent in his favor if he did the math, but every bit helped.
Marley turned a corner, taking the time to let two more guards headed towards the far right docking bay pass by. Slipping straight behind the two, he grabbed each helmet of the man and quickly brought them together with a sickening crack. Jacob winced, surprised to see that no one saw the actions. Then again, it was a side hallway. A moment later the man came back with the two, waving for Jacob to move towards the restroom right behind him. Propping the door open, they pulled the bodies in without so much of a notice. With so many eyes in one area, they were practically invisible to the actions they had just committed.
A minute later the two stepped out carrying duffel bags of their original outfits slung over their backs, holding fresh machine pistols, and helmets with a crack on each side. Marley seemed out of place, as the outfit was just too tight. They walked in union towards the building, both saying a prayer to their respective god as the vacuum doors hissed open to the sight of a large ship, and a group of guards ready to do a security inspection. The kind that usually ended with bloodshed and a new auction for ship parts.
"You ready?" Jacob said, praying once more this was indeed the right vessel."
"Always." Tso replied, taking the pistol off of safety.
"Then lead the way."
Reiker placed his hand on his forehead when he heard a familiar female voice call his name.
"Re-ik-er," Cassandra called out, 'Here we go again...' he thought to himself, giving a mild sigh, turning mild frustration into mild annoyance as he felt her arm around him.
“Don't worry, they'll come...Of course. If you keep glowering like that you might scare them off."
His lips twisted into a thin smile as she spoke, and with one hand he lightly stroked her chin while the other he reached around and ran his fingers along her side, close to her bust. "True," he said in a contented voice, "That would be a problem.
His voice hardened immediately after, and his scowl returned, "But if my eyes are enough to scare them off, they don't belong in the real world, let alone privateering." He tilted his head slightly as he spoke, but he did not bother looking at her at all. When she slapped his shoulder his eyes continued to scan about the spaceport. She was saying something, but he was not paying any attention. However, he did tune in enough to hear her say,
"Please Captain, don't go killing anyone...until I get back."
Still planted to his spot, he merely shrugged his shoulders, "No promises," he said half seriously. He was itching to do something...
After a solid ten minutes of watching absolutely nothing happening, he pushed himself off the wall and stretched his shoulders. When he saw a man coming up to him, he furrowed his brows. With a vest, tie, and dress pants, the man looked more like a butler than a recruit. On top of that, the man approached him with a thermos in one hand and a glass in another.
He raised an eyebrow as the man came closer, as a variety of thoughts crossed his mind, unsure what to say to such an odd figure. When his mind settled on something, he settled to a blank expression.
Reiker said nothing when the man stood eye to eye with him. He simply stared at him with his arms at his side. Sometimes doing nothing was the best choice you could make.
The butler stood quietly for a solid fifteen seconds looking at Reiker before he furrowed his brows uncomfortably. "I..." he began, eyes darting to the left and the right, as if the answers were on either side of Reiker.
"...Yes?" Reiker asked flatly.
The butler blinked, and then flashed a fake smile before holding out the thermos and glass, "Hello sir! Might I interest you in a free sample of a New Canaan original drink?"
"Come again?" Reiker asked.
Like the man was reciting an encyclopedia article, he continued, "In the interest of promoting tourism and expanding foreign trade, we have decided to offer tourists a taste of our original liquors, like this New Canaan Twist!"
Glancing around at the still empty space port, Reiker commented, "Not a whole lot of people to offer free samples to."
"You're here," the butler responded.
While this was true, there was something both ridiculously stupid and suspicious about this situation. "I'm not interested," Reiker said, waving the butler off.
"No sir, I insist, the New Canaan Twist is quite excellent!"
"I don't care. I don't want your colonial trash."
"But sir, it's really quite excellent, I must insist you try it!" the butler continued with forced enthusiasm. Reiker's brow furrowed, and decided to test something...
"I bet even you don't like the taste of that."
THe butler paused, glancing to the glass and thermos. "That's not true!" he said stirring off the cap of the thermos, "I love the Canaan Twist!" he lifted his head and drank deeply from the bottle. "See?"
Reiker's brow furrowed. "Fine, let me have it."
With a look of relief, the butler began to tilt the thermos to the glass.
"No," Reiker interrupted, "I don't need a glass."
The butler looked disturbed, "I, what?"
"I said I don't need a glass. I'll just drink from that."
"But...sir, I just drank from that. That would be- "
"Do you have a terrible disease?" Reiker cut the man off again.
"If you don't have a disease, I'm not worried about your Colonial germs, I'll drink from the bottle just fine." Reiker's voice was dripping with venom.
"I-bu-well- I mean..." The man trailed off in confusion and looked as though he were about to cry.
With that, Reiker felt his hunch was confirmed, "I said give me the god damn bottle!" he said while knocking the glass out of the man's hand. The butler's eyes widened as the glass came crashing down and a gel-like substance dripped from the shards of glass.
"Screw it," the butler said, dropping his polite facade and reaching into his pocket.
"I knew it!" Reiker reacted immediately, punching the man in the gut with his fist and grabbing the man by the neck with his other hand. Driving the man into the ground, he tightened his grip over the butler's windpipe. While the butler tried to use one hand to loosen the captain's grip, the butler continued searching through his pocket before pulling out a handgun. A long titanium barrel with a ribbed chek-plastic grip, the gun looked more like a hand cannon than a pistol.
Impressed by the man's determination, Reiker knew killing this man would be all the more satisfying. He shifted to the side before straddling the man and placing his knee on the butler's gun hand and pressed down with all his strength. Unable to fight Reiker's weight, the would-be assassin let go of the hand on his neck and tried pushing Reiker off with both hands. Though it was futile, the man was committed to his job.
Reiker gave a laugh as he grasped the mans neck with both hands and squeezed with all his might. The man gasped and wheezed as he tried to wrest his gun from Reiker's knees, but his efforts grew weaker and weaker until it finally became mindless flailing. Not long after, the man finally...stopped moving. Exhaling deeply, he pushed himself off the dead man and took the gun from his hand. 'Whoops, sorry Cassie...' he thought with a wicked smile.
Just as he thought that, her voice crackled into his ear,“Yo boss, I think we got trouble, or the locals here have a thing for attacking pretty women.”
'Oh, you don't say?' Standing up, he began to place a finger on his ear piece until he heard the chik-chik of guns loading. With that, he elected to pull out his own pistol instead.
"I fucking knew Gerin would screw it up," said a man with a light Chinese accent. Looking toward the voice, he saw five men with various weapons in their hands. Two-submachine guns, an assault rifle, a shotgun, and the man that spoke to him held a handgun just like the butler-assassin had. The chinese man held his hand up, "Obviously we took the wrong course of action here, let's not shed any more blood than necessary.Reiker Masan, don't take this personally. My friends in the Triads just aren't very good at talking. Just give us Laurie Dyson and we can be gone from here."
Reiker's wicked smile turned into an evil grin at that. "Nothing personal at all, but I'm afraid I can't do that. I have a small enough crew as it is, you know?" Holding both pistols at the group of five he gave a light laugh, "I can give you some bullets however. Where do you want them?" Saying that, Reiker squeezed both triggers.
"Attacking pretty women is not our key goal, it just happens to be a nice bonus that happens every now and again..." said a distant, masculine voice to Cassandra. Chik-chik, a rifle said, seemingly in agreement.
"And if at first you don't succeed, try, try, and try again," A shrill male voice at her ear said... Ka-click, said a pistol, soon after.
"Zhi-Peng said that things are going sour, and just to let you go," called the deeper voice, with some reluctance.
"But you've already left a sour taste in our mouths, and for some reason you excite me...Maybe it's because the way you kill is so beautiful." the shrill voice said with glee.
"Or maybe it's because you're half naked and look like a whore," the deeper voice added. And from the same direction of the deep voice, came the sound of a bullet being discharged in her direction.
Allie sat at The Brass Hut bar & grill downing her third Scotch on the rocks. Not exactly the nicest bar in Canaan but it served her purposes for the time being. The bar was open and it didn't look like a fight was going to break out at any minute.
"YO!" She bellowed to the bartender and pointed to her glass.
The bartender asked, "Going for a fourth? You staying the night here, or just passing through?"
Allie replied, "Meeting up with a new crew and leaving my former life behind."
The bartender was tall and somewhat muscular and said, "Look I can help you forget your former life. I get off in 2 hours and..."
Allie pointed at his ring finger and said, "Oh really. When did you tell your wife you were gettin' off? In 4 hours? Sorry honey we got real busy I'll be late. Tell me another one."
The bartender looked somewhat surprised and replied, "Oh I cut my finger on a couple of boxes in the back."
Allie nodded and said, "Right I'll give you credit for originality. Now give me my forth scotch and don't say another word to me again."
The bartender fixed Allie her drink and gave it to her he muttered, "Bitch" as he walked away.
Allie smirked and said, "That I am."
As she began to partake of her drink she pulled out an electronic pad and began scrolling through the names and faces of the crew she'd be joining up with for this job. It was an escape for cookie cutter surgery and doctoring and a chance for adventure once again. The money, she couldn't care less about it Allie made enough from the Hospital in Houston and invested it wisely; she was set for life. This was all about her and her freedom.
Allie finished her drink and shouted to the bartender, who was trying to pick up another patron, "Hey" he looked over and she yelled, "You might wanna get that cut checked. It might be infected."
The other patron looked at the bartender's hand and shook her head. If looks could kill Allie would be dead on the floor. The other patron got up and walked away.
Allie smirked, grabbed her gear that she had next to her. Allie made her way to the Spaceport where she was to meet up with the Captain of this operation.
She said, "Please don't let this be boring" as she prepared to enter the Spaceport.
Just then she heard shots ring out and said, "Okay boring has some good points actually. Like not getting shot."
Allie slung her gear over her shoulder and pulled out a 45 auto mag and began to make her way stealthily through the port and immediately recognized Captain Reiker engaging five other shooters.
The guy can handle himself give him that. Just then Allie saw one sneaking from behind an oil-drum. She opened fire at him and then at two others behind another set of oil drums.
She quickly made her way next to Reiker and said, "Hey. Allie Barrett. You can call me 'Cutter'." She then shot at one coming through a side door and said, "I'm your new doctor."
As Reiker pulled the triggers he grazed the Chinese man speaking to him and they scattered. Of course, grazing someone means significantly more using the hand cannon he just picked up, as it seem to blow off a chunk of the man's side and sent him backward onto the ground. Firing one more shot, he dashed to a nearby pillar and planted himself against it. The leader was clutching his missing hip and kidney on the floor still, while the others spread out and took cover. He silently cursed to himself, wishing he had something beside handguns.
As Reiker peeked out, a shot rang out from the dock and crashed into the pillar, denting it and sending him back into the cover. He fired blindly with his own pistol until he emptied the cartridge and popped it out. His heart was racing and he had a wild grin, this was what he lived for. Leaning out once again, he tried to get his bearings on his attackers...
'Two off to the right, one on the left, where's the othe-' Chik-chik, His thoughts stopped for a moment as instinct kicked in and spun around with the hand cannon, pointing it at the man behind him. But by the time he pulled the trigger the man was already falling down. He blinked in surprise, and saw another figure coming at him. Looking to the corpse she just made, Reiker put two and two together and lowered his gun as she made her way up to him, firing again at the Triads 'Not a terrible shot...' he thought off-handedly.
"Hey. Allie Barrett. You can call me 'Cutter'," she said while sending a hole through another Triad making his way off to the side "I'm your new doctor." As the man clutched the wound in his chest, Reiker fired the hand cannon and sent him to the ground with a yelp. Leaning out of cover he fired at the two behind three oil drums.
With the fourth shot he heard a satisfying cry from behind the barrels, one of which was filled with holes.
Empty. "And I was just getting used to that," he muttered, tossing the weapon aside and replaced the clip for his pistol. Pressing himself tighter against the pillar to make room, he nodded to the woman.
"Allie will work fine, I don't do titles," Reiker said, checking the condition of his gun, "Welcome to Trial By Fire," he added.
"It's a shame, it looks like these CC fucks will need a doctor more," he said devilishly, "Anyway, give me a moment," He sprinted out from the pillar and rolled behind a vending machine and dragged it to the ground. Fingering his ear piece he growled, "Yeah, Cassie. I found them too. Get back here. Now." Tapping it again, he continued, "Richard. What's happening on your end and what the fuck did Laurie do this time?"
"Oh yeah," he then shouted back to 'Cutter', "and welcome to the Red M, congratulations."