Well, ain’t this some horseshit. Stuck in Pegasi, workin’ for the man.
My face soured as I looked into my glass of Old Sol. I didn’t want to be here. But here I was, hunched over a bar alongside the dour and the desperate, furthering the interests of Black Omega. Of Degginal DeVerre. Of Marrakech Morgan.
Hell. More like working for the woman.
Smith Port was still a tense place. Not a week before, it had been overrun by Black Omega’s mercenary contingents. The factions that had previously administered the massive station were either marginalized, defected, or driven away into the system’s backwater. Most of the populace hid in the habitation rings during the change of ownership, and the black-suited enforcers had become a common sight.
Now, it was a matter of rooting out the remaining pockets of resistance and putting an end to them. That meant bounties, and reapers like myself to pursue them. Criminals and vagabonds inevitably came out of the woodwork in times of disorder, and reapers like myself were normally happy to hunt them down.
I wasn’t happy.
Mental imagery of the mocking look in Marra’s eye filled my vision. That damn woman. Pulling me back into Pegasi. Leveraging Kyndi to strong-arm me into doing her dirty work. It ain’t right.
A flash of anger flared in my chest, memories of impotent rage at the torture and the enslavement that had been threatened on Kyndi if I refused.
Maybe that was all just a bluff. Maybe they knew what buttons to push. Maybe they don’t have the first idea of how to track her down.
I took another drink, trying to quench the anger.
But I just can’t know for sure.
My arrangement with Marra was, strictly speaking, voluntary. But it didn’t make me feel any better. I was a reaper by trade, but I wasn’t hunting down big-name criminals- I was helping one consolidate power. It didn’t matter that I was here to protect the only woman about whom I gave a damn- I was compromised, straddling the fence just a little too well for my own good.
Swirling the liquor in its glass, I took a sip and looked around. All around me, there were other pilots- ragged-looking reapers and mercs, off-duty Omegas in their black armor, and all the dock knockers and flight crew that typically accompanied out-of-system freelancers. Local news channels playing on the surrounding holovisions had the usual fare of news and sports, related by anchors with only a slight amount of tension in their voices.
Yeah, I’d be nervous too. Black Omega ain’t exactly about a free press.
Returning to my drink, I pulled up the shimmering display on my wrist computer. The Inevitable Betrayal
was just about done with pre-flight prep. Both the railguns and the shield cell banks needed reloading from yesterday, and it always seemed to take indy crews longer than normal to figure out the Hammers’ rail feed mechanisms. Strictly speaking, my orders had been to observe and report only- but what's a reaper to do when a nice, juicy bounty crosses his path with no backup? But no matter. Places like these never ran out of criminals, and I for damn sure wasn’t one to miss a payday.
As I was snapping the wrist computer shut, I saw a dark figure next to me out of the corner of my eye. A young woman with keen eyes and soil-brown hair was settling down on the stool next to mine. She didn’t return my glance, didn’t pay attention to anything at all except her holo-tablet. I didn’t want to stare, but I saw her glance over her shoulder, creaking the black leather of her jacket and cargo pants stretching over her hips. Around her neck was what looked like a silver choker that bulged slightly in the center, the flickering colors from the holovisions reflecting from its polished surface.
Well, she’s a hell of a lot better-looking than the rock-splitters I’ve been chatting up these last few days...
For the rest of the story, click here!
Huge thanks to Marra Morgan, and of course my mysterious partner! Of course, that person has a backstory, too- check her out here!