The landing pad locks The Enigma into place and begins to lower it into one of the many hangars at Ray Gateway. Maul sluggishly gets out the pilots chair and exits the cockpit. He was beginning to have trouble breathing and was sweating profusely. The anxiety caused by the situation was getting the best of him. He finally collapses down on the cold metal bench in front of the lockers and starts stripping off the remlok suit in a desperate attempt to cool down. The slate in his locker began buzzing. It was an alert.
30 MINUTES REMAINING...
He lays the slate on the bench and forces himself to get up. He changes into a pair of black baggy pants and a white tank top that were hanging in one of the lockers and slides his boots back on. Grabbing his slate and backpack, he exits the ship and runs to the nearest mag-lev.
He sat on the mag-lev, his sweat causing his skin to glisten under the harsh lights of the station. He briefly locked eyes with a small child and mother that was sitting across from him.
"Mommy, what's wrong with that man?" The child says rather loudly as he points at Maul.
The mother responds in a hushed but still audible tone. "That's what happens when you do drugs, Dillon. Just like your father. Now, stop staring at the man."
Maul wasn't surprised by her response. He already looked like shit and his now exposed tattoos that littered his arms and face wasn't helping the matter. He tried to ignore it and laid his head against the window to closed his eyes just for a moment.
5 MINUTES REMAINING...
A chime comes from the mag-lev's internal speakers indicating that it had stopped.
"Fuck!" He thought. He had accidentally fell asleep and missed his stop. Checking his slate, he only had 5 minutes left. He grabbed his backpack and looked out the window to see where he was before exiting the train and making a run for it.
He was utterly exhausted but was somehow still sprinting down the streets of the station. The sound of his breath and heart was all he could hear, drowning out the shouts and complaints of people he was running by.
After nearly 5 straight minutes of sprinting and navigating his way through the station streets, he arrives at the abandoned office building. The glass doors fly open as he charges through them. Mr. Usher and his lackeys where standing in nearly the same spot they were in when Maul left, except Cate was now with them. She was still tied to the chair with a gag in her mouth. Maul slowly approached them with labored breathing. Mr. Usher had his jacket off and his slate in his hand.
"Well done, Mr. Montresor! You made it with 30 seconds to spare." Mr. Usher says as he steps forward.
Maul remains silent as he approaches.
Mr. Usher smiles. "I trust that you held up your end of our deal?"
Maul takes his backpack off and reaches into it, causing the lackeys to point their guns at him. He slowly pulls out a laptop and reaches it to Mr. Usher.
"It's all there. That laptop is connected to the hotel's network. You can use it to remotely access any data that is pulled from the devices of the people that connect to it and you have access to security footage."
Mr. Usher reaches the laptop to one of his lackeys and smiles as he puts his hands on Maul's shoulders.
"Thank you for this, Mr. Montresor. You've helped me a great deal."
Maul grits his teeth. "Now let her go."
Mr. Usher removes his hands off Maul's shoulders and sighs.
"There is one thing." He shakes his head at Maul. "Did you think that I wouldn't know happened? I know station authorities were contacted and that puts me at risk. YOU put me and my whole operation at risk."
Maul steps forward.
"They'll never know about the hack. No one even knew what I was doing there and it's not like you gave me a lot of time. You're lucky I was even able to do this at all."
"I said I wanted subtlety." Mr. Usher retorts with a hint of anger.
"Well then you should have given me more time!" Maul lashes back.
Mr. Usher quickly pulls his laser pistol from his holster and points it at Cate, causing her to let out a muffled scream.
"You're right, Mr. Montresor. Since you only followed up with half of your end of the deal, perhaps I'll only follow up with half of mine as well. You did this to yourself, Mr. Montresor!"
Maul lunges forward but is stopped by two of the lackeys. They each grab one of his arms and hold him back.
"Wait, you son of a bitch! If you pull that trigger, it better be on me! If you kill her and let me walk, I'll come after you and I'm not stopping till one of us is dead!"
Mr. Usher freezes for a moment and turns to Maul.
"Fine, then I'll just dispose of the both of you." He smirks at Maul. "Perhaps, the girl would be put to better use as my personal slave anyhow."
Mr. Usher raises the gun up to Maul's head.
Suddenly there is a knock on the front door of the building. Everything falls silent. Mr. Usher leans to look over Maul's shoulder at the door. The silhouette of large man with a long beard could be seen outside through the tinted glass of the door. He looks at the third lackey standing behind him. The lackey quietly shrugs. Mr. Usher gestures for him to get rid of the man. The lackey draws his gun and puts hold it behind him as he approaches the door. As soon as the lackey opens the door he takes a shotgun blast to the chest that sends falling backwards. As the two lackeys that were holding Maul react to the gunshot, he pulls away from them and tackles Mr. Usher to the the ground, causing him to drop his gun. The bearded man steps inside and begins trading shots with the two lackeys.
Maul and Mr. Usher were trading blows. Mr. Usher's mechanical arm gave him the advantage as he repeatedly punched Maul in the face. After a brief moment of trading blows, Maul manages to grapple his way on top of Mr. Usher and begins strangling him. Mr Usher returned this by reaching up and doing the same to him. His mechanical hand locked tight around Maul's neck. Maul finally let go of Mr. Usher's neck and tried to pry the mechanical hand off of his own neck. It was useless, he was too tired and weak. At that moment he spotted Mr. Usher's laser pistol laying near them. He attempts to reach for it but its just out of his grasp. Cate, who is still tied up and gagged, takes notice and attempts to roll her chair closer to the pistol. Just as Maul is about to black out, the gunfight behind him comes to a stop. He wasn't sure who won the battle, the bearded man or the two lackeys. He also didn't really care at the moment. Cate finally gets close enough to the gun and kicks it across the floor to Maul. Maul quickly grabs it and puts it against Mr. Usher's head and pulls the trigger, killing him.
Mr. Usher was now dead but his mechanical hand was still tightly locked around Maul's neck. His eyes were watering as he looked up at Cate, he was going to lose consciousness soon. He could hear footsteps echoing from behind him. Suddenly he felt a pair of hands reach around from behind his neck, they began pulling and prying the mechanical hand open. The hand finally popped open and Maul fell over onto his side. He momentarily gasped for air as he looked to see who his savior was; it was the bearded man. He was bald with a very long brown beard. His outfit of choice was a black vest with humorous patches stitched all over it. One read: If you don't like me. You can kiss my Can-Ass Majoris, bitch. The vest was being worn over a white short sleeved shirt. A few tattoos were scattered across his arms and his black pants were stuffed into an old pair of magboots.
"Hey man, are you alright?" The bearded man said, taking a step towards Maul. Maul still had the laser pistol in his hand so, he pointed it at him.
The bearded man stepped back and put his hands up. "Whoa man, calm the hell down. Jesus, I just saved your ass, you know? I could have just shot you if I wanted you dead, bro."
Maul recognized his gravely voice. The bearded man began to smile as he read the tattooed name on Maul's fingers.
"So you're Ghoulie!" The bearded man shouted with a smile. "It's me, man. Al Capwned!"
Maul lowers the weapon and drops his head back in relief. Al hurried to help him up to his feet.
"Yeah man, I got the message you sent but you never did respond."
Maul gives Al a confused look and pulls his slate out to check and sure enough, he received a notification from Al a little over an hour ago. He must have missed it while he was running around the hotel.
"It sounded urgent so when you didn't respond, I hacked you." Al smirks. "Your security is kinda shit, man. You're lucky though, if you didn't have your slate remotely connected to your computer, I wouldn't have been able to find you."
Maul hurries over to untie Cate from her chair.
"I don't care how you did it but you fucking saved my life, Al. Thank you."
He stops untying her and points to the laptop that he gave to Mr. Usher. It had been knocked on the floor during the shootout.
"Take that laptop as payment. I've got it set up with remote access to the The Rose Tower Hotel's network. These fuckers were trying to siphon credits out of the rich guests that stay there. You can do with it what you want."
Al's eyes get huge as he picks the laptop up and checks it.
"Damn man, you pulled this off alone?"
Maul remains silent as he finishes cutting Cate loose.
Al closes the laptop and smiles at Maul.
"You know I'm going to split the earnings from this with you and Terra, right? I think we kinda deserve it for saving those slaves from these assholes. We'll just consider it a charitable donation from these rich pricks."
Maul nods at Al and then hugs the now loose Cate.
"Are you okay?" Maul asks.
"Well, you two should get out of here before station authorities arrive. I've got a contact who can deal with this..." He looks around the room at all of the dead bodies. "...well, let's just call it a mess."
Maul nods as he puts his arm around Cate and leads her towards the door. Al always seemed to have a "contact" for everything. Maul decided not to question it and just be thankful again that Al was on his side.
"I'll talk to you later, Al. Thanks again." He calls out as they leave the building.
Al waves as they leave and looks around the room with a sigh. "I've got to get into a different line of work."
Maul and Cate were silently sitting next to each other on the mag-lev. Maul was still exhausted and now looked even worse with the bruise around his neck. He was looking out of the window. Cate had mascara stains on her cheeks and her hair was a mess. Music
from a public radio station was playing faintly in the background from the trains internal speakers.
Cate looks over at Maul and finally speaks.
"Who are you, really?"
Maul looks over at her and sighs.
"Well, you know my name is Maul Montresor. I didn't lie about that part. I...I'm a hacker, I guess. I wasn't always one though. I got into this work when I was about 20. My parents always hated that I did what I did. I just wanted to be independent and make them proud. It all ended when I was about 22, I got a part time job at a bar back home as a way to get out of the life. That's where I met a guy named Rusty. He used to tell me stories about the galaxy. It really inspired me to get out here and see it all. He even gave me my first ship. It needed some serious work though so, I got back into the life as a way to earn the credits to fix it. I started working with a woman who was willing to pay a lot for my services. After I finished working for her, I had enough money to fix my ship. So, I went back home and got out of this line of work to start working full time at the bar until I was able to get my pilot's license."
Maul looked at Cate to see if she was still paying attention. Her eyes were locked on him.
"So, I finally got my license at 25 and set out. I ended up getting a job at a corporation on Cleve Hub, running cargo. It was simple but honest work. I really felt like I was on the right track. After about a year, I was transferred into the Escort and Protection division. That's just a fancy way of saying that I protected transport ships from pirates. Well, one day, a higher up tasked me with killing a well known pirate. It was to be a surprise attack. I guess it was really a surprise considering it wasn't even a pirate that they tasked me to kill. It was the CEO of a rival corporation. They set me up for murder. There was a small scuffle with system security that wound up with me losing an eye." He points at his cybernetic implant eye.
He sighs and shrugs.
"So, I ran. That's how I ended up here."
He looks at Cate. She appeared to be in shock.
"So, you're a criminal?" She asked.
He was slightly taken aback but she wasn't wrong.
"I never really thought about it but...yeah I guess I'm technically a criminal."
"...A criminal who kills people...Oh my God, I let a criminal spend the night with me..I let a murderer in my house!""
Maul shushes her.
"No, I've only ever killed bad people. I'd never hurt you!"
"Like that makes it any better!?" Cate was becoming upset.
Maul fell silent. She was right again. What was he supposed to say?
After a brief silence Cate speaks up again.
"I think I'm going to stay with my parents for a while."
Maul nods. "That's probably a good idea. I can send you some credits when Al gives me my cut."
"Oh God, no. Please don't. I really don't want dirty credits in my account."
Maul nodded. He figured it'd be for the best.
"What are you going to do?" She asked.
He shrugged. "I really don't know."
Cate nodded and thought for a moment.
"You know, I could turn you in to the authorities. They'd probably even pay me."
Maul turned to look at her and she was smirking back at him.
"But I won't."
He gave her a confused look.
"Now you owe me one." She said with a sweet smile.
Maul smiles back. "Sure, anything."
Just then, the mag-lev arrived at Cate's stop. She leaned in and hugged Maul. Pulling herself away from him, she touches her forehead to his and they lock eyes.
"I'm going to hold you to that." She whispers.
She stands up to exit the train and turns back to him. "Promise me that you'll take care of yourself."
He smiles and nods as she steps off the train.
Maul looks at her through the window as she waves to him. He smiles and waves back as the mag-lev doors close and it begins to move.
The door to the apartment slides open and Maul enters. He sighs as he looks around the room. The lackey that was hiding in his apartment to jump him, had made a mess of the place and just after he had finally decided to clean. He shakes it off as he slings his boots off and topples over onto the couch to finally get some rest. He laid silently for a moment before calling out to his A.I.
"Yes, Ghoulie?" She responds.
"Do you remember asking me; How does one know if they're actually happy?"
"Yes, of course."
"I think I can finally answer that."
He takes a moment to think on his response before finally telling her.
"I don't think anyone can be sure if they are ever truly happy. At least, not in the moment. We always seem to find ourselves comparing our current situation to a situation we wish we were in but even if we're able to obtain the one we wish to be in, we still want something else."
Ashley takes a second to try to make sense of his response before responding.
"Oh, okay. Well, what is it that you want then, Ghoulie?"
Maul fell silent. Her response caught him by surprise. It was something he'd never really thought about. After a moment he smiles and looks up at the ceiling.
"That's another really good question, Ashley."
"Thank you!" She responds proudly.
Maul was still perplexed by Ashley's response. He knew he wasn't happy with his current situation and hadn't been for a while but didn't know exactly why. He felt if things were different, perhaps he could have been happy with Cate. His lifestyle was putting anyone he got close to, in danger.
"Ashley, if any contracts come through from The Network, could you just delete them? I...I think it's time for a change."
"Sure thing, Ghoulie."
"Also, filter through the stations mission board and send any cargo jobs to my slate. I'm going to need some credits if I'm ever going to pay off these bounties."
"You've got it! Anything else?"
Ashley waited for a response but Maul was already fast asleep.
"Goodnight, Ghoulie." Ashley says softly as she slowly dims the lights until it's completely dark.