Armored up... Sold out, part 3
Jack and I settled into a table and I stared at him, stone faced for a moment. He started, "I.... I really... Frank, they have my little girl, they have Sarah. I don't know what to do and I'm scared to death I won't be able to get her back!" he blurted out in a stream of words. I sat back in stunned amazement, was he trying to wiggle out of this by telling me a cock-n-bull story? But something in his face told me that he was actually panicked, and not over the prospect of me pushing him out an air-lock. He continued "Lacie and I sent her off to school one morning and she never came home. We were calling the school and her friends when a message came in. It was her, tied up and gagged in some metal box, and a demand that I provide 15 tons of void opals to get her back. That I had 30 days to make it happen".
"So, wait a minute", I said, "First things first, did you steal my nav data"?
"No, I didn't but I did give them your operation. I mean I have no freaking way of getting void opals, so I told them about you. But then they figured out that you didn't run opals and they leaned back onto me". Jack replied.
"God damn it, Jack", I said. I've now got people looking to kill me for my cargo you know, that data is probably everywhere by now. You have any idea the mess you've made"?
I was still angry but it was clear after talking to him more that this was real. He played the message for me and seeing a 4 year old girl tied up and terrified was enough to send any dad over the edge. A year before he'd been made a proposition by a lawyer that acted as the legitimate front for these people to do some shady financial work. As usual once he got involved the requests and demands got bigger and soon exposed him to serious legal trouble. He wants out, tries to pull back and then he gets a 'lesson' about trying to leave. Frankly the demand is so ludicrous for him that I wonder if the girl isn't already dead as he was expected to fail. Or, maybe they knew he had mining contacts but not the details?
At any rate in desperation, he'd tried to sell me and my routes as a replacement to the cargo. Predictably they strung him along to get the information and then told him that, of course, the deal was not altered. This was likely the origin of my little encounter with that armored up Chieftain. His kidnapper's must have contacts with No Look Here. I know he was more involved than he is letting on in that nav data theft. He knew too much to have just given them a name. Even through the anger, I kept seeing the face of that little girl, trembling and sweaty and I couldn't just completely turn my back. I agreed to help him get the load.
"Alright Jack, I'll get the opals. But I have conditions".
"Anything man, I'll do anything you need", Jack blurted out.
"First, No more contact with me. Kaylen will handle the cargo transfer and get you some fast and discrete transport back to the bubble, but you and me do not meet up again. If I do this, it is ALL that I'm doing".
"Second, if you get your daughter back, and my friend that's a big 'if', you stop what you are doing and you get lost. I mean really lost. This won't be your last 'lesson' if you try to stay in. The life you had before is over now. You need to get anyone close to you hid good".
"Third, this concludes your interest in my operation. Before the cargo transfer Kaylen will have you sign and acknowledge your formal release of all interest in this company. Those are my conditions and they are not negotiable".
"You are going to cut me out because my daughter is in trouble"? Jack said.
"No. I'm going to cut you out because you pulled me and my pilot into your troubles and sent pirates to rob me without even coming to me. I'm giving you the 15 tons and 5 tons extra to pay back your original investment. You get a chance to save your kid from your greed and stupidity and enough to get your family out of system and setup somewhere else. I think I've done more than enough here. So say 'thank you' and be on your way".
He looked crestfallen. After a long silence, he nodded and said "Alright, I agree".
"Okay, I'm shipping out tonight, should be back to station in a few days. Here's Kaylen's contact info. Get in touch to get started on prepping a ship back home tonight. I'll fill her in on what she needs to know from my end as soon as I leave. Do not talk to anyone else here on station about this".
"God, I wish you'd walked a different road brother. I really do hope you get your girl back home safe".
He nodded again silently and I turned to walk out. I gave Paul a quick nod to let him know that no 'disagreement' area would be needed and he acknowledged with a return nod. I'd be leaving the station behind in a few hours and a life-long friend as well.