“Valentina Mayes, mercenary for hire.” The loaded CEO glances up from the advertisement to me, brown eyes catching on my orange ones for a second before darting back down. “If someone else pays you more during your job, would you change sides?”
“First of all, it’s Tina. Second, of course not. I’m not a crook. You pay me half up front, I do my job, and then you pay me the other half. The other side could offer me a million credits, threaten my hypothetical family and torture me. I’d still get the job done.” I grin. “If they pay me afterwards to go after you though... Well, I would’ve finished business with you, so I’ll do what I’m being paid to do.”
He scoffs. “As expected, you’re incapable of loyalty beyond money.”
“At least I’m honest about it.” I clasp my hands. “So, what did you want to hire me for?”
“I never said I would.”
“If you’re desperate enough to meet me then you’re desperate enough to hire me.”
“Fine. There’s an incoming shipment at Rale Port that is of particular importance. I’d wager that someone will attempt to intercept it and I cannot afford to let that happen again. You will protect it at all costs.”
“Speaking of costs...”
“I’ve already transferred the half payment to your account.”
I tap my wristband and a copper holo-projection appears, showing my new thousand credits.
“So, is this the kind of job that you want nobody knowing about or am I allowed to make some noise?”
“If I find out that you’ve become a public nuisance while working for me, I will immediately terminate your services and you will not be paid. I’m not ashamed of who I hire, so don’t go changing that.”
His type normally doesn’t care about the public. It must be an image thing.
“I accept your terms.”
This is too easy. There must be something about this shipment that he’s not telling me. That or he’s an idiot who pays way too much for some random to protect his stuff. Surely someone that rich can afford a decent security detail. Ah well, his stupidity is my rent money. And if that comes easily then who am I to complain? Damn though, the port does not look stable these days. The creaking support beams cannot be up to code. And what century is this inventory tech from, the 22nd? It can’t even tell me what’s in this shuttle sized container whatshisface expects me to escort.
At least these workers are securing antigrav emitters along the bottom. They look like the most high tech thing in a five kilometre radius. No wonder whatshisface seemed so antsy. I bet nobody on his payroll would want to come down here. Upper level folk hate the bottom. It’s a constant reminder that they’re not magically hovering from their own brilliance, but standing on those who can rarely afford a meal a day. That said, if one of them payed me enough, I’d be more than willing to act as an exterminator. I don’t have some secret heart of gold. If I could live without it, I’d sell my heart without blinking.
Yana said that was my problem. She lived by a different code, one that left her at the wrong end of a disruptor.
Kind of like the disruptors that ragged gang are pointing at me. I grip my handgun and drop one member before the gang’s weapons discharge. An antigrav emitter explodes, sending me flying, and unbalancing the container. I roll behind a dumpster for cover and switch my handgun for my plasma rifle. The gang duck for cover behind the container. They yell at each other in Calitrexan. The only words I know in this planet’s language are ‘I don’t speak Calitrexan,’ but whatever they’re saying sounds angry. Thankfully this dumpster is proving to be surprisingly sturdy under their disruptor blasts.
I’ve just got to wait for their weapons to overheat and... I jump up, take a shot and drop down. That’s another one down. They seem more interested in going after me then the shipment, so picking them off slowly is probably the best way to handle this. It’s like clockwork. Jump, shoot, drop. Jump, shoot, drop. Jump, shoot, drop. I keep it up until there are two left. They alternate in their firing, catching onto my method. I rest my back against the impossibly strong dumpster and rack my brain for another option.
I can’t throw a grenade or I risk damaging the container. In fact, anything from this spot would just mess with the job. I have to change positions. It’s about ten metres to the closest alternative cover, but that spot would give me a better angle on those two. If I run for it then I’ll be shot. If I run while shooting at them then I’ll be shot. If I shoot another antigrav emitter on the container, the explosion and subsequent crashing container would provide enough cover for me not to be shot. Moving that thing afterwards is future me’s problem. If I miss the shot then I’ll be shot. No pressure. Okay, 3, 2, 1. Go.
“CEASE FIRE!” they both shout.
I awkwardly lower my rifle and bounce it on my leg. “I don’t know if that’s a thing. Like, can someone just shout that on this planet and people actually obey? I never got a chance to read all the laws. You lot have thousands of them. I value my sanity.”
“Shut up,” one of them says.
“That’s just rude,” I retort.
Her friend makes a point of dropping their weapon. “I’m Tal and this is Meg. We wanted to make sure you knew what you were fighting for.”
“Well, this job will probably go to fixing my ship up, upgrading my armour, maybe even getting some armour so I can upgrade it. I’m not really one to think ahead for these things and-.”
“Shut up!” Meg shouts.
“Are those the only words you know?” I ask.
She starts aggressively speaking in Calitrexian and I’m pretty sure it’s not the kind of language appropriate for minors. Tal holds their hand up and Meg stops. I guess Tal is the boss then.
“Would you let us take this container if you did not like what it’s transporting?” they ask.
“Probably not,” I answer.
“You wouldn’t care that it traffics slaves?” Meg yells.
I sigh and slowly walk towards them. “Look, I’m being paid to transport this container and I never go against a job. So if you want my help in freeing these slaves, then you can find me when I finish this job and I’ll help. For a price, of course, but also a guarantee that they would be free and isn’t that what matters most to you?”
“Yeah, but that’s not your problem. I’ll throw in something special for you two, just because I’m that nice. My normal price for this kind of thing would be 500 credits; half paid beforehand, half on completion of the job. But for you two, I’ll make that 750 credits along with a guarantee that I won’t go back to whatshisface when he inevitably wants to hire me to steal the slaves back.”
“You’re acting like they’re just merchandise,” Meg says. “They’re people, real, living people!”
“I could just kill you both right now and be done with it. It’s up to you.”
Meg goes to yell at me again, but Tal speaks first. “Fine, contact us when you’ve received your payment and we’ll start planning our extraction mission.”
I shake their hand. “Nice doing business with you.”
Yana would have handled that differently. She would have made me only charge the essential to cover the costs of the job and gone above and beyond to stop all slavery on Calitrexia. Who am I kidding? Yana would never have taken this job without knowing for sure what was in the container, and even then she would have gone back on her word to whatshisface and suffered the consequences. I wish she wasn’t like that. It was not finishing a job that got her dead. And to think, she even tried paying them back the initial fee to compensate. That naïve, idiotic, beautiful angel. Dammit, now I miss her again.
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