As Kam waltzes into the Last Orders Tavern, she grins saucily over her shoulder to O’Dell. But as she glides over the threshold, her smile becomes a little more predatory, her dark navy eyes darting left and then right before they hone in on the bar. “Almost feels like home,” she comments lightly.

Fedya’s smile goes cold as he enters the room. He nods in response to Kam’s statement, but says nothing aloud. He makes a slow scan of the bar while waiting to follow the pirate captain’s lead, his right thumb hooked into his belt a few inches from where his revolver is tucked away.

Kam nestles her back up against the bar as she surveys the room. She twists slightly to eye the bartender. “How about we start with a beer,” she orders. “Sit and have a drink, querido.”

As per the instructions given, Fedya sits down beside Kam, keeping an eye on anyone outside her field of vision even though it puts his back to most of the room. “Zhigulevskoye,” he orders from the bartender with a nod, putting a few chits of local currency on the bar.

Landon Briggs steps into the bar. Unlike many patrons, Briggs does not emanate hostility, but rather seems to go unnoticed by most. Briggs is a man adept at not standing out. Average height and build, if a bit wiry. His non-descript clothes would fit in on TK, Earth or most human dominated worlds.

Landon makes his way to the bar, exchanges a friendly greeting with the bartender and tosses a few credit chits in exchange for a clear drink in a not so clear glass.

“Was looking to see if you had any leads on possible work,” Kam says to the bartender, flicking her braid of long red hair over her shoulder. Landon only gets a brief look, mostly sizing him up, before she continues on with her conversations. She’s a tall, well proportioned woman in utilitarian clothes.

Fedya O’Dell sits beside Kam at the bar. He’s a few inches shorter than her, though of more stocky build. He has dark hair, somewhat unkempt. The mechanic glances up as the newcomer arrives at the bar. “Good evening,” he says, a bit curtly, his Ungstiri, Russianesque accent quite heavy.

Landon offers a friendly grin to Fedya, “Good evening to you as well.”  He sips from his glass, staring at the holo broadcast of some sport event that is playing in the corner.

The bartender just eyes Kam up and down and shakes his head. He’s got nothing to say at the moment. The redhead shrugs, turning to nestle her chin against Fedya’s shoulder and eyes Poe up and down with more interest this time around.

“Got all kinds of work around here,” the bartender finally replies. “Depends on what you got a taste for. Wet work? Hacking? Confidence trickstering? Espionage? I mean, don’t just come in here waving an ‘I want work’ sign and expect shit to just drop in your lap, lady. What do you bring to the table that Lord Fagin wants?”

The Ungstiri glances to the side at the redhead’s face beside his. Seeing her giving Poe a once-over, he gives her a mock glare, though it quickly breaks into a grin. As the bartender speaks up, Fedya scowls his way. He seems about to answer, but thinks better of it, allowing Kam to do the talking.

Landon half hides his smirk behind his glass as the bartender chews out Kam. “First time on Tomin Kora?” he says, his tone friendly but also somehow mocking, as only Sivadians can manage. “Landon Briggs. I get things places.” He slides a few credit chits to the bartender. “Their next drinks are on me.”

“We’re easy,” Kam replies lazily to the bartender. “And we’re discreet and affordable.” She straightens up to turn her attention back to the bartender. “Have a ship available for transportation. Any kind of transportation that might be needed.” Landon, however, gets a cool look. “Don’t need slick nobodies to front us any money.”

“Name?” the bartender inquires of the female, after giving a nod to Briggs. “If Lord Fagin’s got any work, I’m sure one of his operatives will be in touch after you’re vetted. And I sure hope you pass the vetting, lady, because…well, His Majesty ain’t fond of undercover Sorties poking around his business.”

“How you no have more scars on face with mouth like that?” the Ungstiri replies to the Sivadian, still grinning. He sips at his beer, following along with Kam’s conversation with the bartender.

Turns to the Ungstiri. “I haven’t found a conflict that a few drinks, some well placed money and perhaps a little self-deprecating humor can’t diffuse.” He nods his head to a table filled with local roughs, a few of which appear to be keeping an eye in this direction. “Plus, it helps to have people who know you’ll show your appreciation if they back you up when things get rough.”

“Kam,” the redhead replies, looking back at the bartender. “We-” she gestures to O’Dell, “fly the Queen Anne’s Revenge to wherever and back for the right price.”

“I’ll pass the information along to Lord Fagin’s people,” the bartender replies. “They’ll be in touch.”

“Ah,” the mechanic replies, still maintaining a somewhat antagonistic grin, “You buy all you friends? Or just when you come to TK?”

He turns to nod in agreement with what Kam is saying.

“I maintain fruitful business alliances. It’s worked for me for 7 years.” Briggs finishes his drink and pushes away from the bar. To the bartender he says “I’ll be on planet for a few more days if anyone is looking for me. I’ve got room in my hold.”

“Room for what?” the bartender inquires.

Kam’s brows actually raise a little in Landon’s direction. “You seriously trying to swipe potential work right out from under us while we’re standing right here?” She asks. Fedya gets a look. She’s annoyed but somehow still smiling. “Best watch your back. TK isn’t always the friendliest place to those who don’t know their place…”

Fedya kind of gives Kam a “What?” look, but then turns back to Briggs. He looks past him, sizing up the group at the table. His right thumb hooks in his belt, about half a foot from where a revolver is stowed.

“His Lordship knows my work, but in case others are asking: No bioweapons, no nukes, no slaves. Small cargoes or a dozen or so passengers. More if comfort isn’t an issue. Specialize in security avoidance, blockade running and time sensitivity.” Landon turns back to Kam. His cheery smile fading for a brief moment, his lips pursing into a thin line. “I know my place. Do you? I don’t doubt that you are as tough as you are trying to appear.  That you would shoot me if you thought it would help you get respect. But I doubt you have enough money to buy out my insurance policies,” he nods towards the table of thugs, “of which they are just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve been doing business here for quite some time. There is plenty of work to go around, and I doubt you will be offered the jobs I usually take.”

“You haul trash?” The bartender picks up a dirty glass from the counter, starts rubbing it with a grubby-looking cloth.

Kam just shakes her head, giving Fedya a brush on the shoulder with her hand. “We know our place,” she says, nodding to her partner. “And we don’t go intruding in on other people’s conversations, trying to steal work. So you’d best keep your little body guards close since you’re not man enough to walk the streets on your own and stay out of our way.”

The redhead’s words bring a smirk to Fedya’s face. He grins over at the bartender. “Can haul some trash right now if you is liking,” he says.

The bartender gives the narrow-eye to O’Dell. “Yeah? OK. You’re on. Pallet full of garbage will be delivered to your ship within the hour. Get rid of it to Lord Fagin’s satisfaction, you’ll get ten thousand credits.”

Briggs’ expression turns to that of appreciation. “You’re in with the sanitation guild? I underestimated you. Sanitation is one of the hardest guilds to break into. I knew a guy was hauling trash without guild permission a couple years ago. Heard they threw him into compactor to make an example.” Landon shudders at the thought. “In any case, have a good day.” With that he walks out of the bar, not looking back.

Kam’s face never wavers. “We’ll make sure the ship is ready to get rid of your garbage for you,” she replies evenly. She nods in Fedya’s direction. “Go get the ship ready. Make sure everything is at 100%.”

Fedya’s face wrinkles in amusement at Briggs’ parting shot, but nods quickly to Kam. “Is done,” he says, reaching out to quickly squeeze her elbow, speaking in a quieter tone, “Be careful.” With that, he moves quickly off towards the space port.

As Fedya and Kam arrive at the spaceport, they find next to the Queen Anne’s Revenge a pallet stacked about four feet high with…something? Under a black tarp. Boots, some slick with blood, jut out from beneath the tarp.

Kam strides towards her ship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, her hands tucked into the back pockets of her pants. Her nose wrinkles slightly at the pallet nearby. “Could have at least wrapped it up first so it doesn’t leak all over my damn ship…” she growls. “We’ll just have to make do.”

Fedya steps out of the vessel, chuckling faintly at Kam’s protest. “Will be fine,” he says with a smile, “Already set up for that.” He taps in a key code to open an exterior cargo hatch. As the massive door slides open, a plastic tarp large enough to wrap the whole palette can be seen laid out on the floor. The Ungstiri goes to fetch a hoverjack, which he prepares to load the palette with. “Any sign of troubles?” he asks the pirate captain.

Kam shakes her head, though she does do a quick scan of the landing pad. “None that I saw,” she replies. “But let’s just do this quick. Never know what kind of clock they’ve got on it.” Her eyes shift upwards to the Revenge with a look of affection, “She all set? I’m thinking quick drop and move along. Don’t need to overcomplicate it.”

One of the bodies under the tarp was on an angle, apparently, and slides out from beneath the tarp. It’s a young woman with two scorched plasma wounds in her forehead – killed execution-style. She’s wearing a dark blue uniform with Vanguard insignia.

“Engines is warm and ready for raise up,” the Ungstiri replies, stopping the hoverjack to try and heave the sliding body back into place. “Give me hand here?” he asks, shoving the corpse without hesitation.

Kam tugs a pair of work gloves tucked conveniently in her belt onto her hands. “Best wrap ’em up a bit to keep it cleaner.”

Fedya grunts, nodding as he draws a roll of twine from his jacket pocket, starting to tie the tarp down to the pallet.

It’s hard to not notice certain elements of the dead and while Kam’s eyes do skip over the uniform, there’s no indication that she cares. “Just in case this is some sort of trick, best keep them out of sight. Wouldn’t surprise me if we oh so conveniently got boarded. See if we might snitch to save our own skins. Better to not have anything worth seeing out and about.”

“Is good idea,” the Ungstiri replies, going about the process of tying down the tarp. Once he is satisfied that he can safely do so, he gets the hoverjack going, moving the pallet towards the large drop cloth. “I turn off gravity for cargo bay. When we make turn with door open, garbage fly right out!” (edited)

Kam nods. “Simple, effective plan,” she replies. She steps back, out of the way of the pallet. “Seems like nothing could go wrong, but keep an eye out. Nothing is ever easy on TK.”

“Da,” Fedya says with a nod, “I remember. Wonder what happen if we look up Cabrerra’s great, great grandfather, eh?”

Kam’s eyes twinkle with amusement. “You hoping to change history a little, querido?” she asks lightly. “Though I guess us being here means it’s not history anymore and who knows what our world will turn out like now.”

“Just wanting have little fun, da?” the Ungstiri replies, grinning widely as he sets the pallet down on the tarp, pulls the hoverjack out, and starts to wrap up the package while closing the cargo bay doors. “You want get us up while I finish this?”

Meanwhile, against the violet-blue backdrop of the Tomin Nebula in high orbit of the rocky wastes of Tomin Kora, the smuggler ship Forgot to Pack Lunch drifts on inertia while occasionally blooping the maneuvering thrusters to stay on the float and out of the rather weak grasp of Lord Fagin’s adopted homeworld.

The Lunch’s captain, a fat little woman named Ela Pryn, sits in the cockpit watching a holovid broadcast of an Odarite “symphony” in which dozens of insectoids click their legs together to produce ancient Earth music, such as the current selection: “The William Tell Overture”. Her entertainment is soon interrupted by the wailing of her ship’s alarm klaxon as sensors detect the arrival of a Vanguard warship dropping to sublight. She transmits a warning message planetside.

Aboard the destroyer Clarke, a signal officer confirms to Captain Leonard Hallows: “Picking up the sub-cutes of our missing soldiers. Looks like they’re in the vicinity of the spaceport in Freewheeling.”

Hallows nods, then thumbs the commlink: “Marines, suit up for ground action. Gunners, stand by for anyone making a run for it with our people.”

Kam is just starting to start her warm up sequence to get the ship ready to move when she picks up the warning message from far above. A frown begins to mar her features. “There’s incoming,” she transmits back to Fedya. “Vanguard. Looks like it was a set up. Search those bodies quickly and get them hidden as best you can.”

“Jebat…” Fedya spits, peering around the cargo bay. He runs to a toolbox he keeps at the far end of the room, rummaging until he can find an RF scanner and a knife. He slashes the twine that holds the wrapping together and pulls off each body, using the scanner to pick up anything that might be giving off a signal. He throws each item into a pile. This done, pulls out a handkerchief, and wraps all the transmitting items into a bundle. He races down to the engine room, and steps up to the sublight engine’s ignition chamber. Pulling open an access panel, he tosses in the satchel. “Ok, get us in the air!” he yells into the comm before he runs back towards the cargo bay. (edited)

The Marines are just disembarking from a blocky landing craft on the other side of the spaceport when the sig ops non-comm assigned to the squad smacks the side of his PDA and then announces: “We’ve lost all the signals. Last known location was about half a kilometer to the northeast.”

Captain Hallows looks toward the sensors officer: “Track the course of any vessels launching from the spaceport.” He then orders the Marines: “Go to that last known location. Shake a few trees. Bring me back a name.”

Kam’s eyes keep watch above, waiting for the descent of the Vanguard ship. Beneath the golden hue of her skin, she pales slightly but slaps a hand down on the console lightly, revving up the engines. It doesn’t look like she’s in too big of a rush to depart as she carefully guides her ship up. “We may get chased. Make things look as clean as possible. Clean yourself up too,” she radios down to Fedya. “Want to solve any problems without getting the Vanguard down on us.”

Fedya opens up the cover of a shielded smuggling bay, but does not put the pallet in it, leaving it slightly open. He re-wraps the pallet, and moves it to the corner of the cargo bay door, using the hoverjack to stack a few large, but empty crates on top of and around it.  Then he takes a pulse pistol to the decking, incinerating any potential biological evidence on the floor. “If you make to solar orbit, cargo is ready for dump,” he calls into the comm as he races into the shower, disrobing within.

The Queen Anne’s Revenge rumbles upwards with a slow ascent toward the stars. Kam keeps an eye in general on the Vanguard ship until it’s too small to spot and her immediate direction is toward the closest star to make a quick dump of their cargo. “We better divert to a new planet for vacation after dump. Wait a few days for Vanguard to leave before coming back for our payment. Any place in mind?”

The Ungstiri thinks about the question from over the comm. “I hear Quaquan is nice!” he calls over the shower, “And they no like Vannies much, da?” He steps out and dries off while awaiting the response.

“Sounds like a plan!” Kam chirps in response. She guides the ship away from the planet, making a change in course for the nearest star.

“Sure, I can give you the ship’s name,” the bartender says casually to the trio of Vanguard marines looming over him in the pub near the spaceport. “Won’t be cheap,” he adds.

“No,” one of the marines replies, drawing a shock baton. “But it’ll be painful.”

Hallows, aboard the Clarke, paces in the command center as he awaits word from Tomin Kora. Precious minutes have passed. He’s not happy.

A comms officer reports: “Source tells us the soldiers are all dead. Taken by a man and a woman. Ship called the Queen Anne’s Revenge.”

Hallows considers the information, then says, “Notify HQ. I’m sure General Avocet’s going to put a steep price on their heads.” He then looks toward the nav officer. “Lay in a course to Mars.”

By Brody

Leave a Reply