Chapter 3: We ALways Get Paid
Garth and Sabbas left to the armory to get power armor and weapons. Cadoc quietly left back to his chamber, also dubbed the electronic warfare room ever since Cadoc joined the crew. Levon, who was sitting on the bridge, was tapped on the shoulder. He turned around and saw Kamilla. She was third in command onboard the Firebird and the chief EBN-Strike mechanic. She was a brown-skinned young human woman with black hair and light brown eyes. She was slender with a small build and thin legs and arms. Kamilla was short but still taller than Dayo.
“What’s going on, Kamilla? I thought you’d be down in the hangar helping fix damages to the EBNs?”
“We finished. No damages to any of our ships this time.”
“That’s a first. We usually have at least some charring on one of the wings or something.”
“Nah. I heard about your fancy flying, though. Good work but don’t overdo it.”
“Oh my god. You better not start with me too…”
She laughed lightly.
“I’m kidding! I know how you are. Careful when me or Garth aren’t around, though. Cadoc might be alright at piloting an EBN but he isn’t going to pull your ass out of an anti-matter explosion.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, that guy really only likes his computers, but he’s still damn useful in a fight with his hacking.”
“Well, yeah. That is why he’s here.”
“Yeah. Hey, change of subject really quick. I’ve been wondering why Maria hates Yancy so much…,” Levon said with a troubled look. Kamilla looked up at the optics screen projected above the tabletop map. The Airlock tube slowly extended to connect to the station’s Airlock.
“I think it’s because he always does that thing where he pretends like he’s going to assassinate one of us. It terrifies me too.”
“Most mercenary crews think we’re insane to bring an unstable guy like that with us. I feel like he just does that to show that he could kill us if he wanted to. To be honest, though, I kind of like him. He’s been pretty faithful for years. He isn’t so bad in my book.”
“He’s creepy, Levon.”
“I know. I’m not disagreeing with that. I’m just saying he’s alright. I don’t think he’ll ever actually kill any of us. He should have snapped years ago by the crew’s calculations. Anyway, speaking of Yancy, have a nice nap, man?”
Kamilla spun around and saw Yancy Vadas standing directly behind her, motionless with his hands behind his back. He stood smiling with an empty stare that was locked in a random direction, paying no attention to the two people in front of him. He was of average height and wore black armor all the time but it had no crest or showed any affiliation to the Raptors. He carried a large steel knife, a gauss handgun, a compact pulse rifle, and an energy blade on his belt. His hair was black, his skin was tan, and his eyes were bright orange.
Kamilla threw herself back in surprise, pushing Levon hard and crushing one of his feet. He let out a pained groan. Kamilla turned around, gasped, and covered her mouth.
“Oh my god! I’m really sorry Levon!
“I heard my name in this conversation,” Yancy said in a surprisingly light voice, still not looking at either one of the two.
“Yes. We were just talking about you,” grunted Levon on the ground, holding on to his afflicted foot.
“Well, what is it that the venerable captain wants of me?” he whispered sarcastically.
Kamilla helped Levon up. He breathed out and looked at Yancy, who met Levon’s eyes. His stare gave Kamilla Chills.
“You were asleep during the whole operation. I was wondering why you didn’t help on the bridge or in engineering,” Levon said. Yancy yawned. He looked bored.
“I’m really sorry captain. It’s just that battles like this make me sleepy. I need to feel the steel in my hand and I like to see the light fade from my enemy’s eyes as I kill them,” he whispered. Kamilla turned away, blinking her eyes disapprovingly. Yancy noticed and cackled in an abnormal way that sounded almost like a hyena of the human world of Kasar Maza. He leaned forward, putting his face an inch from hers. Her face contorted. “Does that make the little woman uncomfortable? I don’t see why it should. That’s hilarious coming from someone who kills for a living!” he said. Levon sighed.
“That’s enough, Vadas. Leave her alone. We each have our own reasons for being here, and not everyone enjoys killing as much as you do.”
Yancy bowed, almost mocking Levon, and looked up to meet his eyes. He whispered, “Of course, my captain.”
“Alright, cut the formality, Vadas. I called you up here because I need you to help us collect our payment. You will be our trump card. No killing unless it is necessary. Got it?”
“Yes, I understand,” he responded with a grin that assured Kamilla that Yancy was mentally broken. Levon continued.
“I know you’re going to find your way into the meeting room with our client whether we give you directions or not, so just make sure to meet up with us, but don’t be late. We’ll need you to help seal the deal if things get out of hand.”
Levon and Kamilla looked back at the optics screen. The ship had finished docking with a resounding thud. Levon took a deep breath and turned back. Yancy was gone. They looked around the room and he was nowhere to be seen. The blast doors to the bridge never opened or closed. Kamilla gave a long exasperated grunt.
“I hate it when he does that. Can we please just abandon him somewhere on our next leave? Maybe dump him out an airlock?”
“No. He’d probably find us and kill us if we did that. Besides, he won’t kill anyone onboard as long as we’re allies. I promise.”
“Okay…well, I wanted to ask you something. Is there something wrong with Maria?”
Levon eyed Kamilla before responding.
“Did she tell you something?”
“Not exactly. She’s been acting strange. She keeps saying a lot of weird things to me.”
“Yeah, I know. She’s doing it again. She’s been questioning if she is really alive or not.”
“But why? I thought you talked to her. She seemed pretty convinced of her own existence before.”
“I don’t know. I’m guessing she found some part of her programming that she can’t change with her free will and it’s bothering her.”
“Is she still trying to take off the sleep protocol?”
“Yeah. She even asked Cadoc for help. They haven’t figured it out yet. Apparently her own coding is so complex that she and Cadoc haven’t been able to even FIND the module that regulates fatigue.”
“Well…maybe you should ask her about it. She might feel better if you do.”
“I’ll talk to her after the payment meeting today. If you want, you can be there. She trusts you too.”
Levon kicked his crushed foot against the ground and walked out of the bridge with Kamilla. He went left towards the airlock and she turned right towards the hangar.
The three Raptors walked down the airlock passage armed with plasma rifles and heavy armor plating with invisible energy barriers that could block small arms fire. Two Raptor guards and two security robots stood guard at the door to enter the ship. They were armed with laser rifles. The airlock passage was a long and wide metal tube with airtight fabrics covering the windows and doorframes. The floor was made of solid steel. Outside the windows the Firebird was stationary and floating in space. On the other side of the tube was the door to the station with the words ‘Welcome to North East Transporters Station 312!’ It was open and past it was a check-in terminal with weighing stations lining the walls and box scanners to detect prohibited substances and paraphernalia. Levon, who was in front of the group, looked back and spoke.
“Remember. No killing unless it’s necessary. We can’t mess up this deal guys. Vadas should show up eventually too.”
“If there is anyone you should tell ‘no killing’ it should be him. That bastard will kill one of us in our sleep if he so much as gets bored,” growled Sabbas.
“Hey, Levon, how much was the original asking price anyway?” asked Garth.
“Well, we asked for 20 Million for the two carriers. This shit should more than double now if all goes well.”
“Shit. It was a hell of a fight, even if their snub fighters were no better than paper planes. They actually hit me a few times.”
Levon gave a light chuckle
“Your ‘show boating’ is making you shit at flying. I only got hit once.”
“Shut the hell up? Must have just been the heat of the moment that made you good. I wasn’t even trying.”
“Whatever helps you sleep, Garth.”
Garth punched Levon on the shoulder and they both laughed. Sabbas rolled his eyes. The men walked deep into the station. It was evacuated before the battle, so it was devoid of people or sentients, though there was a green woman at a customer service desk that greeted them in a strangely gleeful way.
“Welcome! I was told that you would be arriving. Follow me, Raptor Squadron.”
Levon looked around before speaking.
“So your boss, Izjec, where is he? We need to speak with him.”
“He is in his office. He will handle any payment inquiries. I’m currently taking you there now.”
“He knows how much we’re asking, right?”
“Yes. He mentioned that you might want to raise the price as well, but he said that he wanted to speak with you personally before committing to any additional fees.”
They followed her closely, but warily. Her steps were light, but quick and mechanical. As they walked through the empty station, they passed an assortment of terminals, booths, ticket stations, holograms, and hundreds of boxes and packages that were never delivered or hauled to their destinations. Eventually, she led them to a large central hub that housed the massive space elevator platform that traveled to the surface of the planet. It was a great metal circle in the middle of the central hub with industrial railing and cranes surrounding it. There were empty restaurants and stores, and even an empty public transportation shuttle bay lining the staging area. The metal floor had small glass holes where one could see into space and see the yellow planet below.
They climbed up a large set of wide regal stairs at the back of the central hub that went to the main offices. Levon whispered into the computer on his wrist.
“This is Levon to control. Nothing strange happening, right?”
“No captain. Nothing so far,” Rin resounded in the speaker embedded in his ear.
“Okay. I’ll keep you posted on the situation out here. Keep watching. Levon out.”
He sighed. In Levon’s experience, Cartels, gangs, and other undesirables always tried to find ways to avoid paying mercenary groups like Raptors, and sometimes they used violent means. Since they destroyed part of the moon station, the client would try to either use that as a crutch to pay them less, or not pay them at all. Whichever one it was, they needed to be careful. It wasn’t uncommon in the galaxy for criminal groups to try and kill off mercenary groups after using them, especially when large sums of money were involved.
They made a left and walked down a long hallway. At the end of the hall was a door that said ‘Station Administrator Izjec’. The green woman stopped and bowed.
“Here is my master’s office. Please feel free to go inside whenever you are ready. Thank you for choosing North East Transporters as your employer on your mercenary assignment.”
She walked back to the check in stations.
“I want to kill her so bad. Her robotic personality is pissing me off,” whispered Sabbas.
The men walked into the dark room. The only source of light came from the orange glow of a number of information holograms surrounding the administrator’s desk.
Administrator Izjec, an old human male sitting behind the desk, greeted them. The man wore a gray business suit that was closed up to the neck and had its buttons on the left breast. He was light skinned with gray hairs surrounding a bald spot on the center of his head. Levon guessed he was around 70 years old. There were a number of office plants and old moving trinkets dotting the room. This would have given the room quaint feel if it hadn’t been for the computers on the desk and the two armored men with rifles in hand standing behind him. Their rifles were pointed down in a non-threatening manner and their armor was dark green and had the crest of a beetle on it.
“Well look who it is,” said the administrator in a strange accent unfamiliar to the 3 Raptors, “It is Captain Levon Artyem, come to talk business with me.”
“Yeah, well, we’re here to talk about our pricing. We seem to have a problem.”
The man leaned forward and rested his chin on a balled fist.
“Oh, do we now? And what problem might that be?”
“We made a deal for 20 million credits. We protected your station and the moon base. Your intelligence reports said there would only be two Carriers attacking, when instead there were three carriers and a corvette. We demand compensation for our extra work.”
The two men in green armor looked at each other, chuckling, and the old man began a slow loud laugh.
“You must be mistaken. Our only deal was for 20 million. We will not pay you more. Your people crashed one of the Datti carriers into our mineral processing bay on the moon. We lost at least over three million in damages and 53 people. Lives are irreplaceable, Mr. Artyem.”
Garth shuffled uncomfortably. Levon ignored it and continued.
“Look. I don’t know who you think you’re dealing with. You’re not dealing with the Blackmanes or the Galactic Security Group. You’re dealing with RAPTOR SQUADRON. We demand our pay and GOOD pay. We don’t do extra work for free. The carriers we destroyed more than made up for the damages we caused. 40 Million, right now, and we’ll be on our way.”
The old man’s anger boiled but he fought to keep it controlled. The two men behind him took a step forward and glared at Levon.
“Don’t play games with me, Captain. I won’t be paying you shit if you keep this child’s game going.”
Sabbas and Garth moved in front of Levon.
“I don’t think you understand. We’re not playing. We never ‘play’. Give us what we came for and we’ll leave without having to get too…‘confrontational,’” grunted Sabbas.
The administrator looked unimpressed and the two guards laughed, making Sabbas shudder with anger.
“You must be Sabbas. The famous murderer from the planet Saphas. Fancy of you to carry your attack dog with you, Captain,” taunted Izjec.
Sabbas lunged at the old man and the two guards raised their rifles. Garth and Levon grabbed Sabbas by one arm each and wrestled him, trying to stop him from ravaging the old man.
“I’ll kill him! I’ll kill him! Nobody talks to me like that!” he roared.
“Calm down Sabbas! Stand down, man!” yelled Garth.
The old man started to laugh and slapped the desk.
“Well, this is a surprise. The Saphir has absolutely no self-control! No wonder you people are so clumsy. I would have had better results hiring Skyhawk.”
“He’s doing it.” thought Levon. He was trying to use the moon base as his crutch to not pay them despite the fact that he made them face twice the amount of ordnance than was originally stated. If this kept up, Levon might actually lose his composure next… He continued to struggle with Sabbas until he finally calmed down, albeit rather slowly and with plenty of grunting and elbowing. Eventually, the guards lowered their rifles. Levon slapped fur off his armor and then looked over to the old man.
“Forgive my associate. He doesn’t like when he is insulted…and neither do I. So if you don’t want any more trouble, then you’ll pay us our due for doing extra work. I’m the last person you want to see mad.”
The old man eyed the group, picked up a bauble on his desk with his left hand, and began fiddling with it.
“Okay, Levon. If you control your beast, then let us discuss this matter like men. I will give you 25 million.”
“30,” Levon countered.
“Mr. Artyem…I’m a busy man and I am getting tired of this conversation. I have to get my business operational again and your starship is in the way…just get out of my office before I call my other guards and I will wire you your 25 million.”
Levon looked down at the floor and then looked over to Garth, who then looked to Sabbas.
Levon pulled out the rifle strapped to his back and flipped over the desk with a swift kick, throwing its contents and trinkets through the air. The two guards pulled out their rifles. Sabbas and Garth pulled out their weapons and fired bursts of bright green plasma before the guards could fire single shot. The bullets tore through their barriers and armor, charring their skin and leaving them seared but still alive. They fell to the ground, wailing and holding onto their wounds while blood leaked out.
“PAY US OUR FUCKING MONEY!” screamed Levon.
The old man, who was under the desk, slowly crawled out, squeezing the bauble in his hand with anger. He looked up and saw Levon staring down at him with his plasma rifle in hand. Garth and Sabbas ran to the guards, picked up their rifles, dismantled them, and tossed their pieces across the room.
“So this is the true face of the famed Raptor Squadron,” he said spitting out his words.
“I don’t know what you heard about us, but this is who we are and who we’ve always been. You think you can scare ME? You must be the only fucking idiot in the universe who thought it would be a good idea to cross the Raptors.”
Administrator Izjec continued to fiddle with the bauble in his hand and looked up at Levon with a face full of scorn.
“You should have taken the 20 million, Captain. Good luck getting home without a ship.”
He pressed a button on the bauble. The three Raptors looked at each other and then around the room, waiting for something to happen, but there was only the pained grunts of the guards. The administrator pressed the button several times, getting angrier with each press, and then, after realizing his contingency plan had failed, he looked up at Levon’s blue face with defeated gape. Levon spoke into his wrist.
“Rin, everything normal?”
“No, captain. Tania and Cadoc found some explosives wired on to the inside of the airlock. It would have destroyed 30 percent of the innards of our ship and killed at least half the maintenance crew. They deactivated the explosives before you went into the meeting. We were about to alert you,” replied Rin.
“Why you double crossing son of a bitch!” he yelled.
Levon pressed his rifle hard against the man’s forehead and placed his finger on the trigger. He wanted to kill the man, but it took every fiber of his body not to pull the trigger. They needed the money, so they needed him alive.
“No! Please! I’ll give you anything you want! Just let me live!”
The door into the room suddenly swung open and five mangled bloody bodies slumped through the doorway and onto the ground, including the body of the check-in station woman. Yancy walked over their bodies and into the room. He wore his usual randomized stare and crooked smile; though he wasn’t wearing the black gloves he usually wore. Instead, he was doing strange fondling motions with his fingers, feeling warm red blood on his hands. He bit his lips and spoke.
“Sorry I’m late, captain. I seemed to have walked into some guards that were on their way here. I hope you don’t mind that I took the liberty of taking their lives.” He looked over the bodies with delight. “That green lady sure knew how to fight. Turned me on.”
“Oh my god…,” breathed the old man, “It’s that man, Yancy Vadas!” The administrator looked up at Levon in horror, “You people are beasts. Take your money and go. Please!”
“Wire the money then,” spat Levon with a cold glare.
The old man took the small computer concealed in his wrist and typed a series of commands and numbers into it.
“Ah…30 million, and please, no more…it’s all we have to spare…,” he said with a distressed look.
The wrist computer made a series of beeps and pings. In the corner, both a holo-receipt, a holographic floating bit of data, and a physical paper receipt came out from the machine in the corner.
“Vadas. Watch him.”
Levon left the old man’s side and looked at the receipts. The old man whimpered and squirmed as the smiling Vadas grabbed his suit with a bloody hand and stuck his steel blade near his neck. Levon dragged the floating hologram receipt with his finger and pushed it into his own wrist computer. He then grabbed the physical copy and stashed it into his pocket. He spoke into his wrist.
“Rin, tell Madison to check if the money has entered our accounts.”
The room stood in a tense silence for a few moments as they awaited confirmation. Administrator Izjec had cold sweat running down his face as he swallowed a mouthful of saliva. The guards, still alive on the ground, looked weak and pale from blood loss.
“It’s in sir. We have 30 million credits in our accounts.”
Levon nodded to his men and they started making their way out of the room. Levon took a canister from his belt and threw it at the two dying men on the ground.
“Here. Patch yourselves up. It’s Bio-Gel. It should keep you guys alive until you get real medical attention…we’re moving out.”
As Levon stepped over the bodies of the dead security guards and green woman, he took one more look at the old man, who was examining his dead associates in horror.
“This never happens. We respect our clients but not when they try to scam us for our work. If you cross us again, I can assure you I will hunt you down and kill you personally. Don’t call us again, asshole.”
Levon and the others walked into the Firebird’s airlock and made their way to one of the elevators to the hangar. Levon spoke into his wrist computer again.
“Rin. Get the Firebird out into space. Set our vector for wherever. As long as it isn’t this place, we’re good.”
As they walked into the elevator, Garth stepped in front of Levon and looked into his face with an ecstatic smile.
“Damn brother. So much for all that efficiency talk! I was the one who said I wanted to flip tables. You ended up doing that all on your own!” he laughed.
“Yeah, well, he pissed me off. Nobody does that to us…and I knew the little bitch was planning shit. He looks like the type of cheap asshole to try something.”
Sabbas grunted at Levon.
“If you were going to do that from the beginning, then you should have just let me have at him. Nobody calls me a dog…you shouldn’t have let those two guards get off so easily.”
“I couldn’t let you kill him. He was the only way we were getting paid. We have 30 million credits in the bank now. As for those other two, I didn’t want a complete massacre with the client’s personnel since it would make us look bad with other potential clients. Vadas did enough damage.”
“You’re too soft.”
“Yeah, but you’re the one who complains that we waste time doing shit outside our contracts. Where’s Vadas anyway?”
“Knowing that guy, he’s probably already in the armory taking a nap.”
The elevator took them down and stopped to the left of the rack where Levon’s EBN sat. On the hangar’s right wall was a large blast door with the words ‘Main Cannons’. In the far corner of the hangar by the fighter launch tube were massive green steel containers that said ‘Main Cannon Slugs’, the ammunition that destroyed the Datti mercenaries. The Raptors walked in between two EBN racks on the left wall and went through a set of double doors with viewing ports at their sides. A sign on top of the doors said ‘Hangar Controls and Armory’. Inside were a number of workers and drones operating the controls of the hangar cranes and fighter launch system. They carried the main cannon ammo containers and stored them inside the heavy ordinance room directly across from the armory.
At the back of the room was a small hallway with three doorways. The one to the left was the men’s armory, and to the right was the women’s armory. Straight ahead was the quartermaster’s office where the quartermaster and his assistants took inventory. The door was open and the quartermaster sat behind a desk talking to the pilot Faye about places where they could buy supplies for the Firebird.
It was Baako, a Kecka alien from the planet Ptuski. They had humanoid shapes. Baako himself had gray feathers with orange accents and yellow eyes. His short and stout beak could move flexibly to vocalize with humans, but he also made chirping noises to communicate with his own kind. Because of his beak, Baako had a strange accent when speaking human tongues. He combed the feathers on the top of his head back by using oil and had the habit of wearing a white cap with his black uniform. Faye, on the other hand, was a regular human woman. She was fit with fair skin, light brown hair, and baby blue eyes. She was tiny and much shorter than Kamilla. Faye usually helped Baako with his quartermaster duties, but her main duty was piloting and EBN alongside her boyfriend Garth.
“Oh, hi babe. Hi team. How did the collection go?” Faye asked, facing the three brightly.
“As you would expect Faye. We lost our cool and shot our way out after getting paid,” Garth said smugly. Faye stared him down with half closed eyes. Yancy appeared behind them and walked casually into the room. He leaned against a wall with his arms crossed and a demented expression.
“You didn’t do shit. I killed them all.”
“Hey man. Don’t take the spotlight. Not everyone is a killing machine like you are.”
“I just came to clear things up and announce that I’ll be taking a nap in my usual spot. Wake me up when we talk money again.”
“Same here. I’m not in the mood for conversation,” growled Sabbas. He left to take his armor off and Yancy followed to nap at the far back men’s armory repair room where he had set up his own quarters to sleep and live. Nobody bothered him there.
“Sheesh. What loons, man. Can’t a guy talk up a storm around his girlfriend without being judged?”
“It’s okay Garth. You’re already good at killing in your own way,” Faye replied, occupied with the armory computer.
“Anyway…I just came in here to see how things are going. We meet in the conference room in like 30 minutes. Wake up Vadas later, will you Baako?” Levon said.
“Yes sir. Also, we need ta talk about a nearby place ta get shield piercing slugs for the main cannons. Walther says we’re on our last canister. I also wanta buy some more ammo and batteries for our rifles and we might need more water since the water purifier has been on the fritz. We really need ta talk about fixing shit around here sir, especially since we finally have some cash.”
“Got it, Baako. We’ll make it a point during the meeting.”
Garth sat on the desk, to Baako’s annoyance, to talk to Faye. Levon walked into the armory. It was a long room with armor and space suits for every member. The lockers were filled with all kinds of small arms. The women’s armory looked the same except that only the women went in there, except for Baako and his assistants, who checked ammunition supplies. Yancy also entered, but to check on the space suits and armor since he was their armor technician. Yancy, despite being a peculiar sociopath and sadist, was very good with armor and space suit repair.
Levon laughed to himself. Garth was probably telling Faye an exaggerated account of the collection, one where he was the hero who saved them.
Preview of Chapter 4:
Maria to the core crew of Raptor Squadron:
“A few nights ago, we received a message from the dark pulse. It was a mission offer sent out to multiple mercenary groups. Specifically to those in the underworld with galactic recognition and who hold spots in the Coalition top 1000 most wanted list. Levon, Garth, Kamilla, and Rin looked over it and decided not to follow through with it because we already had this job scheduled and this one would be paying a lot more. The job we received also sounded odd and wasn’t very much like the types of jobs we usually do.”
“Ah damn. You’re talking about that smuggling job we got from those scientists,” Levon said. He threw himself back into his chair and crossed his arms.
“Yes I am, but it was updated. It seems that nobody picked it up because nobody wants to risk placing such a dangerous animal inside their ships.”
“A valid concern.”
“What is it that they want us to haul?” replied Nannette.
“It’s a creature that’s been extinct for centuries, or at least they thought it was until they found a live specimen smuggled illegally to the other side of the galaxy…
End of Chapter Three. Comeback next week to join Captain Levon and the rest of Raptor Squadron on their adventures across the Kaleco Galaxy! Remember: this web novel is published for free on GFMakina.net. Not sure when it will end, but as far as the current written work goes, it could go on for months to years! Enjoy the ride everyone!