Chapter 4: The Job
Up on the bridge, Levon sat in his seat by the main map near Rin and Dayo. He relaxed himself and looked around. Behind the command chair stood Nabu and Obi working on some terminals with their drones. They were two military assistant robots that helped the crew by controlling humanoid drones that assisted the crew in operating and fixing the ship. Maria had similar functions but she needed help to control all 40 assistant drones, which is where Nabu and Obi came in. Nabu had blue details on his body while Obi had red.
On a large computer terminal with a 3D model of the ship was a tall blue-scaled lizard alien with black eyes. It was Aku, one of Baako’s assistants and the main person who operated the ships thrusters and stabilizers. He had several human assistants under his command, but he was laid back with them. Aku looked like a creature they called a gecko on the human world of Kasar Maza. Levon had never seen one but their description fit. Dayo and Aku, despite being different species, were close. Both shared history and a grudge with the legendary mercenary group, Skyhawk.
At the front of the bridge, past the tabletop map, was their main optics operator, Jael, surrounded by several alien assistants. He was a normal human with brown skin and hair that was almost the same color as his skin and brown eyes. Jael worked the sensors and cameras to make sure that the crew knew what was going outside the ship. He could also hack the pulse, the information highway that connected the galaxy. He loved to abuse it to gather information for the Raptors, although his hacking skills were no match for Cadoc.
On the computer terminal to the left of Jael was a human woman named Madison. Madison wasn’t born on the human world of Kasar Maza. Instead, she was born on a planet named Dodz on the western side of the galaxy. She was light brown skinned with light brown hair and had green eyes. She was considered beautiful by most sentients she met, especially since she was well endowed from behind. Madison had a formal education and learned administration in college, making her a perfect candidate for ship treasurer.
Over on the other side of the room was Nannette. She was a gray eyed, dark skinned human woman with black hair. She had a thicker build than most women on the crew but wasn’t overweight. Nannette, being a university graduated warp drive engineer, was in charge of warp drive mechanics and made sure the ships shields were operational.
Inside of Ian’s office, talking to him and his assistant was Phoebe, one of the pilots. She was blonde haired with blue eyes and had an average build, though not overweight. Many considered her to be beautiful. She wore make-up and mascara often and dyed the tips of her long blonde hair in different colors. That month it was pink and her nails were the same color as her hair. Phoebe was born on a confederate world of Zaimlia, where she received formal education in aerospace mechanics and took piloting classes. Phoebe came to be in the company of the Raptors by choice, like Nannette.
“The ship sure has some interesting sentients,” Levon thought and smirked. He dozed off after a few minutes and began snore. He started to have a dream where he was flying his EBN through a series of rings while doing a training exercise for a talking dog when he heard Rin’s soft voice whispering in the background.
“Sir, all officers are already in the conference room.”
He threw his head up and saw that the bridge was nearly empty and dark, save for the glow of lights from holograms and holo computers. Supplementary crew and drones had taken over the ship’s functions. He threw a dazed look at Rin, who was in casual space attire standing next to him.
“Oh, hmmf, mmm, Rin…Umm…how long was I out?” he said while wiping a trail of saliva.
“Well, you, Yancy, and the rest of the pilots have been asleep since the mission ended. It’s been about an hour,” she whispered.
“Umm…alright. Thanks. Just let me get ready…I’ll be over there in a minute.”
“Understood sir,” she said. She gave him smile and walked out of the bridge.
Levon rubbed his eyes, combed his hair with his hands, and stood up. He walked out of the bridge and went straight ahead into the hallway leading to the conference room. He turned left at the first door that said ‘MEN’S WASHROOM’. There were 3 stalls and 3 sinks. He walked to the first sink and turned it’s nob but only a trickle of water came out.
“Ah…what the fuck?”
He glared at it and started to beat the nob and kick the pipes underneath. After battling with the sink for a few minutes, he managed to procure enough water to wash his face and comb his hair, though, ineffectively since there were a few hairs sticking out in the back where his head rested on the seat from the bridge.
“Oh yeah…Baako said we need more water.”
He walked out and continued down the hall until he reached double doors that had the words ‘conference hall’ over them. Inside he found the officers and core crew around a black oval shaped table with a dent in the center where a hologram projector sat. Each seat around the table had its own miniature holo computer terminal. There were 19 core crew members; 20 with Maria. She stood inside her hologram at the left end of the table, next to where Levon sat. Maria, Phoebe, and Kamilla laughed when they saw him walk in the room. Sabbas turned his chair to face Levon.
“What took you so long? Does the little cub need to nap longer?” he grunted.
Yancy, Garth, and Sabbas cackled. Garth slapped the table, trying to suppress his bawling. Levon, still dazed from his nap, raised his middle finger at the three and took his seat. Ian stood up.
“Okay. Now that the Captain is here, we may begin the meeting and debriefing of the current assignment by the North East Transporters Branch 312 Administrator Izjec.”
Most of the bridge crew sat up in anticipation, but the pilots and the expedition team soldiers fell into their chairs with boredom in their faces.
“On this day, day 15 of the 5th month, of the year 8061, Raptor Squadron successfully, and quite recklessly might I add, defended the elevator station of planet Arroca and its mineral mining facility on their nearby moon, Crag.”
“Can we hurry this up? We don’t need all this formal shit. WE WERE THERE. And we already got the money,” whined Garth. He buried his face in his arms.
“We would, but we need this recording for our official records. As yeoman, it is my duty to–”
“Ian. Shut the fuck up and finish your speech so we can get the hell out of here,” growled Sabbas.
Ian looked miffed, but he had come to expect those attitudes after so many years on the Raptor’s ship.
“Yes, as I was saying, we have acquired the large sum of 30 million credits for 1 day of work. If we pay our monthly bills and go for a 20% cut for savings and investments, it still leaves us with 23.1 million split between all officers and members of the crew.”
The room filled with joy and celebration as Ian said those words. The crew cheered, clapped, and banged on the oval table.
“That has to be the biggest haul we’ve had in years!” yelled Walther, a short blond light skinned man with brown eyes. He was a member of the expedition team, or the shore party.
The other important expedition team members present were Tania, a pale red eyed and black haired woman, and Emil, a tall, yellow and green-scaled humanoid with red hair and brown eyes. He had an accent that humans called Scottish. Yancy was also part of the expedition party but he usually operated on his own. These members led ground-based missions with the rest of the low ranked shore party members, like assassinations, infiltration, and reconnaissance.
“I’ll be able to send them a lot this month it seems,” he thought. Levon lost himself for a few moments by thinking about his family back home, all of whom thought he was dead. He sent them money under the guise of a deceased wealthy family member. His thoughts wandered until they were interrupted by Ian’s yelling.
“Yes, yes! Calm down you cave sentients…we haven’t finished the debriefing!” Ian looked angry.
“Aye, then finish so we can go do something else! I have work to do in the hangar!” yelled Emil.
Ian sighed and gave a detailed summary of the day’s events, including the collection incident inside the station, which was met with laughter and exultation until he mentioned the actions by Yancy Vadas, to which Yancy responded to by laughing eerily. This spread discomfort around the table since everyone (except Levon) felt that Yancy was a threat to their safety, including Sabbas, who was one of the only sentients on the ship who could tolerate being near him. Treasurer Madison took over to talk about all the expenses they needed to cover that month, including the loans they owed and the Firebird repair bills.
The room then turned into an argument over the usage of funds. Madison argued that with the 30 Million they should repair the damages accumulated on the Firebird and do major resupplying. After booing and complaining by some of the pilots and expedition team, they decided they would pay the next two months of loan payments and use a 20% cut on supplies and fixes for the ship. Baako stood up and argued that they needed to buy water, ammunition, and materials to fix their aircraft, including their shuttle, which had been out of commission for months ever since it was shot down on an assassination mission the year before.
“Ayee. I know you lot don’t want to spend yer money. You want to use on the next shore leave, but we need ta spend on the ship. We cannot leave things falling apart around here. That water purifier needs new filters and transistors. The buggers been burning out and the humidity absorber is gone.”
Kamilla sat up.
“I kind of have to agree with Baako. As much as I want to go on leave again, I feel like we’re leaving too many things around the ship without proper maintenance. This is only going to hurt us more in the long run, so I don’t think it would be a good idea to go on vacation without first fixing the problems at hand.”
“Yes. I see not every soldier and pilot on this ship is foolish. We need to get our ship up to speed before we start thinking about vacations and shore leaves!” replied Madison.
“See guys, the problem is that we haven’t been doing proper maintenance on some systems ever since our savings went dry, and we haven’t stopped AT ALL to buy supplies for the past month. We’re running out of rail cannon shells and we’ve already run out of mini slugs for the EBNs. All we have left are the ones loaded into them right now. The Fission bombs ran out last month and we have no missiles. I also checked our barrier generator…needs serious tuning up. We’re actually very lucky it didn’t burn out during the last battle.”
“And how much would it cost each of us to bring the ship up to speed in the state it’s in right now?” said Jael.
“Well, after talking to Madison, Baako, Faye, and Walther, we realized that a full fix and resupply for the ship will cost us between 21 to 22 million credits. Then the two month advance on loan payments makes it about 25.3 million…and we should probably leave some in the bank in case we don’t get good jobs next month. Honestly, this wouldn’t be costing us so much if we’d been doing proper maintenance on all systems,” responded Kamilla in a serious tone.
“So if we pay all that when do we get to go on our shore leave?” yelled Garth.
“I think it will have to be pushed for another few months. I mean, we’re doing really good after this job, but unless we get lucky and find another huge battle or war to fight, then we will have to postpone the leave. Jobs have been hard to find, especially since the Coalition patrols the space around the Warp-Gates now,” said Kamilla.
“We’ve been working non-stop for weeks though!” he yelled back. The room erupted in a storm of complaints and shouting. Levon grunted and threw his head back.
The crew had been planning to go on a leave for a month to have a breather from all the fighting, but the past few months they had only gotten security guard jobs, paying nothing higher than 40k to 100k a day and no battles to boost the pay. That sounded fine until one put into perspective the fact that they had to pay 1.1 million credits in loans per month and the leftovers were split between the rest of the crew, of which there were 84 in total, then resupply and repairs. They were scraping by. The Coalition’s conquest of the galaxy had created too much peace, and the North East Transporters wouldn’t be hiring them again.
It would be nice to go on their month leave, Levon thought, but he couldn’t remember the last time they replaced the water purifier or the energy cells in the barrier emitter, and travelling through space was expensive, which they hadn’t yet taken into account. Each member would be left with almost no spending money, and they were expensive people, accustomed to the old days of mercenary work where they could throw away credits by the millions. Moments like this made Levon miss the Coalition and Confederate galactic war.
“Excuse me everyone?” Maria said.
The loud exchanges and in the room continued.
“Excuse me? Everyone? Listen!” she yelled.
Levon, who was deep in thought, noticed her flailing and yelling in the background. He cleared his throat and stood up.
“Hey, everyone. SHUT UP!”
The room went silent and all eyes were on him.
“Thank you. Please proceed, Maria.”
She looked annoyed, but smiled at Levon. Everyone turned to the little girl.
“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 by a group of people trying to breed it. It’s called a Dabba.”
“Okay, but what I want to know is how much they are paying. And what the hell is a Dabba?” growled Sabbas.
“Like I said. An extinct creature. But I don’t know much about it. Supposedly, it is large and powerful and can spit acids that will melt the skin off sentients. To be honest, even someone like you would be ripped to pieces by it.”
Sabbas scowled and spat on the ground. Maria frowned but continued.
“Their original asking price was 15 million but they raised it to 75 million as of today. The catch is that it must be smuggled alive and well from planet Rubin on the northwest side of the galaxy and then taken to planet Umsedare, near the Pok Outlaw Moon in the southeastern part of the galaxy. We have to feed it and make sure it is hydrated on the trip as well.”
“Rubin to Umsedare! That’s one hell of a haul! That’s a full trip across the galaxy!” yelled Emil.
The Raptors started to discuss the situation and after a few moments, they started to argue again. Most of the crew was in favor because of the large reward but some were against it because, according them, they were mercenaries, not field biologists. Maria stood silent and irritated, waiting for the crew to quiet down before continuing. Levon, who sympathized with her struggle, stood up.
“Everyone…SHUT UP! She isn’t done talking! …Assholes.”
The room silenced, except for Yancy who started cackling quietly in the corner. Everyone turned to look at him, though it only made him laugh harder. Maria frowned at him and continued her speech.
“Thank you Levon. Well, the creature is very sensitive since it is still young, so it must be fed daily and be given proper care. They plan to reproduce it far from the eyes of the Coalition, but to do that, they want it to be in perfect health. They have one male Dabba on Umsedare, and the one we will be smuggling is a female. We will also not be able to use Warp-Gates of any kind since the creature’s survivability has not been tested inside wormholes yet.”
“So that’s where things get complicated then, huh?” Levon said.
“Yes. We will have to travel by normal warp drive instead, making the trip long. It will take approximately 10 to 25 days depending on the route we take and we won’t be able to take a straight route through the galaxy since the Dabba is illegal in Coalition space. Apparently The Great Army, Gods of the East, Death Batz, and a number of other high profile mercenary groups who have fallen into financial troubles have also taken interest in this assignment, but they have not accepted the job yet, so if we are to take the job, we must leave quickly for planet Rubin.”
“Planet Rubin, huh? We haven’t been to that side of the galaxy in years,” said Levon contemplatively.
“Yes. I know. It might be dangerous and we’ll likely face competition from enemy mercenary groups. Oh yes, I also forgot to mention that the client will provide facilities on the ship to house the animal and they will also pay for any extra expenses incurred, as long as they are within reasonable parameters.”
The room was quiet. Everyone wanted to go on the mission now, but they were mercenaries, not animal caretakers.
“What do you say guys? Should we do it? I’m game in all honesty,” said Levon.
Garth looked up, locked eyes with Levon, and sneered.
“Hell, if Levon is game then I am too. We need that money. Plus hauling an animal can’t be tougher than fighting a war, can it?”
“Maria, I have a question. Why would they pay us so much just to drag an animal from one side of the galaxy to another? There has to be more to this beast than you’re telling us,” said Aku in his stout creaky voice.
“I think I can add something, if you will let me, Maria,” murmured Cadoc in a low voice.
“Oh, okay. Go ahead,” she said with a hint of surprise.
Cadoc returned to his holo-computer and started typing away.
“Okay. Found it. According to these files on the Dark Pulse, the Dabba was a fearsome beast used for warfare hundreds of years ago by the races of the northwest quadrant of the galaxy. It was strong and fast, about 3.6 meters tall when standing upright. Engineered genetically to be able to breed in litters of 3 to 5, instead of the one or two pups that they had naturally in the wild. Their growth rates were accelerated, allowing them go from birth to adulthood in 3 months. Engineering allowed the females to get pregnant three times a year.
“Since they were semi-intelligent, militaries would equip them with power armor, vibro-blades, and plasma cannons. High numbers of Dabba were pushed on to the front lines where they would serve as powerful vanguard, destroying enemy lines for the armies they served. Battalions of Dabba could destroy entire cities in hours or eradicate carriers and starships from the inside. The Dabba were thought to be extinct after the Coalition came into power on the west side of the galaxy. They eradicated them before they could be used on a galactic scale. They made sure no biological weapon like that would ever be used against them,” he said and laid back in his chair.
“So you’re saying that we’d be transporting a biological weapon?” asked Levon.
“That is correct, sir,” he replied.
“They might be trying to mass an army then,” Nannette said.
“True, but whatever it is that they’re trying to do, it isn’t our place to question it,” Levon responded.
“Who is it that is sending this request anyway?” Tania asked.
“It’s a research group called North West Galactic BioGEN Research Group,” Kamilla responded.
“It might take us a few weeks to do this job and we’ll have to push the shore leave until next month, guys,” Garth said.
The Raptors looked at each other. Many felt it was the opportunity they’d been searching for, but it could end up a nightmare.
“Fuck it. Let’s do it. We can’t turn down a fat wad of cash like that. Don’t be a bunch of bitches! Besides, there isn’t anything I can’t kill in this galaxy,” roared Sabbas.
“I am inclined to agree. If we can’t do the job then we can always just kill the beast…,” whispered Yancy while playing with the tip of his large steel blade.
“We won’t do that but we WILL do our best to make sure nothing happens to us or the creature. So are we in?” replied Levon as he stood up. The crew agreed. The cheer and energy that followed was loud and festive. After fierce discussion, planning, and course plotting, they each placed a balled fist on the table and chanted:
“Like the firebird of legend, we Raptors will leave the enemy in cinders. May the galaxy beware the might of the Squadron.”
Preview of Chapter 5:
Emil to several crew while approaching the Nereus Warp-Gate:
“I’ve only heard of it. They told me a lot about it when I was in the military. They compare it to Pok Station. They said it’s the outlaw moon of the west,” said Emil as he threw down a card. Walther looked at it with worry.
“I wouldn’t go that far. I mean it’s pretty nasty but nowhere near as powerful or imposing as the Pok Outlaw Moon. Not being biased either because Pok is our turf. A lot of us older members have been to Rubin, but we haven’t gone back since the Coalition took over,” Levon said, scraping grime off the EBNs wing.
“So what is it like then? You think we’ll see a lot of Coalition there?” responded Walther as Maria dealt him another card.
“Probably. I hear they send corvette flotillas or even task groups to try and collect taxes and whatnot. They land on loyalist parts of the planet, though there aren’t many loyalists there to begin with. I mean, the place is run by hundreds of pirate crews and gangs who are always blasting each other, and a lot of the cities are in ruins because of infighting between the groups. I’m pretty sure the Coalition does their fair share of blasting too…
End of the chapter. 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!