A ship jumped into the Tichel system. According to the sensor logs of the UFS Andromeda, a Federation Destroyer on patrol in system, the ship was the Spicy Mary, owned and operated by Robert Mason of the Bounty Hunters Guild. It was heavily modified, but Mason owned all the licenses for his system upgrades. It was all perfectly legal. The Andromeda let the ship in without any trouble.
The logs were wrong.
This ship was the Iron Crab, captained by Goroth Obarskyr. He was among the most feared pirates in space, though few knew what name to call him. They just knew him as a lethal, black clad man leading a crew of desperadoes, aboard a ship well armed enough to put a Federation Carrier to shame.
He was returning from his most recent raid. It seemed that Kella Broyen, a legend among pirates, was looking for a few good criminals to do a high paying job. And when Broyen himself wanted you for a job, you always looked into it.
Obarskyr was sitting in his office. He was working out who would side with him in the event of a mutiny. The odds were good that, if he took decisive action, most of the crew would side with him.
A knock came on his door.
Come in. he said, placing a hand on his gun.
Mark Jacobson walked in. Or, alternatively, the reason Obarskyr was concerned about a mutiny walked in. Jacobson was Obarskyrs second in command aboard the Iron Crab. Mark had been trying to subtly undermine Obarskyrs authority aboard ship for a while now. He had been pretty quiet since the raid, but Obarskyr felt certain that Mark was planning something.
What do you want, Mark? Obarskyr asked, genially enough.
I want to clear the air between us. Mark said. He produced a bottle of wine from his coat and set it on the desk. Have you glasses?
Of course. Obarskyr said. He reached into his desk and produced two glass cups. He set them on the desk.
Mark poured them both half full. He picked up his, careful not to touch Obarskyrs glass, and took a drink. After watching to be sure he had swallowed, Obarskyr took a drink as well.
Prime stuff. he said. He set his glass down. So. What do you want?
You know until when you had that, Mark. Obarskyr said quietly.
I dont seek to buy it with wine. Mark said. He pulled an envelope out of his vest and set in on the desk. That has all of the names of everyone Id been working with to bring you down in it. he said bluntly. As they say, actions speak louder than words.
Obarskyr picked up the envelope and looked at it. Do you expect me to believe that you gave me names that mean anything?
I said I wanted your trust. And I do. Starting now, with that envelope. Its all there, if you trust in my word. If not, well, I havent lost anything that I already had.
Obarskyr nodded. It actually did make sense, in a way.
Fine. Ill get back to you about it, then. he said.
Mark nodded. Keep the bottle.
Mark turned and left.
Obarskyr opened the envelope and studied the names written on the paper inside. He wasnt surprised to note that the names written on it were of people he already had suspected.
You were listening? Obarskyr asked the seemingly empty room.
A shadow detached itself from the wall behind him and moved to stand in front of his desk. A tall figure, wrapped from head to toe in black and purple cloth. Even though it was standing in the light, it was hard to see it. It was almost as if the eye refused to focus on it.
Watch him. Obarskyr said flatly. If he tries anything, kill him.
The dark figure left. The only clue that it had left the room was that the door opened and closed.
Goroth set down the envelope and went to get dressed. He had more important things to worry about.
Viking. A dismal, overly mined world that was now also overpopulated. Cityscapes stretched across the remnants of strip mining operations. And today, it rained. It poured.
Obarskyr and two of his security people were waiting for Broyen himself. The busy tavern was their designated meeting point. With luck, all of the other activity in the building would make overhearing them difficult.
Broyen walked in, followed by a tall man in power armor. Obarskyr almost missed him in the confusion, but one of his security men nudged him to let him know. As Broyen approached the table, Obarskyr and his guards stood up. Obarskyr strode over and shook Broyens hand.
Good to see you, Broyen. Im interested in hearing your proposal.
Im glad to hear it. Only a few others were. Broyen rasped.
Broyen was an older man. His hair, what of it that he had left, was gray and white. His face was lined and scarred from years of hard living and fighting. In many ways, he way a more infamous man that Obarskyr. He was a much more ruthless captain, with far fewer scruples, and it wasnt like Obarskyr had that many himself.
They sat down. Their guards stood back discretely. At that one table sat enough criminal record to make the career of any arresting officer, for life.
They ordered their meals. The waiter got them drinks quickly. They didnt speak further until the drinks were on the table.
I assume you have people in here and people watching the outside. Broyen stated.
Correct. And you?
Broyen paused and studied his glass.
Youve never been much of a man for politics, have you? Broyen asked abruptly.
No, I never saw the point. Obarskyr said. Smuggling gets done for the Aurorans, Feds, Rebels, etcetera. No allegiances required there. And piracy, wel. He smiled a sharks smile. You know how that is.
True, true. Broyen agreed. He paused, then carefully set his glass down. He leaned back and laced his fingers together.
Ill get right to the point. The Rebels-
He stopped as their meal was delivered. After the waiter left, he continued.
As I was saying, the rebels need a few skilled captains to pick up a weapon shipment on Altia and get it to them. Theyll pay top dollar for the delivery.
How much are we talking here?
Three hundred thousand, on delivery.
I cant tell you that unless you say yes.
There was a lull in the conversation.
Whats the catch? Obarskyr asked.
The feds will be waiting for you in the system. They know that someone is coming to pick up something, they just dont know who. Or when.
For a while they ate their food in silence. Then Obarskyr put his fork down and said Ill do it.
Im glad to hear it. Broyen said. Heres the coordinates for the delivery point.
Thank you. When do they need it?
Well, Im not sure. But Ive heard talk of a bonus for fast delivery.
Then Id best be moving on. Obarskyr stood.
Good luck to you. Broyen said.
Thanks for the thought. Obarskyr turned to leave.
Oh, and one more thing. Broyen said. Obarskyr turned back.
I put my own word on the line getting you this job. Broyen said softly. If you should prove untrustworthy, well, it would be like if I had been untrustworthy. And if you do prove untrustworthy, then I may need to do some... unpleasant things to recover my reputation. I hope Im perfectly clear.
Crystal. Obarskyr said calmly. He turned on his heel and left.
And you made the arrangements?
I gave him a list of people that he would have already suspected. He would never anticipate you working with me. Mark sat at a table in the galley. The figure he was talking to was concealed in the shadows.
Well, we need to make some new arrangements. The strangers voice. Come with me. The two of them left. A shadow detached itself from the wall and followed them.
To be continued...