Skyborne is a work-in-progress science fiction dramedy about war, intrigue, love, and loyalty.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

(2) Mercs: Fresh Faces

Sanduro system - Moonworld Nergovia - Port city Oruna: 3100 local time. [0300. 14/3/2003 Omega time]
Jeremy Brock, Specialist 11A honorably discharged from the Federation Army.


 The “Skylark,” that was the name of his new home for the next several months, provided he wasn’t killed.

 Recently made ex-Specialist Jeremy Brock stood amid the crowded bustle of the port hangars in the lazy heat of a bright Nergovian day. The surrounding bustle consisted of the ridiculous variety an experienced trader would expect on a rimworld. Each of the several known intelligent species were in the crowd dressed in every imaginable attire according to the hundreds of varying regional, racial, cultural, occupational, and moral norms that were represented here. The crowd was united in one means, all were - whether overtly or subvertly - essentially armed. Even the smallest shops have a couple guards bearing body armor and AK’s or the rarer pulse rifles slung over their shoulders.

 They wandered against a backdrop of similarly diversely constructed buildings, though these had much more in common with each other than the crowd surrounding and imbuing them; many have a certain impromptu - though hardly flimsy - packed construction, though a few larger, independent compounds are surrounded by high concrete walls rimmed with unpleasant barriers. Barriers are a common sight lining the roofs, walls, and windowsills of nearly every structure; the more solidly funded have powerfully charged electric wires, the more sadistic and similarly affluent have electrified concertina wire. Cheaper barb wire is well used, though the most common of all are rows of shattered glass and sharpened scrap metal; glued, buried into, and likewise secured with blade ends facing outward. All prove painful obstacles, discouraging the average, less-desperate thieves that proliferate the haphazard streets.

 Nergovia was a trade moon, its wide orbit, not unreasonably hospitable atmosphere and its larger fortuitously strategic placement in the greater universe determined that it would become the focal point for the financial interests of many outlying worlds. It’s political neutrality secured by the gridlock of local power and the Federation’s over extension additionally assures its popularity as a base for the manifold clandestine services that the universe requires.

 Ex-Specialist Jeremy Brock stands tall, confidently watching the many faces that pass him. He wears surplus urban combat fatigues, a web belt loaded with fresh mags, but empty frag and utility pouches. He carried a heavy assault pack, a .50 caliber pistol on a hip holster, and a G3A3 with an expensive ACOG sight. He wore an old and battered Federation issued helmet with a tan digital camo pattern; his chin and head are both freshly shaved.

 Brock had justed concluded a four year contract with the Federal Army as a 04Delta, a field Translator. Well, first as an 01Alpha (infantryman) before he quickly switched MOS’s. The experience as a translator is why he entered the army, but translators didn’t get nearly as good combat training that the standard infantrymen did. His father - an ex-marine gunnery sergeant himself - urged him to get those skill sets first, it was essential if he wanted to become a Merc. His native tongue was the most common language of the Federation, though his interest in foreign languages started when he picked up his mother’s native language; she was a refugee from some inconsequential trade moon and had trouble speaking standard. After his parent’s messy divorce four years ago he did his best to sever all ties with her, including Hajiam Tribal. The somewhat vaguely named ‘Tautoan’ and the three major dialects thereof - Derisian, Kartoa and Mah’to were the focus of his studies anyway. They are descendents of the old Kartoa Empire and had become the trade language of most rim worlds. He’d also more recently started cursory study of Gahlic, one of the more common Clan languages, yet this was still a peripheral study. No matter how good the program, auto-translators were always limiting; the occasional misreading of a word or the more common overlooking of obvious cultural habits risked disastrous results. Hence the immense value of translators.

 That’s why he took the shortest possible term with the Fed’s; it was a means to this end, just a particularly sweat and grim filled residency program. The path that lead to this moment, him standing in front of the dock registry amid an alien crowd, basking in the heat of an alien sun. The taste of eager anticipation and fulfillment was physically knotting within his stomach; a familiar feeling when he first signed up with the Feds, when he left the Feds, the first time he got shot at, and when he got his advanced Derisian, Kartoa, and Mah’to qualifications.

 He was studying a large screen denoting the registries and docking of the dozens of space faring vessels that were moored in this city on business. Most were obviously merchant or transitory in nature, some bounty hunting operators and a few private contractors. He was certain that all could be considered smugglers in one way or another, pay any ship’s captain enough credits and he’d gladly take ‘sensitive cargo.’

 But he hadn’t contracted with just any ship, in just any wild cowboy crew, or under just any ex-officer; he’d contracted with Connor’s group. Known for many names both announced and given within many armies, political parties, insurgent cells, systems, and cities. They held quite a reputation on the black net; Brock would know, he’d monitored the records of over a hundred different crews since he first joined the Army of the Federation three years ago. Connor was a retired Master Chief Petty Officer from the Neur system, Brock didn’t know how long his crew had been together, but the word was that his ship the ‘Sparrow’ had been leaving serious wakes in their path. Big contracts with big names, formulating a dependable reputation for smuggling, bounty hunting, and the occasional assassination. And that was just the public record, or as public as the underground black net can get.

 It was a good operation, a great place to start his career; he didn’t actually expect to contract onto Connor’s crew, just getting his signal off the net was hard enough. He took days painstakingly writing it out in the excellent Kartoa his years of intense study could manage. That was a calculated guess, since most of Connor’s contracts would have to be in Kartoa. Even then he still wasn’t sure of himself sending that first message; just a twenty-one year old specialist fresh out of the uniform with a few mediocre deployments under his belt, an average service record, no schools, and no contracts to his name. His translating experience turned out to be his one saving grace. Connor responded promptly, not even asking for an interview or additional paperwork, and it was devoid of any standard formal business pleasantries common to most Kartoa cultures, - “Direct, professional, I’ll have to remember that” - though additionally the terse message bore two surprises.

 First, he responded in Fed standard; was he insinuating that his Kartoa was unacceptable? In his resume he simply listed his fluent languages, he didn’t specify which was his native, so was he letting Brock know that he knew Federal Standard was his first language?  And in turn implying that he had done a further background check of his own? The former had to be impossible, since Brock took great pride in his knowledge of Kartoa and those customs. The latter? Probably, in fact it’d be ridiculous for an experience merc leader to entrust a new crew member on his ship without a full investigation. “Ok, so Connor wants me to know that he’s done his research.”
Secondly - and honestly primarily - the message simply consisted of one question:

“How’s your Ha’jiam Tribal?”

 His mother’s native? That caught him off guard. He’d listed it as a fluency in his resume, and that wasn’t a fabrication… Necessarily… True, he hadn’t conversed in it for about a year, he’d in fact almost grew a disdain for it. Ha’jiam Tribal  was an extremely localized and confused mess of a dialect; an inbred bastard of a blend of ancient indigenous Verb-object-subject grammar structures utterly dominated by Federation vocabulary and Tautoan pronounciation. The formulaic fate of any indigenous language caught in the economic crosshairs of greater powers. Its localized nature, primitive home, and ridiculous difficulty meant there were very few speakers; well, aside from the thirty million something natives trapped in that hell hole by poverty, some local warlord, or simple force of habit. There must be very, very few speakers with military training and experience who were also looking to contract with a merc crew.

“Ah.” That explained Connor’s prompt and unlikely response, his crew must be taking a contract involved with that moon and needed a translator; an impressive stroke of luck, provided he hadn’t lost that much.

 He remembered laying to rest a panic attack by pulling up some Hajiam dialogue on the net from an Anthropological Linguistics database via his console and skimming over it; ensuring that he indeed hadn’t forgotten too much before he responded likewise in Fed Regular to Connor.

“It isn’t my specialty, I can negotiate in it without problem but I doubt I’d pass as a native.”

 Dishonesty now wouldn’t help him later on, but complete honesty wasn’t immediately desirable either. At any rate, Connor’s response is more detailed:

“Arrive at the attached coordinates in 5 days, 14 hours, and 33 minutes Omega time. Stand directly in front of the port call registry screen facing magnetic north. Travel light. You’ll enter the ship on a trial basis. I don't believe in making contracts complicated; eat the standard rations, follow orders, don’t be a bitch, and you’ll receive an eight percent cut from contracts and can borrow gear from the armory. You'll learn the other rules as they come up. I’ll take your arrival as acceptance. Look for the Skylark. Call me Chief.”

So, no mention of an entry bonus. But his luck had been running high enough to make that irrelevant. He had his first contract, an unusual one yes, but with a crew he’d be proud to put on his record.

 And so, here he stood. The lengthy attached coordinates were precise down to a ten square meter area. The space in front of the docking registry of this chaotic town on this nondescript trade moon.

 That’s when he heard it, a forceful baritone voice, from the first syllable obviously accustomed to command.

“You lost soldier?”

 Brock turned his head to see a man standing less than a meter away, behind him.

 How the fuck did he slip past me?

 A first glance drew distracted confusion, the man was tall and powerfully built. The six foot five figure wore a rough, apparently untanned furry buck-hide jacket over a simple tan shirt and dark green cargo pants made from some strong and thick textile; both rather uncomfortable options given the heat.

Ok, he’s packing.

 He sported a large rough beard and a rougher square face with a neutral expression upon it. His mass of completely unkempt red hair hanged matted down onto his shoulders; a dozen thick strands are strung about in braids. His left hand was at his side, the other tucked at his shoulder, holding the strap of an old tan colored synthetic satchel. The man’s whole form from head to toe was covered with a fine layer of dust, sweat, and grime. His massive size, demeanor, and the hide jacket gave him the general look, attitude, smell, and intimidation of an ill-tempered Kodiak bear.

 Brock had looked up Connor’s service record and had seen a few photos of him in his enlisted days. The young, clean cut, crisply uniformed, and professional seaman in those pictures did nothing to help him recognize the man before him.

 A moment’s confusion awkwardly reigned before recognition set in on Brock’s face; he quickly recovered and faced about to address him.

“Chief… Connor, I presume?”
“Just Chief, and yeah, follow me.”

 With that he turned around and quickly stalked into the crowd. Brock started walking briskly to keep up. They navigated through the crowds in silence into the hangar and past several of the docked ships. Brock thought about asking Connor - Ahem, Chief. - if the Skylark was a ploy and the Sparrow was moored nearby, at least something to start conversation; but instinct told him to leave the silence be. He could also be the cold professional.

“There’s our new home.”

 The Chief stopped in his tracks facing a sizeable space faring craft. It was shaped like a long rectangular box, with a wide cylindrical single engine protruding toward the rear of the vessel; twin engines mounted on short wings extended thirty meters out from the ship’s center. The whole was painted black with a boxlike but relatively smooth outward finish. The sheen metallic hull had very few glass ports.

 Brock knew very little about ships, or hyperdrives, or mechanics in general; so the sight of this large metallic creature yielded no insight into its capabilities or functions. Even when the Chief abruptly rattled off a list of specs and class numbers, it meant nothing to Brock.

 Brock suddenly noticed the ‘our,’ in the Chief’s statement; so something did happen to the Sparrow?”

 The sound of casually trotting bootprints across the metal surface of the ship emanated from the open bay doors and lowered metal gangplank toward the back of the ship. A hand reached down from inside the ship and grabbed support from a hydraulic cylinder as a figure wearing torn fatigue bottoms and a faded olive drab shirt quickly swung through; landing with a final loud clunk on the hangar deck.

 The man was young, maybe his early twenties at most, and bearing a permanent fixture of - Brock expected unshakable - genial cheer and unmistakable familial kinship. He called out in one of the rough clannic langugages; Brock wasn't fluent but he knew enough to extrapolate the general meaning.

“Chief! I’ve been calling you for three fucking days!” His tone bore less irritation and more pleased relief.
“Turned my comm off," Chief responded in the same language, "needed some personal time; you know, get in touch with my inner peace.” Chief tapped his chest sarcastically while the bare hint of a fond smile crosses his face. “Y’all good here?”
“No! You scared the shit out of me… Again! You don’t just vanish like that with a note in your shitty handwriting and not call in.”
“I’m the boss, yes I do.” He motions between the man and Brock while switching to Fed Standard, "Ex-Specialist Brock of the Federation Army, meet Ex-PFC Dren of the Allied Clans. Our communications and scans Operator."

 Dren, one of the larger High Rock Clans. Brock thought to himself as he returned Dren's warm smile.

 Dren approached with his right arm extended while switching to Fed as well, "Hey! You are the new translator! What languages do you speak?" Dren was fairly fluent in standard (though contractions were just beyond his grasp) and with a heavy sing songy accent. And his naturally rushed and excited speaking voice was slowed down to a careful jog, but Brock was too relieved that there was at least one friendly crew member to notice.

"Five and a half, Kartoa, Mah’to, Derisian, Fed, Ha'jian, and a little Gahlic." As he went in to shake Dren's hand, he paused in momentary cultural confusion as Dren's hand glided past his and grasped his wrist; he quickly reciprocated just as Dren laughed jovially at his mistake.

"I'm sorry! The core worlds, they shake hands right?" He released Brock's wrist and regrasped his hand, giving it a strong squeeze before letting go. Brock cursed himself in the back of his mind, he should've refreshed his memory of clannic cultural customs; those systems were extremely involved in the private contracting market, it was inevitable that he'd work with clansmen from those worlds.

 Brock reciprocated with a small nervous laugh, "No problem man, I'll have to brush up on Clan customs." Dren still hadn't gotten the standard core world greeting quite right; you didn't strongly overpower the other's grasp in most social circles; usually it was more acceptable to simply gently clasp the other. "Damn, need to look that up later." Brock made a mental note.

"You'll fit right in man, and you may call me 'Scout,' everybody else does."

 Chief flips the satchel off his back and tosses it over to 'Scout.' “Brought some new toys for y’all, since you've been such a patient little soldier, you get first pick.” Chief continues the conversation in Kartoa, to not leave Brock awkwardly out of it.

 He deftly catches it and follows closely behind Chief as they near the gangplank.
“Resorting to Bribery eh?" He spoke as he eagerly zipped open the satchel and peered within. He exclaimed in delight as he gingerly held the open satchel in one arm while drawing out a strangly curved machete; Brock noticed that the blade looked strangely dull, and an odd black fiberglass-looking strip ran about the edge.

"Stun blades! Thanks Chief! Can I spar with Pimp?"
Chief raised his eyebrows, “I thought you usually fought Chin, what did Pimp do to you?"
"The fucker's been switching all of the ship's systems on and off all week. it's been a fucking nightmare trying to monitor comm traffic when I have to replug all the frequencies every five fucking minutes. I really miss the Sparrow."
"Is something wrong with the systems?"
"Jay's had trouble getting the new shields online, everything else works fine, but Pimp insists that it ALL has to be overhauled for 'maximum efficiency." He mimicked a high pitched, nasally voice on the last two words.
"This ship's a lot more electronic heavy than the Sparrow. I've told you before, Pimp's a pain in the ass but he knows what he's doing. And yeah, Pimp could use some practice in combatives."
"Like, right now?"
Chief rolled his eyes as they walked up the gangplank. "No, after we're offworld; we're picking up Wolfe from that op in a half hour at RP Alpha."
"Good, I was starting to miss Woofie."
"You know if he hears you call him that again he'll fuck your nose with his machete."
"Aww, he's just a big fluffy teddy bear."
"Fluffy teddy bear puts a tungsten bullet dead center mass at 2000 meters, play nice."

"So uh, who are Chin, Pimp, Wolfe, and Jay?" Brock awkwardly interjected.
"You'll meet them all today," Scout answered, "Wolfe's our sniper, Jay's the navigator, Pimp is our computer systems programmer, and Chin's just a badass."

 "The fuck?" The chief declared as he surveyed the Skylark's cargo hold. The metallic room's large size was made to seem larger by the near emptiness; it was the full twenty meters wide, twenty meters high, and maybe fifty meters deep. A rickety looking metal grate walkway hangs suspended from the ceiling and creates a pseudo second story to the room; and access to the several thick and ridiculously narrow bulkhead doors that lead further into the ship. Several large chests and crates are nestled in the far back of the room, nestled around piles of duffels, cord, and other machinery. The sight that apparently drew Chief's profanity is a single man busy shoving a chest across the deck.

 "Tell me something Scout, did I not order everything loaded into the new ship and packed away by the time I got back?"
"Uhh, that you did Chief." Scout neutrally said, his smile vanishing.
"And what did I say I'd do if one cable was loose?"
"You said that you'd systematically sodomize us with serrated garden hoes."
"Then what's this shit I'm looking at?"
"That's... Uh... None of it's mine Chief," Scout gestures toward the gear as he draws an evil glare from the Chief. "I swear! I had the comm gear stowed away yesterday! Whatever's not screwed down there is Clutch's or Chin's."
"So, I've been gone three days, you're telling me it took you two to move your comm gear and personal shit?"
"Had to install everything too, and it's all online! At least when Pimp's not rebooting the system."

 Chief continues grumbling, "Be glad I'm in a good fucking mood." as he stalks across the hold toward the man pushing a chest toward the back wall.

"Clutch! Three days man! Three days!" Clutch pauses from moving the chest to wipe sweat from his brow and look at Chief.

"So, you're back. How was the bar and brothel vacation?" Clutch spoke with some strange rim world accent, Brock had no idea where it was from. Clutch himself was dressed in a billowy tan dyed cotton shirt, and light tan pants of the same hand weaved cotton textile. He stood just over six feet tall with a runner's slim build, his head was cleanly shaven, and the corner of a large tattoo just barely peeks from underneath his thin shirt.
"I was kind of busy," Chief sarcastically responded, "you know, the fucking op Logan and I were setting up? The reason I wanted y'all ready for action in case we needed backup? The hell even IS half of this shit?" Chief kicked a duffel at his feet.

 Chief turned to Brock, "This lazy fuck is Clutch, hydraulics and engine mechanic. The ship runs on fuel and his engine oil sweat."

 “Gallons of his engine oil sweat.” Clutch declares in third person while makes a final attack launching the chest to a triumphant thud against the wall of the cargo hold; a second glance from Brock confirms a suspicion that it’s official Federation military issue, or was. The Federation flag on the upper left corner of the chest’s face was scratched off with a small red Sparrow painted over it.

 “More like teaspoons.” Chief corrected over his shoulder as he continued walking across the hold, stepping over loose cables, around crates and kicking aside a couple more duffles.
“Hey Chin!” The Chief was yelling at a tall and powerful man dressed in forest camo army fatigues who had just entered the hold from a hallway leading to the mess hall. His arms were filled to the breaking point with a mass of duffels and jugs of powerful cleaning solutions. His chiseled features and prominent jaw denoting his apparent nickname glanced questioningly and exasperatedly toward the Chief.

“I want this shit cleaned up before we break atmo! We have to fit a fucking transport vehicle in here when we pickup Wolfe.” The Chief gestured toward the mass collusion of supplies across the bay as he leapt up the stairway three steps at a time; Scout and Brock close in tow.

“Kind of busy Chief!” Chin gasped as a couple jugs clattered from his arms to the ground.

 “Then grab a couple to help, I know CLUTCH isn’t doing anything at the moment.” Chief stopped his deliberate journey toward the cockpit to lean on the stairwell midsentence and enunciate Clutch’s name.
“Aye aye Chief.” Clutch sarcastically responds, breathing heavily on the mountainous chest before straightening up to go help Chin.
“Chin’s our resident SAW gunner by the way,” the Chief mentions over his shoulder to Brock, “lays a lot of hate downrange.”
“He looks the type.” Brock commented.

 A loud ascending roar suddenly rumbles throughout the ship, shaking the crossbeams, rattling the metal stairwell and imbuing Brock with its reverberations. The roar quickly pinnacles in a raucous jolt as the ship bucks off the ground; almost throwing the Chief and Brock over the railing, Scout tripping back down the stairwell with the satchel swinging into his face, sending Chin and his armload sprawling across the ground and slamming Clutch against the tool chest.

“The hell was that?! Why is grav control fucked!?” Chief shouted over the din.

 Clutch shouted upward as he deftly ran across the sliding duffels to seal the cargo bay door. “Oh yeah, Pimp mentioned that he took it offline to fix something; said it’d be back in a bit.”

"Motherfucker!" Scout yells as he clambers back up the stairwell with the duffel.

“A bit eh?” Chief continued swearing as he wrestled his way up the stairwell with Brock close in tow, who slung his G3 over his shoulder to hang on to it.
 The ship settled from caustic seizures into a general calmer shivering as it quickly started gaining altitude and steadied. The roar was dulled short as the massive metallic clanking signified the bay doors locking in place. Yet the rumble was still abnormally loud.

“I thought the shields on this new system muted outside noise well.” The Chief wondered aloud for a moment.

“Unless he took them down as well Chief.” Scout observed.

 The Chief clambers up a ladder and through an open hatch into a sort of loft while roaring, “Pimp! Where the fuck are you and what the fuck have you done to my goddamn ship?”

 A shorter man moved swiftly from the hallway, his eyes focused upon a datapad before him which his fingers were running deftly over. He seemed to ignore the quaking of the ship as he strode briskly to the bottom of the ladder and reached out to grab it, looking up to see the Chief in his path.
“Excuse me Chief, I need to get up there.”
 The Chief slid down the ladder with a massive metallic slam as his 275 pounds hit the walkway; he leaned to the side, allowing just enough room for ‘Pimp’ to climb up past him. As Pimp did so, the Chief grabbed his sinewy arm with his massive fist and and took a moment to stare down Pimp’s ambivalent face. “We just bought this beauty, it’s too late to get our money back, understand?”
“Yes Chief, would you please let me go? I'm running one last systems check before exfil."

 Chief hopped down and motioned for Brock and Scout to follow him back toward the hallway. “You see soldier, this is what happens to a good team when the leaders leave for five minutes.”
“So this 'Wolfe' is the second in command?” Brock specualted openly.

“Oh hell no.”
  Both Brock and Scout look up questioningly and almost runs into the Chief, he had stopped and was staring at the hallway before him. A whole row of wall panels were taken down leading straight down the corridor, exposing a mass of running wall circuits, wires, cords, and air ducts. The ship’s quaking were scattering the panels back and forth across the hallway. The massive clutter leads to an open maintenance shaft with a pair of combat boots sticking out of it. He strides toward them and violently grabs the boots with both hands.

“That better not be you Cook!”
“Wait!” A muffled voice emanates from the hatch, “Chief! NOoooo!”
There’s a loud metallic thump as Chief jerks the legs onto the deck, dragging a sweat soaked man and a few spilling tools after him; though most noticeably, in one clasping hand is a large, heavy looking metallic cylinder, and a primer in the other.

 Primer? Is that a... Fuck. Brock always hated being around high explosives.

The moment the Chief notices the primer’s proximity to the cylinder he stumbled backwards, “Fuck!” A rapidly forming bruise pulsed on the man’s brow, his expression was startled, and momentarily panicked. He dropped the explosive to the rattling deck before he rubbed his head and directed severe annoyance toward the Chief.

“You called oh fearless leader?”

Chief straightened up, quickly composed himself as his gaze darted between the cylinder, the primer, the wall, and finally resting cooly upon ‘Cook.’

“Cook, do I look drunk?”

‘Cook’ wiped his head again checking for blood, but finding only sweat before answering, “No Chief, I daresay you’re actually sober, we’re all so proud of you.” He snidely said before snatching up the dropped cylinder and carefully tucking his head back into the shaft; despite the roarous vibrations.

“Ok, so I actually am watching you stuff our preciously expensive new ship with high explosives?
“Just laying out some DFFC’s and a few EFP’s in the walls.”
“Not to mention I’d be a lot more comfortable if the high explosives stuffed in the wall were not snuggled right next to really expensive circuits.” Chief knocked on exterior circuits to illustrate.

“I’m so sorry if my saving our lives if we get boarded makes you uncomfortable. And the circuits are fine, container’s an inch thick, blast is going…” Cook makes the already spooked Chief jump again as he casually punches out a wall panel facing down the corridor they had come. “That way.”

“Can you at least be less messy about it? Did you really have to take down the whole wall?”
“I’m running a direct line from all of the charges straight to the cockpit, so ‘Jay’ can blow away any landing parties and we won’t have to worry about rogue signals setting these off.. Prematurely.”

 The Chief does a double take, “Hold on, what do you mean, ‘all’ of the charges? Just how much of my ship are you trying to destroy?”

“Relax, it’s perfectly safe as long as no one jerks my fucking feet while I’m trying to quietly set in the primer… Would you kindly hand me that hydrospanner?”

Chief glares at the smiling face and pointing hand peeking through the circuits for a moment before turning to Brock.

“The man makes the finest plastic I’ve seen outside a lab; though he’s a shitty chef and has no comprehension of value.”

“You can’t complain till you get me more than beans and paste to work with.”
 The Chief turns to Cook, partly addressing him now, “This is why we can’t have nice things, because you’re always taking them apart and blowing them up.”
“Well, that IS my job description.” Cook responded as Brock handed him the hydrospanner.
The Chief rolled his eyes and turned to continue toward the cockpit, “Just clean this shit up, sooner than later.”
“Roger Chief.”

 The trio stride down a long, winding, and tight hallway; doorways both open and closed that leads off to different rooms. The hallway finally culminates in a short stairway that leads to the cockpit. The Chief jumps through the bulkhead, there's a brief silence before he hears the Chief speak,

 "Y'all fucking planned this! Didn't you! Let's just think of every possible way to make Chief go fucking insane. Right?"

 The cockpit was tight, maybe five by seven meters and crowded with equipment. A huge mass of controls, electronic screens, nobs, dials, and overhead compartments that jutted rudely into headspace. A few bolted down chairs were placed close to the main control panel below a large window. Sitting on the chair is a man wearing light PT's. The intriguing aspect of the room is not the controls, or the navigator at the panel, but what is spaced on every surface of the room that isn't already covered by controls. Scout whistled long and slow, what must be hundreds of various pinups of hundreds of models in various states of undress surrounded the room. "So.... Jay, didn't tell me you were bringing out the collection..."

"Nah man, thought I'd make it a lovely surprise for you and our illustrious leader."

 Brock had to comment, "You know the cheapest datapads can easily hold terrabytes of info." Jay glanced from Chief toward Brock, "These are lucky mate, always flown better with them."

“The bloody hell!?” The Chief interjects, “Wolfe and I leave for one fucking day and everything has gone to shit, you’re playing house, Clutch is screwing around, Pimp is splattering us across the wall, and Cook’s rigging the whole ship to explode.”
“Cook’s doing whaa?” Jay interjects,
“If that happens, can we get the Sparrow back?” Scout queries.
“Both of you, shut up! Seriously Jay, what made you think you could get away with this? Do you think any client would take us seriously if he saw this? He'd think we're some floating fucking brothel! This cockpit has the same deal as on the Sparrow, you can keep your little mini-fridge and one - one! - of your little dirty pictures. Understood?"

 Jay's asenting nod corresponded with the hum and momentary mechanical grind of the shields and grav systems coming back online. The violent quaking of the ship ceased immediately, turning the thick metal flooring under their feet into hard earth; and giving the rising queasiness in Brock's stomach a moment to settle.

 Chief sighs as the new ship settles into its routine noises. "Jay, watch the skies and clean this shit up the moment we're on autopilot. Scout," he turns toward Brock and Scout, "show Brock his bunk to dump his gear then move to the cargo bay to help Clutch fix his shit."

"Roger Chief." Scout says as he turns and motions for Brock to follow.

 Met almost half the crew, Chief's not at all what I expected, and I’m not dead yet. So far, so good.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

(1) Mercs: "Just Business"

Sanduro system - Moonworld Nergovia - Outskirts: 3200 local time (almost midday). [0400. 14/3/2003 Omega time]
Phillip Raegas, foot officer of the Uewo Cartel.


 "Targets in sight."

 Endlessly intense summer heat does strange things to the eye; the molten air lazily swells upward and causes a slight refraction and curve of the light, distorting distant solid images into amorphous images taking unpredictable shapes.

The broad view of the surrounding rugged vista was a testament to this optical illusion; the sun beat down onto a range of stone, grit, sand, and drifting mists of light dust. The sparse vegetation in the outback is stale, starving for the rains that rarely fall here. Cautious breezes flow between the nooks and shaded crannies lying between the broad mesas and larger boulders; nature's only mercy on this harsh moonworld.

 In a kilometer wide valley shaded by a particularly wide ridgeline is a strange vehicle with a stranger collection of four men. They are dressed in a garbled collection of light cotton shirts and pants, a coarse leather jacket and a duster; all are wearing large boots of an indeterminate material. The largest man wears an uncomfortable and rudimentary flak jacket, the pockets of which are hastily stuffed with roughly hewn slabs of steel and tungsten. A fair - if somewhat impromptu - homebrewed work of body armor. All of which - boots, shirts, jackets, armor - show sign of their constant exposure to desert heat and billowing dust storms.

 The vehicle was a fair sized iron-wrought monstrosity, several meters across and a few in breadth. It had a small sealed compartment for the driver, with a very large and open cargo bed in the back. When turned on, it produced but a whir as it hovered a few feet off the ground and soared across the desert.

 Each man was laden with an assortment of gear, tools vital to life and occupation, especially in these turbulent times. The man in a leathern jacket bears a badly pitted and slightly rusted FN FAL rifle. After a gentle tug of the wind, the open jacket flaps open to reveal a web belt peeking from underneath, packed with fresh magazines. The owner's aggressive, and tanned face is encrusted with desert dust; making the thirty-two year old man seem fifty with a cursory glance.

The man cloaked within a wide duster had his weapon holstered at his right side; it is a powerful though rudimentary energy weapon, its bulbously circular chamber has a small ejector with a protruding charging handle from the left side. A simple magazine filled with small, luminescent green charges. The bulk of the large handgun aborbs the sun's glint with a black surface, though small pits of rusts scatter across the welded surface. The man bearing it appeared to be the leader, his authoritative stance and deciphering gaze watched the opposing edge of the valley with a fervent anticipation. His age is also hidden under the grime and natural confidence of leadership, though his fair sized and unkempt beard almost heightens this authority.

 The man with body armor bears a powerful 8 gauge lever action shotgun. A sling hangs from his shoulders supporting the weapon's considerable weight while his right arm rests loosely over the barrel. A belt also hangs across his body, filled with a brace of large, brown shotgun shells. Though he's physically the largest of them, his plain and unassuming face sports barely a stubble. His gaze shifts from boulder to boulder across the hilltops, almost mechanically scanning for strange movement.

 The final man's youth is obvious, his stature and complexion warrant him to barely be sixteen. His dress and weapon are the simplest of the four. He grasps a small pistol grip shotgun, the poor condition and quick repairs of which rivals all the others. He is the only one showing his fear; his searching gazes nervously fly from one clifftop to another, betraying a climbing sense of panic as to what approaches.

 Their bodies are as abused and scarred as the weapons they carry.

 The man in the duster lifted his hand to his ear, slightly cocking back a wire which protruded and vanished into the back of his duster's neck. "What was that?"

 The voice crackled over the radio to repeat, "Targets in sight." The tone relayed relaxed professionality in the baritoned yet still sing-song cadence of a Gahlic accent. Typical of the Doglos and other free clans.


"I count two trucks and a speeder, at least six visible occupants."

"Can you see the goods?" His accent was native to this world though the language was not; it was more brusquely spoken and rounded about vowels.

"No sir." 

"Drop the sirs Logan, we aren't the fucking federals." Mild annoyance crept into the man's controlled expression. His face drew taunt as he chewed over his lower lip, his personal habit preluding any major business deal.

"You're the boss Mister Raegas."  He wasn't sure if that was an affirmation or an explanation.... Whatever.

 The sound of two distant combustion engines echoed faintly across the mountains. Finally, they pulled over the ridge and came into full view. The pulled to a momentary stop as the occupants surveyed the valley before them; satisfied with their recon, they revved their engines and drove straight up to the four men and their hovercraft.

 The radio made a slight buzz and simmer, Logan was mumbling to himself and the small ear piece couldn't pick it up.

"Range of 482 meters..... Occasional minor crossbreeze...... Zip humidity..... Fair elevation difference....."  Though it would be impossible to pick up over the radio, a bystander might hear a few faint clicks as Logan re-adjusted the MOA on his scope; re-accounting for each successive factor on his well rehearsed mental checklist and compensating for each as his decades of experience dictated. Automatic scopes were of course common and available, but Logan had always preferred the controlled certainty of manual. No need to work in tandem with a scope's self adjustments, no need to adapt to a new scope's timing or computations. "I can do my own budahl solutions and put in my own indexes." Logan had said on other occasions.

 The arriving hovercraft was a smaller model intended purely for personnel transportation, it parked with both trucks flanking it. Two men rode in the back of one truck and one in the other, they were crouched atop what could now be seen to be some nondescript wooden crates covered with desert camo tarps. From which the three men smoothly dropped to the ground, weapons carefully in hand as they eyed the four men with careful - but not hostile - caution. The doors of the trucks and hovercraft opened, and four more men exited and examined their surroundings and scrutinized their business partners. All were carrying old and homemade AK74s, 101s, Rheik army M4 carbines, or hobbled blasters. Their dress and armaments are similar to the four, though with two exceptions. The first was obviously their leader, he wore an old bomber jacket and distinctive dark glasses; though he shared the same perpetual layer of dust as everyone else, he was washed and comparatively clean. At his side he wore a large .44 mag revolver. The other one was a rather stoutly little man with a cyborg monocle implant; he was well dressed with a white buttoned shirt and a portly vest covering his sweaty frame. He was the only man not obviously armed.

 Mr. Raegas stood facing his counterpart.
"Where's MacElroy? I cut the deal with him, not you, captain." Bitter sarcasm oozed from that last word.

The captain also stood his ground and stared firmly towards Raegas. "New policy, the head honcho doesn't show his face in foot deals; I'm sure you understand, being a busy man and all."

"I expect to see the man I deal with."

"Expect disappointment."

 There was a moment of silence between the two, before Raegas silently acquiesced and turned to the trucks while speaking over his shoulder.
"As per the agreement, I examine the goods before payment."

"I'm familiar with the terms, go ahead."

Raegas approached the trucks maintaining his air of absolute confidence; one of the gunmen slung his weapon over his shoulder before leaning into the truck and flipping the canvas completely off the crates. Raegas unlatches and opens the lid, gingerly reaching in and pulling out a small package. He massaged the clay-like texture of the thick package; taking a few minutes to smell, poke, prod, and taste it.

 "That's fucking enough; I'm 482 meters away and even I can see it's pure, immaculate, grade VIII. If you checked it anymore you'd be raping it."

Raegas's expression didn't change as Logan muttered over the radio. He merely cast a sly smile toward the patiently waiting captain while remarking. "Forgive me, but I like to be thorough."

"Oh really? Don't stop now, there's so much more plastic to molest!"

Raegas made a note to correct Logan's professionalism later, he returned the package to the crate and latched it shut; motioning for them to be loaded. Immediately two of his men and a few of the captain's began hauling the several crates from the trucks to Raegas's speeder.

"So, you've checked the goods, where's the payment?"

Raegas seemed to consider for a moment as the tension quickly built; this was the few seconds that could either conclude a successful business deal, or initiate a savage firefight. Though his face betrayed nothing un-inentional, he was relishing the thrill involved in such moments; seconds where his immediate response either saved or condemned him.

"Boss... You're scaring me."

"It's under your feet, just below the surface." Raegas gestured.

The Captain's face displays some confusion before he steps back and kneels down. Realizing the dirt in fact had been disturbed, he drew out his knife and began to carefully dig; after a few scoops of dirt had been turned aside, he drew out a small, nondescript bag from the hole. The captain made a small gesture and the portly man waddled forth, he tossed the bag and quickly set him to work.  He immediately began opening the bag as he walked toward the front of his hovercraft, gingerly pouring out a fistful of crystal white stones, many barely the size of gravel. His cyborg eye rotated and adjusted as he began holding up each stone to it.

"Oh shite."  Logan commented over the comm.
 Trying not to appear nervous or too quick to intervene, Raegas put on a show of annoyance as he said with an exasperated sigh, "Do you really think we managed to fake Keschem diamonds?"

 "One can never be too sure."

Raegas's mind raced in the next few seconds as he tried to think of something as the portly man went from examining one stone to the next.

"I have the shot lined up if you're ready Sir."

 All he had to do was scratch his head, and the captain he stared at now would lie dying at his feet while a dangerous firefight ensued. And that would be a sweet sight. Still, even with that merc Logan on overwatch it'd be a very close fight.... No, Raegas's quick wit had proven his salvation before... And occasional damnation come to think of it.

 The portly man picked up another stone to examine.

 Raegas broke the silence with controlled anger, "Ok, I filled my part of the deal and we both have the goods we came for, I'm leaving."
 He made a half hearted motion toward the hovercraft before a cold stare from the captain froze him solid.

 "Places to go?" The captain narrowed his eyes with suspicion.

 "The terms said nothing about a third party security risk, that jeweler will take hours; besides, we called you, remember? We've both completed the terms of the deal, so I'm leaving."

 Raegas turned around and started walking back to his vehicle; the captain stood in silence behind him.

 "10 meters to freedom, 6 meters to freedom...."

He was going to fucking kill Logan.

 "Sir!" The dreaded jeweler spoke up from the truck, one of the rocks clasped in his hand and a terrified expression on his face. That one word sped everything that followed into the space of a nanosecond.

 The captain glanced at the jeweler and immediately began backing up, hand drifting toward his revolver. "You ripping me off gobshite?"

 Raegas slowly turned around with a confused smile, "Wait, just hold on, I'm sure there's been a simple mistake." He had raised both arms in a peace making fashion, while almost absentmindedly brushing away his hair.


Everyone froze at the sharp crack in the distance for the minutest of moments, but before anyone could react, one of the captain's gunmen who was standing atop their hovercraft was struck in the kidney area; the force throws the man down from the truck onto the ground. The body goes limp, his breath was knocked from his lungs twice over; not that it would matter anyway.

 Everyone leapt for cover behind their vehicles, a few fired wildly to suppress the others. Raegas dove behind his hovercraft as the sharp crack of a passing bullet split over his head. He got up to a crouched position, his eyes meeting with the three other men. They'd escaped the initial wild gunfire and were now likewise huddled behind the precious cover of the cargo hover. Raegas looked down and realized he had reactively drawn his blaster, he turned about and leaned from his cover to pull off a quick shot.  The captain's men were also taking cover and carefully taking shots, Raegas popped his blaster forward and double tapped two pulses into the car door of a truck. The cones of green energy punched through the door, rocking the truck and shattering the windows. The two gunmen hiding behind held their AK's over and fired blindly toward him.

 "Not exactly riflemen material are they?"

 "Shut up and blow them away!"

 One of the gunmen was slammed into the truck, the AK-74 falling into the bed, a slug ripped through his chest. Raegas could see the man slumping under the truck, his hands vainly clasping at the air and ground around him; his mouth gasping for air as his pupils dilate.


 The second gunmen turned in surprise toward his eliminated companion, his eyes widening in surprise as his gaze darted around the mountainside. Just in time for another slug to slam through his sternum, slamming and slumping the body into the truck. After a couple desperate gasps, his head falls back against the car door; the shock of the blow stunning his heart into confused palpatations.

 "Three down, four standing."

 The four men start firing away over and around the hovercraft; bullets and energy pulses snapped through the air, pinged from the metal vehicles, and kicked up tufts of dust. The youth was particularly terrified, barely glancing at the enemy before blasting his shotgun around the corner of the hovercraft. Before a splash of metal ricochets drive him cowering back under cover. The man wearing body armor fired over the hovercraft, each powerful retort echoing throughout the mountains with that weapon's distinctly bestial roar. The man in the leathern jacket had his FN FAL couched against his shoulder, firing chattering bursts around the opposing corner of the hovercraft, with Raegas firing his blaster over the shoulder.

 The captain was kneeling behind his hovercraft, .44 in his hand. He quickly squeezed off two thundering shots that rung from the thick metal of Raegas's vehicle. Responding fire from the FAL and blaster forced him to duck back behind. As Raegas paused to change magazines, the other man was taking careful aim with his FAL before firing two shots. The resulting cry was unmistakably the captain's, and honestly more due to surprise and shock than pain. The high rise design of the transportation hovercraft had inadvertantly left his right shin exposed, an error that his compatriot quickly took advantage of.

 His ears were ringing painfully, with every additional audibility sounding strangely muffled. Yet even with this, he could still hear the weirdly tinny, wet slap coming from behind him. Quickly looking back, he saw the youth's body crumpled face first across the desert sand, part of his skull blown away and a shocked eye staring into oblivion. The other man bearing the 8 gauge was thumbing shells into the magazine tube while swearing loudly.

 The captain had crawled to the more protected center of his hovercraft, arm clutching his shattered and bleeding shin; the exposed and wrought nerves sending potent waves of pain through his body, deadened only by the surgence of epinephrine. When one of his men attempted to assist, he waved him away; instead dropping his revolver and drawing out a small tourniquet.

 "Why aren't they dead yet Logan?" Almost thirty seconds had elapsed since the first shot, the initial wild firing died down a bit, and both sides were taking more careful fire.

 "Don't have a good shot, only the one truck was facing me."

"I don't care, I want lead, downrange, NOW!"

 "Your call."   Raegas ran to the opposite corner of the vehicle, standing over the youth's corpse and crouching at the ready. The man firing the 8 gauge had been swearing incessantly, but was suddenly interrupted with a soft slap. Fearing the worst, Raegas checked to see the man had merely stumbled back, thrown off balance by the shot to his body armor. A round had slapped into the uppermost part of a kevlar chest plate, cracking his collarbone but not penetrating skin.

 Raegas leaned around the hovercraft with his blaster at the ready, he saw a glimpse of two feet below the truck, crouching behind the driver's compartment, the gunman must be reloading; Raegas tried to line up a shot but he just didn't have enough target. He lay his sights above the hood, waiting for the man to finish reloading and look up. Raegas's focus and aim was shocked when the back window of that truck was smashed through, so he reflexively leapt back behind cover. Realizing it must've been Logan's shot, he looks out again to see the bare outline of the gunman rolling about on the ground.

 "Messy, don't put that one in my resume."

 Lying prone on the ground, Raegas took aim again and fired one, then a second pulse into the wounded gunman. The outline jerked in reaction to the force from each shot and stilled, he was still alive but out of action.

 "Got yah motherfucker!"

 Raegas turned to the man with the 8 gauge, who had just made his triumphant announcement.

"Not quite; I think just a few pellets hit him, or he's wearing armor."

 The gunman lying behind the first truck - shot through the lung - starts to slowly crawl away; breathing in long, drawn out gasps as he coughs up white froth from his mouth. Crawling over the dead body also slumped against the truck. The other wounded gunman Raegas shot starts screaming, the pain from an off hand .308 slug and two blaster pulses beginning to encroach upon his confused and translucent conscience.  The jeweler had spent the majority of the gunfight crouched in terror behind the hovercraft; now he ran for one of the trucks and leapt into the driver's seat, ducking under the dashboard as he tried to start it.

 "You want the jeweler alive?"

 "What do you think?"

 A .308 slug tore through the truck door, was deflected slightly and thrown through the jeweler's left lung, slamming him against the wheel.

 "Five down, two still kicking. Reloading."

 The captain had barely managed to tie the quick tourniquet around his leg, tighten it ferociously, then inject himself with a small syrette of morphine. For the pain was beginning to culminate. He finally loaded a few .44 rounds into his revolver, and held it in one hand as he began crawling to cover one side of the hovercraft. A sidearm - especially a revolver - was far less firepower than he needed, there was no way he could gain fire superiority. The last gunman standing crouches with the captain behind the hovercraft, he pops up to fire a quick burst before returning to cover.

"Logan, cover me, I'm running for that car."
"Care to specify?"
"Back window smashed."
"Roger, got you covered."
 Raegas rushed headlong for the truck nearest him in an attempt to flank the hovercraft; as the captain leaned up to fire, several rounds pinged off the metallic finish and sent him collapsing back into the dirt. His eyes widened in an epiphanic horror as he realized the disturbingly divergent trajectory... They had a sniper.

 Raegas moved to crouch behind the truck bed, but suddenly stumbled over a prone and now screaming form. The wounded gunman was clutching at his M4, an arm weakened by blood loss and shock trying to drag it up to fire. Raegas cursed and stomped the barrel down into the dirt, but the gunman's fingers managed to curl around the trigger, and a long burst of fire emanated from the weapon as Raegas stomped it down and shot a pulse into the man's head. But the hand, filled with adrenaline, continued to grip that trigger and fired the full magazine.

 Shaken, Raegas knelt down and motioned for the man wearing body armor to make the same rush; he covered him with a burst of pulse fire while the FAL chattered a few quick rounds. The large man crouched close behind Raegas, the light of combat in his eyes.

"Boss! He's pulling a frag!"

 Immediately after those words, the small metal object fell right between Raegas and the other man. Before Raegas realized what happened, he had already leaped and was rolling over the truck's hood. The grenade went off almost half a second after it hit the ground. Most of the shrapnel dug into or ricocheted off the truck, but some still bit deeply into his leg; the force of the blast shoved him across the hood and roughly into the ground. He's momentarily blinded by disorientation, the only sensations that comes with absolute certainty are the multiple dull bites that pepper his leg and thigh. He realizes his hands are empty, his blaster went flying after the grenade went off. But he begins to quickly recover, shaking his head and finding the ground again, his heart skipping a beat and catching up again with a chortled gasp; his hands and legs clawing and clasping forward, trying to quickly rush back behind the truck. His right ear had been facing the blast, yet his ear piece still saved most of his hearing when the gel automatically filled and cushioned that ear. His unprotected left ear was completely filled with a painful ringing. Despite this, he could still only faintly hear the tinny shouting of Logan over the radio.

 "Boss! Boss! You still with us?" 

 He groped and dragged himself the several feet to the back of the car, to cover. He sat on the ground with his back against the grill, a hand brushing away blood from his face as he looked about to get his bearings.

 The gunman standing beside the captain stood up to fire upon the still exposed Raegas, but a shot from the FAL slammed into his neck and spinal cord, throwing a lifeless body to the sand. The man in a leathern jacket then cautiously moved from their hovercraft to the first truck; quickly shooting the one gunman crawling through the sand, and another who just wasn't quite dead. He stopped after taking cover and wildly waved in Raegas's direction as he screamed to be heard.

 "Boss! You alright!?"

"Peachy." Raegas had shaken off most of the disorientation from the blast; he stood up and took several steps around the truck, though he kept tripping over his knee. There wasn't much blood, and the entry wounds didn't look too deep or large, so he stumbled and continued on. Through the clearing haze he could discern his blaster lying on the ground. Falling to his knee again he snatched it up.

 The man with the 8 gauge was lying on his back and covered with shrapnel wounds; he was bleeding, blinded, and utterly incoherent. A ghastly moaning sound escaped his lips as he blindly groped for his weapon with mutilated hands. He could wait until the firefight was over. Raegas glances over to the man in the leathern jacket and signs for him to flank the captain.

 He couches his FAL and begins to approach toward one end of the hovercraft; whereupon, Raegas leans against the truck and calls out.

 "Hey captain! You still breathing?"

 "Come and die you fucking gobshite!"

"Getting desperate are we? Your men are dead captain! All are breathing their last! Just like Kona! Remember Kona?"

 "Quit bitching and come fight me like a man!"

 "Oh! Like you did at Kona captain?"

 A sudden simultaneous burst of gunfire erupted, the stacatto of the FAL, which almost muted the roar of the captain's .44 revolver.  "Ben! Did you get him?"

 He was met only by silence.

 "Logan, can you see him?"

 "No sir, but the captain's definitely alive; I assume you want the honors?"

 Raegas didn't reply, he just thumbed his blaster and limped slowly towards the captain's hovercraft. He raised his weapon while carefully turning the corner.

 Ben was lying down on his face, hands jerking slightly but otherwise quite still; an exit wound gaping through the back of the leather jacket. the captain was sprawled next to another body, his torso riddled with .308 slugs and his hand still trying to raise his revolver. He looked up, his eyes filled with some fear, pain, but principally?


 Raegas proffered a painful smile.

 "Shouldn't have brought the fucking jeweler."

 He fired a pulse straight into the captain's face.

 A strange, unexpected, and abrupt silence filled the air; a silence kept from being total only by moans from the wounded and the dull ringing in his ears. Raegas turned around to limp back toward his hovercraft - ears still ringing and blood pouring from his leg - to retrieve the squad medic kit. He thumbed his radio.

 "Logan, meet me down here, LeBron is out of it from the frag, so we need to take him back to the doc soon; Pack up and come on down, your work here is done."

  "Actually Mr. Raegas, not quite yet."

 Mr. Raegas stopped in puzzled annoyance.

 "What do you me....."

 A sharp crack from Logan's rifle and a .308 slug punched through Raegas's heart, spinning his body about and slamming it into the ground. The feeling was ethereal, a sort of morbid euphoric confusion as the stuttering and shocked heart began to starve the brain of oxygen; before it began convulsing as it vainly tried to cycle again, to cough up another absolutely indispensible beat. But it could merely pump blood through wrent arteries, run over destroyed flesh and flow into desert sand; with each convulsive attempt quaking the body with increasingly violent, increasingly desperate reverberations.

He tried to prop himself onto an arm, but his hands and feet were already getting a sharp prickly numbness; odd, he would've laughed if he could, he'd never think he could feel that numbness when he had a gaping hole in his chest.  Lacking the strength for anything else, he shifted his gaze and examined the sand and dirt that he lay upon, that his blood was slowly flowing into. He dragged his hand across the ground - using every last reservoir of will he had to do so - and weak hands gently scratched into the wet soil, taking a fistfull of dirt soaked with blood. His blood.



 Logan snapped the bipod on his rifle shut, packing it snugly away in a long field bag with a few empty magazines and other gear. He stands up and stretches out his hands, the first time he's really moved in over an hour. His right hand moves to his side, flipping out a small keypad connected to his earpiece via a thin yet durable rubber cord. He keys in a frequency with his thumb before slipping it back in its webbing pouch.

 “Hey Chief, interesting development in that little overwatch job; by the time you hear this message, I’ll have the transport loaded with the demo and diamonds moving to exfil point Alpha. I’d appreciate a prompt pickup. Their backup’s about sixty mikes out.”

 Slinging the field bag over his shoulder, he takes up an FN-FAL carbine and looks up at the chaotic remains of a fierce firefight, with eleven dead and dying corpses strewn about the bullet ridden vehicles. But there's no time for sight-seeing, many of those diamonds are real, and a full cargo of high grade explosives await him.

 "Nothing personal Mr. Raegas, just business."