Caerus – Little Deaths

HANGAR 10, POPOV HUB, CAERUS SYSTEM

“Nice ride.” commented the ship technician, wiping her hands on her overalls as Furieux returned to the hangar. She had just finished repairing some light scratches on the hull of a scarlet red Saud Kruger Orca that the commander had commissoned. “It isn’t often you see these vessels in for repairs here. A pity really, she is truly spectacular to look at.”

Furieux stopped at her side and smiled. The two of them looked up at the curvaceous and glossy hull for a moment. “Yeah, she is a beauty. Took me forever to gather enough credits to buy her.  She has that ‘something’ that no other ship has. A sense of pure style.  I named her the ‘Delicate Heart’.”

The technician burst out laughing. Furieux returned his gaze to the woman questioningly, puzzled by her outburst at the mention of the ship’s name.

“Sorry!” she giggled, “It’s just I never really expected someone like you to come up with a name like that, what with your…um…reputation and all,  wouldn’t ‘Buxom Belle’ or something would be more apt?”

He gave her a wide grin. “Reputation? All lies, I assure you, whatever you heard. Seems I have been in Caerus too long already, huh?”

“Your secret is safe with me, commander Furieux.” she replied, shaking her head. “I’ll charge the repair bill to your account shortly. I am done for today. Pleasure doing business with you.”

“Oh…finished work? Fancy a drink?”

***

Two hours later, Furieux returned to hangar 10 and stepped into the cockpit of the Orca. He had made certain not to drink too much before embarking on Lepinski’s little errand on the moon of Caerus 5. This job required him to be fully aware and it wasn’t going to be easy.  Taking a seat, he ran through the usual pre flight diagnostics and thought about the task ahead. He wasn’t entirely trusting of the Freedom Party’s  resident computer genius but a contract was a contract and if this would remove the threat of Garret Madigan’s piratical endeavours in Caerus for a while, the mission would be worth it.  The Orca chirped its usual singsong of digital beeps and squeaks as he sat back and let the computer continue its system checks. The small Sap 8 Core was safely tucked away in a leg pocket of his flight suit. He could feel it’s presence each time he moved. The containment field holding the crystal inside was powerful and Geryk had touched upon the danger of dropping it, making Furieux a little nervous knowing that he was carrying such a dangerous item around near his person.

*Diagnostics complete. All systems at 100%. Ready for launch*

“Okay sweetheart, lets get this over with.” he said under his breath and immediately wondered why he was talking to an inanimate object. Commanders Star and Fangz would no doubt find this amusing and he made a mental note never to mention it in public. Pulling back on the stick, he brought the Orca up from the launch pad and he accelerated out of the station plotting a course for Caerus 5A. He had heard that the locals named the moon Eshana, after some age old goddess allegedly said to have created the planet Caerus 5. Furieux didn’t understand why people had to place such fantastical ideas into what was essentially a barren rock of dust and grime. He was a realist, but all over the galaxy people seemed to have this need to believe in something more. Furieux believed in a good time. You get born, you keep your head down and then you die. You just ensure that the good times continue for as long as you can, and he sure wasn’t dead yet.

***

Space above the moon of Caerus 5 was busy but Furieux avoided the blips on the scanner with ease. The war in Caerus was in full swing and many of his fellow Dragons were involved in conflicts over Caerus 2 and 5, crushing the pirate menace with skilful manoeuvres and superior firepower. He felt a little guilty for not being among them. During previous contracts he spent far more time getting drunk or chasing skirt than involving himself in wars. Sure he did his bit, but the truth is he didn’t consider himself their leader. Back when the Dragons were formed, and Vondell asked for his assistance, it wasn’t through choice. His hands were tied. It was either face incarceration for drug smuggling or follow the orders of GVC. After the success of the 8th Dragon Squadron he could have left and continued on his way, but he felt a kinship with his new found comrades. This new found discovery was disturbing. It broke his mantra. His ‘no ties, no bonds, no attachments’ decree was failing and in some small way he cared about his fellow Dragons even knowing that this would become a problem in time. “Never have anything you cant walk away from. Everyone will break you if you let them.” his father had told him.  So far, that advice had served him well, though it occurred to him that each and every one of his brother Dragons had their own issues, their own stories. Maybe he would stick around that little bit longer, but sooner or later, every Dragon will have his own ideas, her own plans. His father’s advice struck true, letting go was far easier when you remained apart.

*Warning. Interdiction Detected*

Furieux sighed. Military vessel no doubt. During a war, these stop and scans were common, however much a nuisance. Furieux throttled down in submission, he wasn’t carrying anything untoward for once. He had also recently fitted the ‘Delicate Heart’ with a set of new thrusters that made the Orca quite able to outrun nearly any vessel with malicious intent and a quick boost would be enough to leave the authority vessel trailing in his wake. The drop into realspace led to events that he had not foreseen, however.

***

 “Stand down, Furieux, and you shall not be harmed.” came the transmission. He checked the scanners and local contacts before replying. Three Pythons. He didn’t have a chance. He fired the thrusters away from them anyway, buying some time. Checking the scan data, he was shocked to discover that the lead Python was registered to a Commander Amir Raj. The others were scrambled.

Amir Raj, previous employer of the 8th Dragon Squadron turned out to be a Federal spy. Left them high and dry with no payment after his elaborate plan failed. He didn’t expect the Dragons to be so efficient. Had it not been for Enya Ramirez’ offer, the Lushertha campaign would have been a waste of time. What was Amir Raj doing in Caerus? Furieux opened a comms channel.

“Hello Amir, what can I do for you this fine evening? Looking for some fun? I know a great place on the lower floo…”

“Can it, Furieux. Drop your throttle and come about. Prepare for boarding.”

“Brother Raj! No need for such a penetrative action. What do you want? What could possibly warrant such a move?”

“You have something I want. Stand down. Now.” Raj clearly meant business.

“Hey, I know I’m pretty, but you are not really my type…”

Laser fire. The ‘Delicate Heart’s shields began to wither under the stream of fire from all three assailants. Furieux hit the boosters once again but it wasn’t enough. He mentally kicked himself for not upgrading his shields. The Pythons quickly gained on the Orca, flanking her.

“Okay okay! This had better be good, Raj. I’m on a promise!”

***

The Saud Kruger Orca is a large ship. Built as an interstellar passenger vehicle it  has many cabins, rec rooms and viewing chambers. The boarding room was large too. Furieux engaged the airlock door awaiting the arrival of his unwanted guests. He could get through this. His silver tongue was usually enough to get him out of scrapes. The airlock door slid open with a hiss and three huge neanderthally built figures walked into the room led by Amir Raj himself. They all removed their Remloks like it was some choreographed dance move. Pulse rifles seemed to be the order of the day.  Raj gave Furieux a wide toothy grin.

“Well, well, well. The great Furieux. Caught with his pants down.” he said, smirking.

“Wouldn’t be the first time, handsome. So, spill, why are you and your boyfriends pointing your guns at me?

“I think you know why. Geryk Lepinski has given you a piece of hardware that I need.  Hand over the Sap 8 Core.”

“What just like that?” chuckled Furieux, showing an air of bravado that he really didn’t feel. “This can of crystals is going nowhere.”

“I hardly think you are in any position to deny us, Furieux. Hand it over and we will be on our way. Then you can go and get pissed like you always do.”

He took out the container from a leg pocket. He could feel it vibrate in his hands. The container was a small bomb in itself, likely to injure them all if he dropped it. Leverage.

“You know,” he said, tossing the unit between his hands, “I was never any good at sports. When I was young I was a renowned butterfingers. Apparently I threw like girl too.”

“Whoa Furieux! We are all friends here. No need to do anything hasty. Look, I’m a reasonable man. What if I offered you one point five million credits to give us the unit and leave. Come on, you know that’s a good deal. Blowing us all to bits isn’t going to benefit anyone.”

Furieux thought for a moment. That amount of credits would be useful, and would offer him a chance to get out of this situation. He didn’t really believe Raj though, the man had proven to be untrustworthy back when the Dragons were operating in Lushertha and Furieux doubted that Amir would remain true to his word. He decided to take a chance.

“Alright, that sounds like a reasonable offer. Transfer the credits to my Zaonce account and I’ll give you this here little gem.”

Raj squinted at him for a second then nodded to one of his bodyguards. “Do it.” he said and watched as the big man slung his rifle over his shoulder and extracted a dataslate from his uniform. “The credits will be in your account within the next five minutes, merc. Now give me the Sap 8.”

“Sure!” said Furieux, smiling. “Here, catch!”

He tossed the container into the air  towards Raj and his sidekicks before they could even respond. The look of surprise on their faces was a picture and Furieux found himself grinning as Raj fumbled with the unit, but managing to secure it in his grasp.

“Well caught! Now then. Get off my ship.” Furieux barked as Raj examined the hardware. Turning the container this way and that, he frowned then stared at Furieux in disbelief.

“This isn’t the unit that Lepinski issued you with. Where is it?

“Oh you wanted THAT one? Sorry, I didn’t think it mattered.” Furieux laughed. I am afraid that you may have to seek Garret Madigan down on the moon of Caerus 5. I am sure he will be still traipsing through the wreckage of his installation as we speak. You see, my mission was a success. That there is the one I took from the base. I was on my way back to Popov to report in when you tethered my ship.”

Raj was furious. “In that case, you are no longer of use to me.” he motioned to the guard who had his pulse rifle aimed at Furieux throughout the entire conversation. “Kill him.”

Furieux didn’t even manage to get a word out in protest before the guard pulled the trigger.  The shot hit him square in the chest. As he fell,  Furieux wished that he had had time for one last drink.

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