Neon Dahlia

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY GRAVEYARD' started by Danko, Jul 20, 2014.

  1. OOC

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    Rick tapped a cigarette out of the pack before placing it in his mouth and lighting it. He took a drag and sat on the windowsill and looked through the broken pane at the reflection of a magnet train in the canal below as it buzzed across one of the many bridges that crossed the waterways of New Tong-Li. The echo of sirens slowly became audible and Rick glanced over at the body lying face down on the floor of the room. His stomach sank every time he looked at her, the newer androids looked too human, he hated killing them. This one was made to look like a young Chinese woman, about 20, her dark lifeless eyes stared blankly at the tattered old carpet, if it wasn’t for the tangle of wires and bare metal in the wound in her back it would be easy to mistake her for a human.


    Looking back out of the window at the glowing neon town that stretched out before him he took another drag from his cigarette before standing and sighing. Walking to the android’s body he searched her pockets and put the contents on the stained coffee table; a Martian money card, various pieces of paper with dates and locations written on them and single key which Rick knew to be for the apartment door. Taking the key he unlocked the door and left it slightly ajar before returning to the window sill and looking out. He heard the cops long before they entered, their boots pounding on the stairs and down the hall. Turning he inspected the pair as they entered both were Chinese Martians, the younger of the two was overweight and his face was red and his breathing heavy when he entered having just climbed three flights of stairs to get to the apartment. The older man, who Rick took to be the superior officer, had silver hair and the face and demeanour of a seasoned lawman. They inspected the scene in silence before the older man approached Rick.


    “Mr Dravot is it?” The lawman asked.


    “It is.” Rick replied before taking a drag and blowing smoke in the man’s direction. The lawman looked at the android on the ground then kneeled beside it and pulled its head up to look at the face.


    “That’s the one alright,” He said standing. “Shot her in the back did you? Fitting for a bottom feeder like her.” He chuckled at his own joke, Rick remained silent. “Well I suppose you’ll want your bounty, three thousand xen.”


    “Hold on a minute, the Network said the reward was in gals, I don’t want to have to change Martian plastic for real money when I leave this cess pit.” Rick cut in, Martian Xen had been nearly worthless on other planets since after the war, the galactic currency Galileos or “Gals” were the most robust and widely used currency these days. “Stop wasting my time and give me real money.”


    The lawman give an irritated sigh, he was likely going to keep the gals to himself and use xen from his own pocket in exchange, it was a common scam since the end of the war. “Okay then, one thousand gals it is.” He reached into his coat pocket and handed Rick and envelope. Rick opened it and checked the contents, the blue polymer bank notes were all in denominations of one hundred and Rick quickly counted them before putting them in his coat pocket. “We’ll take it from here.” The lawman said and Rick took it for what it was, a dismissal, and walked out of the apartment and down the dilapidated hallway, down the even more dilapidated stairwell and out into the street. Glancing back up at the window he had gone through earlier in the night.


    A pang of guilt hit him, he wished he hadn’t had to shoot her in the back. If she hadn’t gone for that gun he would have likely been able to take her without having to shoot her. Likely she would have been taken in and had her memory wiped and her AI rebooted or even rebuilt from scratch. He couldn’t work out what was worse, being shot in the back or having your whole mind and personality erased and replaced. As he contemplated it began to rain and his mind snapped back into focus, putting up his collar against the steady downpour he headed down the empty streets until he reached the magnet train station. Looking up and down the platform he could see he was alone, few people walked the streets this late at night but it was unusual to be alone anywhere on any planet these days so Rick took a few moments to enjoy it before the magnet train buzzed into the station. The automated carriage came to a halt in front of him and the doors slid open, he entered and sat down among the scattering of other late night passengers. The doors closed and the train engines whirred and the carriage lurched into motion along the magnet rail.


    It didn’t take long to reach the station at the dock where The Harlequin had been left while they worked. Stepping out onto the platform he walked back out into the rain and made his way down the dock, this part of the city was never empty. The neon signs of bars lit up the faces of the prostitutes, thugs and lowlifes that seemed drawn to space ports. The crews of some of the ships weren’t much better either, he picked out uniforms of some of the larger trading companies and some smaller ones that he didn’t recognise, there were even some off-duty Martian military pilots. Rick was largely ignored as he made his way through the throng, except for the occasional prostitute trying to get his trade and the occasional drunk attempting to say something to him but not quite managing it through their drunkenness. Eventually he found row F where the Harlequin had been moored. Stopping briefly at the Network terminal located at the side of the road he tapped the screen and looked at the active bounties in the city, no new names had been added but the droid he had just decommissioned was still there.


    “Tang Yan,” Rick said aloud as he looked at the droid’s picture. It occurred to him, not for the first time, that decommissioning droids was the lowest form of work he had ever had to do. While he understood that rogue droids were an inherently bad thing he couldn’t blame them for wanting to escape a life of servitude. Some droids were used in terrible ways, it was no wonder that if they gain self-awareness they want to run. Rick felt anger at himself for feeling guilt at shooting a rogue android. “You’re going soft,” he said quietly to himself. Turning off the terminal screen he walked down the row of ships of all shapes and sizes until he reached the Harlequin. It was a middle sized former cargo vessel and it had been his home for some time now. Punching numbers on the keypad beside the small crew door he waited as it slowly slid open before ducking inside and pressing the button to close it behind him. Looking around at the cargo bay he looked his ship, the Viper over briefly before walking into the ship proper.


    “Is anyone here?” Rick called out into the corridor.
     
  2. “It’s getting late,” Laurel found herself muttering aloud. She rubbed her forehead, leaving a trail of grime. It was of little consequence, however, given that her light face was already peppered with specks of oil in addition to its normal small smattering of freckles. She wiped her hands and face on the rag tucked into her tool belt. She had spent most of the day working on inconsequential projects—tinkering—there was really no other word for it. Although that was what she loved to do, it meant she had procrastinated on doing important work until much later than she had intended. So it wasn’t until well into the afternoon that she started working on one of the auxiliary fuel tanks that was in desperate need of repairs.


    The Harlequin was a strange enough vessel, although Laurel and her father had done an expert job of restoring it. But it was a patchwork of parts, many of them from drastically different places. It wasn’t immediately noticeable to most people, but those who knew as much about ships as Laurel usually did a double take. Her own ship, Cahokia, was similar though it was a legitimately ugly craft. The mismatched lines and bulky frame were once in vogue, but that was decades ago. And, if the appearance was not enough to discourage any attempt at theft, its erratic quirks usually rendered most people unable to pilot the damn thing. Of course, these characteristics only endeared it more to Laurel, who had both a puckish nature and a sentimental streak.


    Laurel sighed again, snapping out of her reverie and looking around. She gingerly picked up a few spare odds and ends from her afternoon's work and surveyed both of the auxiliary tanks with satisfaction. Both seemed to be in good working order, and she climbed out of the fuel room dexterously.


    The corridor was still hot, with a permeating Martian dampness that Laurel hadn’t grown accustomed to. Mercury was hot, of course, but it was also much more arid. Night had fallen, and Laurel contemplated going out for some fresh air after treating herself to a shower. As the warm water washed over her, she wondered whether she should wait for companionship. A cold beer sounded inviting, but she was decidedly unfamiliar with the area. While she was not paranoid by nature, she was also not naïve. If there were bounties in the area—and she knew that there were—it was probably not the safest place for her to be wandering around by herself. She had just finished slipping into a pair of pinstripe pants and a white tank top. Her wet auburn hair hung down to her back in loose waves and she was in the process of trying to tame it when she heard the unmistakable sound of Rick’s voice in the corridor.


    Grabbing an elastic band, she opened the door to her room to face the bounty hunter. Laurel looked at the man appraisingly while she wound the tie around her hair and into a loose ponytail. “Long day?” she asked. Then, not waiting for a response, she continued. “You seem tired. I was planning on buying a round of drinks.” She looked at him again, trying to read his expression. “You wanna come? It might help you unwind.”
     
  3. "Is anyone here?"

    Leo let in a soft, yet sharp intake of breath, flattening himself down harder. It was supposed to be simple and easy. Take back the last records of an ancient Chinese manuscript from someone who stole it. Righteous, and very well paid. But no, when someone with that much power stole something priceless, they would spend any price to keep it in their mitts. Never again in his right mind would he take a job like this, given how much effort he was going through right now.

    “Long day?”

    Just in case the countless numbers of obvious and undercover foot soldiers alike weren't enough, that insane bastard Chen Ong had his own personal enforcers to track down and destroy anything. And right now, with the Chinese recipe for eternal life stored inside his PDA, Leo was number one on their most-wanted list.

    So here he was, hiding and fearing for his life cowered under the maintenance floorboards of an errant storage vessel. The heat and thirst screamed at him, and the ache of his muscles combined with his adrenaline hangover seared his body painfully. Leo tried so desperately not to move, to twitch, even to breath is long, hushed gasps so as to make no noise. He'd been relentlessly pursued through the city, with the mafia attempting to waylay him every third turn. No dashes through tight crowds nor hidden side-streets would shake them off, and as such Leo afforded himself as little rest as they did.

    “You seem tired. I was planning on buying a round of drinks.”

    He couldn't hide forever, he knew that well. The 'Dragon Head' was so obsessed with what Leo had stolen back from him that he would dare track him to the deepest corners of this planet to find him. Now, though, Leo was hoping oh-so much that if he could at least get off-world, he might be able to escape their sphere of influence and collect his bounty. It meant he was going to have to lay low for several months afterward, working under another identity in some unspeakable backwater colony, maybe even stage a death, just to get the neo-triad off of his back. As long as he could walk out of this charade alive, it didn't matter. Neither Leo nor his body had any desire to put up with this anymore.

    “You wanna come? It might help you unwind.”

    The mercenary mouthed a tearful curse at the possibility that this large dilapidated vessel, his best calculated bet for getting out of here unnoticed, wasn't going to leave anytime soon. The conversation was so friendly it was scarring. Leo would kill for the chance to finally relax, get the reward he most definitely deserved at this point. But no, he wasn't going to get even close to that unless he got off of this planet, now. No grown man who valued his dignity would cry, but Leo was very well on the verge right now.
     
  4. "Hey Scarlet, were about to stop at the docks, better get ready." A deep rough voice had came from a burly man while he checked his guns. Ciel rubbed her eyes a little to wake herself up. It was an easy delivery, but they still needed to get paid. Pushing a few of her curly red locks behind one of her ears she stood up and checked things over. Both guns had ammo and she had the clips for them. With her knife on her thigh Ciel pulled on her gloves and made her way to the back of the cargo ship. "Alright boys, were one step away from getting paid." Ciel had a small smirk while she programmed the cargo container to hover. Once the door opened two men stepped out to be sure the area was secure and locate the man they were suppose to meet. The man was on time and Ciel rolled the container over to him. He was at the edge of the dock with his own truck, waiting for them.

    "I see my shipment is here... Everything went well without a hitch, yes?" He questioned. Ciel didn't really cared what he looked like and simply handed over the shipment. "It went well. No attacks of any sorts and we weren't followed. So your good are just fine... So about our payment." Ciel wasn't in the mood for chit chat. If she can get off this planet sooner it would be great. Being paid now would be even better. The man laughed a little seeing the impatient girl but he knew the trip was long and people simply wanted to go home. "Ah yes, 1,150 Gal per person." He pulled out the bag and handed it to one of the men. Looking inside it had their money and it was there in exact change. A ton of weight lifted off their shoulders as the sweet taste of a completed job settled in. Ciel placed the cargo into the truck and made sure it was securely in place.

    They had their money and the man immediately left the group where they were. Ciel took her share and counted it well. "All 1,150 Gal, just what I needed. So when are we leaving. The sooner the better." She said while pocketing her cash but the boys had other plans. "We're not leaving yet. We just finished a long trip collecting a few items for the man. I need to unwind a bit , you should join us." The man was friendly but he was getting a bit old. Being on a cargo vessel for extended periods of time was exhausting to him and having a few cold ones sounded like fun. Plus it was a planet with bounties, meaning more money if you were willing to fight for it. Ciel simply pouted at the idea of being stuck on Mars... Of all places to be stuck on. "So what the hell am I suppose to do? Be stuck here until you want to leave. I have to get back home." She explained but it was falling on deaf ears.

    "Just hang with us for the night and send a message to any available vessel if they are willing to take you where you need to go. Simple." The guys laughed a bit and started heading for a bar. "Let me send a message first and maybe I'll come find you." Ciel went back to the cargo vessel and got started on the message. Pulling up the docks vessel list there were only a few that wasn't staying on this planet for long. Three were her only choice so she went ahead and started typing.

    I am in need of a ride for tonight or at least by morning. I need a lift to Venus but if you have a
    different destination you can simply drop me off. I am willing to pay for the ride but I am a Mercenary.
    I can take on a job you need done or work for you until I reach my destination.
    ~Scarlet
     
  5. Rick nodded to Laurel as she appeared in the corridor. He sighed at her question, "You could say it's be a long night, it's certainly been a shitty one.” He stubbed his cigarette out on the sole of his shoe, he knew better than to put it out using one of the walls of this ship, Laurel had been unimpressed, to say the least, the first time he had done that. “I got paid at least, despite the dickhead lawman trying to rip me off. I don’t know if Martian lawmen are the most corrupt bunch of bastards in the galaxy or if I’m just unlucky.” He knew that he was being biased towards Mars, almost all lawmen were corrupt in some way or another, he just hated this planet more than any of the others, Earth was a close second but he could stomach that a bit easier; he had never been a slave on Earth.


    “I don’t think I could ever unwind in this shit hole,” Rick said in a voice that had more anger in it than he had intended. He attempted to calm himself and smiled slightly, he was not angry at Laurel after all. “Why don’t we get those beers to go, I want to get off this rock as soon as humanly possible.” Reaching into his coat pocket he took the envelope out and handed it to her. “One thousand gals, it’s not much but it should get us off planet and at least to one of the space stations, Nuevo Chile maybe?” Work could sometimes be harder to come by on the space stations but if it came down to it there were always courier jobs to be had that would pay expenses for fuel costs.


    “Go see the harbour master and fill the tank with as much fuel as you can get, maybe check the Network and see if there are any passengers leaving tonight, if they’re paying we’ll take them. Then get us a departure code and let’s get out of here. If you have any money left after buying the fuel get a few beers for the flight.” Loosening his collar he cracked his neck and ran a hand through his hair. “I’ll get a shower before we’re off planet, let me know when we’re all set.” He said with a smile and then turned and made his way along the corridor and into the shower unit and closed the door behind him. Rick appreciated Laurel and her ship, it may look like it’s been thrown together by a madman but it had all the comforts a man could ask for. Laurel could pull every ounce of potential out of the ship as well, he had never met anyone who had such a way with machines.


    Turning the water on he stood under the warm stream of water and felt the ache in his muscles melt away. When he was done he stepped out and got dressed again, he placed his coat and ballistic vest over his arm and walked down the corridor and opened a hatch in the wall to step through into his own quarters. He hung his coat up on the hook he had on the wall and laid his bulletproof vest on the small chest at the base of his utilitarian bunk. The whole room was Spartan in its simplicity, Rick liked it that way. The only extravagance he allowed himself was the old fashioned analogue clock that ticked away on his wall which always sat at galactic standard time. Rick had a love for all old world relics that he could find, he never had enough money to buy them himself but he could appreciate them whenever he found himself in an antiques dealer.


    Taking a seat at his desk Rick lit another cigarette and leaned back in his chair, he would wait for Laurel to return with their departure code, fuel, beer and whatever passengers were looking to get out of this hell hole. People leaving a planet at this time of night usually meant bad news but if they were confined to their quarters until they reached one of the outlying space stations they couldn’t cause any trouble while on board this ship. Rick didn’t give a damn if they were in trouble with the Martian authorities, if they paid he would take them as far as he could.
     
  6. Nuevo Chile. Laurel remembered it fondly, though she had only been there twice. Both were several years ago when she was working for the cargo company. It was a nice enough space station with a surprising amount of activity for a facility of its size. However, Laurel always thought of it as a bit of a vacation destination of sorts. It wasn’t so much that people were clamoring to see the beautiful views or clement weather, but it was safe and just busy enough to be interesting. But Laurel was a bit surprised that Rick had suggested it in the first place. It was notoriously difficult to come across jobs in most stations, and Nuevo Chile was no exception. There would most likely be some courier jobs and possibly some passengers looking for a quick ride over to Earth or Venus. But she supposed that he was tired and looking for some respite, however brief it may be.


    Laurel knew only a little bit about Rick’s line of work. She understood the system, of course, but the nuances were foreign to her. But, she reflected, there was much she didn’t know about her companion, despite the fact that they had shared a ship together for some time. The wars had made people suspicious and distrusting of others. Mercury had suffered massive economic losses, but they had nowhere near the casualties that the other planets had experienced. While she didn’t entirely know Rick’s past, he had mentioned Venus from time to time. If that was where he considered home, it was sad. Venus had been practically obliterated in the last war.


    She filed past several rows of ships docked in the bay. The harbormaster was an old codger who had served and been wounded in both wars. As a result of his battle history, between one-half and one-fourth of his body was robotic. He was known to digress into war stories whenever fancy took him. Laurel docked at an open spot close to his office and walked out of the ship to request a fill-up. As she filled up The Harlequin, the harbormaster began to tell her tales of his adventures in the wars. Laurel had made the mistake of telling him that she was a Mercurian, and was unwillingly regaled with stories of space pirates and other outdated stereotypes. He was in the midst of telling her a story about a female pirate who had just disappeared from pirating one day, never to be seen again, when her fuel tank finally finished filing. The electronic fuel gauge read 850 gal, which she handed to the harbormaster. He pocketed 700 though, and gave the remaining 150 back to her. “Eh, keep a little bit of it. Just my way of thanking a pretty gal for listening to the ramblings of an old man like meself. And by the looks o’yer vessel, you could use it.” “Uhh…thanks?” Laurel replied uncertainly, suddenly made uncomfortable by both the compliment and the unexpected generosity. Regardless, she took the money and quickly boarded the ship and navigated it back to a free space at the dock.


    Laurel booted up to the Network and looked for people looking for passage. There were a few messages, and one posted within the last few hours. It was a young woman who needed a ride to Venus within the next day or so. She was willing to be dropped off if need be. It was a bit out of the way for them, but Laurel assumed that Rick would be ok with that. They might even take a brief detour to Venus. There could be some decent jobs there.


    She logged a reply message:


    Scarlet,


    We’re headed out within a few hours and would be happy to drop you off at Venus. We’ll negotiate pay once we rendezvous. Let me know where’s a good place to pick you up.


    Laurel,

    Captain of the Harlequin



    Satisfied that she would hear back soon, she decided to walk to grab some beer in the meantime. The downpour that had started a few hours ago had gradually lessened. It was now raining just enough to make her glad she had grabbed her lightweight leather bomber jacket before leaving the ship. She headed to the nearest convenience store and grabbed two six packs of beer and paid for them with the remaining money. By the time she had exited the store, the rain had started back up again, forcing her to duck under shop awnings to keep dry. She walked quickly to where the ship was docked, and entered the cargo bay.


    By this point she was dripping wet and freezing. Laurel knocked on Rick’s door. “I should’ve waited on the shower,” she joked wryly as he opened the door. “But I got the beer.” She said, holding up the two six packs. “There’s someone who wants to head to Venus within the next twelve hours or so. I figured that we could swing by there before we headed to Nuevo Chile. I sent her a message about it. I’ll go dry off and check to see if she’s replied. Sound good to you?”
     
  7. Ciel didn't bother leaving the cargo ship just to get a round of drinks. These days, getting tipsy in a bar with a ton of crazies isn't safe. People do stupid stuff when they're drunk but being crazy and stupid wasn't the ideal mentality she wanted to be around. Ciel just wanted to get off this dirt ball and back to a place called home. The sooner the better in her eyes and that was why she was packing. Her last courier mission was from a space station to Mars, but she had been traveling for over a month now and home would be a great place to be.

    Taking out her bag and pulled out a separate mesh bag. It was the only way to keep the clean clothes from the dirty ones. The last stop was Earth and she was able to wash most of her clothing so the mesh bag wasn't all that full. Ciel looked under her bunk and pulled out her gun case, just that this one looked like a case for a violin than anything. She needed check to be sure she had everything. After a pin code was entered she found out that she needed a few rounds. Better to be stocked than to die for your own stupidity. With that being said she looked in side her medical kit and started rummaging around seeing she wasn't missing any items. "Good only have to stop off else where and that should be it." Ciel placed her medical kit inside the bag.

    Going back onto the network she found that someone was leaving in the next few hours and was willing to discuss a price. Ciel thought for a moment and decided it was the best option. Ever other option was asking for a different price and Ciel wasn't in the syndicate murdering business or any other services. It didn't bother her, not since she lived on Venus during the second war. It was nice seeing someone ask for money, hopefully the price will be right.

    Great, I'll be there in an hour. I need to pick up a few items before talking out a price. I suppose meeting outside your ship shouldn't be too much trouble.
    ~Scarlet

    With that sent a sigh and a ride off this planet was in her grasp. Ciel wrote a not to the boys stating she was leaving and was able to find a ride out of here. They would understand and wouldn't be upset with it. Not many people want to be on Mars to begin with. She slung the bag over her shoulder and picked up her case before heading out to the shop. The type of bullets she needed weren't easy to posses. You have to know someone who can use technology and turn it into a bullet.

    Just a few blocks down and through an alley way there was a small shop that sold both guns and ammo. It was a little bit more of a black market than anything but she knew the shop keep all too well. As she approached the counter the owner came out and narrowed his eyes at her. Ciel stood her ground and smirk graced her lips. "My violin needs a new string... Happen to have a spare." She said and he owner smiled a toothy grin. "Scarlet... I knew you would be back. Need the bullets again, eh?" The man chuckled a little before taking out a small box of ammunition. His hair was wild and unruly and his clothes were as plain as you get. The shop keep wasn't into looks compared to his other brothers. "You always pull through for me Nate. I can't stick around too long. I have a ride to catch to get home." Ciel took out some cash and paid him for the bullets. It never bother Nate if she was in a hurry it just meant he got his money sooner.

    Ciel took her bullets ad placed them in the case before heading out. "Good luck out there!" He called out to her. Ciel was out the door and down the alleyway before that door was shut closed. Being a few blocks away was a bit of of a jog but after spending all that time crammed into a ship, her legs enjoyed their time being worked. Back in the docks she up linked with the network to see where this ship was docked at. With the coordinates she took her time to get there. Ciel didn't want to get lost and preferred that everything was done right the first time. The Harlequin was a cargo ship that seemed rebuilt more so than repaired. It's not the first time she had seen this. On Venus small gangs that lurked in desolated cities would take the ships and mesh them together just so they can get between towns and cause trouble. But this Captain never did that so there wasn't anything to worry about. Ciel gave a few good knocks to be sure she was heard, it's not like she wanted to stay out here in the rain all night.
     
    #7 Sairen, Jul 27, 2014
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2014
  8. Rick opened the door at the light knock and looked at Laurel, noting that she was totally drenched. Mars was notorious for its rain, it fell in huge showers that could last for days due to the high humidity levels which gave the planet a tropical feel to it, even in the driest regions. “Sounds good to me, when you’re ready prep the ship, I’ll greet our passenger when she arrives and give her one of the spare bunks. I’ll meet you in the cockpit for take-off.” Rick said turning and picking up his shoulder holster containing his revolver, he slung it around his shoulder and fastened it at the front. It paid in his line of work to have a gun handy when meeting strangers, he assumed they would be fine but he was not willing to take a chance, he only had to be wrong once to lose his life.

    Walking out into the cargo bay he spent the spare moments looking over the Viper and checking that everything was in order, it was of course but he liked to check. Turning at the knock he went to the door and hit the release and waited while it slid open. Regarding the young woman briefly he nodded to her, “Welcome to the Harlequin, I’m Rick Dravot. Your name is?” He extended a hand in greeting. “I understand you’re going to Venus. We’ll take you there with room and board, it’ll be 300 gals for the ride, you can pay us when we get there.” He turned and started walking through the cargo bay towards one of the corridors that branched off from it. “Come with me and I’ll show you your quarters, we’re leaving in the next few minutes so I’ll leave you to get settled in, if you need anything or have any questions you’ll find either me or Laurel Cagney, who is the owner of this ship, up in the cockpit which is just up those stairs and down the corridor.” Rick gestured towards the metal stairs that led up to the cockpit and canteen on the top floor.

    Reaching one of the doors in the corridor he hit the door release and pulled the doors open before stepping aside to let her enter. “Please make yourself comfortable, I’m just going to go up to the cockpit and make ready for our departure.” Turning Rick moved at a quick pace down the corridor and then up the stairs, down the corridor and through the thick bulkhead doors into the cockpit. He took a seat in the co-pilot’s chair and looked at the flickering green text and the various images on the screen in front of him. Looking over them it appeared everything was ready for their departure, their fuel should take them to Venus if they were careful how they went about it. Pressing a few buttons he brought up the Network screen and requested a departure code, he could see a few other crews on standby for a code but nobody actively requesting one so he only had to way a few seconds before they were assigned one. Turning to another screen he copied the code across and waited for the harbourmaster to verify it, this took a few minutes, presumably the old man wasn’t so quick as he used to be. When all was ready he gave the systems one more check before allowing Laurel to take them off planet.

    Rick’s job was more or less done at this point but he always made sure to have an eye on the systems while they took off so that Laurel could concentrate on flying, she didn’t need the help but he preferred to be doing something than sitting back uselessly. Looking at the Network screen one last time he noticed that one of the standby crews had requested a code only a few seconds after they had, it was not particularly unusual an occurrence but Rick had a habit of noting little details. Looking out of the viewing window at the front of the cockpit he watched as the atmosphere faded away and gave way to the black of space and then as stars began appearing. Rick smiled slightly to himself, it was nice to be off Mars again. He sat watching the stars before looking back down at the screens in front of him, he noticed that a ship was moving in the same direction as them. He wondered if it was the same ship that had taken off behind them. The Shenlong he recalled its name from the Network.

    Pushing it out of his mind he rose to leave the cockpit and allow Laurel to continue her work he saw a flash in front of the viewing window and then a rumble that shook the ship slightly. It took a few moments to realise that they had been shot at, planting himself in his seat he looked at the screen in front of him. The ship that had been behind them had closed the distance in a remarkably short time, it was fast that was for sure. Before he could say anything a message popped up on another screen, the other ship was hailing them. Glancing at Laurel he accepted the connection and looked down at the screen. The man was Chinese of some kind, he didn’t have the dark skin of a Martian native. He spoke quickly in something that resembled Martian Chinese, which Rick could grasp to an extent but it was still different. “Wait, wait. I don’t understand you.” He said in Martian Chinese, “Why are you attacking us?”

    “You have property that belongs to us, surrender yourself now or be destroyed.” The man said, speaking now in Martian Chinese with a thick accent that made it hard to understand.

    “You must be mistaken we-“ Rick started.

    “Silence, allow us to board or face destruction.” The man interrupted, Rick looked at him for a moment. He has the eyes of a killer this one, Rick thought to himself. Looking to Laurel he shut off the mic for a moment.

    “He thinks we have his property, they want to board. I’m going to allow it but just be ready to blast them out of the airlock if it gets too heated.” Rick said to her before looking back down at the screen and activating the mic. “Very well, you’re welcome to search our ship. I can assure you we have nothing of yours here.” Rick said before standing and making his way into the cargo bay.

    “We’ve got a bit of a delay,” He called out to their passenger. “We have some men coming aboard who think we’ve stolen from them, I haven’t taken anything but if you have you’d better get yourself ready for them because they’re about to dock.”
     
  9. Breathe, Leo. Breathe~

    There were more noises above; a door opening, followed by the sounds of hard rainfall for a few moments before being shut out. Time was was passing so quickly and so slowly at the same time, Leo was so de-synced. He had to regain his composure, hope for the best: Who could track a long gone thief to such a specific vessel, anyways?

    “I should’ve waited on the shower, heh. But I got the beer. There’s someone who wants to head to Venus within the next twelve...

    The lump in the mercenary's throat swelled again. Someone else, wanting to catch a ride offworld? That could just as easily be a neo-triad agent... Even if otherwise, he wanted no more delays.

    "...sent her a message about it. I’ll go dry off and check to see if she’s replied. Sound good to you?”


    “Sounds good to me, when you’re ready prep the ship. I’ll greet our passenger...”

    Another sound of the main door opening. That someone else was really prompt in coming aboard the ship, so she either wanted to get offworld nearly as bad as Leo did, or she was sent to kill him. The greetings, guides and other pre-flight checks were all blurs as Leo held himself down further, resuming his painfully still, cramped stance under the flooring. Slowly, quietly, he remained there until he was certain that there was nobody remaining in the cargo area.

    It wasn't time to let guards down yet, as far as he was concerned, through. The hacker carefully, carefully slid out his PDA; it was still set to a 'low profile' mode that canceled out brightness and sound features, among other technical details. After some slow, deliberate keystrokes, he intercepted and aligned with the Harlequin's transmission arrays, obtaining technical data on the ship.

    The Network was a well-enforced digital roster with which humans, androids and ships alike were all purposefully registered. It was strictly for regulation reasons: whether on a public transportation or private vessels, you weren't going anywhere without the Network knowing of it, otherwise you could marked for 'rogue activities'. All justified for the sake of law enforcement in the ever-growing expanse of human worlds in the Sol System.

    By no means did this exclude the Harlequin, nor anyone aboard it. Leo's intent wasn't just to monitor the ship's transmissions, but ensure his signature was not located on any of the dossiers for departure. That was the disadvantage of the Network, of any network, was that they could be traced for their tracked information.

    And that was the last thing that Leonard wanted at this very moment.

    Still, the ship continued to ascend, flight uninhibited, no Network alarms ringing. All good signs- hang on, there was another ship taking off too. Leo quickly and covertly tapped into the Network to intercept clearance transmissions...

    Cleared corvette-class vessel Shenlong : lc 801...

    The first thought to run through Leo's head after seeing that name: "Shit." The classifications were absolutely fitting of a neo-triad ship, and their sudden takeoff combined with their intended course rung true that this ship was in pursuit. The abrupt tumble of the cargo ships around him sealed the deal that they knew where he was, and they were coming for his head in whatever manner they declared most discreet.

    A hail was exchanged between the two ships, but Leo payed little mind, attempting to rapidly worm his way out of the maintenance space without setting off any sudden noises. The cat was about to be out of the bag, and he wanted to be poised to fight back the second it happened. Spotting a stack of large crates in the corner, the mercenary dove behind them as discreetly as possible. It was an obvious hiding spot, but one in which he could easily burst out when he needed to.

    One last diagnostics check. Strength implants enabled, pulse regulated, weapons locked, loaded and readied- Leo had it all out. Dual pistols drawn, Leo pushed himself tight again the nearest crate and a drew a few more deep breaths. There was some space left to peer out the side of the box slightly, and Leo checked it every few seconds, bracing for the right moment.

    One telltale rattle of feet tromping down steps later, and Leo caught wind of the captain in the cargo area. “We’ve got a bit of a delay,” He called out to their passenger. “We have some men coming aboard who think we’ve stolen from them-...”

    Oh, they know, alright. But you're not gonna let them get it easy, are you? For both our sakes, I sure hope not.
     
  10. When it came to flying, Laurel was a bit like a child on Christmas morning. She was jittery, anxious even. A manic smile would spread ear-to-ear as they took off. There was that sudden feeling of free-fall and then the exhilaration of climbing altitude rapidly. It was spectacle or verse or some other amazing thing that she—who had never fancied herself a poet—didn’t have the words for. She was secretly afraid that her enthusiasm was more irritating than endearing, so she tended to avoid discussing it too much.


    But as soon as Rick finished with the departure code, Laurel began her own preparations. The systems looked good. Everything was in order. It was instinct by this point—taxi and takeoff—and they reached a comfortable cruising altitude quickly and without much event, save for the speed at which Laurel accelerated. Though it was not enough to make any one aboard uncomfortable, she wasn’t known for her light touch. Many other pilots were quick to use autopilot once they had programmed their destination into the ship’s interface, but Laurel only resorted to it occasionally. The autopilot on The Harlequin was in fine condition, but she had known of too many ships that had crashed as a result of a lazy pilot and a freak autopilot malfunction.


    Laurel looked down at one of the many screens when she heard a faint pinging noise. She immediately recognized it as an alert from one of the ship’s rear sensors. It was a common enough occurrence, though, especially since they were in airspace so close to a Martian port. But then, a second, more urgent ping sounded and she looked down at the radar map, only to see the glowing form of a projectile speeding towards them. “Shit!” she exclaimed, veering starboard with a sudden and unexpected vehemence. There was a slight rumble in the cockpit, and Laurel frantically surveyed the systems to make sure nothing was damaged. Satisfied that everything was in tact, she looked back at the map. To her growing horror, whatever had shot at them seemed to be gaining on them—quickly. The Harlequin wasn’t a fast vessel, and to try to outrun them would be suicide. There was the potential to outmaneuver them, especially since there would be a cluster of space stations between Mars and Earth.


    She turned to suggest this to Rick, but he had an expression on his face that seemed as though he were about to say something, making Laurel stop short. Before either of them could speak however, an incoming message sounded on one of the Network screens. It was from the ship that had just shot at them. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” she whispered incredulously, waiting to see what Rick was going to do. To her surprise, he accepted it and began conversing in a Chinese dialect that made Laurel wish she’d paid more attention to her Chinese classes in grade school.


    “He thinks we have his property, they want to board. I’m going to allow it but just be ready to blast them out of the airlock if it gets too heated.” Rick said. Laurel glanced at him sideways. “This might be a lesson in why we shouldn’t pick up hitchhikers,” she retorted, a bit more snarkily than she had intended. But neither she nor Rick had stolen from this man. So either he was egregiously mistaken, or their new passenger was a thief. She turned to face him, feeling a bit bad about her snippiness, “And…be careful…I don’t want to have your death on my conscience…And I don’t want to have to clean blood off of the ship’s walls.”


    The Harlequin was idling now, and Laurel got up slowly, feeling for her pistol. It was still harnessed at her upper leg, and she had recently put in a new magazine. She had hoped she wouldn’t have to use violence, but it was a very real possibility. Laurel also grabbed her tablet. It was wirelessly connected to several of the ship’s systems’ and was generally their best bet in case of emergency. With swift steps, she followed after Rick and into the cargo bay. She was about to say something to their passenger when heavy pounding came from the ship’s outer door.
     
  11. The doors gave the usual decompressing sound before sliding open. A man was at the door and briefly nodded to her before saying a word. He greeted himself kindly and even extended his hand out for a good shake which she happily gave. It's not often to find someone polite these days and was sort of a lost mannerism. "Nice to meet you Rick, I'm Scarlet." She replied to him and picked up her case before entering. "Yeah I know Venus is a long way, I do hope it isn't any trouble." She said while following him. The two made their way down the cargo bay and through one of the corridor to her quarters. "The sooner we leave the better." She chuckled while she went inside to get settled in. Ciel wanted to leave since Mars never did suit her fancy so going back home was the best idea.

    Soon Rick disappeared down the corridor and up the stairs to the cockpit. She placed her bag and case on the floor before sitting on the bed. It was comfortable enough since security detail didn't require sleep. Boy did she wanted some sleep. Ciel slowly closed her eyes and was started to drift off into a wondrous world of comfort. The feeling of the ship beginning to take off and move forward was like an extra benefit for her sleep. The ship flew smoothly, which meant this owner had to be an amazing engineer. Knowing that she was leaving that planet and on her way home felt too good to be true, well it was.

    The ship shook slightly, almost like a bump which woke up the red head. Ciel wiped the sleep out of her eyes and tried to make sense of it all. The were flying smoothly and now a slight bump. It had to be something else. Ciel opened the door and quietly started walking down the corridor, It as best to keep quiet since anything can happen. By time Rick was asking what they were looking for she was already half way down the corridor. Sadly all she heard was Martian Chinese and she didn't know that dialect. Soon something was explained in English, they were being boarded by a bunch of a guys who believe they stolen them from them. Ciel took a sigh and made her way back to her quarters. Her guns were loaded and her knife was at her thigh, what ever it was they were looking for she didn't have it. She just got off of a job. There was no way in the galaxy was she going to take a new one that required being a thief. Why lure men to her home? It would be incredibly stupid.

    Ciel made her way to the cargo bay except waited a moment. Staying behind a corridor she stayed put. One if someone tipped them off she was to blame there was going to be blood on the ground. Thats if someone said look for a red haired mercenary to get your stolen items back. Who ever gave them that tip will be hunted down and dealt with swiftly. Ciel came out of her thought bubble when the pound on the door was heard. She quietly came from the corner and leaned against the corner. There was no way she stole something and she had absolutely nothing to hide.
     
  12. Rick heard the docking arms lock together between the ships, he waited for a few seconds and the pounding on the bulkhead started. It irked him that these men were acting this way but he knew better than to act hastily, there was no way they could outrun their ship so they would have to play along for now. Checking his revolver quickly he walked to the door, lifting the emergency door control from its dock beside the control panel he tucked it into the back of his belt, if it came to it a press of the button and the door would slam shut and lock tight. Moving to the control panel he pressed the door release and waited in the entrance for it to slide open. Three men in suits stood immediately on the other side, intricate tattoos in the style of Old China were visible at their necks and on their hands. Rick groaned slightly to himself, Triads he thought.


    The Chinese Triads of Mars were a dangerous group if you got mixed up with them, it was mostly Chinese Martians and immigrants of Chinese ancestry that fell prey to their criminal activities but they were equally dangerous to others who stood in their way. Rick had been on a space station when the Triads carried out a hostile takeover of a whole wing of the station from the Russian Mafia that had held it for many years. Several innocents had been caught in the crossfire and Rick himself had taken a wound when a grenade went off nearby. Rick examined the men in front of him, none were the man he had spoken to via the com-link. He smiled politely, “Greetings gentlemen,” He said in his best Martian Chinese, “You’re welcome to search our cargo hold for your lost goods, I can assure you that I haven’t stolen anything that belongs to you.” The men ignored him and pushed past and began looking through boxes that were stacked against one of the walls.


    Rick sighed and watched them, one of the men picked up a box that contained various tools and emptied them onto the floor. “Hey!” he shouted and approached the man, “I said you could search the cargo hold not destroy the place.” The man grabbed Rick’s collar and leaned in close to his face.


    “You are not in control here, when Master Bocheng boards he will deal with you. Until then you will remain silent and let us commence our search.” The man pushed Rick away and turned back to the boxes and resumed emptying their contents on the floor with his colleagues. Rick assessed that this situation was a lot more severe than he had initially anticipated. Glancing at Laurel and then at their passenger Scarlet he glanced at the men and then out of the ship door, down the docking corridor and into their ship. He could see other men in suits walking back and forth there, he counted at least 5 others but he knew there must be more. Master Bocheng must be the man he spoke to initially, he certainly seemed to be in charge and the men who had boarded were likely only foot soldiers.


    Glancing once more at the men as they made a mess of the cargo hold Rick fought a battle in his mind to decide what he should do. Looking again to the ship that was docked to theirs he saw the man he had spoken to appear in the entrance. He was tall and slender, he wore an outfit of deep crimson including a cloak and a wide brimmed black hat in a style that Rick remembered seeing on ancient Chinese wood carvings and paintings that came through his family’s antique shops. One look at the man with his killer’s eyes made Rick decide what to do. Grabbing the emergency door control at his belt he pressed the button and the door slammed shut. By the time the men had turned at the sound Rick’s revolver was already drawn, he shot the man closest to him in the head before turning to the second and firing again, this time he took the man in the chest and although it staggered him no blood appeared so Rick knew that the man wore a bulletproof vest.


    Cursing, Rick ran at the man and jumped into a spinning kick that took the triad full in the face and knocked him to the ground. Rick landed just in time to throw himself behind some crates as the third man who had boarded pulled his gun and fired at him. The man he had kicked had regained his composure and was trying to wrestle his pistol free of its shoulder holster while still lying on the ground where Rick had knocked him. Moving quickly Rick stayed low and moved behind the crates, he made his way to the man and attempted to stamp down on his face but was taken by a leg sweep which knocked him to the floor as well and sent his revolver skidding across the floor. Before he could roll out of the way the man was on top of him trying to get his hands around Rick’s throat. Rick grabbed the man by the arm and tried to swing for his face. The two men grappled on the ground, each trying to get the better of the other while gunshots rang throughout the cargo hold from the other man.


    The triad managed to get his hands around Ricks’ throat and began tightening his grip, Rick kicked his legs and struggled to break loose. He reached around the floor for anything he could use as a weapon, he felt cold metal touch his hand and he brought it up against the side of the man’s head. Rick could see that it was a wrench he had picked up and blood dripped onto his face from the cut it left in the man’s head. The triad still kept tightening his grip so he brought the wrench up again and again until finally the man let go. Rick pushed the man to the side and gasped for air, he forced himself to get to his knees and reached for his pistol. He managed to grab it but the triad kicked him in the chest and knocked him onto his back again before jumping on top of him. Rick looked up at the man’s ruined and bloody face from the damage done by the wrench, he must be using some kind of pain suppressant Rick thought to himself. He grabbed the triad by the hair and smashed the grip of his revolver into the man’s nose and felt the bone give way. This seemed to do the trick as the triads eyes swelled up and he grabbed his face. Taking his opportunity Rick pushed the triad away and shot him twice in the head.


    Leaning against one of the crates Rick held his throat and gulped down air despite the burning pain that it caused him. He raised his head to look for Laurel, “Laurel! Use the side thrusters and burn up their ship before they bring a blowtorch for that door!” He shouted as loud as he could although it came out more of a rasp than a shout. He hoped he could hear him over the din of gunfire.
     
  13. It was a very tense moment as the Triad agents boarded the ship. The pounding sent nervous twitches down his body, which was yet tensing up for the ensuing firefight. Leo didn't quite have a good vantage point where he could scope out how many men came aboard, and he could only hope his appearance would not be vastly outnumbered. He would just have strike fast, strike hard, and hope that everyone else aboard this ship with strike with him.

    Leo could barely stifle a roll of the eyes as the captain tried to open up with polite greetings, only to be shoved aside. Triads were always all business, with their best degree of politeness being not just to kill you outright. To their greatest enemies especially, death was considered a mercy, and it was far more satisfactory to brutally torture such people who deliberately opposed them, for it definitely got the point across better. But orders were orders; Leo was certain they would take back that manuscript any way they could get it, and only concern themselves with how much of Leo was left intact afterwards.

    His heart rate was accelerating again, listening and barely able to watch as the Triad goons ransacked every possible hiding spot, much to Rick's displeasure. That voice of complaint was soon silenced by a gruff, stern threat right on his neck, and the henchmen continued their work uninhibited by the crew. Leo carefully posed himself to burst out; one of the men was coming right this way, it was now or never-!

    Suddenly, the doors slammed shut, likely sealed by some emergency trigger. The Harlequin's crew opened fire, aiming to take down two of the men. The goon just steps away from Leo's position turned and pressed himself against himself against the side of the bay, putting the same stack of crates between himself and his new quarry for cover. The mercenary swore silently. He couldn't even attempt to open fire properly without exposing himself and risking a shot at point blank. As the henchman traded shots with the other crewmembers, Leo racked his mind for a quick solution.

    He decided it was obvious: if he couldn't go for a good shot, go for an improper one and take it from there. Leo quickly raised an arm over the crate and fired a few semi-blind shots at the man's vague direction. As he heard the henchman stumble back with the struggle of gunfire and multiple targets, Leo burst up and pumped a handful of shots into the enemy's midsection. As the man stagger back from the blows, Leo raised his aim to fire a couple more rounds at his head area, succeeding in maiming the henchman's profile and dropping him to the hard floor. The suppressed handguns echoed with ringing pops across the cargo area, a burst of gunfire that would certainly end up giving away his position to everyone else.

    As the three men were inevitably downed, Leo shot a glance toward the side doors. One of Chen Ong's enforcers was undoubtedly aboard that Triad ship right now, and those doors were not going to hold him for long. Pushing back onto the broadside of the crates again, Leo scanned the area for Laurel, the person that Mark ordered to open up the side thrusters, shooting glances back at the doors every second or so with pistols at the ready. Leo could tell this situation was going to get worse in some way before it got better.
     
  14. “What the hell are you doing?!” Laurel demanded as the men began ransacking the cargo hold. However, the men ignored her yelling and continued violently scattering the contents of various boxes. Rick also appeared angry with their actions, and Laurel felt herself recoil in shock when one of the men grabbed him and forcefully pushed him backwards.


    She could feel her heart pounding in her ears. Adrenaline was making her hands shaky, though she furtively reached to clasp the gun at her thigh. Rick seemed to be deliberating about something, and Laurel watched him for clarification. There was a flurry of actions, which Laurel would later review countless times in her recollections, and then a deafening crack of gunfire. The man nearest to Rick collapsed, vermillion pooling around him. A second shot was fire, and a second man reeled backwards. At that point, Laurel decided that there was a fine line between cowardice and self-preservation, and that line was especially blurry when dealing with organized crime. So she, like many of the others, dove behind a large stack of crates, curling up into as tight of a ball as possible.


    From her vantage point, she could see Rick struggle with another man. There was the clank-crunch of metal hitting bone once…twice…thrice…it rang out in macabre fashion in the cargo hold, like the morbid clangor of grisly church bells. Bile rose in the pilot’s throat, as she lost count of the number of times, trying instead to keep herself from retching. All the while, gunfire continued, and Laurel tried to peek around her hiding place to figure out where it was coming from, and to see if she could get a good shot at the third man. She had raised her gun when another round of gunfire erupted, hitting the man in his torso and then face. Her eyes widened, and she looked back at Rick to see if he had somehow managed to fire his weapon in the chaos without her noticing. But he was still struggling with the man he had hit with the wrench. Laurel had lost track of Scarlet in the fight though, and assumed that the mercenary had taken cover herself and was firing in self-defense.


    How was that man still alive? From what Laurel could see, Rick had done a number on his face and he should have suffered enough skull trauma to kill him. But he was only felled for the last time with a gunshot wound to the temple. Again, blood splattered from the exit wound, a substantial portion soaking the crates that Laurel was hiding behind. It was because of this proximity to the action that Laurel was just able to hear Rick’s shouting. She was badly shaking, but managed to boot up her tablet and access the digital control panel for the thrusters. Punching in the code for manual override, she quickly brought the side thrusters to full capacity.


    At that moment, Laurel found herself grateful that she and her father were both jokingly refered to as pyromaniacs by the rest of the Cagney clan. The Harlequin was equipped with unnecessarily powerful thrusters, making this an easier endeavor than she had anticipated. There was a loud, almost explosive sound and Laurel could swear she heard yelling of some kind. She accessed the outer security cameras’ live footage and saw that their efforts had been largely successful. The ship had sustained fairly massive damages, and several soldiers were seen smoldering outside of The Harlequin’s doors. Not wanting to risk any damage to her ship, she hastily took The Harlequin out of idling and accelerated rapidly towards the space stations between Mars and Earth. Her hands were shaking too much to make it as smooth of a ride as she would have liked, but she was trying to put as much distance between them as possible. She was in shock, and slowly stood up to survey the damage that had been done. It was mostly superficial—damaged cargo and some broken crates. But there were bloody bodies littering the metal floor.


    But Laurel was unaccustomed to violence, and had certainly never experienced it in this close of proximity. She was a bit traumatized, and turned to Rick. Although there seemed to be nice mottled bruises forming around his neck, he seemed largely intact. She walked over to him and shakily offered a hand to help him to his feet. All she could manage was a weak “What did I say about having to clean blood off of the ship’s walls?” though she was far too shaken up to find it truly funny.
     
  15. The men were already pounding away at the door; demanding it to be open for their random check. Rick took a panel, what it was it had to have some use. The door soon decompressed and slid open for the men to come through. Ciel had always hated the Chinese Triads, they only brought trouble.

    They dressed sharply and wore suits but their old Chinese tattoos only reminded others the suits meant nothing. The three men pushed past Rick and started their search. Whoever stole from them had signed a death contract. The Martian Triads were a fearsome group, someone you didn’t want your hand in. Lawmen and officers never tried going after the higher ranking members, even when they had evidence against them. They usually just mess with the footmen if they were even willing to do that job. Bounty hunters have done nothing but clean up their mess and some amateurs had been cheated out of their money. One extra reason why being a merc was a little easier. You get called by private companies who are willing to pay more depending on the job. Ciel only stuck to one type and that was delivery. She had to know what it was and where it came from. If they couldn’t tell her without lying the answer was no.

    Tension was already in the air to start with, and those men knew it. Yet they really didn’t give a shit and started to empty boxes. Tossing the contents onto the floor just to find what they were looking for. Ciel wanted to stick a knife in their eyes for doing that but she knew her place. It was best to let them search and simply keep an eye on them. Rick didn’t like the treatment and became furious, grabbing one by the collar. Ciel watched closely, keeping her guard up in case a fight was waiting to lash out. For now things cooled off but the Triads wouldn’t take this lightly. It all depends on their ship master. Each one had a way to deal with people, witnesses and their crew. Either way things didn’t sit well with her.

    A slender man with a crimson cloak had entered. He had on a wide brimmed hat and his eyes gave an icy look. This ship master wasn’t going to let them go. They were witnesses and a liability. Something this master didn’t want nor needed.

    The air was saturated in tension, her chest tense with anticipation. It was now or never and Rick knew that as well. The control he snatched up earlier was used to shut the door and initiate the emergency lock. With that door shut the men turned around and rounds were already firing. Ciel shot the man to the right but his bulletproof vest was taking all the damage. She needed to subdue the men and fast. With a change in target she shot the man in the shoulder, but it had only stunned him for a moment.

    The man must have been using pain suppressants so he could continue fighting. With a few choice words under her breath she happily shot the man in the leg before he could come any closer. That didn’t work all too well as the man had lunged at her, grabbing her gun. He tried to pull it from her but this game of tug and war had to end. She noticed an arm coming over the crate with a gun aiming in her direction. Using the butt of her gun she bashed the man in the face to hide behind the corridor. A bullet whistled past her but the man wasn’t finished with her and grabbed her by the ankle, pulling her down. Ciel’s gun tumbled out of reach and the man began to tower over her. With one swift movement she used her trusted knife and stuck the blade into the throat. The triad fell over as blood poured out of his mouth.

    Looking around everything seemed fine. Laurel seemed fin, a bit shaken up but fine. Rick seemed to be doing better with now that all of this was over. There were nothing left but dead men lying on the ground. They were in deep shit and she knew it. That ship wasn’t going to let them get away with it, but at least she had a moment to breathe. Ciel got up and picked up her gun, and made her way over to Rick and Laurel. “Good to see the both of you are alright… you sure you don’t have someone else on this ship?” She asked and glanced over at the crates. Ciel pulled out her second gun in case she may actually need it.
     
  16. Rick leaned against the crate holding his throat while the side thrusters exploded into action, the force dampeners would have absorbed much of the impact but the ship still shuddered as it wrenched away from the Triad vessel. He felt the hum of the engines as they began moving, likely to put distance between them and their attackers. The gunfire had subsided and there was a moment’s calm before Rick was able to clumsily get to his feet with help from Laurel. Looking down at himself he saw that he was covered in the blood of the man he had fought on the ground. Looking around the cargo bay he coughed slightly, his throat still felt raw from the grip of the Triad.


    The rumble of the ship allowed him to relax slightly but he was still aware that the Triads had the faster ship. Leaning over he looked at the screen Laurel had in her hand. The Triad vessel was badly damaged by their thrusters, he could see that a section of the hull had been melted away and the engines seemed to be firing out of sequence as the ship spun on its axis without moving in any direction. It would stop them for now but Rick knew that the Triads had a number of powerbases throughout the Sol System and without knowing which particular Triad these men belonged to it was difficult to assess where they would be safest but one of the space stations towards Earth would be a decent place to stop off at least to get their bearings and plan a course of action.


    Turning to Laurel he raised his eyebrows and grunted in acknowledgement of her attempt to lighten the mood, it was an intense situation for anybody but he knew that the pilot was not used to combat situations like this. Not many people were, most people had the luxury to avoid this side of life. He felt bad for letting the situation get to such a point but he knew there was no way he could have avoided it. “I’ll try my best to avoid it in future.” He rasped, trying to help her raise the mood. Placing his revolver back into his shoulder holster he picked up a shattered piece of metal that was polished enough to cast a reflection, he examined the bruise that was swelling on his neck. He knew the rawness would give way to an ache that would likely last days.


    Turning to Scarlet as she approached he nodded in reply to her as well. “Glad to see you made it through alright, this journey has been more eventful than I had anticipated.” He leaned against one of the crates that had escaped damage and glanced over to where Ciel was looking. Something came back to him, during the fight when he had been on the ground he had heard suppressed gunfire. Glancing quickly around, he realised that none of the Triads nor Ciel had suppressors on their weaponry. Looking back to the crates where the mercenary was looking he stood. “Is someone there?” He called out towards the crates.
     
  17. Leo didn't have to ponder long on being yet under fire by the Triad. With a heavy lurch, a set of powerful side thrusters were fired, and the Harlequin seemed to violently rip itself free from the clamps of the other ship. The mercenary was sufficiently surprised at this turn of events; he hadn't quite expected a vessel like this to possess such powerful thrusters. Yet, it was definitely enough to pull this ship away, and likely put the Triad vessel into a nasty tailspin for a bit. If they hit full throttle now, they could be well gone before they recovered.

    The aftermath of the carnage was a handful of gory syndicate agent corpses, and three-quarters of a ransacked cargo bay. Tools, supplies and raw materials were all strewn across the floor, damaged, broken or spattered with blood. As bad as this situation started, Leo was sorely glad that this was about as bad as it got, for right now.

    He was very close to emitting a relieved sigh and lowering his guard, when...

    “Is someone there?”

    Oh. Right. The gunshots. And for a moment, Leo thought he was going to get off scot-free. Taking a slow, careful breath, he steeled his nerves once more and stepped out from his position, into clear view over one of the Triad bodies. His pistols were held limp at his sides, still armed but not seeking a target. After a short moment of respite, Leonard looked over to Rick and began speaking; "I apologize, Captain. I believe they were looking for me."

    Leo released that bundled-up sigh, now with a completely different intent. "You could say I've made a very poor decision. The Dragon Head, Chen Ong, stole a priceless document, with the hopes he would find immortality. I was supposed to steal it back." Leo shrugged, holding his arms out straight to either side and dangling his pistols by a finger each. "And, as you can tell, I have... well, mostly succeeded."

    Turning serious again, Leo reaffirmed his grips and stepped forward. "Yes, I know I put you all in danger, but I've made it this far already, so I am not going to hold this up to debate. I need to get to Europe, and if you want to get off the Triad's radar any faster, then I would suggest you take me there, post-haste."
     
  18. Laurel felt her eyes widen as a man stepped out from behind several supply crates. She was surprised that neither she nor Rick had noticed a stowaway before this time, and a thief no less. Although she was not inclined to trust the man, he had helped defend the ship in some small way. But he had put them in a tremendous amount of danger. Traveling with a bounty hunter and a mercenary was dangerous enough, without having the added risk of someone who had stole from a Chinese crime syndicate. With her eyebrows raised incredulously, she stared at Rick for a moment before remarking mildly, “Europe’s lovely this time of year.”


    It wasn’t as though they had much of a choice in the matter, though Laurel did resent this fact more than she was willing to let on. She again stared at the thief coolly and appraisingly. He was well armed, she had to give him that. And they needed all the firepower they could get. Laurel had the sneaking suspicion that even if they refused to help this man, they would be in bad shape against the Triad. She did feel bad for his predicament, though annoyance at the condition of the ship was clouding her judgment somewhat, and making her more cynical than usual.


    She did some quick calculations. Earth wasn’t too far away, perhaps a few days’ journey considering their fuel reserves and supplies. But there was still the matter of their passenger. While she and Rick were both attached to The Harlequin, Scarlet was in a safer position to leave should she choose to do so. Again, Laurel was grateful for her company, especially since the woman seemed to know how to handle firearms. If she was heading back to Venus, however, it would have been out of their way to drop her off first, meaning that going to Earth and to Europe needed to be their first priority.


    “We should have enough fuel and supplies for the journey…even considering this,” she said, gesturing vaguely to the carnage around her. “But what do we do about them?” she motioned again to the corpses littering the floor. “They’re already starting to stink up the place. We’ve got a trash incinerator that should be just big enough…” she trailed off uncomfortably. She was beginning to feel a little lightheaded, and overwhelmed at the task of disposing of bodies and evidence. Cleaning up would take a long time too, not to mention having to replace all the lost supplies. She walked over to the contents of one of the smashed crates. It had contained tools, so most of them were still usable. But a crate of spare glassware had been mostly smashed. There were several crates of freeze-dried food that had been totally destroyed. Of the damaged supplies, this was the most alarming given that it was some of their backup food supply. She squatted down next to the boxes and began to make a list of the damaged goods on her tablet. At the next opportunity, she was going to have to replace what had been lost.


    It was fortunate that the altercation had occurred when it did, she reflected wryly; least they have damaged anything particularly important.
     
  19. Ciel looked around at the ships cargo bay. It was a more than a mess, it was a gore fest. Blood painted the floors and the wall, crates smashed and destroyed in the fight, and now three corpses laid on the ground. This didn't bother her but it seemed to have bothered Laurel. Ciel had been around carnage and seen, also smelled, rotting corpses. It wasn't a pretty sight but since when did any of this became a thing of beauty. If Laurel couldn't dispose of the bodies then Ciel wouldn't mind it at all. But what worried her the most was the mysterious feeling she was getting from behind the crates. Those triads didn't make mistakes nor do they like to. So either some stowed away or placed a tracker on the Harlequin to get the triads off their back.

    Rick called to see if someone was on this ship or not. Ciel didn't imagine the gunfire of a suppressed weapon, she knew she saw it. If she was imagining then she seriously need some sleep. The sound of someone getting up made her hand carefully hover over her other pistol. A man appeared in full view over one of the dead bodies. His guns were limp in his hand and didn't really aim at anyone, but that can change in an instant.

    The Dragon Triad wasn't something to mess with. Being ruthless and merciless wasn't even close enough to describe the group. Crossing them was literally signing your own death contract with small hopes for surviving. Seeing his arms out and guns hang loosely helped eased some tension, this guy needed a ride to Europe and aiming at someone's head wasn't going to work. Especially seeing three dead bodies on the ground. This man brought the wrath of a dangerous triad onto this ship, meaning everyone inside. She couldn't just get off and catch a ride to Venus, she would be putting the shred of family in danger. That wasn't the plan and Ciel knew it.

    Leaving now would only create a large problem for her. Just because she didn't have the document didn't mean anything to the Triads. They kill her and her family. Ciel lost too many siblings and wasn't going to loose anymore so staying with this group was her only option. She wouldn't be able to contact any of her family, but they knew it meant something dangerous could happen. "Since there really isn't any choice in the matter, we'll have to get you to Europe." She said with a sigh. "The incinerator could work, so long as it doesn't create a smell. Burning flesh is an unforgettable smell." Ciel looked at the bodies and noticed the one she killed still had her knife in it. With a good yank she was able to take the blade out. It wasn't going to be incinerated with the rest. "If you want Laurel I can clean the blood. I'm pretty sure the stowaway needs a room, don't need him sleeping behind crates." Ciel said with a smirk.
     
  20. When the man stood up from behind the crates Rick pointed his revolver in his direction. Part of him had not actually expected someone to be behind the crates so he was surprised. His eyes rested on the man’s pistols, both of them supressed, the man had fired on the Triads but that didn’t make him a friend. The man’s easy confidence and relaxed nature put Rick on edge; men who were this calm after a firefight were worth being cautious about. When the man explained his situation Rick groaned, Triads were bad but Dragon Head Chen Ong had become something of a legend in the seedier circles of the Sol System. Many stories were told about him and even if most of them were exaggerated or fabricated he was still a serious danger.


    Rick glanced at the man’s pistols again, “There’s no need for guns now, you’ve dropped us in it too deep for us to refuse you.” He said holstering his own pistol. “You must have been desperate or insane to take a job stealing from the Triads, I hope whoever hired you was paying high otherwise I fear you’ve been ripped off. You should feel fortunate if you manage to get out of it alive.” Running a hand over his neck he could feel the bruises starting to swell. He glanced to Laurel he rolled his eyes to express his exasperation at the mess that had landed on their doors. Sighing he looked back at the man, “Well I suppose we better get moving before the Triads hear about our little escape.” Stepping forward he extended his hand to the man. “The name’s Rick Dravot. You can take the bunk down the corridor and to the left” He motioned towards the corridor that led to the personal quarters. “It’s yours until Europe, after that I don’t want to ever see your face again.”


    Turning to Laurel he glanced at the bodies and the mess around them, “It would be easier, and probably cleaner, to just blast them out of the airlock. We should be far from Mars now that they won’t get caught in orbit, they can just float to one of the debris clouds.” Turning to Ciel he nodded “You clean the blood.” He pointed to their stowaway and motioned to the body at his feet, “You, grab his legs and help me put him in the airlock.” He motioned to the heavy door that had saved them from the Triads. There was a smaller inner door that could serve as an emergency backup should the outer door become damaged. If they put the bodies between the two doors, closed the inner and opened the outer they would send the three bodies out to float with the other space debris that collected in clouds throughout the Sol System.


    Before picking the body up he looked to Laurel, “Chart the course to Europe, don’t use the main spaceway, the Triads will expect that. Take one of the shipping routes, even if it takes longer. I’d rather go a bit hungry than run into an ambush.” Rick gave her a reassuring smile before she left, she was putting on a brave face but he knew that the attack had shaken her. Truth be told he was a bit shaken as well, a firefight he expected was bad enough but he had no inkling that this was waiting for them when they left Mars. Turning to the man, he took the Triad’s corpse under its arms. “Ready?” He asked.