Barking Dogs Seldom Bite

You are reading: The Final Bounty

Written by Antagony on 03 Jul 2017 05:36.

Kalimantan stood in the airlock, before the doors of the cargo hold opening. They hissed, as the vacuum seal came undone.
The capacity of the hold was so vast it could keep two small shuttle craft— in fact it did, and they were stowed and covered— and potentially two more on the floor, and half a dozen hovering above the others. The walls and ceiling were plain, riveted metal. The floor was grated. And in the centre of the floor were three or four dozen yellow crates full of supplies.
Varuni’s metal beak hinged slowly wide, before it willingly swallowed a poisonous insect. The largest members of Jādhōē’s retinue crawled up the ramp with him before also standing upright on his flanks. All of them about half Kalimantan’s size. Though they looked rougher and their chieftain soigné, they could have been related.
“Makassar!” said the gang leader with his fore- and mid- legs outstretched, “You knew I couldn’t just let you all leave without saying goodbye.”
Jādhōē, like all ‘Citizens’ of Qādisiyyah, was a foreigner. And he was entitled and ambitious. So through his words and his strength, carved out a piece of the city for himself, putting the suzerain among the wealthiest creatures in the galaxy.
So reviled a being was he, his own men despised him. Considering he was the most powerful lord in Qādisiyyah, it was no wonder that the other suzerains wanted him dead. Any of them would pay a considerable sum to whoever killed Jādhōē and laid his severed head at their feet.
A head with a hard shell, but flaky, wrinkled damask skin. Scant hairs protruding. His monliform antennae twitched in every direction, and maxillae dangled from his chin. While his mandibles unconsciously flexed, in a calm but constant motion like there were springs in his pincers. And his two black compound eyes seemed lifeless and uncaring, and made it difficult to figure out where exactly he was looking.
Without a joint between them, his head rested atop a pronounced thorax. He was wrapped in a weave so fine it would both stop blades and low calibre projectiles, and make kings envious of him, as the patterns in the fabric formed spirals quite archimedean.
“Jādhōē,” replied Kalimantan, “why are you really here.”
“How to the point, Kalimantan. Very unlike you,” the boss japed.
“If you want more money—”
“No no no, I don’t want any money. I wouldn’t trouble myself over something trivial like that. Certainly not personally in any case. Honestly, do I look like the sort of person who chases down every being who shortchanges me?”
Jādhōē sauntered further inside, with his bodyguards close. And slowly he circled, much to Kalimantan’s chagrin. Kalimantan rolled his eyes, but didn’t track him, or even turn to remain tête-à-tête.
“No, I’m here for something else.”
“And what is that?”
“Well, upon your arrival in Qādisiyyah, my men scanned Varuni, and it detected not the usual eight, but nine life signs aboard. Far be it from me to tell you the rules of ships in port; you and the rest of your crew wouldn’t need reminding, but incoming ships must register all cargo and crew.”
“What is your point?”
“You only reported cargo,” answered Jādhōē, “and eight crew.”
Kalimantan didn’t flinch, “A mistake I’m sure. We’ll be more careful next time.”
“You’re lying, Kalimantan.” Jādhōē stopped back on his original mark to face the Samarind. “I know what you’re carrying.”
“Who then?”
Then the suzerain’s mandibles clicked together twice, before he made a bizarre a croaking sound. Obviously he was excited about what he expected would happen next.
“Word travels fast. Apparently the Makassar have in their possession a certain ousted ruler. With a bounty of half a million units on his head. What’s the matter? Having trouble delivering him?”
“So this is regarding money after all,” scoffed Kalimantan.
“Perhaps in a sense. But I’m not talking about collecting what is owed to me. This is… daylight robbery.”
“We’re not about to turn our bounty over to you, you bastard.”
“If you want to keep your ship and your lives, you will,” threatened Jādhōē. And he flashed what looked to be some kind of silver fob in his grasp. Kalimantan wondered if it was some sort of detonator.
As if on cue, Jādhōē’s guards un-holstered their pistols and aimed them directly at Kalimantan’s scarred face. The success of diplomacy was fading fast, and the chances of Kalimantan dying greatly increased as their plasma blasters at that range would take off more than the first officer’s head. Seconds later, Sarawak and Tarakan came out of the shadows on the catwalk behind and above negotiator Kalimantan. Their own weapons were drawn.
Wielded with two hands, a Samarind’s main weapon was a scattergun. With a sharp, aerodynamic design, and hoary-grey body, it was a hulking though short-barrelled blunderbus of high calibre. Although the range wasn’t great and the sights were poor, each shot had a wide scope and delivered a powerful sonic pulse capable of knocking one not just off their feet, but also of crushing their internal organs. Suffice to say however, it did not make Kalimantan feel very safe being squarely in the blast radius.
“Ah, your crew,” said Jādhōē, “how tenacious.”
“Tell your men to stand down, Bahman Jādhōē. If they don’t, you will be fired upon.”
Jādhōē croaked again. Only more loudly this time. “Try it. Kill me if you want but you won’t get very far.”
“Do you think I’m bluffing!?”
“I know it.”
Without much thinking, and without even pausing between warning and dare, Kalimantan yelled to his comrades “FIRE!”
Expeditiously, Kalimantan dove out of direct line of fire, but the sonic pulses moved more quickly than he anticipated they would, and naturally, he was struck.
Like he had been caught in a hurricane, Kalimantan was blown down the ramp and out of the ship despite his best effort, and so too were Jādhōē and his goons. One could hear the insects’ exoskeletons crack as if they had been hit by something far more solid.

***

Sarawak immediately gave orders to his men over their comms, “Gentlemen, battle stations! Rusukan, open fire! Maida, get us out of here now!”
“But, sir, what about the engine!?” Maida bellowed so emphatically he could be heard from the bridge without the use of a radio. Suddenly they heard the thunder of the rear cannon swivel to the sides and begin blasting the hell out of the hangar. The captain struggled to shout over the sound of it. “Wing engines, Maida! Use the wing engines!”
“What about Kalimantan?” asked Tarakan coming alongside Sarawak.
“Don’t worry about him, he has a plan!”

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