Carrion, the Ghost

You are reading: The Final Bounty

Written by Eilidhan on 15 Jun 2017 23:46.

Through the velvety black of space crept a barely distinguishable chunk of metal and war-grade plexiglass. It was, of course, a ship.
The SS Fantôme was an unremarkable vessel by design, and it was as suited to sitting disregarded in the corner of a dock as it was to blending smoothly into the background of that vast emptiness. It wasn’t fast, and it wasn’t too strong, to say nothing of the lack of heavy weaponry, but that wasn’t important. It was very good at hiding.
Inside the Fantôme were its entire crew: Andrew, the pilot, a tall, reedy young man with hair like a haystack and a disregard for his own safety that would put a suicide bomber to shame; Kazuya, the mechanic, who hadn’t walked on solid ground in nearly a year and refused to go anywhere near the cargo bay; and then there was Caroline Hague, a veteran scavenger who could go from charming to blackmailing in the blink of an eye. She made sure they got paid. They had no captain.
After triple checking that there wasn’t even the faintest hint of pursuers on any of the scanners, Andrew turned on the proximity warning system and leant back in his chair, letting out a long sigh. It had not been an easy escape from their last job, and he’d been on edge getting the ship off the grid as quickly as possible and keeping it there for two hours solid.
Kazuya poked her head into the cramped control room.
“We done?” she asked.
“Yeah. Go tell Carrion,” he said, his use of scavenger Caroline’s nickname a final indication that he had properly calmed down and the danger really was gone.
Kazuya nodded, and tramped down the narrow corridor to the row of sleeping capsules. They were all closed, but light shone faintly through the door of the furthest one. The mechanic knocked on this one.
“Mm?” came the reply from within.
“We’re clear.”
“Mm.”
The door slid open, and Carrion’s green eyes seemed to glow in contrast to her dark skin and the bare metal that made up the lower half of her face. It wasn’t so much ugly as offputting.
“Good,” she said, silver tongue glinting.
Kazuya hesitated, and added: “We need to replace the heat sink. The engine and life support are both dumping to the same one, and if it blows, we’re as good as pressure-cooked.”
Carrion smiled (a disturbing affair) and said: “Once we’ve been paid for this, you can get a whole new engine if you like.” She waved the the small cylinder of metal and circuitry in her hand.
“We only need the heat sink,” replied Kazuya, and left. Carrion sighed. The mechanic still didn’t really get humour after all this time. And that wasn’t even really humour.
She sat up and weighed the object in her hand. It looked insubstantial, but had quite some heft to it. She considered that the data-stick itself wasn’t actually worth that much – blank ones with this much capacity went on the market for a mere ten or twenty thousand units, at most.
No, the thing that mattered was what it contained, and in this particular case that was documents, logs, personnel files and recordings worth a large fortune to the official who’d stooped to talk with criminals to get this, and worth infinitely more to its proper owner.
It was, in a word, evidence. Of what crime?
Carrion didn’t care. Someone was paying good money to have it stolen, and she had stolen it. She only knew that she wouldn’t be arrested for paving the way for justice of this calibre. Only a pawn in the game, only a messenger. An extra in the play, who is forgotten as soon as they leave the stage. Exactly as she liked it to be.
The comms link on her wall crackled and lit up, and Andrew's voice shambled through it.
“Carrion, we’ve got a live one on camera. Need you-“
She didn’t even wait to hear the end of his sentence. Stuffing the data-stick deep into a secure inside pocket, she jumped out of the capsule and ran to the cockpit and communications room combined.
Andrew was sitting in front of a medium sized screen on the left hand side, casting nervous glances back into the corridor. He saw the scavenger and shifted to the side.
“I thought you checked we weren’t being followed?” she snapped at him, not unkindly.
“We’re not. There’s nothing on any of the scanners. This is some serious deep broadcasting kit they’ve got.”
Carrion looked at the screen. A middle aged woman of no notable ethnicity, wearing a deep blue business suit and an expression that betrayed nothing, was displayed on it. She was waiting patiently, and were it not for the movement of her breathing, Carrion might have thought she was dead, or that the picture had frozen.
Then the scavenger nearly had a heart attack as she recognised this woman from the security team in the place they’d stolen the data-stick from.
It seemed like Andrew had come to the same conclusion. He was waiting for Carrion to make the decision about what to do, as the older woman had the better experience.
She thought for a moment. If they could broadcast a communication, they could just as easily locate the ship. Then it was only a matter of sending a missile or two to their coordinates, wiping out the crew and destroying the evidence.
If they hadn’t done that already… perhaps they didn’t know who they were talking to.
Carrion smiled, and ripped the electrical tape off the camera lens.
“Greetings, Caroline Hague,” said the smart woman, still barely moving.
“And you are?” replied the iron-jawed scavenger.
“Unimportant. Let me be brief. My employers have a certain… delicate item they want retrieving, and I have been lead to believe that you are to be relied upon for such things.”
“Maybe. For a price.”
“Money is no issue. Three million will be your pay.”
Carrion couldn’t hide her shock at the figure, but she tried to regain her composure.
“What and where?”
“Well… I said it was delicate. I can’t discuss it over comms like this. Too much chance of interception. I’m sending you the coordinates for a rendezvous. I, or another representative of my employers, will meet you there. Then you’ll receive the details. Do we have a deal?”
Carrion could barely believe it. The people she’d just stolen from, who two hours since had been happy to even mow down their own men to try and put her in an early grave to retrieve this data-stick, they didn’t recognise her, and not only that – they wanted to pay her!
Oh, it was too good to be true!
“We have a deal,” she replied, keeping a level tone but grinning inside. The console beeped and a location flashed up on the navigation screens.
The be-suited woman nodded, and vanished.

Next Chapter: Stranded by a Lover by Dethnus

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