Flying through space can take some time. It’s fast if you’ve got access to interstellar technology, but for most of the smaller ships in the galaxy, they relied on their combustion engines to propel them through space. To conserve fuel, this often meant a slow burn of the engines; which in turn meant for slower travel.
It had taken an entire day for Husk’s cargo shuttle to reach the job site. Nax had spent most of his time plotting schemes of all sorts, none of which came to fruition, and wandering the halls and peering into every open door he could.
He heard a wiring sound and then a screech and then Husk’s ruddy voice blare through the overhead coms system: “Nax, get to the bridge. Nax, bridge. Now.”
Nax wasted no time. When he arrived at the bridge only moments later, he instantly recognized the planet they were approaching the orbit of.
“Froida? We’re in the same system as Tirandi. You know this is a Trennu controlled planet right?” pressed Nax.
“Aye, Nax! But this is where the op is.”
“You know the security will be hot, eh?”
Husk smiled. “Follow me.” He briskly walked out of the bridge and turned right. Husk stopped at a nearby room, one of the many with locked doors Nax hadn’t been able to explore, entered a code into an access panel on the wall and opened the door. “That’s why I brought these!” Husk exclaimed with great joy.
Nax stepped in the room and set his eyes on all sorts of blasters, from handhelds to shoulder-mounted semi cannons. He saw detonators and blast-resistant vests.
“Sweet glory!” Nax showed off his white teeth in a jubilant smile. “Now we’re talking.” He stepped forward to stroke a blaster rifle. “Hold up,” he said as he spun back to Husk with a finger in the air. “Ten extra crew members, highly secured planet, and lots of guns… you’re going to shoot your way in.”
Husk stepped forward with a smile and placed his meaty hand on Nax’s shoulder. “We’re going to shoot our way in. No better way to steal than a good old shoot-up.”
“I’m guessing our portion of the payload will be a lot higher after we’ve pulled this off,” Nax whispered.
“So what’s the op?” Nax asked as they exited the armoury.
“The Trennu have technologies that are highly envied by rival systems. We’ve got an investor looking for the ‘user manual’ —if you will— for their shielding tech.” Husk said.
“The Tennu are literally believed to be gods in this system because of their tech. How do you think we’re going to get past their blockade?” asked Nax, finding holes in every part of the plot.
“Follow me,” Husk said as he continued down the hall. They approached another locked room and Husk opened it like the last one. Inside were the unconscious crew members of the CX Navigator called the Harbinger; the same crew that had been transporting Nax to a planet allocated only for the Tirandian prisoners. “They’ll get us in.”
“That’s why you raided the Harbinger,” Nax said. “You wanted the crew. But Husk, they’re religious fanatics. They’ll die before they betray their gods.”
“Watch and learn, Nax. You’ll see the plan unfold shortly. For now, I need you to round everyone up in the cargo bay. Get them all geared up with everything in the armoury. I’ll meet you there shortly.”
Husk entered the cargo bay strutting. He was proud of the plan he had concocted and looked forward to seeing it come to light. He scanned the large room filled with hauling crates, a few land speeders and his crew. Most of them at least: Nax wasn’t there. The rest of them were armed for battle. Even Pellan the priest had a blast-resistant vest on and held a light-duty rapid-fire blaster.
“He went to fetch Jeath,” stated Jinkin.
Not a moment later, Nax entered the bay, alone. “We’ve got a problem, cap’n,” he said sternly. “Jeath’s dead. Throat slit in his sleep.” Nax wore a tan jacket and blue pants. He had at least three visible blasters strapped to him and a dozen detonators clipped to him in various places.
“We must proceed with the op,” Husk began. “We’ll have to stay sharp, everyone. This was one job I didn’t want to be short a man for.”
“Why’re all of us in the cargo bay?” asked Nax.
Husk smirked. “Follow me.” He led them to a large hatch in a corner of the hanger. With a loud crank, he twisted and slide a bolt aside and opened the hatch.
“A transport shuttle?” asked Nax.
“Aye!” exclaimed Husk. “Now get in sluggers!”
Nax was the first to climb down the ladder that led to the tiny shuttle. After a minute, all ten of the crew were inside. Husk closed the hatch behind him and then pressed a button on a control panel that looked like it had been slapped on with some low-grade solder. Nax heard a buzzing sound and felt a tingling sensation as if he were near a source of electricity.
“Now we wait,” said Husk.
“For what?” asked Nax. The rest of Husk’s crew seemed to silently abide by his directions.
“You’ll see. ‘Till then, keep quiet.”
And thus, the crew stood in the tiny craft in silence for close to an hour. Finally, a roaring sound was heard: the engines. Nax felt a jolt as if someone had revved the engines hard to get somewhere quick.
“Who’s piloting the…” Nax began but then stopped himself. “The crew of the Harbinger.”
“Aye, Nax!” exclaimed Husk with a smile.
“Let me guess,” Nax began, “they just awoke in the bridge, scanned for life signs, saw they were the only ones on board –that was this buzzing is: it’s a heat signature deflector—and then saw they were orbiting Froida. Now they’re probably on their way to the planet and will get by the Trennu security without a hitch. Wherefrom—”
“We can slip in undetected,” Husk said with a proud smirk.
“I’ve got to say, Cap’n! Love it!” Nax shouted loudly, forgetting he was in a tight space. The crew mumbled at him for the outburst. “But how did you know they’d land on Froida, as opposed to venturing back to Tirandi?”
“I sapped the fuel tanks. Keeping the bulk of our fuel in stores so we can get off the planet, but I left only enough for them to land.”
“I could not have thought of such a wondrous plan, cap’n,” Nax said this as he tried to get close enough to smack the captain’s shoulder but he couldn’t seem to step another inch.
“The Trennu will likely see past this guise,” Pellan protested.
“Well if they do, even I’ll admit they’re gods,” Husk said with a hostile tone.
The crew went on silently for another hour or so. At that time, they felt the turbulence of entering the atmosphere and the clunk of landing.
“Alright, now comes the tricky part,” Nax said, rubbing his hands together.
Husk and the crew looked at him with raised brows.
“We’ve got to get off the ship now!” Nax exclaimed with a shrug of his shoulders and a slight panic in his voice.
Husk gave a familiar smirk and pulled out a digital tablet. He tapped a few numbers on the screen and then showed Nax what was displayed. To Nax’s surprise, it was an aerial view of the exterior of the ship.
“That is why I invested in a surveillance probe,” Husk said.
Sure enough, the ship was not surrounded by the Trennu military. Only one medical shuttle and one security shuttle sat outside the lowered ramp that led to the ship’s cargo bay. The crew of the Harbinger were being examined and one-by-one escorted to the medical shuttle. After fifteen minutes, the crew was gone and the shuttle lifted off the ground. From there small team of four from the security detail entered the ship.
“Let’s get out of here,” Husk said as he powered their small transport shuttle’s engines. A small bay door opened beneath them and the little ship was lowered so it hovered just above the ground. From there, Husk quickly flew away from his grounded cargo shuttle into the air. He merged into a stream of shuttles that were using a marked airway. After a few seconds of flying alongside the other ships, the crew seemed to relax.
“Well that’s that,” said Nax with a relieved grin.
When the crew of the nameless class eight cargo shuttle, captained by Husk, arrived at the “job site” as he had referred to it as they parked their ship on top of a high rising building. It was a cylindrical building that rose dozens of stories. Most of the buildings in the system of three planets protected by the Trennu species, were small and unglamorous, save for the temples of worship. This building was an archives building where apprentice technicians went to study the industrial background of the Trennu’s architecture and technology.
“Our payload is waiting for us in the server room, below ground level,” Husk began. “Ganto and I will take the shuttle to the ground and park not far off from the building entrance. Jinkin, you and the rest of the crew will attack the top floor, make a lot of noise so you can draw the building’s security upward. Once the main floor is clear of any guards, Ganto and I will enter the building, get to the server room, get the payload and get back to the ship. We’ll pick the lot of you up afterwards.”
The icy-skinned, blue-tentacle haired being that had been watching Pellan and the silent woman, named Ganto, grunted in agreeance to Husk’s plan.
“So,” Nax began, “you’ll have us shoot up the—”
“You heard the plan, Nax. Shoot up the place and we’ll pick you up when we’re done.”
Jinkin opened the hatch on the ceiling of the little ship and climbed up the ladder. When he reached the top, he climbed down another ladder that was on an exterior wall of the shuttle. The rest of the crew did the same.
On his way out, Nax said, “Could you have bought a smaller transport shuttle, Husk?”
Husk didn’t respond which made Nax feel uneasy. He jumped off the last rung of the ladder and watched Husk and Ganto fly away. He couldn’t help but feel he was getting swindled through all of this. Nonetheless, he primed his blaster and unclipped a detonator.
“Shall we light this place up?” he said with a wide grin.
Pellan looked at him nervously, the silent woman was just looking at something far off and the rest of the crew frowned at him.
“Alright then,” he said as he pushed a button on the detonator and tossed it at an exhaust vent. Jinkin looked at him with shock. And then the blast went off. It was loud and heavy and blew a nice sized hole in the ceiling. The debris cleared and Nax could see Jinkin’s scowling face.
“We could’ve used the door!” he shouted as he pointed to a door that likely led to a stairway. Just then, an alarm began to ring from inside the building.
“Oops,” Nax said as he ran and jumped into the hole he had created. He landed on the ground, only seven feet below and began firing away. Not particularly at anyone or anything, he had just gotten caught up in the moment. After spending a third of his blast reserve, he looked around and saw that the floor was void of beings; there was just a bunch of unused boardroom tables.
Jinkin ran to the door that he had suggested they take, opened it and made his way in. Blaster fire was heard only moments later. Although the religion that the Trennu instated over the system forbids killing, Froida was one of the planets that hired mercenaries and corporate militant groups to safeguard their valuable buildings; mercenaries and militant groups that were not afraid to shed blood. And thus, the firefight began.
Jinkin and the four other original members of Husk’s crew took turns, peering over the railing in the stairwell: the security guards were firing from below as they made their way up. It was loud and bright as the ground and ceiling sent out sparks and smoke as the blaster fire was exchanged. Nax flipped over a table and used it as a barricade. Pellan and the silent woman joined him. After a few minutes, the security had climbed to the top of the stairs and killed two of Husk’s original crew. Jinkin and the remaining two fled into the room and took cover behind another table.
Nax primed a detonator and threw it at the stairwell opening. The blast made the doorway larger and sent a few security guards tumbling backward. Moments later, the room was lit up with blaster fire. Red beams of pure heat and energy streamed across the room and made holes in the walls, breaking many windows. Nax and the others would peer over the table when a clear moment came and return fire, but they were pinned.
After another minute or so, Nax heard a voice come through on his communication device. “Nax!” Husk’s voice broke through the violent noise.
“Nax, I need you to come pick me up!” Husk shouted through the com, his voice breaking in and out. “I went back to the ship… to get the security shuttle… the payload was bigger than we thought.”
Nax began to crawl deeper into the room.
“Nax!” called Pellan. He stood up to follow Nax, forgetting the intense blaster fire that soared by. The silent woman noticed his error immediately and stood up directly behind him. In less than a moment, she was struck in the back three times in her back. She toppled onto Pellan and the pair hit the ground with a thud. Pellan whimpered as he realized the silent woman was dead.
Nax continued to crawl and hid behind another table, further from the shooting.
“Nax,” Husk’s voice came again, “the shuttle is on autopilot… it’s leading me to the security headquarters! I need you to come and get me! It’s the large gray building to the west, you can’t miss it!”
“But cap’n, the crew!” He looked back at Pellan who was sliding out from underneath the silent woman’s corpse.
“We’ll come back for the crew, Ganto is inside right now getting the intel. Use the transport shuttle to pick me up, it’s on the ground; you’ll have to repel down the building.”
“Husk…” Nax began to protest.
“Yes, captain!” Nax crawled to the nearest shattered window. He attached a cable that was on the inside of his blast-resistant vest to the metal frame of the window. He had to wrap the cable around the beam and attach the clip to the cable. He breathed in deeply and then quickly stood and leapt out the window. He descended for a few feet before swinging toward the building. From there he was able to slowly allow the cable to extend, as he lowered himself down the side of the building. He had to drop ten feet to reach the ground. He could feel his ankle sprain as he landed. He quickly hobbled over to the transport shuttle and climbed in. From there, he lifted off and headed for the large gray building in the west.
Captain Husk, a true swindler and space pirate, walked out of the archive building he had entered with the stolen intel in hand. He had removed one of the memory hard drives that had a backup of all the Trennu’s shield tech specs. Everyone on the main floor had fled into secure rooms when the shooting on the top floor had begun. Ganto pulled up with the security shuttle that had parked itself outside of Husk’s ship. The security shuttle was much better equipped for usage than the small shuttle they had come in: the one Nax had just flown off with; the same one the authorities had seen leaving the location of the attack on the archive building, and now pursued. With the Froida’s security chasing Nax, away from him, his crew, and his ship, Husk jumped into the open door on the side of the hijacked shuttle. Ganto flew upward and hovered outside of one of the top floor windows.
“Jinkin!” Husk yelled over the blaster fire.
Jinkin turned his head, saw the craft and smirked, recognizing it wasn’t the one they came in. He primed two detonators and threw them at the men at the top of the stairwell. The momentary distraction of the blast allowed him, Pellan, and the two crew members to jump into the ship. With everyone on board, except Nax and those who had been shot down, Ganto soared off toward their ship.
“Looks like the plan came together well, captain,” Jinkin said.
“Aye, it did!”
“Where’s Nax?” asked Pellan.
“Looks like he didn’t make it,” Husk said with an unconvincing frown.
Not a moment later, Nax’s voice blared over Husk’s communication device.
“Husk, you no good, slimy, scheming, piece of jaundi-rat waste-”
Husk turned off his com and cleared his throat. “Must’ve gotten someone else’s transmission,” he said as he kept his eyes forward.
They approached Husk’s ship and flew into the cargo bay. The ramp was still lowered as the inspection team was still inside. Husk and his crew stepped foot on their ship, blasters raised. They were right to assume the security team was on the bridge running diagnostics. Husk made sure he did the firing as he didn’t want to risk a hired gun blasting a control panel on his precious cargo shuttle. Four shots, four dead. Husk looked at Pellan.
“Put the bodies in the airlock, we’ll space ‘em when we’ve gotten off this planet.”
Pellan, who hadn’t fired his blaster for the entire ordeal, wore a face of dismay. In his old religion, touching a corpse would have defiled him and prohibited him from his duties in the temple. He had already touched the silent woman’s body, which he hadn’t emotionally recovered from, and now would have to drag four bodies across the ship to an airlock. For all he knew, and after what Husk did to Nax, he could get spaced too! He decided to obey the captain’s orders.
“And I guess we should discard Jeath’s body too then, heh?” Husk said, remembering Nax’s discovery before they had left. “This job’s cost us a lot. Suppose none o’ you slit the man’s throat?” he asked as he looked around at his crew. They all shook their heads with faces that showed they just wanted to get paid and go home.
“Well then,” Husk continued, “Pellan, you’ll space the body. I’ll set a course for Teron-VI. Our buyer’s waiting for us there.”
The trading port on Teron-VI is an interesting place. Some would find it vile and liken it to a junkyard, filled with all sorts of bad folk. Others, like Husk, would call it a home away from home. Teron-VI is one of the nine moons that orbit a gas giant called Verox. Teron-VI is small and completely industrialized with every square mile of its surface covered in cityscapes and starship platforms. Its orbit of Verox, and relative to the other eight moons, caused the sun to only shine on Teron-VI once per yearly cycle. This made for the moon to be entirely lit by the spaceport’s lights.
Rain was falling when Husk’s shuttle landed. It had taken him and his crew almost an entire week of space travel to get there. Husk, Jinkin, Pellan, and the two other crew members who survived the heist, walked down from their ship’s ramp and into a small building attached to the platform. Husk scanned a card on a screen attached to the wall. The screen beeped and then flashed green. From there, they took an elevator down several stories to a roadway that led to the moon’s central city. It was there that Husk planned on meeting the one who had hired him.
Teron-VI was one of the many places in the galaxy a mercenary or captain of a ship could go to find work. Investors, buyers, or clients would travel to these places and by word of mouth, the information would spread about the job they were looking to hire for. It was a good system for someone who was avoiding their planet’s authorities or was in deep debt with corporate factions. It was also common to run into old friends and foe at these stations. The unwritten code was that no one would bring their conflict to the trading posts. No one was interested in firefights when looking for work.
Husk ran into someone he had not expected. As he and his crew were approaching the closest cantina, to indulge in delicious food and expensive drinks, a medium built young man approached him wearing a wide smile.
“Cap’n Husk!” Nax yelled with glee.