A woman dancing around a pole in the center of the room was the first thing Talia saw. With senses on high alert, she scanned each smuggler while making her way across the room. This was no place for her to let her guard down in especially with a bounty on her head large enough to make anyone want to collect.
Not that it really mattered because few, if any, truly knew who they were dealing with. While Almir had proven herself to be very dangerous, the kid had nothing on Talia and it wouldn’t be good for the long-term health of any bounty hunter. While any Gahl soldier could wipe the floor with the entire lot, she and her sisters were as superior to normal soldiers as gold was to silver.
Another thing that placed the humans at a disadvantage was the sheer number of shady bars and clubs she’d been in over the course of her long life. The establishments changed, as did the species, but the behavior patterns didn’t change any while she’d slept. In fact Reyes contact was in the corner, with his back against the wall, where he could see everything and everyone.
Exactly where I expected him to be, she thought.
Humans it seemed were fixated with her silver hair, which amused Talia on one hand and annoyed her on the other. It never ceased to amaze how men would stop whatever they were doing to watch an attractive woman pass by. In many ways it seemed to Talia that as a gender, males seemed to think more with the penis than with their brains.
Which has always made them easy to manipulate, she thought with a smile.
Sometimes she wondered if men were actually attracted to her as a woman or were they drawn instinctively to her dangerousness. In the past, Talia could tell what Gahl men were thinking, but the humans were a different group all together, leaving her grasping at straws.
Reyes’ contact was a middle aged man with a round face that failed to hide a double chin and his long, dark beard reminded her of a band called ZZ-top. While he fit every description given to her, Talia took her time approaching the table. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end as while subtly scanning the room for tails. If anyone had followed her, they had to be good to get past her experienced eye.
He used a foot to push a chair out from under the table. “Take a seat.”
The seat’s warm, she thought, someone was just here.
Senses went onto high alert as she dropped a hand to her lap before scanning the room again. If someone wanted to try to make a move to collect the bounty, this would be the time.
For several minutes he looked her over, a slow leering action that made Talia think she was an expensive gift being checked out before purchase. Once again she couldn’t help but wonder if it was her dangerousness that drew the smuggler to her like a moth to a flame. It didn’t matter one way of the other though because she’d come for information, not to be picked up.
“Are you going to talk or look me up all night?”
“Sorry, Afton Trigger,” he extended a hand and she took it in his. His grip was crisp and firm. “I’ve never seen a hair color like that. It’s…just sexy for a lack of a better word.”
“I’ve heard that line before.”
“Just makes you hot as hell.”
“Yes, well, I get that a lot too.”
“I can see why.”
“Trigger, I didn’t come here for you to tell me how sexy I am. Already know that. I want to know if you’ve seen any strange ships in this or the Falmouth sector.”
“Depends on what you mean by ‘strange.’”
She leaned forwards. “I’m talking about gray three fingered ships.”
“Several of us seen them. We never gets close after Trinidad.”
“What happened there?”
“Two ships disappeared along with the entire colony.”
“When did this happen?”
“They show up quite nicely on your sensors so you know when one’s around.”
“Yeah, and their power levels are through the roof. Once they jump to h-space their gone, ain’t no use trying to follow them.”
The gearheads like to operate in the dark until ready to strike, she thought. So why be seen now?
“And you’re sure about that?”
“Do I look like I’m lying?”
“What are they, Almir?”
Alarms went off inside her head. “I don’t know yet.”
Movement in the corner of her eye alerted her. Four men at a table a few feet away were watching her while fidgeting as if their seat were on fire.
“Trigger,” her tone was casual, almost disinterested. “I’d tell the boys to back down before someone gets hurt.”
“What boys? It’s just you and I, babe.”
“I’m talking about the four sides of beef over there. And don’t call me ‘babe.’”
“Little lady, you know I can’t do that. You’re worth too much.”
“You want to collect the bounty, eh?”
“Not only sexy, but perceptive too,” he smiled, “I like that in a woman.”
“I prefer my men less sleazy.”
“Did you know the price on your head is eight million credits? They want you dead or alive, with a heavy preference on ‘dead.’”
The entire situation was going from bad to worse and there wasn’t a thing Talia could do to make it better. Some people were either too greedy or just plain stupid to realize they were making a mistake, which saddened her. While she was a warrior and taking life was a fact of life for her, Talia hated having to kill people when it could’ve been prevented.
Sometimes, she thought, I think there are people who just go through life begging to be killed.
Her hand snapped up, the lightning fast move taking the men by surprise, and the pistol came into view. In a small confined space like the bar, each shot sounded like a cannon firing as people dove for the floor and then covered their ears with their hands.
The woman screamed as two bullets struck the first man in the chest, the impact sending him flying backwards to land on the floor. A bullet whizzed past, the ripping cloth sound telling her it was close, before she put a round into the overweight man who’d fired at her.
Common sense overtook greed and the remaining two men raced towards the door. Talia tracked them and a vulpine smile tugged her lips upwards.
Do they actually think I’ll let them live? She thought.
The pistol roared again and the bullets struck the closest man in the back, sending him to the floor. A kid, no more than eighteen stumbled over a person lying on the floor and then fell. His weapon slid across the room and then under a table in the far corner.
Her footsteps were the only sound in the now silent room as she approached the bounty hunter. The kid frantically crawled on hands and knees towards the door, sobbing the entire time. No one thought of moving, lest they too draw the wrath of the murderous woman in their midst.
Talia pressed a foot against the kid’s calf, bringing him to a sudden stop. It would be easy to put a bullet into the boy’s head and be done with it, but why sink to their level? The old adage you got more flies with honey then vinegar seemed a logical course of action.
She whipped around and pointed. “Don’t move, Trigger! I’m not through with you!” She looked down at the kid. “So? You thought it’d be easy to collect this bounty, eh?”
“What’s wrong? Wet your pants? Bounty Hunting’s dangerous, anyone tell you that? Kid, I’d be well within my rights to kill you. But, I’ve decided to let you live.”
“Oh, thank you!”
“Hmm…I don’t think you’re going to be thanking me after you tell your boss how a single woman killed your entire team in less than ten seconds. I get the feeling it isn’t going to look good. The boss might kick you out of the gang, but that’ll be a good thing.” She knelt down and whispered into his ear. “Because if you come after me again I’ll kill you, capisce?”
“Now, go on! Vamoose!”
Over the years Talia couldn’t help but be amazed at the actions of criminals. How many times did the men and women think they were tough when it appeared they held all the cards? And it appeared, she mused, the human thieves had the same thought patterns as the others she’d encountered during her travels.
I’d really like to know what our people were thinking when they seeded this bunch, she thought. Because they certainly didn’t seem to take on any of our positive traits!
“Get up, Trigger. We’re going for a little stroll.”
One thing Talia always liked about small bars and clubs was the fact that one was never far from the entrance to the kitchen. And since the back door would be nearby also, it created a perfect avenue to both escape and further question Trigger in privacy.
“Don’t mind me,” she said to the cooks as she frog walked Trigger towards the back door. “Just passing through.”
“Don’t waste me, Almir!” Trigger said. “I’ll tell you anything you want to know!”
“Waste you? Why would I place you in a reclamation unit? It’d make more sense just to shoot you. And my name’s Talia De’Zahna.”
She threw him to the pavement. “Now I’m going to give you three seconds to answer me.”
“I’ve told you everything I know! Honest!”
“That’s hard to believe after this little stunt. Four bounty hunters? Really? If it wasn’t so pathetic, I’d be insulted.”
“I needed the money!”
“I’ve seen your type come and go. And you know why I’m still standing? Because I’m too smart for people like you!” The cold, hard steel of a gun barrel pressed against the back of her head. “Oh great…”
“Drop the piece, Almir,” a woman whispered in Talia’s ear.
“Well played, Trigger. Impressive actually. Have to admit I didn’t see this one coming.”
“It wasn’t his play,” the woman said.
“Well then, I guess you fancy yourself the brains of the operation.”
“You could say that. What you did to my boys wasn’t very nice.”
“I’m impressed,” Talia said, “you’re good.”
“And you, Little Miss Perfect, are stupid,” Methos said. “Now drop the gun, lady.”
“Chambers,” the woman said. “I should’ve known.”
“Critical mistake on your part,” Methos agreed. “However, did you think I’d let you kill my less than brilliant sister?”
“Hey!” Talia said. “Watch it!”
“I have men looking for you, Chambers.” The woman said.
“You mean those three rank amateurs? They’re going to be permanently late to the party. You know, you should’ve sent more than that! I barely broke a sweat!”
“What are you doing here, Methos?” Talia asked.
“Once again saving you ass,” Methos said, “When are you going to use those fucking brains of yours?”
“I did use it!”
“Then why are you sitting here with a gun to your head?”
“Temporary setback my ass,” Methos said. “You’d gotten yourself into jam. How many times have I got to tell you that your ‘can’t miss plans’ fail?”
“Is this the time?”
“As good as any.”
The woman cleared her throat. “If you two haven’t noticed, I can still kill her.”
“And then you’d be gone less than a second later,” Methos countered. “So drop the gun or die, your choice.”
“Two things,” Methos said sweetly. “First off, tell your boss he or she needs to stop. It’ll do nothing but get more people killed, understand?”
“Second, and this is the most important, you’re going to take a nap.”
Methos knocked her out. “Sleep tight. What about him?”
Talia picked her pistol up. “Leave him. I doubt his employers will like this failure.”
“You know something,” Methos said. “I think that’s a great idea.”
“I am a genius you know.”
“If you are, then why do I have to bail you out always?”
“It isn’t all the time.”
“Oh, only ninety percent of the time.”
“Well, Trigger,” Methos said. “This is where we leave you. Been nice knowing you.”
“Don’t! I can help you!”
“Sorry, Trigger,” Talia said. “You double-crossed me twice. Now you can explain to your bosses how I got away. Goodbye!”