The smugglers entered the room, shutting the doors behind them, and then sat down across from the Mector. Talia looked the woman over with a wary eye. From the top of the woman’s head down to the tips of her toes, the smuggler screamed ‘soldier,’ which made the warrior sigh softly. While the man definitely was a civilian, she thought because no military in their right mind would allow someone to grow a beer belly.
How a civilian and a soldier managed to team up to trade slaves beat the heck out of her, because the cultures were so different. However, in this case if seemed to work and Talia wondered if the woman provided the muscle for the operation. The pistol, a .45 from the looks of it, definitely wasn’t a Fleet or Marine issue sidearm. If she had to take bets, the man would be the captain and the woman his first mate or security officer.
She’s definitely a competent one for sure.
Kleno looked up from his food. “I understand the transfer is underway?”
The Captain checked his watch. “It should be finished within two hours.”
“Did you achieve the requirements we needed?”
“Seventy percent male,” The Captain said. “Just as you requested.”
The giant crab leaned back. “My superior will be happy to know that. Another contractor’s due in anytime and didn’t get the proper mix.”
The Captain shrugged. “I’m a businessman, and that means catering to the customer.”
Talia pulled the Glock out of a cloak pocket and set it in her lap.
Kleno slid a portable computer across the table. “This amount has been deposited into your anonymous account.”
The Captain looked at it, scowled, and then let the woman see it.
“This is only half of what we agreed upon,” She said.
“The rates have changed due to unforeseen difficulties.”
The Captain tapped the tabletop. “I don’t care what your ‘unforeseen difficulties’ are, you promised me a certain amount of money. This doesn’t even cover my expenses.”
Kleno did the best imitation of a shrug that a massive crab could be expected to pull off. “That is the sale price.”
“And do tell,” the woman said, “Why has the price dropped in half when you’re short manual labor types?”
The Mector chewed on his dinner before swallowing and then grabbing a glass of wine to wash it down. “We’ve got additional concerns that might impact our business.”
“I don’t see how your concerns effect my bottom line,” The Captain said.
“I’m concerned that Talia De’Zahna might be on our trail, so we’re going to law low.”
“That’s fine, but what about the money? You promised three hundred credits a head, but are paying my one hundred fifty.”
Talia sucked in a deep breath and sighed sadly. Three hundred credits was all it took for a human to commit one of the biggest act of cruelty against their own race? While greed had always ruled the galaxy, it seemed the humans took it to a new level. The slavers of old, she thought, had more honor then this bunch did.
“I’m not worried about De’Zahna,” the woman said. “Get her away from her sisters and she’s just another person.”
“Who killed the entire Wraith race,” Kleno reminded her.
“With her sister’s help. If I saw her, the only thing that bitch would be seeing is her heart in my hand after I cut it out.”
Ok, that’s it, time to end this little soiree.
“You know many have tried and failed, kid.”
The woman’s head snapped around as the Captain’s face paled. “Who said that?”
She killed the camouflage and smiled as all three of her enemies gasped. “Well, this is something you don’t see everyday, a civilian, a former soldier, and a Mector at the same table. It’s almost worthy of a picture, if I do say so myself.”
The woman reached for her gun until Talia brought hers up.
The warrior clicked her tongue. “I don’t think you want to do that, kiddo. The last person I warned didn’t listen and ended up dead.”
Kleno closed his eyes and sighed in resignation. “De’Zahna, is there any possibility of us making a deal?”
“It’s all about the money with you guys. I’m surprised, Kleno, that your race made it this long, because you’re really, really dumb.”
The Mector sighed. “Insulting me won’t get you anywhere.”
“I never expected it to,” She looked at the two humans. “And you guys, what a pathetic looking bunch. You think you’re so good, so bad, and in reality are nothing but pitiful and weak children.”
The woman just growled.
Talia smiled. “Oh, nice sound! I’d call it a bear, but I don’t think a Chellios is in the room.”
The Captain shook his head. “You’ve got one big mouth on you.”
Talia shrugged. “Oh, come on guys, I’m just trying to lighten the mood…spread the cheer a bit…”
Kleno looked at her. “What do you want, Talia?”
She made a theatrical display of thinking. “Well let’s see her, first off, I’d like my stocking to be full at Christmas…”
“Quit prattling!” The woman snapped.
“Aw, am I getting on your nerves? I’m sorry, thought you might find it funny.” She shrugged. “Since you want to be all serious and all, kid,” Talia looked away from the woman and turned her attention towards Kleno. “I want to know who’s the next person up, and where are the humans being taken.”
The Mector chuckled. “And just what makes you think I have a superior?”
“Ah, come now, Kleno, and I thought we were becoming such friends.” She snapped her head around to look at the woman. “Don’t bother trying to transmit, because I’ve jammed all the communications.” Except mine, of course.
“I don’t have a superior, it’s all me,”
Talia shook a finger at the Mector. “Now, now, Kleno,” Her tone sounded like a mother scolding a child. “I’m twenty thousand years old. I stopped falling for that line by the time I was two.”
“And just what makes you think, if I have one, that I’ll tell you?”
“You know, if you don’t they’ll be a nice lump of coal in your stocking…”
“You’re not funny.”
“Kleno, you Mector have no sense of humor.” Her voice turned cold as ice. “If you don’t tell me, then I’ll just eliminate the captain and his friend over here.”
The woman reached for her gun but stopped when Talia snapped her hand up and aimed the barrel at the mate’s head.
“You do know they’re expendable to me?”
“I’ve never seen someone who wants to play the role of ‘The Grinch’ so much in my life. If you tell me who your superior is, and then accompany me, Kleno, this’ll all end.”
Kleno was silent.
She looked at the humans. “You do know how mister sourpuss over there works, don’t you? Oh, his race is very good at smuggling, I’ll give them that, but when the chips are down, they’ll kill you and your crew to cover their tracks and then disappear. So, if I were you, I’d start wondering if he’s really worth the trouble.”
The two humans looked at Kleno.
The Mector sighed before eating another fork full of food. “You know, Talia, exaggeration seems to be your style.”
She laughed. “I know, but I do it so well.”
The woman looked at her. “Is that true? What you said?”
Talia looked at her, raised and eyebrow and then shrugged. “Pretty much. Your friendly ‘associate’ over there,” She waved the gun at Kleno. “His race are like cockroaches. Once the light comes on, they scamper. Now, if he had his way, you would be dead right now. In fact…” She narrowed her eyes. “Drop that weapon on the floor, Kleno and keep your claws where I can see them.”
The Mector sighed and then complied.
Time for them to start spilling their guts.
“Ok, time to start talking. Kleno, who’s your contact, and I’m not going to keep waiting. If you don’t answer,” She leveled the pistol with his head. “I’ll put a round in your head and figure it out on my own.”
“I don’t think so,” Kleno said. “Shoot me and you lose your link to the chain.”
“Frankly, at this point, I don’t care whether any of the three of you leave this room alive. However, Scrooge, I doubt security could do anything with me if I did shoot you.” She looked at the nails on one hand. “What you have to ask your is, ‘will she really do it?’ And I suggest your look at my distant-and recent-past for the answer.”
Kleno sighed. “You’re not bluffing are you.”
Talia rolled her eyes. “Do I look like I am? Now, here’s how this is going to go down, Kleno, you’re going to contact the next person up and tell them you need to meet them here.”
“He’s likely to refuse. What if I take you to him?”
“I’m not the Easter Bunny. He’s coming here where it’s public.”
“You certainly have a way with words,”
“Well, I am a genius.”
She opened one channel for Kleno to call out on and let the processor monitor it for any code words or hidden messages. If the Mercon tried something funny, she thought, it wouldn’t take much to go back into hiding and take down whoever came within seconds of their arriving. While they weren’t known for being super bright at times, the professional smugglers wouldn’t risk their lives for no reason.
The com call flowed through her mind as Kleno worked to contact his superior. It took several seconds for the connection to be made and another being to answer. Interesting, she thought, another Wickham. They weren’t known, at least during her previous life, as being a race that got their paws dirty with the slave trade. If a dealer needed drugs, weapons or computer parts, then they were the carrier of choice.
I’d like to know when they decided to scrape the bottom of the barrel.
“Traner,” Kleno said. “We have an issue with the next shipment that needs to be discussed.”
The canine growled slightly. “Are you sure it can’t wait for tomorrow? I’m busy.”
“No, it can’t. The issue is up the up most importance.”
Way the throw it on heavy, crab.
“Fine, I’ll be there in twenty.”
Kleno killed the connection. “Done. What do you want now?”
She smiled. “We’re going to sit here and get acquainted. I want to know how you two,” She waved the gun at the humans. “Got yourselves into something this seedy. Especially a former Alliance solder. And don’t hold anything back either.”