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Warheads

All her work had paid off. Every informant, every bribe, every threat, every effort she had made to track him down created a network of arrows that pointed here, this high-class nightclub, tucked inside a station in a low-sec trading hub. Khis’s favorite club. Eternity, this place is called. Very symbolic. Very Ironic.
Purple lasers traced the outlines of dancers. The fleshy smell of artificial pheromones clung to everyone. Dark Rhythms filled the room, and with every beat, a strobe light illuminated her target. She saw his face for the first time that day. He looked even younger than he sounded and moved with energy uncommon for grown adults. From the wall she leaned on, she could see the spark in his eyes. It ripped her apart to realize that this man will die today. Too much soul in that man. Way too much to waste. But it’s him or me. Those bodyguards are distracted, and he’s busy talking to that girl. Now, it’s my only shot. She thought for a moment that someone had glued her to the wall. Go, Schaa. Do it! The pistol in her jacket felt heavy. Sigh. She stuck another nerve-patch over her neck, adding to the two others, but they didn’t help anymore; she was a nervous wreck. It took all her strength for her to leave the wall and walk to Khis’s table. He saw her approach, looked in her eyes. The look of calmness he wore all evening turned to confusion as she got closer and closer. Who is this woman who walks toward me with grief in her eyes? An alarm was ringing in his head, but couldn’t quite understand what it was. Matti saw his expression and turned her head. One of the bodyguards noticed her too, and slowly reached for a gun. But she was only three meters away by then. She jerked her hand out of her pocket; a plasma pistol trained on the bodyguard. He slowly put his hands in the air, and the others did the same. Khis only leaned back a little and crossed his arms. His gaze pierced her eyes with a look that communicated I dare you.
“Came to finish the job, Schaa?
How did he know who I was?
Schaa realized that her fear leaked from her eyes while Khis gazed with unmoved confidence. “Here’s why you’re not gonna kill me. Because you could have done it already. From over there. Escaped before these men had a chance to shoot you. But you come here and stick a gun in my face. Why? To prove to yourself you can do it? Couldn’t the first time, couldn’t now.” The voice of the young pilot; the one whose fate rested in my palm, what has become of it? Who wields this voice of authority? Foolish young men cannot speak with such a tone- who are you, Khis? She couldn’t find a word to describe her emotions, but agony would be a good substitute.
“Was it Eilyin?”
She spoke for the first time. “Yes”
“Why’d he sent someone so incapable of a simple assassination?”
She choked. “To spite me.” She thought, just for a second, that his stone face broke and a glimmer of compassion shone. That trigger just won’t budge.
In that brief moment of silence, they each suddenly understood what was happening to the others
“Djinin... take the other two and head back to the ship. ” The bodyguard looked at Khis in bewilderment, then glared at Schaa. “Matti, you too.”
“But-“
“I’ll be fine. We just need to talk. Wait outside the club, if you must.” She walked away, keeping a burning eye on Schaa the entire time.
“Have a seat, Schaa.”
She took Matti’s drink and downed it.
“You’re pretty damn sure I’m not gonna kill ya.”
“So are you. To be honest, though, for a little while you had me running scared.”
She looked at him in confusion. “You think I don’t have agents on my side? I know you’ve been tracking me for a while, Schaa, but I didn’t know you’d find me nearly this quick.” He offered his drink as well. “You probably need it more than I.”
“Thanks. But don’t get any ideas. If you run, I’ll shoot you.”
“No you won’t.”
She had to think about that; if he ran would I really shoot him? Could I?
She tried to visualize him up and running, or pulling out a gun. But she couldn’t imagine killing him, not ever. I’m not a pirate anymore. I’m not a killer. I can’t even pull this fuckin trigger. Suddenly, she desperately wanted a cigarette.
“I’ve thought about it a lot, Schaa. Why didn’t you kill me that day?”
“I couldn’t kill you because it didn’t feel right. You may not understand what being a pirate is like, Khis. We kill because our victims are faceless; are worthless. But I related to you. I felt like I knew you, and I just couldn’t do it. I can’t kill anymore, not like I used to when I was young, when it was so natural. I lived for it. Now, every time I do, it just wrecks my soul.”
“I didn’t know you people had one.”
She glared at him. “Why did you take this job, Khis?”
“I needed refuge, and I needed ISK. Ossin gave me both. That day you saved me, I thought that was it. I thought I was going to die. Never thought I’d be saved by a pirate. I learned how to survive that day.”
“Never thought I’d get myself abducted to save a hauler. Be thankful you’re not a goddamn miner, or you wouldn’t be here.”
“Get yourself abducted?”
She realized her drink was empty, yet it was still at her lips.
“After you warped, more mercs showed up. Then Eilyin came, and I knew that was it. They popped me, then stole my pod.”
“You mean...”
She showed him the dead skin around her fingernails: The telltale scar of stasis victim.
“Oh my god. How long?”
“Since less than a week ago. He only let me out so I can track you down...”
“That son of a bitch!”
“I don’t know what to do, Khis. When you say I can’t kill you, I’m afraid your right. I’m very afraid. But he’s gonna stick me back in stasis, for good. I can’t rot away, Khis. I don’t know what to do.”
He didn’t know what to say. How often did a pirate find herself at the mercy of a guy like me? She saved my life once, and spared me again, I owe her something. What can I offer her to relieve her of this fate? Eilyin doesn’t want money or power from me; he wants me dead...
“Before you let me go, when you said that we aren’t so different...”
“Yeah?”
“I didn’t know what you meant, but now I think I understand. I think were trying to put our past behind us, to do the right thing in a world run by despair. We aren’t so different, Schaa. So I will help you this time, because I owe it you and myself. I’ll convince Ossin to give you safety, but you’ll need to make it worth his while.”
“Doing what?”
“Prove your loyalty to him. Do favors for SDA, give information about competitors. Hell, you’re a pirate. Harass the rival shippers. But you need to earn Ossin’s trust. And it won’t be easy, considering the big middle finger Eilyin made you stick in his face tonight...”
“In that case, there is some useful information I can supply.”
“What is it?”
Schaa couldn’t help but smirk.
“I know the location of Eilyin’s clone.”

Khis couldn’t believe his ears.

Ossin, Khis, Schaa and Matti met in a top-priority meeting room 90 minutes later. A room surrounded by guards and 800 mm blast plating. The kind or room where wars are planned and billionaires discuss business. When Khis and Schaa walked in together, Ossin nearly coughed up his whiskey. Schaa? In the heart of my base? With KHIS? Matti nearly had a fit, seeing Schaa again, but Khis reassured them both. A minute of extremely nervous greetings passed, but still Matti insisted on keeping her plasma pistol primed.
“Well, this is unorthodox.” Ossin said. “This famous pirate, ex-employee of Eilyin, and attempted killer of my best shipper...” He looked as if he didn’t know how to finish the sentence. “...In my war room... Khis told me about the intel you gave him, and I’m a bit suspicious.”
“How the fuck do you know where Eilyin keeps-“
“Matti...”
She shut her mouth but didn’t remove the anger in her eyes.
“It’s a good question, though,” Ossin continued. “How the fuck DO you know where Eilyin’s clone is. Information like that isn’t exchanged on the street. I know men who would pay hundreds of millions for intel like that. Why would you keep something so valuable to yourself, then reveal it to a man like me.”
“This secret is the only weapon I have against him. I don’t care about the reward it can bring me; I have plenty of money. I want to use it for its only true purpose; to bring down Eilyin. You are the only person I can think of who can use this weapon without squandering it.”
“I see. How did you got it.”
“I know an informant; A cloning engineer at Shehpar Inc. Her name is Pila.”
“Tell us more about Pila.”
“We met in the milita, 30 years ago. We ran ops together for a long time, but she caught neural-lock and couldn’t fly her ship anymore. So she got a job at Shehpar, and fed me classified information about enemy clones... Not heavy intel, but it helped me get kills. Eventually, she became lab manager, and got access to high-security client information, the billionaires list. Guess who was on that list.”
Ossin only grinned. If he had any doubts about Schaa’s story, he didn’t show it.
“System CF-10ji. Floor 8, lab 1, vat 18.”
“You’re sure about this?”
She looked at Khis. “Not a doubt.”
Matti spoke up. “And why would you betray Eilyin?”
Khis had to bow his head to avoid the look on Schaa’s face.
“Who does this little bitch think she is?” Schaa stood up and stormed over to Matti.
“Schaa, please...”
“Do you have any idea who you are talking to?” She was screaming in Matti’s face, ignoring the pistol pointed at her belly.
“Betray Eilyin? Do you know how hard I’ve been trying to wreck that monster?”
“Apparently, not hard enough,” Ossin interrupted.
“You have no idea what Eilyin has done to me. You don’t know the choices I’ve had to make to survive. I’d kill myself to rid the universe of that man.”
“I’d kill ya just for the hell of it!”
Khis couldn’t take any more. “Both of you, shut up!”
It was hard to imagine who would break eye contact first- Matti or Schaa.
“Why are you fighting each other? Remember who the enemy is, Schaa. Matti, you too. We aren’t here to talk about differences, were here to make a plan.” Khis didn’t realize he had the capacity to command with such fervor and grace.
“Well said,” said Ossin, pouring himself another shot .“Khis is right. Schaa, you came here to help us, and we agreed to help you. Matti, I need you to control your emotions. Now, what can we use with the intel Schaa provided?”
“Not much, unfortunately.” Matti said. “Combined with our near-useless information on Eilyin’s shipping routes and business ties, we can generate an entirely useless plan to do nothing.”
“If his clone location is so valuable, it’s for a reason, Matti,” Schaa replied.
“I say we capture Eilyin’s clone,” Khis made his statement with a calm clarity, as if he was ordering a drink. “All we need to do is pod Eilyin, then have an extraction team take him when he awakes.”
“All we need to do?” Khis had never seen Matti act so hostile toward him. “All we need to DO?” She repeated, “All we need to do to build a titan is mine a moon. Eilyin is tucked inside his station ninety percent of the time, and when he isn’t, he’s flying his nightmare battleship. He has patrols in a 3-system radius of his base, with ties to EVERY single Caldari mercenary corp. WE...” She motioned to Schaa. “WE have a pirate!”
“A damn good one, if you must know,” Khis said.
“And Matti, you’re forgetting what else we have. We have the most hated shipper in low-sec...“ Khis grinned and pointed at his face. “We have the man Eilyin’s been after for months. Matti, Eilyin has never hunted a guy as long as he’s hunted me.”
“Not only that...” Ossin, despite downing several shots of Grade Y Gallente Whiskey, showed no signs of intoxication. “Eilyin knows what you and your family have done. The Gallente & Minmatar fleets have cost Eilyin millions, and he knows you are their biggest fan! Khis, He fuckin’ hates ya!” Ossin laughed; the kind of laugh you would only expect from a jolly fat man.
“Exactly. Eilyin’s hate for me, combined with his inflated pride, means he has the capacity to do something very stupid.”
The two women looked at Khis in confusion. They had an idea of where his idea was heading, but they didn’t think he was crazy enough to actually suggest it. “Khis, what are you getting at?”
“I’ll get in the biggest combat vessel I can fly, and head to a remote null-sec system. And I’ll make Eilyin an offer he can’t refuse: the opportunity to fight me, one-on-one. The chance to kill me with his own ship. That fool will take the bait, and our fleet will follow him in. You can figure out the rest.”

Never mind, thought Schaa. He really is that crazy. Running jobs in low-sec with a merc crew after you’re ass, that is dumb. Engaging Eilyin Sicht, with no clone, when the only ships you can fly are cargo runners... I don’t think there’s a word for that.
Schaa felt like she had to say something. “Eilyin’s combat record is extraordinary, Khis. If you don’t bring a damn good tank, the nightmare will melt you before you drop out of warp. That’s IF he doesn’t have reinforcements. Ossin, what kind of fleet can you prepare?”
“I’m afraid I can only divert 6 battlecruisers and a few battleships. Maybe less. The rest of my ships are either fighting in the militia or guarding the station.”
“Are they Tech 2?”
“What do you think?”
“Shit.”
“If this doesn’t work, Eilyin will want blood. He will retaliate, and will hit hard. His fleet will be backed by his close ties to mercenary corps, maybe even the Caldari State. If this mission fails, SDA might fall.” He reached for the whiskey bottle again, disappointed to find it nearly empty. “Eilyin and I have extremely conflicting ideologies, and we hate each other for it. For a long time, neither of us has risked breaking the delicate peace. Then again, with the success we’ve been having lately, I can’t imagine we haven’t been in the crosshairs of other suppliers. The others are getting hungry. Hungry for the food we stole from their mouths, hungry for our blood. Wiping out Eilyin could make a clear warning.”
“So what’s the call?,” asked Matti.
Ossin laughed under his breath, like something was funny that the others couldn’t understand. His train of thought was always hard to understand for those working under him, as if he had just a touch of insanity. “Khis, I would be disappointed if you didn’t become CEO of a business like this someday. I haven’t known you long, but I’m proud to have you working for me.” He reached under the table and grabbed 4 crystal glasses, as well as a 40,000 isk bottle of champagne. “The drink saved for only the biggest celebrations of business,” he said, filling 4 glasses. “Drink. This is an important day. Know why?” He put his drink in the air, and the others did too. The feeling of excitement and rush of anxiety in the room was almost palpable.
“Because soon, we’re gonna snatch that fucker.”

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StovAkor on :

Damn work has been busy....I finally got a chance to read this. Excellent as always DB. Wish I could write as well as you.

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