Saturday, September 22, 2018

Chapter 3

Bhutto indicated that they would get off at the next stop by pointing her smoking plastic tube at the door. Jane followed her out from the underground station to the surface, wary as ever.

As distracting as the spaceport concourse was, the streets they walked were more so. Along with the brilliant flashing videos and neon lights, it was what they were selling that was caught her attention—sex, narcotics, and of course, weapons.

Bhutto stopped at a one small shop. Personal energy weapons, EM cannons, and firearms of all shapes and sizes hanging on a wall behind the counter. Energy packs, kinetic darts, and bullets lay prominently in a transparent counter, advertising the correlating weapon. Alongside those were what looked to be mortars and grenade rounds.

The shopkeeper’s hair was obviously artificial. It was bone dry yet clung to his head like he had just stepped out of the shower. His clothes were less than fashionable, the material having long since worn out. The man eyed Jane as if she were some kind form of prey. She stopped browsing the store and scanned the neuronet for arms dealers in the area. There were plenty.

“Why don’t we order our supplies off the net? No need for all of this hassle.”

Bhutto shot her a disapproving look. “Red, this is Corrigan—Corrigan, Red.” Corrigan reached out his sweaty palm, which Jane reluctantly took. “Corrigan is my arms contact. He doesn’t work on the rest of the net, just in-person transactions. We have a working relationship. I’m not buying a weapon from people I don’t trust.” Bhutto locked eyes with Jane to convey her seriousness. “Not with what we’re planning. Net guns are likely as not to require you to carry a tracker on them. Discharge would immediately alert the Corps.”

Jane narrowed her eyes. “These weapons are illegal?”

Both Bhutto and Corrigan snickered. “Vegacorp doesn’t own everything. Just most of the City Center.”

“We fit deactivation modules on them, if that’s what you’re worried about,” the slimy man said. “No need to worry about a violation when crossing properties.”

“None of these weapons are authorized for Vegacorp subscribers, are they?” Jane asked.

Corrigan scratched his head. “Why would that matter?” Jane had taken off the vac-suit once they had entered the atmosphere bubble. She had forgotten to display the Vegacorp tag on her street clothes.

“I just purchased a policy earlier today.”

Corrigan smirked. “Allow me to show you my special wares.” He walked over to the counter and pressed a button which slid one of the shelves to the side, revealing stairs to a chamber in the floor. “I only show you this because you are with my good friend Bhutto.” He motioned for her to enter the strange cellar. “Purchase one of these and you won’t need a security policy.”

Jane walked below to what was a veritable arsenal of heavy weapons, power armors, and combat drones lining a cellar that was more like a cargo bay.

Jane walked back and forth along the rows of heavy weaponry. She noted the prominent and active turret drone in the corner of the ceiling.

“So, what’dya say, Red? Pick one out and we’ll wrap her up and send her to our boat.” Jane grimaced. Her policy would not allow her to carry anything larger than personal weapons on the surface. She paced the cellar once more, until she saw an old suit in the back, obscured by a stationary cannon turret.

“What about that one?” She asked.

Bhutto and Corrigan glanced at each other. “Ehh,” Corrigan said. “That one’s not for sale.”

“Everything here is for sale,” Jane laughed.

“That,” Bhutto said, “is Corrigan’s souvenir from a showdown with Vegacorp. Way back, when we ran our own security firm.”

“You started your own firm?”

“That’s right,” Corrigan said. “We were stupid as shit, then. Our terms were fast and loose, and we served some bad egg clients.”

“Turned into a veritable range war,” Bhutto added. “Wound up on the wrong side of the Corps, and, as you might guess, the Corps won.”

“Because of your clients? Why didn’t you just drop them?”

Corrigan laughed. “See, now if she were in our little venture, it might’ve survived its first payout.” He turned to Jane, his smile fading. “Neither of us wanted to drop the client. He was high risk and high paying. We tried negotiating, but the Corps was insistent on his submitting to an arbiter. We should’ve freaking dropped the client.”

“He got killed in the end,” Bhutto replied. “We damaged one of their armored guys and he had to bail. Corrigan took the armor and made a break for it.”

Jane looked at the piece more closely now. She traced her fingers along the scars forged by bullet and shrapnel. “This is a Vegacorp model?”

“That’s right,” Corrigan said.

“Can it be tracked by the Vegacorp?” She asked.

“We knocked off the transmitter first thing.”

“I want it,” Jane said.

“I already told you, it ain’t for sale.”

“That was a negotiating tactic. I’ll offer you steady supply from the Freyjan Collective. Repurposed drones, military-grade weapons, whatever you need. Enough to let you get back in the security game if you wanted.”

Corrigan’s jaw hung open, revealing artificially white teeth. “I, uh… do you have the authority to do that?”

“I do.” She did not, but he would never know the difference. She quickly made a request to the Collective. Authority would have no issue destabilizing the Vegacorp dominance on this moon. Especially not if it meant their new rivals owed the Collective a favor.

“You will pay us the resource costs for producing and shipping the goods. If and when you open your security company, you will give us the list of your clients and their policies.”

“Corrigan,” Bhutto interjected, “You don’t want to make a deal with the jackboots.”

“Shut up, Bhutto,” he said. “I’d want the products before I authorized any credit transfers.”

“Of course. I only require the power armor. I will pay you the listed market value despite its obvious damage. I will also give you the location to ship it. I would also ask that you use discretion when you deliver it.”

“You got it, Red. You want me to gift wrap it for you?” Jane smiled and gave Bhutto a knowing look. “That will not be necessary.”

After Jane finalized the deal, Bhutto picked up a few odds and ends, including small arms, ammunition, and grenades. Then they decided to pick up some food at the local diner. “For Earth’s sake, Red, where did you learn how to read a guy like that?”

Jane shrugged. “It was simple enough. I tried to understand what he wanted, and then used that to give him what he wanted, while keeping the Collective’s interests in mind as well.”

Bhutto shook her head. “Sure, but it’s scary how fast you picked it up, being a jackboot and all. Every time I’ve met one, they always expect you to bend over backwards for them. None of them actually deal.”

Jane walked through the sliding door of a small diner and was overcome with savory and sweet smells wafting into her nostrils, real ones this time. The booths were not so unlike the ones they had sat in the passenger tube. The floor was an immaculate white tile, patrolled by small flat drones scrubbing the floor as they roamed. “I have studied your customs and culture. It is not very difficult to figure out how your minds work.” It helped that she had a great deal of resources at her disposal.

They ordered their food from the booth through their implants. Jane recognized only a fraction of the foods on the list. She decided to just order the same thing Bhutto did. With any luck, it would be edible.

Their food arrived instantaneously through an oven slot on the wall at the end of their table, and two foam-topped amber colored drinks emerged from a separate chamber. Jane gingerly unwrapped the grease-moistened sandwich.

“This is amazing,” Jane said with her mouth full. It was literally the best thing she had experienced on this planet so far.

“Not what you’re used to?” Bhutto asked.

Jane shook her head, taking another bite.

“Can you charter a ship?” She asked Bhutto with her mouth full.

“I just burned everything I own. What do you think?”

“With Freyjan resources,” she sighed.

“I can. It will be from one of my guys, though.”

Of course it would be.

“Why can’t you do it?”

“The Authority wants to keep this as clandestine as possible. Now that we are going to potentially provoke one of the security companies, it is even more of a concern.”

Bhutto nodded. “We’ll want a cargo hauler with an onboard shuttle. Problem with that is docking in that cloud on return will be tricky”

“And there is no way we can communicate with anyone on-world?”

“Not unless you can rig up some sort of smoke signal. Odin’s rings disrupt any signal. and anything coming from that moon…”

“Would just make it on the blacklist.” Jane would think on that one some more. It was just another problem to be worked out. Some of the corporate security officers had to be susceptible to bribe or blackmail. The difficulty was to make sure there was no Collective watermark on the operation. The Corporates were mostly self-absorbed, but they might well retaliate if they knew that Freyja was sticking its nose into their literal business.

“It just so happens,” Bhutto continued, “That I know a guy who has been planning a trip to Loki for years. It’s his obsession, really. Just so happens he’s got a ship too. Just the kind we need.”

“You seem to know a guy for everything, don’t you, Bhutto?”

“What’s the point in meeting people if you can’t make connections? You think I haven’t looked into finding D’Arcangelo before? This guy changed my mind.”

“Too dangerous?” Jane asked.

“Too expensive. Yeager’s been saving up for years to get on Loki. He never had the credit of an entire world behind him, though.”

“Why does he want to get there so badly?”

Bhutto gave her another knowing look. “That’s something you’ll have to ask him yourself.”

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