“Foxes & Hounds – Part 2”
Vulcan. A planet known for its vast, dry deserts was anything but hot. Without light and heat from the Vulcan sun, Nevasa, large swaths of land scorched by day consequently froze by night. An icy chill now blew through the dusty air as two men ran through a maze of dark, back alleys and streets desperate to remain unseen and unheard. Putting several blocks between themselves and what remained of a local bar now ablaze and consumed by fire and smoke, Lieutenant Leon Athalla and mercenary Aev Keirianh paused for a moment pressing their backs against a cold concrete wall having fled from what Keirianh believed to be a professional, if not bold, attempt on his life.
His chest heaving as he struggled for breath, Athalla took a moment to slow his breathing as the Romulan mercenary did the same in the steadily cooling air of the Vulcan evening. Running like criminals from the scene of the crime did not sit well with Athalla. He knew several lives had been lost and perhaps more by their rapid departure from the hellish inferno that was once a popular, if not slightly illicit, tavern.
“Time you did some explaining”, the pilot demanded between ragged breaths. “I don’t proclaim to know much about the criminal underworld or professional hitmen, but I never heard of a hit being so blatant or bold. If you guys are suppose to be silent killers I think someone never got the memo. Just what the hell is going on?”
“I do not know any more than you lieutenant”, the mercenary answered. “I saw the reflection of movement in the mirror behind you and the waitress. It came from atop the building across the street. Instinct told me it was an ambush. The rest you know.”
“You still believe they were after you?”
“Of course! Who else would they be after? Why else would they go to such lengths?” The mercenary stopped his voice cooling slightly as the subtle passion in his voice disappeared on a chilly Vulcan breeze. “You do not know of my reputation. I am known not by my name, but by a pseudonym given to me by some reporter or other such person attempting to create sensationalism where none exists. They call me the Black Reaper. Those who deal in the grays and blacks of the underworld know of this name and have come to fear it. I have become the preeminent soldier of fortune in this region of space. My services are of the highest caliber and I always complete a contract – or at least did. Equally, I demanded premiums for my services which many were willing to pay to solve certain problems. Unlike you lieutenant I do not wear the uniform of an organization with lofty goals. I am a paid assassin. I am friends with no one and no one’s friend. I exist. I do what I am paid to do. You appear to have become enamored with me, but I assure you there is no glory, honor, or adventure that surrounds me. I have become death. It is all that I now know. Infamy, however, is not without its rewards. There are those who seek to destroy me. Dozens of rewards exist for my death or capture though I have made sure my identity has remained anonymous. Your own Starfleet may indeed quietly seek my head. There are others who seek to avenge those who I eliminated. There are still more who simply seek to eliminate me so they can claim the media attention, infamy, and write themselves into legend or history. Such individuals or groups are fools, but they exist and think of nothing else but ascendency into the ranks of mercenary elite.”
“Who takes out half a block with a small army to kill one person?”
“Delusional fools. Sloppy syndicate thugs. Amateurs who do not realize that Vulcan security will have them in custody by the setting of tomorrow’s sun. Though as much as I would like to believe the former as true I fear I am being tracked by someone far more sinister and deadly.
“The less you know lieutenant the longer your life will be. I have already said too much of matters. Your association with me may indeed be grounds for them to begin hunting you as well. They are as relentless as they are resourceful and their influence is both everywhere and nowhere.”
“What kind of senseless doubletalk is that”, Athalla blasted.
“Lieutenant. You must return to the shuttle on your own. I cannot endanger your life further or place your ship and crew at additional risk. I cannot be that selfish. I made my choice and must now face the consequences of my actions. I can no longer cower behind Starfleet’s banner as a means of salvation.” The mercenary focused his eyes upon the perplexed lieutenant and placed a hand on the man’s shoulder.
“For what it is worth lieutenant, I have enjoyed our time together. For the first time in a long time I felt as if I had a purpose. You are a worthy and cunning fighter, if not somewhat reckless. You have opened my eyes to a world I thought was dead and for that I am grateful. Now go! Return to your shuttle and leave this place before it is too late!”
Athalla shook his head as perplexed as he was upset. “I don’t give a damn about your past. We are both soldiers and I’m no judge or jury. If you’re looking for absolution I cannot grant it, however I’m also not fool enough to let someone throw their life needlessly away.”
“DAMN IT LIEUTENANT”, Aev shouted throwing the pilot forcefully against the cold concrete wall of the dark alleyway. A cold wind howled through the narrow street its shrill, shrieks beckoning to the dark, silent agents of the night. “Don’t you get it? I am not worth saving! My presence attracts nothing but death and destruction like a plague. I can never escape the dark clouds that follow me. I do not want any more blood on my hands. Remaining in public will only cost innocent lives at the hands of others with souls and hearts far darker and harder than mine. The only way to end this is to go out fighting. It is the only way. The only way for me. The only way I know. Now leave lest I turn on you for death awaits all associated with me.”
“A Romulan with a flair for the dramatic. Wow. I never thought I would ever see that”, Athalla replied. “Look I don’t really give a f*#& what you think. I am a Starfleet officer and I cannot allow you to wander free why this town descends into a war zone.” Athalla leveled his phaser at the mercenary his expression changing from exasperated to deadly serious. “You are going to return to the shuttle with me until we figure out what is going on. If you have a problem with that then you can forget about your rivals as I have no qualms shooting you in the back and dumping your corpse with Vulcan security. If there’s a reward then so much the better. I’ll be known as the pilot that took down the Black Reaper and the reward will probably fund my drinking habit for the foreseeable future.”
Athalla flashed a tiny smile though his grip on his phaser remained steadfast. “I’m no Saint either Aev Keirianh. I’d just assume pass on killing you since you have a way of keeping things interesting which I admit I’m beginning to enjoy, but if you think you can just walk out of here then let me end your life for you here and now since you seem intent on getting yourself killed.”
Athalla motioned with his free hand toward the shuttle never taking his eyes or his phaser off of the mercenary who he knew would not hesitate to kill him if he was presented an opportunity.
“After you Keirianh.”
The mercenary glared at the human before him. He could attempt to overtake the human as his skill, speed, and strength were superior, but doing so would almost certainly be fatal given Athalla’s background and training. Like so many times in his past he would be patient. The pilot was bluffing but even if he wasn’t he had made his decision. Athalla was just one more life in a line of hundreds who would meet their end at his hands. This pilot was just another warm body. He could kill and move on as he had so many times before.
Slowly the mercenary fell into a slow march down the alley with the pilot close behind his weapon at the ready. The shuttle was only a block away and after a few moments was visible in the cramped landing area in which they had left it some many hours before.
“You are making a grave mistake pilot”, the mercenary said with a menacing tone as if offering the pilot a final chance to reconsider his decision.
“I know what I’m doing”, came the quick, almost instantaneous reply.
[ To Be Continued… ]
Lt. Leon Athalla