“Foxes and Hounds – Part 1”
======= Vulcan Surface – Tavern =======
“I’ll have a scotch, neat”, Athalla told the waitress of questionable reputation. “And you?”
Aev shook his head. “Nothing for me.”
“Oh come on! I didn’t steal a shuttle to escape and drink with a fuddy-duddy.”
“Come again”, the merc replied. “Nevermind.” The waitress looked at the unusual pair and left without a word.
“I must say lieutenant you seem to have an extensive knowledge of local destinations specializing in smoke, sleaze, and scum. I dare not inquire as to how you came to know about this specific establishment.” Aev lifted his boot only to drop it crushing an annoying bug beneath his foot with a loud, oozing pop. “Yes it has a specific charm all its own.”
“The alcohol is as strong as it is cheap and the ladies are as fast as they are total bombshells. What more do you want merc? Are the glasses not clean enough for you here? You could go and complain to the management. I’d actually pay a handsome some to see that.”
“So tell me lieutenant Athalla, why me, why here – what do pilots see in such places surrounded by all manner of temptation, libations, and flesh?”
“You must be blind yourself if you cannot pick out a happening nightlife locale. Don’t let the salty seadogs or the obnoxious land lubbers detract from the ambiance. Anything can happen in here. Possibly everything has, but there’s always something or someone else to try. An element of risk, or danger makes a place like this exciting. More often than not the risk is worth the reward.”
Athalla turned his head and followed an attractive redhead as she slowly moved away catching the eyes of dozens of males on her way out. Oh what I would give for a few days of solitary confinement here. I think I could get my own katra just about whipped back into shape with enough wine, women, and song.”
“Indeed”, the mercenary dryly replied. “With such lofty goals and ambitions would you care to tell me how the Federation became what it was? How is it you humans ever managed to achieve warp capabilities?”
“Funny Aev. You cannot tell me there isn’t a Romulan that doesn’t enjoy a good time. You sound more Vulcan than Romulan. Is there some code you adhere to that forbids fun? Even cold, blooded killers have to find something to relax to. You cannot be forever focused on work?”
The mercenary leaned back in his rickety chair. The air around him was thick with odd smells, smoke, music, laughter, and voices. They all rang hollow. He had closed off his emotions so long ago he nearly forgot he had them. They felt like distant echoes like a fading dream. Emotions were a part of the person he once was. That person was gone. He had died the day the state had turned against him, stripped him of everything he held dear, and then shipped him off to die like a common criminal. He hadn’t felt since that day. Even when he had took revenge against those responsible for ruining his life the joy he had so patiently waited for never came. Emptiness and cold were the only two things he felt that resembled the emotions he had lost so long ago.
“Yo! Aev? You looked like you zoned out there for a second. What gives?”
Aev looked up at Athalla. The human was full of life and enjoyed its many gifts almost to excess. Yet, despite his bad jokes and inviting smile Aev could sense it was a cover for something darker, deep within the pilot. He had seen the same look before. The lieutenant was hiding from something in his past.
======= MUCH…LATER =======
Keirianh sipped a glass of water as Athalla pulled closer to a cute, blonde waitress he had managed to intrigue with exaggerated stories of glory, pilots, and adventure. He was content to humor the pilot. Seeing him happy and enjoying life kindled some tiny spark of feeling within him. Perhaps he was imagining things. In any event the bar, the atmosphere, and company he did not have to worry about stabbing him in the back brought him a sense of contentment he had not known for quite some time.
“So the Vulcan offers to buy the Ferengi a drink.”
“Why would a Vulcan do that?”
“I’m not finished with the story”, Athalla exclaimed. “Let me get to the punch line.”
The waitress smiled and let the pilot continue.
“As I was saying, the Vulcan buys the Ferengi a drink. They don’t say anything for a time, but the the Vulcan says…”
“Get down”, Aev said sternly suddenly dropping his glass to the table which rolled off and shattered on the hard floor of the tavern.
Athalla looked up. He was drunk. “Shut up Aev. That’s not what he says. You’re ruining the joke.”
“NO! I mean get down! NOW!” Acting on instinct, Aev dove over the table grabbing the lieutenant and female and knocking them backwards in their chairs as a hail of weapons fire tore into the table around them. In that moment it seemed as if the entire bar exploded as energy beams pierced the building like needles. Bottles exploded, tables caught fire, chairs disintegrated as did patrons caught in the deadly barrage. The waitress cried out in terror her voice adding to the screams and chaos as the violence continued.
“Athalla we have to get out of here, NOW”, the mercenary shouted over the electric destruction which was tearing the bar apart. Exploding bottles impaled the barkeep who doubled over the bar and fell to the floor. His wide eyes glanced at the two men before him as if asking what had happened. His arm fell flat and went still as a stream of blood pooled beneath him.
Suddenly the sound of metal clanging loudly on the floor could be heard distinctly even through the cacophony which had enveloped the bar. “GRENADES”, Aev shouted. He quickly pulled on the waitress and Athalla and managed to drag them through the kitchen doors as a horrific explosion annihilated the bar’s main area. Aev quickly looked around and spotted a back door. Without hesitation he dragged his charges through the door. The three collapsed in the dark alley as fire rapidly consumed the establishment.
Aev grabbed the girl. “Go! Find the authorities and tell them everything you can remember. Stay with them and do not go home!” The woman was in tears still suffering from shock and recovering from the physical effects of the explosions. She was obviously shaken, but there was no time for compassion. “GO. GO!”
The woman nodded managing to stand and ran off into the darkness. Aev turned to Athalla who was rubbing his head after kissing the concrete in their hasty escape.
“What the hell is going on”, Leon muttered rubbing his battered and scraped chin.
“No time. We have to leave. Now! Can you walk?”
“Of course I can”, Athalla replied standing up. “Did you think I was actually drunk? That was only an act. It would take a hell of a lot more than that to…”
“COME ON”, the merc shouted grabbing the pilot and dashing down another alley. The two ran for what seemed like forever until Athalla finally had to stop to catch his breath. Leaning against a dirty wall, Athalla gasped for breath as the two men stared at one another.
“What the hell happened…back..there Keirianh? Who…destroyed…that bar?”
“I do not know. All I can say for certain is that it was me they were after! Now do you see why I warned you against coming here? My presence only attracts death. So long as I live I can never be free of them!”
“Rivals, enemies, former clients….there are many who want me dead. Many who seek to claim my title as best. However I fear I know who it was who wants me the most, but this is not the time or place to discuss it. We must return to the Charon at once or else I fear more innocent lives will be lost as they pursue me.”
Athalla reached into his jacket and produced a pair of phasers. He tossed one at the mercenary and checked the other. “Well like I say, always come prepared.”
A distant explosion could be heard in the distance as the two men looked off to see a black cloud rise into the night sky lit by the raging fires below.
“You sure know how to pick friends. They seem to enjoy playing rough. The shuttle is a few blocks away on the edge of town. You can fill me in on who it is who’s trying to kill us on the way. If I’m gonna die tonight I’d at least like to know who it is who is gunning for me.”
Aev nodded as the two men set off running toward the shuttle and possible salvation from their pursuers.
[ TO BE CONTINUED ]
Lt. Leon Athalla