Mercenary Instinct: Chapter 7

Posted by on August 19th, 2014 in Excerpts / Freebies | No Comments

The morning brought two gifts: the team’s bags of equipment and three egg logs, the latter being the mercenary equivalent of breakfast. Nobody had offered them dinner the night before, so Ankari was hungry enough to rip open the wrapper of her “log” without scrutinizing the ingredients list. Some things were probably better left a mystery anyway.

“I don’t understand this,” Lauren said, standing over her open pack, “but I’m tickled to see my collapsible BioEye 973.” She pulled out a compact field unit that was a combination microscope and sensor unit. “My field generator is even in here.”

Ankari opened her own pack and immediately noticed that the rope and rappelling kit had been removed, along with a multi-purpose knife and a laser cutting tool. All of the samples she had gathered were there. “Guess they assumed we couldn’t use fossilized remains to formulate an escape.”

“I’ll take those,” Lauren said brightly, holding out her hand. She had already settled cross-legged on the floor and didn’t seem daunted by the notion of setting up a field lab in a tiny room with no tables, sinks, or power outlets.

“It takes so little to make you happy.” Ankari laid the samples out beside her. “You were a good investment.”

Lauren smiled. “Of course I was.”

“Let me know if I can help with anything.”

Lauren didn’t respond. She had already bored into one of the samples and scraped out fine particles to make her first slide, and she was busy with the microscope. The humming sensors doubtlessly told her more than eyes alone could.

Ankari settled on the floor against the bench, sitting next to Jamie, who was inspecting the wrapper before opening her egg log.

“Eat it,” Ankari suggested. “You’re already on the lanky side. You shouldn’t be missing meals. Not if you want to keep attracting the eye of sexy mercenaries.”

“Uh. Which one was the sexy one, because I know you’re not talking about that thug from last night?”

“You liked the captain, didn’t you? Though he is a little old for you.”

Jamie snorted. “I’m not the one he watches when he comes down here.”

“No, because you’re not the one who talks a lot and pick-pockets his people.” Ankari bit into her breakfast and eyed the corner of the desk at the end of the corridor. The day guard didn’t throw his boots on it—maybe he considered himself more professional than the movie-watching night-shift man—but he was up there. He’d brought them the gear and food, then disappeared into the alcove. What could she try next to escape? At the least, she wanted a chance to read whatever message Fumio might have sent back. But preferably she’d find a way for them to get off the ship altogether.

“No doubt, that’s why you left with the thug last night and came back with him. You must have done something he appreciated.” Jamie waved to the packs.

“I don’t know what, since I was knocking out his men and breaking into his computer system.” Ankari supposed logging onto the rec room computer wasn’t technically “breaking into” anything. And she’d only knocked out the one man… But her words earned her an admiring smile from Jamie.

“You’re so brave. I would have been terrified of going off with that Striker. I was terrified.”

“An understandable reaction. He was dangerous. I’m just too busy scheming to realize I’m in danger sometimes.”

“Are you scheming now?” Jamie asked.

“I’m—”

The guard chose that moment to walk back to their cell. He didn’t say anything, but he watched Lauren for a moment. He was probably making sure they couldn’t blow anything up with the gear they had.

“Morgen,” a voice said over his comm.

He tapped the patch. “Here.”

“Striker assigned you to his team for the scouting mission. When you get off shift, report to the staging room. You’ll be going down tonight.”

“Good. Thanks.”

“Going down where?” Ankari asked casually. Just out of curiosity, of course, not because she wanted to know if they were approaching a planet or station where three women might find a way to disappear if they were crafty enough to escape their captors…

“Nowhere that has anything to do with you,” the guard said and walked back to his station.

“Wanna bet?” Ankari muttered.

“You are scheming,” Jamie whispered.

“Always. Listen… do you think you could fly one of these mercenary shuttles if we managed to get aboard one?”

Jamie’s face crinkled dubiously. “Maybe eventually, but probably not right away. I’d have to familiarize myself with everything first and find the technical manuals.”

Something that she wouldn’t have time to do if they knocked out guards and blew their way into the shuttle bay. Not that Ankari could imagine a scenario where that happened anyway.

“I’m sorry.” Jamie poked at her knee. “If you had a real pilot, she would have gone through military or civilian flight school and would be familiar with a lot of the models out there.”

A real pilot would have commanded a hefty salary and a big share of the company too. Jamie had been so eager to escape her home world that she probably would have worked for free. As it was, the five percent share she had accepted had thus far amounted to nothing, and she was working for free. Though she didn’t seem to mind, Ankari vowed to see her vision completed and her company worth something before the year was out. She eyed the confines of the brig. They just had to get past one small obstacle first…

“You’re doing fine,” Ankari said. “And maybe I can get you a technical manual that you could study beforehand.”

“Beforehand? What’s happening… after hand?”

“We’re going wherever he’s going,” Ankari murmured, nodding toward the guard desk. She had no idea what this new mercenary mission might entail, but if there was going to be a preliminary scouting mission, there should be a full-fledged assault at some point after that. If most of the crew went along on that, that could be the perfect time to escape.

“Tonight?”

“Tonight or more likely tomorrow. We’ll get off the ship, disappear on the world or station or whatever we’re approaching, and leave our mercenary friends forever. And find somewhere safe to hide until we can get this bounty problem solved.” Ankari scooted up to Lauren, tapping her on the shoulder. “You know that generator you mentioned? Didn’t you once say that it could make electromagnetic pulses?”

“That’s one of the energy forms it can generate, yes.”

“And you said they left it in there?”

“Yes.” Lauren tapped the pack—hers had always been the heaviest. “They took my nail file, but not an energy generator.”

“Because it looks like scientific equipment, not a weapon.”

“It is scientific equipment.”

“I know, but is there any chance it could disrupt the forcefield?”

“Uhhh.” Lauren gave the invisible shield a skeptical look. “Maybe with Jamie’s help, I could try to come up with… something. But I couldn’t make any promises.”

“Do your best.” Even if the generator could free them from the brig, Ankari would still have to figure out a way to get into the shuttle bay, not to mention finding a manual for Jamie. Still, if the ship would soon be light on crew members, that would be the time to try an escape.

“This is another instance when a technical manual would be useful,” Jamie said, waving toward the forcefield. “One of this ship, this time.”

“The manuals for the ship and the shuttles are probably on the tablets the crew all have. I’ll see if I can get you one.” Ankari stood up, hoping the guard would respond if she called him back here.

“How are you going to do that?” Jamie asked.

“Chat with the captain.” Ankari wriggled her fingers to imply she might do a little more than chat.

“Without the forcefield being involved?”

Yes, picking pockets through that would be challenging.

“Well, I’d like to thank him for his generosity.” Ankari waved at the packs. “Maybe he’d let me do that over lunch or dinner.”

Jamie’s face grew skeptical. “If you can make that happen, I’ll be impressed. I’ll be even more impressed if you can get something better than an egg log out of him.” She lifted her unopened breakfast package.

“I will.”

“Better stop glaring so hard at him then,” Lauren added without looking up from her work. “I’m pretty sure he knows you want to fry his balls off for blowing up your ship.”

“Er, was I that obvious about that?” She had been trying hard to be civil the day before…

“I don’t know. Maybe only to people who know you.”

“We’ll see.”

Chapter 8

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