Chapter Three – Fear of falling

 

  “Oh crap!” Tom tried to divide his attention between the Nausicaan and the young Andorian. The later looked harmless enough, but Tom hadn’t survived by trusting appearances, so he kept his gun trained on the man behind the park bench.

  André and Shadira had turned towards the Nausicaan but held their weapons at their sides, pointing at nothing in particular and certainly not at the grinning face half-hidden behind a gun that couldn’t decided if it was a large pistol or a small rifle.

  “So you want to kill us?” André was surprised by the calmness of his own voice. What he really wanted to do was shout at the goon to just pull the trigger and get it over with. At least he would have a quick end instead of the downward spiral his life was turning into.

  “Nope. I am gonna kill you and that sorry excuse for an engineer who should have learned his lesson ‘bout messing with The Hawk long ago.” His eyes moved slightly until they rested on the Orion by André’s side. “Her I will stun, take away to some private place and torture until she tells me what I want to know. Not sure yet if I will fuck her before, after, or during the torturing. You get the picture?”

  Martin’s hand moved, he pulled the trigger, and the Nausicaan toppled over with a loud groan that ended suddenly when his face slammed into the ground. “Yes. I get the picture.”

  *****

  “Do you know some place we could sell this?” André asked as he handed Tom the Nausicaan’s gun.

  “Yup. That was some pretty good shootin’ boss.”

  André Lafayette just grunted and started to search the thug’s pockets. For a shot from the hip it had been pretty good, but what had made it a good shot was pure luck. ‘Or maybe pure anger.’ Just a little favor he had done for an old friend and now his life was completely out of control. If he made it through another day without snapping it would be a miracle. What he really needed was some control over his life – it was that or getting back to thoughts of shooting himself.

  He found what he had been looking for and held up the small red crystal prism. “Any idea how much is on this?”

  “Wait a sec.” Tom dug into the inside pockets of his grimy jacket and produced a small scanner. He ran the device over the crystal and whistled loudly. “I’ll be damned! Take a look a this!”

  Shadira and André glanced at the figures on the tiny display and Lafayette’s eyes widened to the size of footballs. “I’ll be... This guy must be pretty high up in the Hawk’s organization to carry around that much money. This’ll go a long way to pay for the spare parts we need.”

  “Guess so.” Tom scratched his head and glanced at the carbine he was still holding. “Still want to pawn this baby?”

  “Yes.” André relieved the Nausicaan of the two pistols and shoulder holster hidden under a coarse jacket. “Every little helps. Did one of you notice where the Andorian went?”

  Tom pointed his craggy chin at one of the alleys leading from the park. “He ran like hell when you downed Krush. Guess he’s not as adventurous as he thought.”

  “Krush, is that his name? Fitting if you think about it. Oh well...” André Lafayette checked the setting of his disruptor again and fired two more stun shots at the Nausicaan. “That should keep him under for a while. Now let’s get out of here before we run into any more trouble.”

  *****

  Martin lay in his bunk and stared at the corrugated metal ceiling. What was it with this ship and the local crime boss? He had searched the Captain’s cabin as thoroughly as his dazed brain and tired body allowed and found absolutely nothing out of the ordinary. A few odds and ends, a few mementos from other ships and exotic worlds, nothing he wouldn’t have expected if this had been his own quarters.

  And now they were his own quarters. If he lived long enough he would have to do some redecorating, add a bit of color here and there, but he could get used to this place.

  The realization how far he had come in just one day almost cut through his foggy brain, but he quickly shelved the thought away for another day. He needed sleep. And he needed nothing less than a reminder of his old life. The thought of how cozy his world had been a few days ago would be more than enough to drive him over the edge.

  Somewhere on the deck above him he could hear the twins calling back and forth to each other along the central corridor. They had been waiting at the Seven Seas’ airlock and now they were busy going over what passed for an ODN grid on Martin’s new home.

  Laszlo had been nowhere in sight, but Tom had ensured André that the Half-Romulan would be with them soon enough. If that was a good or bad thing was another thought that would have to wait for the next day.

  At least they had enough money now to buy some of the most needed parts – if they could be found anywhere on Chamra. A two-hundred year old Klingon ship would be hard enough to repair, but with an old Starfleet impulse drive, Cardassian disruptors, and a warpdrive cobbled together from a dozen different components it would be a nightmare to put the ship back together.

  ‘Mustn’t think about it. Will only keep me awake. Need sleep.’

  He closed his eyes and could feel his exhaustion envelop him like a warm blanket that beckoned him to sleep. ‘Good night Martin Lafayette. Or is that André Alcott? No, sounds silly.’

  ‘Who knows who I’ll be tomorrow.’

  With that thought sleep finally overwhelmed him and he drifted off into a world filled with grinning Nausicaans, manically laughing cops and sharp beaks pecking at his frightened eyes.

  *****

  “And I thought you were one of my better enforcers.”

  Krush wanted to protest, make a point about being one of the best on Chamra, but he knew better than to argue with The Hawk.

  The Hawk turned his eyes from the vista below his high-rise apartment and smiled at the reflection of a worried face in the window. “Oh relax. I am not going to kill you – yet. Good personnel is so hard to find and you shouldn’t have gone with three to one odds in the first place. But you dared those odds out of loyalty for me and that has to count for something, wouldn’t you agree?”

  “It was nothing, boss.”

  “Damn Right You Are!” The blond Human spun around and glowered at his henchman. “It was nothing! I expect everyone working for me to take on higher odds and come out on top! The only reason you are still alive is that you know this new guy.”

  He refrained from showing Krush the smile he felt – it would have reduced the Nausicaan from a source of information to a gibbering idiot – and settled behind his desk. Reputation was a wonderful thing, especially when enforced with a well-measured amount of violence now and again. “Tell me about him.”

  The Nausicaan’s gulp sounded like a distant rockfall, but that he kept control of his voice told The Hawk that he had made a good choice by keeping Krush alive for now.

  “I am not sure what to make of him. Calls himself Lafayette, but no one seems to know anything about him. Must be a new arrival.”

  “Go on.”

  “Well, thing is, when I first ran into him I took him for just another dim-wit, but he knows a few things about guns and how to use ‘em. And he hooked up with some of the minor players real quick. The twins aren’t known to do charity work and getting Laszlo to leave his lair isn’t easy.”

  “And he took that Orion bitch from you when you first met.” A quick staccato of fingers drumming on the exquisite mahogany desk followed The Hawk’s last remark, before the Human swiveled his chair around and stared out the window again. Chamra was his turf and he had worked too hard for it, to see it all destroyed.

  “Very well. See what you can find out about this Lafayette, but don’t get too close. If they want to get that ship back in shape we’ll let them proceed. Keep your men shadowing them and make sure that they are not too stealthy about it. I don’t want a confrontation, but they have to know that we are keeping an eye on them.”

  “You are gonna let them sweat for a while.” Krush grinned. It wasn’t what he would have done, but it still sounded like a good idea.

  “Yes. If we allow them a shred of hope it will work for us, once we take that little piece of hope from them. And we can have their fear work for us. too. It will heighten their tension and thereby make them more compliant to our demands, once we make our move.”

  And fear they would feel – everyone who had stood in his way in the past had known fear before their end had come. But if it didn’t work in this case The Hawk would be the one knowing fear before his end. He had to succeed or risk everything coming apart in a very messy, very bloody way that would turn him into a bloody mess.

  *****

  “He’s back.”

  André sadly shook his head. It was time to deal with the Andorian once and for all. Being alerted to his presence every other hour was getting tiresome. “Thanks Kara.” He nodded at the female of the pair he had met three days ago. When not together Kara and Kiran were odd, a bit unnerving, but not nearly as scary as they were in their immediate unearthly unison.

  As André made his way down the central corridor to the aft airlock he thought about the twins and what he had learned about them. His own observations, together with what little Shadira had told him, had done only so much to prepare him for the long chat he had with the twins, but it had given him a start. But what had really made it bearable was his decision to do whatever it took to get off Chamra.

  When exactly he had arrived at that determination André didn’t want to know or think about. By comparison to the forces that had taken hold of his life the twins seemed like an island of normality in an ocean of weirdness.

  If not separated by more than fifty meters, maybe a hundred meters at most, they shared a bond that was hard to describe in any of the words Human languages had dreamed up, but it had aspects of both empathy and telepathy as far as André understood these things, which wasn’t far at all.

  On Adigeon they had been an object of scientific curiosity, a by-product of an experiment the twins either didn’t want to talk about or knew nothing about. It mattered about as little as the way they had managed to talk Captain Dyson into sneaking them away. What mattered was that they now were a part of the Seven Seas’ crew – ‘my crew’ – and that they knew their way around a starship. With their shared perception and knowledge it was like having one person in two different places at the same time, which was quite handy.

  Too bad they both shared their fear of The Hawk as well and whenever they were in close contact that fear was amplified to an almost tangible level that radiated outward from them like a dark cloud enveloping the ship. Doing something for the late Captain Dyson was one thing, risking life and limb was something else to them, but they had given their word and they would stand by it – for now.

  ‘And what is it to me? Am I that desperate to get off this planet?’ André fingered the two disruptors in his shoulder holster and almost felt secure.

  He had adjusted the holster he had taken off Krush to fit him comfortably and while he knew he had to be the worst student Laszlo had every seen fit to teach the fine art of fast-drawing, he felt a lot more secure being armed than he had felt three days ago.

  He grabbed a random piece of machinery from a tray near the airlock and stepped down the ramp. ‘Best propulsion engineer on the planet! Let’s see about that.’

  *****

  “Where is he?” Lafayette asked Laszlo who kneeled at his usual place at the foot of the ramp, cradling one of his many rifles in his arms.

  “Corner of hangar three.”

  André looked out over the tarmac to the large sheet iron building closest to the ship. In the shadow of the improvised hangar stood the Andorian. Like a dozen times before the young man tried his best not to look at the Seven Seas and to appear as if he belonged on what Chamrans called a spaceport.

  “What do you think he wants?”

  Laszlo shrugged. “No idea. If he wants to sign on with us he should just say so.  At least we can be sure he’s not working for The Hawk. He’s just not good enough at not staying hidden.”

  “How many today?” André asked and let his eyes wander around the spaceport. Unlike Laszlo he still had to develop a knack for spotting the thugs keeping a constant eye on them.

  “Three. If they stick to their usual pattern two more should be tailing Tom and Shadira right now.”

  André drew a deep breath, which he immediately regretted. The spaceport wasn’t known for its well-working sewer system. Half the refuse was just dumped into the stagnant river behind the chain-link fence encircling the tarmac and since they had moved the ship to the edge of the spaceport the brown sludge was their closest neighbor.

  “I see no reason why they should change their pattern. For now it seems they just want to let us steam in our own grease.” He glanced down at the Half-Romulan gunman. “Why is it that doesn’t bother you? Aren’t you afraid of the Hawk?”

  “No. I had my fear surgically removed a few years ago.”

  André snorted, but perhaps there was some truth to it. Once Laszlo had settled into his new job his calm had turned into just another of the unnerving details of André’s new life. “You are kidding, right?”

  “Of course I am.” Laszlo shot a disapproving glance at Lafayette, before his eyes returned to their constant scanning. “Fear is a tool for survival. Getting rid of it would be suicide.” His hand reached into a pocket of his coat and came up with a small box that produced a clacking sound as he shook it. “But I take a few of these once in a while. Dulls the smaller fears and let’s only the really important feelings through, the ones that tell you you’re in real trouble. You should try it yourself. I bet there are a few guys working for The Hawk who would be scared shitless by an opponent who isn’t scared of them.”

  André Lafayette thought about the offer for a moment, but his survival instincts seemed a lot more important than the short, and possibly terminal, satisfaction of fearlessly facing down someone he should run away from.

  “No thanks. Another time maybe. Right now it’s time to deal with someone a little less impressive than the Hawk.”

  *****

  He took his time making his way over the cracked landing field and for the first time in three days Martin Alcott had time to think about the turns his life had taken lately. ‘No use thinking about it. Nothing I can do now.’

  He tried to concentrate on the ground he could feel beneath his boots, the sun glaring down from a cloudless sky, and the question why he had decided to wear a heavy leather coat on a warm sunny day.

  It was no use. Halfway between the Seven Seas and the hangar he stopped and turned his face upward, blinking against the sun. Laszlo was a freak, but a loyal freak, once he had decided on a course of action. The twins would still take a lot of time to get used to, but they were just two people trying to get by the best they could. Tom was a pretty decent guy once you got to know him. And Shadira... Shadira was still a bit hard to fathom, but she seemed to have accepted him as her new captain, or at least she was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

  What they all seemed to share was their confidence in André Lafayette to pull them through this and make things work. It was the one thing that set him apart from his crew. When repairing the ship or negotiating with some sleazy trader about the price for much-needed spare parts he was that man they all trusted, but Martin Alcott’s sleep was still anything but refreshing. During the day he could find his way into being Captain Lafayette, but during the night he was still Martin Alcott, disgraced Merchant Marine officer trying to make sense of a world that had never been his.

  ‘But can I make it work? Will I have to stop being all that I was, just to survive?’

  His eyes turned away from the burning sun and he looked forward at the Andorian youth nervously eyeing him. That man was the least of his problems.

  Slowly he turned around until his gaze came to rest on the ancient Klingon scout. There were people there who trusted him. But they trusted him for what he did, not based on a fanciful name. ‘And what I do is what Martin Alcott is forced to do. Perhaps in the end it all really comes down to survival. But I’ll be damned if I let that turn me into someone I am not!’

  When he resumed his way across the Tarmac, Martin’s step had acquired an energetic spring fueled by a decision André Lafayette had not been able to take, but Martin Alcott had just made.

 

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