Treben Holkas’ ship trembled slightly as it settled down on its landing pad in Grendemar, the capital city of Midigal. The landing pad was located in a grungy old hangar, part of a small and rundown private starport on the outskirts of the city. Kyla didn’t know why Treben had picked this particular starport to land in, but she assumed that the smuggler had some sort of connection to its owner. It wasn’t the worst starport she’d ever seen, but it was close. Not that she minded, of course. Places like this were the bread and butter of a smuggler. Out of the way and mostly ignored by the authorities, they were perfect for exchanging all manner of legally questionable goods and services.
She shut down the ship’s engines while Holkas grabbed his gear from his compartment. She was hopeful that now that they’d finally reached Midigal, she’d be able to figure out exactly what she’d gotten herself into. Holkas still refused to say anything other than that the payoff would be astronomical. She couldn’t imagine what all the secrecy was about. She hoped there was a good reason for it.
“Okay, babe, I’m all set,” Holkas said, popping his head into the cockpit. “How are you doing?”
“Almost done,” she said, “Just need to reset the termalink coils.”
“Don’t bother,” he said, shaking his head, “We won’t be using this ship again.” She looked up at him, confused.
“What do you mean?” she asked, “How are we going to get our cargo off the planet?”
“We’re not,” he said with an enigmatic smile, and then left. She scowled after him for a moment, and then she got up and hurried after him. She caught up with him at the end of the ramp out of the ship and grabbed his arm.
“Okay, buster,” she said in a low, angry voice, “It’s about time you tell me what’s going on here. I know literally nothing about this job, other than that the payoff is apparently enormous. That was enough for me back on Minisca, but now that we’re here, I think I deserve to know what I’ve gotten myself into.” He gave her a bemused look, and she glared back at him. Finally, he sighed wearily and ran his fingers through his hair.
“To be honest, I don’t know much about this job either,” he said in a tired voice, “I got a call about a month ago from a high level official on Midigal. Said he wanted me to knock off a rival of his. I’ve done assassin work in the past, but it’s messy and difficult, so I told him no. Then he told me his fee. I’m telling you Kyla, the money we are gonna get from this hit will be enough that we can both retire and live as kings. It is, well, phenomenal.”
“Wait a second,” she said, stopping, “A hit? That’s not what I signed up for! I’m a smuggler, not an assassin! I don’t have any experience killing people, and I don’t have any desire either!”
“Hey, chill out, babe,” he said in what he apparently thought was a soothing voice, “It’s no big deal. People die all the time, and frankly, this guy probably deserves to die. He’s probably corrupt or a pedophile or something.”
“Or maybe he just made the wrong person mad,” she replied heatedly, “I don’t care why one bigwig wants another one dead. I’m not taking part in this.”
“Oh, come on,” Holkas said pleadingly, “It’s really not that hard to kill someone. And you’ll never have to do it again. I’m telling you, the payoff for this hit is massive!” Kyla shook her head.
“I can’t do it, Holkas,” she said in a quiet, intense voice, “I can’t kill another person. It goes against everything I believe in.” He rolled his eyes.
“You’re kidding me,” he scoffed, “You wanna live in the underworld, but you say you can’t kill someone? How do you think that’s gonna work? Even if you never kill somebody for money, you gotta protect your interests. You can’t just say, ‘I’ll never kill someone’, cause your rivals are sure as hell not gonna have any problem killing you.” She closed her eyes and swallowed hard. He watched her for a few moments, and then he put on his best smile and put his arm around her.
“Okay,” he said soothingly, “how about this? Let’s find out more information about this hit, see who this guy is. I’ll let you back out at any time, and I’ll even give you half your fee if you do. Just…don’t back out now. Okay?” She took a long, deep breath with her eyes still closed and slowly let it out.
“Fine,” she said suddenly, opening her eyes as she did, “I won’t back out now.” She shifted her pack on her shoulders and headed for the hangar’s exit.
“Atta girl!” Holkas exclaimed with a big grin as he hustled to keep up with her, “That’s the spirit!”
“So who is the target, anyway?” she said as they left the hangar and emerged on the streets of Grendemar. They were in an old, rundown district on the edge of the city. It was late at night, and the street was dark and deserted. It gave Kyla an eerie feeling.
“I don’t know yet,” Holkas said with a shrug, “We’ll find out when we meet our contact.”
“So who hired us?” she asked. Holkas shrugged again.
“Don’t know that either,” he said.
“You don’t know who hired us?” she asked incredulously, “How do we know he’s gonna pay us then? What do we do if he doesn’t?” Holkas rolled his eyes.
“That’s how this works, Kyla,” he said in a voice like an adult talking to a child, “Whoever hired us is a powerful, respected person. He or she doesn’t want to risk that reputation by letting the news get out that they hired an assassin. Our contact will pay us when the job’s over.”
“And if they don’t?” Kyla asked. Holkas chuckled.
“Oh, then we’ll find ’em,” he said with a grin, “Don’t worry. There are always ways to get information in the underworld.” His chuckle turned nasty as he strolled down the dark streets of Grendemar. Kyla followed after him with a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach.
To be continued…