The Bull and the Hyena, Part 4

They met their contact, who went by the name “Verdek”, in a typical location, a seedy bar about a half a mile from the starport. They had walked all the way there, as Grendemar’s tram system didn’t service this sector, and Kyla’s feet were killing her. She wasn’t used to walking, and the shoes she was wearing were designed for fashion, not function. As soon as she and Treben sat down in a booth, she took her shoes off and started rubbing her feet, ignoring the disgusted look that Treben gave her.

“You know,” he said with a sneer, “not everyone in this bar wants to smell your gross feet.”

“Get over it,” she said, rolling her eyes, “My feet are probably the best smelling thing in this bar. I mean, seriously. Could you have picked a nastier place to have this meeting?” Kyla was used to the seamy underbelly of the galaxy, but this was probably the most disgusting place she’d ever been in. It was dark, not to set a mood, but because half the lights were burnt out. The windows were so grimy that it was impossible to see through them, except in the many spots were they were broken. The floor looked and felt like it hadn’t been cleaned in Kyla’s lifetime, and the table where they sat was so stained from years of spilled beer and food that it was impossible to tell what color it had been originally. It was, to put it mildly, a dump.

“Okay, so,” he said with a grin, “I didn’t pick this place, Verdek did. But who cares? This is the sort of place where legends are born!” Kyla rolled her eyes again.

“What sort of legends?” she scoffed, “‘Most disgusting fungal growth in the galaxy’? ‘All-time record for the most exotic cancers found in a single human body’? I’m telling you, Treb, this place is a serious health hazard.”

“Oh, you’re fine,” he said with a dismissive wave of his hand, “Just don’t eat or drink anything here. And make sure you put your shoes back on before you walk on this floor.”

“Don’t worry,” she said, “I’m actually starting to wish I’d brought a floatpack with me, so I could get out of here without making physical contact with anything.”

Treben opened his mouth to reply, but at that moment a woman sat down in the booth next to him. She was older than Kyla, probably early 40s, and had shoulder-length dark hair and dark eyes. She was wearing a considerable amount of makeup, but it looked tasteful, not gaudy. She looked more like a successful businesswoman than anything, not at all the type of woman one would expect to find in a bar like this.

“Welcome to Midigal,” she said briskly, “I trust that your trip was pleasant?” Treben looked at her with a quizzical expression, one eyebrow raised.

“You’re Verdek?” he said in an amused voice.

“Why, yes, I am,” she said, equally amused, “Were you expecting a greasy thug, perhaps?”

“Actually, yes,” Treben responded, “But now that I’ve met you, I can see that you are neither greasy nor a thug.” He winked, and she arched an eyebrow.

“I wouldn’t be too quick to judge,” she said, “Do you really think anyone frequents an establishment like this who isn’t a thug?”

“Well, I would have said that before I met you,” he said with a broad smile, “But now I’m going to have to rethink that assessment.”

“Don’t be so sure,” she said with a smirk, “Thugs come in all shapes and sizes.” Treben opened his mouth to reply, but Kyla cut him off.

“Sorry to interrupt the flirt fest here,” she said testily, “but don’t we have a job to do? I’d kinda like to know more about it.” Treben shot her an annoyed look, and Verdek gave her a look that was coolly appraising. Kyla felt her cheeks redden, but she didn’t look away.

“Very well,” Verdek said briskly, and handed a tablet to Treben, “Here is all the information you will require.” Treben looked it over quickly and let out a low whistle.

“Wow!” he said with an equal mix of approval and trepidation, “You weren’t joking when you said our target was important. We are definitely gonna earn our pay on this job.” He handed the tablet to Kyla, and her jaw dropped.

“I never joke about business,” Verdek said with a slight frown, “Now, this information is included in what I gave you, but I need to reemphasize it, because if you forget, it will be disastrous and you will forfeit your pay. It is vitally important that you wait at least two weeks to eliminate the target.”

“Why?” Kyla said suspiciously.

“You don’t need to know that now,” Verdek said, fixing Kyla with a steely glare, “Rest assured, when the time comes, you will know. But at this moment it is irrelevant to your mission.” Kyla and Verdek locked eyes for a few moments, but this time Kyla felt compelled to look away. Verdek gave a satisfied nod.

“Any more questions?” she said. Kyla shook her head, still not making eye contact, and Treben just shrugged. “Very good. I have given you instructions for contacting me if needed. But know that I will be highly displeased if you contact me for a frivolous reason. And I get to decide what is frivolous and what is not.” She fixed her steely gaze on Treben, but he just smiled and winked. She scowled, and then got up and walked away.

As soon as she was out the door, Treben let out a relieved sigh. “Holy crap, that’s a tough woman,” he said with a nervous chuckle. “I just about peed my pants at the end there.”

“You didn’t let on at all,” Kyla said, with a scowl that couldn’t quite hide her begrudging admiration.

“Years of practice,” Treben said dismissively, “You never want someone who’s trying to intimidate you to know that they’re succeeding. I’ve learned that lesson the hard way.” Kyla nodded, a thoughtful expression forming on her face.

To be continued…

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