This is the second half of First Bounty. As soon as I finish the cover it will be available on amazon and smashwords.
First Bounty part 2
Derek put his com on and then headed off for his section of town. He was searching the warehouses along the edge of the settlement. He was an experienced cargo hauler and would fit in with the people working the cargo ships and loading docks. As he went from warehouse to warehouse he stopped and talked to dock workers, cargo haulers, and delivery drivers. These last drove small electric trucks that would carry supplies to the small restaurants or to individual dwellings. Except for Mars, Targus was the oldest station Earth had, and it had housing set up for families. The station and mines had been here long enough that some of the youngest workers were native to Targus instead of Earth.
In one warehouse Derek stood and watched as a huge piece of mining equipment was unloaded from a ship twice the size of the Patera. The large magnetic cargo movers inched along until the giant mechanism was clear of the ship and then headed across the tarmac to park it alongside the building. Derek watched until the machine was parked and then turned to leave. As he did so, he gave a quick glance around the area, and saw what had been hidden by the mining machine when he had first arrived. Across the landing field next to another warehouse was a small, sleek craft, almost hidden by a huge stack of lube barrels.
A Mercury class ship was a beautiful thing compared to the cargo haulers that Derek was used to. The smooth lines and curves reminded him of a bird in flight, and heat resistant coating was dyed in colors that changed with the angle of viewing or the temperature. In flowing letters down the side was the name Aurora. That was the name Dobson had given them for the stolen ship. Stopping a worker that was walking past Derek asked, “Do you know whose ship that is?”
Looking in the direction Derek indicated the man answered, “I’m not sure. It’s been there for about a week and I’ve never seen anyone around it.”
“Do you know whose warehouse that is?” Derek queried.
“It belongs to the Barton corporation.” was the answer.
“Thanks,” Derek told the man with a nod, turned and walked out of the bustling building and into the street. After a quick look to see that no one was close, he pretended to scratch his ear and hit the button on the com. Waiting until he heard a beep from each of the other coms he spoke softly, “I found the Aurora. No sign of Jackson.”
“Now we know he came here,” spoke Keri’s voice in his ear.
“Ok, we’ll keep looking,” Beech’s voice, and then two beeps as the others turned their coms back off.
Moving on down the line of warehouses Derek scanned the faces of anyone he saw, looking for Jackson. An hour later finding no sign of his quarry he returned to the Barton warehouse and wandered past. He was trying to observe without being obvious about it but wasn’t sure how good he was at it. Another hour went by as he waited in the area and watched but seeing nothing, he decided enough was enough and headed back to his ship.
Moving carefully through the cargo doors without getting in the dockworkers’ way, he went to the control deck of the Patera. Sitting in the navigator’s chair waiting and drinking one of his orange sodas was Keri. Derek shook his head in aggravation and told her, “I’m gonna have to start charging you for those.”
“Why?” she returned quickly. “You’ve got a whole cargo container full taking up money making space in the hold. I figure you’re costing me money by hauling it around and the least you can do is let me drink a few.” She gave him her innocent, sweet smile and took another drink.
“Fine,” Derek told the girl, not falling for her smile. “But go easy on it; they don’t make it any more you know.”
“Ok, ok,” Keri grumbled. “I guess you didn’t have any more luck than I did finding Jackson?”
“No,” he sighed. “I hung around the Barton warehouse for a while and no one even went close to the Aurora.”
Sitting down in the flight chair Derek started poking at the screen, “Let’s see what Barton Corporation is.” Pulling up a list of companies that hired cargo carriers to haul for them he went through the list and found Barton. Tapping the name on the screen brought up a very small amount of information. Only that it was based here on Targus and a short list of shareholders. The names meant nothing to Derek but he only knew a few companies well enough to recognize shareholders’ names.
Keri looked at the list, shrugging and saying, “Means nothing to me. But if they’re the smugglers’ the names are probably fake anyway.”
Nodding Derek sat back leaving the list on the computer screen. They both sat without speaking for a few minutes and then turned at the sound of footsteps. Beech appeared in the doorway with a dejected expression on his face. Stepping into the room he sat in the remaining chair and sighed, “What a waste of time. Walking for hours and not even a hint of where he might be.”
Looking at the computer screen he asked, “What’s that?”
“That is the very short list of shareholders in the Barton Corporation that owns the warehouse the Aurora is docked at,” Derek replied.
Beech leaned forward looking through the list and read the names quietly, “Broomfeld, Chaucer, Kirby, Reilly, and Holden.” Raising an eyebrow he turned to his partners and asked, “Do any of these names look familiar?”
“No,” they replied in unison.
“Well, I recognize three of the names from walking through the small business district today. Chaucer, Kirby, and Reilly all own businesses in the town. I’ll bet if we looked we would find that the others do, too.”
“It’s a place to start,” said Keri. “Tomorrow. Right now I want a shower and some sleep. Walking all day in gravity wore me out after a month in space. I’ll see you two in a few hours.” With that she rose and left the room heading back to the Altair.
The two men discussed their situation for a few minutes and then they headed to showers and bed also. While Beech was showering Derek gave his ship a walk through to check on things. After looking over the main drive he wandered through the hold checking the progress of the dock workers. It looked to be shift change as no one was unloading but there were several workers moving around outside the warehouse and standing in pairs talking. As he stood in the cargo door looking out at the sun setting behind the giant moon he noticed a man casually walking around the Patera and looking it over. The man was fairly short but seemed to be rather muscular under the casual business clothes he was wearing. Stepping down the short ladder to the ground he walked over to the man and asked, “Can I help you with something?”
The man smiled up at him in a friendly way and asked, “Is this your ship?”
“Yes,” Derek answered. “Why?”
“Nice craft, I have a friend that has one just like it. How long have you had it?” the little man asked still smiling.
“For a while,” Derek told him carefully.
“Hmm, I see.” the man nodded. Turning to Derek he held out his hand and said, “My name is Tom Broomfeld. I run the Barton Corporation. We deal with a lot of cargo haulers and when a new one comes here I like to introduce myself. Makes future business easier when you know each other, don’t you think?’
Derek nodded slightly, curious why this man was here. Hoping to learn something of use to himself and his partners he asked, “What kind of cargo do you usually deal with?”
Looking at him with a knowing smile and a wink Broomfeld answered, “Whatever there’s a market for. If it makes us money we’ll deal in it.”
“Well, we mostly just haul food and spare parts. Try to stick with what we know best.” Derek understood the hidden meaning behind the man’s words but didn’t want to seem eager for information. “Not a lot of money but we make a living.”
“If you decide you’d like to make more than a living come see me,” the little man told Derek. “My office is just down the road here.” He indicated the direction of the Barton warehouse. Puting out his hand again he said, “Nice to have met you,” as he clasped Derek’s hand, and turned to walk away.
As an afterthought Derek called to the man, “Who is your friend and what’s his ship called? If I run into him I can say hello for you.”
Without stopping Broomfeld said over his shoulder, “I doubt if you run into him, he’s dead. But his ship was called the Bounty.” Then he walked around the end of the ship and was gone.
Standing still in surprise for a minute Derek then turned and rushed up the ladder and into the cargo hold to find Beech. He almost ran into his partner as he stepped through the door into the ship. “You’ll never guess who I just met,” he told his partner.
“I know. I was just about to come outside with you when I saw him. I heard everything,” Beech replied looking grim.
“I’m pretty sure he recognized the ship,” Derek told his partner. “If he did, he’s going to be watching us and that will make it hard to find Jackson.” He looked thoughtful for a minute and then added, “Or it could make it easier.”
“What do you mean?” Beech asked looking confused.
“If he knows this is the Bounty and thinks I want to pick up where the old owner left off, maybe I’d get a chance to spot Jackson,” Derek answered. “If I can get inside the Barton warehouse and look around.”
“It sounds dangerous to me;” Beech said slowly, “If Broomfeld has men like Jackson around him, it would be easy to wind up dead.”
“We’ll think about it,” Derek said with a yawn. “Right now I just want a shower and bed.” With that he walked off towards the shower leaving his partner looking after him with a concerned expression on his face.
The three cargo haulers turned bounty hunters sat in the chairs of the Patera’s flight control once again. They watched the sun rise over Targus’s sandy horizon and discussed last night’s conversation with Broomfeld. The rotation of the planet made nights here longer than the sleep cycle they were used to so they had been here for a couple of hours already. The conversation had gone back and forth between the friends as they tried to reach an agreement on what to do. Derek and Keri thought it was a good idea to approach Bloomfeld and try to get a look at his inner circle but Beech still said it was too dangerous. After a lengthy silence with both sides trying to decide how to convince the other, Keri finally said, “Sorry, Beech but it’s two to one and you’re out voted. This is how we’re gonna try and find Jackson.”
Derek looked at her for a second and then at Beech and agreed, “That’s right. It’s settled.” And they both waited for a response.
Beech stared at them for a minute and then shook his head and gave up, “Fine, but I don’t like it.”
They spent another hour deciding how to proceed now that they knew their basic direction. After that the rest of the morning was spent waiting for the dockworkers to finish unloading and then finishing the paper work for their loads. Derek picked up their pay and locked it away in the Patera and then started to prepare for his meeting with Bloomfeld. By mid afternoon the three were ready and they left the ship.
Keri left first and headed down the street and past the smugglers’ warehouse. She would wander for a short time and then double back and take a position close to the front of the building. She would watch the front doors to see if Jackson came or went through them. Also she was close enough to lend a hand if there was a problem.
Beech started a slow meandering walk down the tarmac looking at ships and warehouses and chatting with workers he came across. This would eventually put him on the opposite side of the Barton warehouse from Keri so that both sides were covered.
Giving the others a few minutes to get in position, Derek then headed for the Barton office. His stomach was knotting up as he approached the building and he was starting to think Beech had been right about this being a bad idea. When he stepped through the front door though, his stomach calmed down and he felt ready for anything. He was expecting a pretty, young secretary to greet him as he came in but he was disappointed. The secretary was middle aged, slightly plump, and even though she was nice looking, she wasn’t the for-looks-only secretary he thought he would find. He introduced himself and asked to see Broomfeld and then waited as she spoke into her com headset. A minute later a large man walked up and motioned for him to follow.
Trailing behind the man, Derek tried to memorize the way back in case he needed to run for some reason. They walked down several corridors and then came to a dead end with a set of wooden double doors. Here the man stopped and turned to Derek saying, “I need to take any weapons you might have before you go in.”
Expecting this, Derek started to reach for the shoulder holster under his jacket but stopped when the man told him, “Wait. Just tell me and I’ll get it.”
Derek pulled aside the light jacket he was wearing to show the man his weapon. The man reached out with a huge hand and disarmed him, then asked, “Any more?”
Looking at the man for a second Derek decided not to take a chance angering him and told him, “Knife, right boot.” Then turned sideways and raised his pants leg a little so the guard could reach it.
“That it?” the guard asked.
“Knife, left boot.” And he turned it toward the guard.
Removing the second knife and placing it next to the other weapons on the small table next to the door the man looked at him questioningly.
“That’s all,” Derek told him, and the guard turned and opened the doors.
Stepping through into a decent sized office the first thing he noticed was the view out the large window. There was the tarmac with scattered cargo ships, the sandy hills beyond, and the huge moon of Targus hanging over it all.
“Beautiful, isn’t it,” said a voice bringing Derek’s mind back to the room in which he stood. Looking around he saw Broomfeld sitting at a desk to his left. The large man that had led him here was now standing behind and to the right of his boss.
“Yes, very beautiful,” Derek replied and took the three steps over to stand in front of the man’s desk.
“Please, have a seat,” Bloonmfeld said and Derek did so. “So I take it you have considered my offer.” It wasn’t a question but a statement. He had told Derek to consider it, so of course he had. Bloomfeld was obviously used to everyone doing as he told them.
“Yes, we have, but I’d like a little more information,” Derek told the man. “My partners are a little hesitant. They would like to know a few more details about cargo and pay.”
“There are no details,” the smuggler told him brusquely. “You haul my cargo and I pay you well. Those are the only details you need to know.”
“Yes, I understand but it’s my partners. They worry about doing something dangerous or illegal. I just want to calm their fears,” Derek probed again.
“Were you worried about dangerous or illegal when you killed my friend and took his ship?” Bloomfeld asked calmly.
“What are you talking about?” Derek asked, his stomach knotting up again. Beech had been right, this was dangerous.
“His name was Barton in case you didn’t know. He owned this company before me. He liked to go out on, uhm, cargo missions at times to see how his men were doing. He should have known better.”Bloomfeld was talking casually about the death of his friend and that made Derek very nervous.
“We were just defending ourselves,” Derek told the smuggler. “He attacked us and was stealing our cargo.”
“Yes, yes, I know,” Bloomfeld said dismissively. “It actually worked out rather well for me. I got this nice office and more money than I know what to do with. But the rest of my organization isn’t so forgiving. They expect someone to be punished for costing them so much money and killing one of us.”
“On my way in,” Keri’s voice spoke through the com hidden in his ear.
“Wouldn’t they rather use us to make back the money we cost them?” Derek asked, stalling for time. “That would be more cost effective wouldn’t it?”
“If it were up to me, yes,” the smuggler responded. “I would make you work off what you owe us. Sadly it isn’t up to me.”
“When I say so, drop to the floor,” Beech told him over the com.
“I’m afraid Coleman here will have to go with you back to your ship and take care of you and your partners.” The large man started to step towards him when he heard Beech in his ear hiss, “Now!” and he dropped to the carpet in front of the desk.
Derek landed with his face toward the wooden doors and saw Keri stepping through them with her gun leading her. At the same time he heard the crash of breaking glass and the thud of something hitting the office floor. Keri’s gun jumped in her hand and then again as she stepped farther into the office. She then looked at him and nodded for him to get up. As he did so, he turned to see a barrel lying on the floor inside the broken window and Beech standing outside it with his gun in his hand. Looking around the room, he saw Bloomfeld and Coleman lying floor. They both had a bullet hole in the head. Hearing a groan he turned and saw another man on the floor behind Keri holding his bleeding shoulder.
“Thanks, Beech,” Keri grumbled “But he’s still alive and he could have shot me.”
“Not with a broken collarbone,” came the answer. “Besides that, take a closer look at him.”
With a second look both Derek and Keri realized the man moaning on the floor was the man they were here to get. Jackson. “Alright. I guess that was a good call,” Keri grouched, “But he still could have shot me with his other hand.”
“If you’ll look close you’ll see he doesn’t have a gun,” Beech pointed out. “Just a knife, and I was ready to shoot him again.”
Derek felt his heart start to slow down a little and told his partners, “I think we should get out of here. I’m sure someone heard that window break even if it was only the secretary out front.”
“Don’t worry about her,” Keri told him with a smile. “She’s taking a nap.”
“He’s right, though,” Beech said. “We better get him and get out of here.”
Putting Jackson in a chair they stripped his shirt and jacket off of him and with towels from the adjoining bathroom bandaged his shoulder to stop the bleeding. Taking the shirt off Coleman’s body they put it on him and made him stand up.
“What are you doing with me?” Jackson asked.
“Taking you to prison,” Derek answered. “And I don’t think they’ll let you out for a long time.”
Derek retrieved his weapons from the hallway and the group headed down the street and back to their ships. Once they were aboard, Beech re-bandaged Jackson’s wound and gave him some pain killers. Chaining him up next to the bathroom he headed to flight control and sat down. As soon as Derek finished getting clearance to leave, both ships headed for space.
“Well, back to Mars,” Beech said. “Maybe this time we can stay a while.”
“I doubt it,” Derek replied. “We just got a long range com from Dobson. He has another job for us when we get there.”
“I guess we’re officially bounty hunters now.” Beech said as he opened one of Derek’s orange sodas.
Hearing the hiss of the bottle opening Derek looked over and griped, “Not you too! I’ll be out of soda in a month with you two around.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Beech told him with a grin. “With what we’re getting for Jackson, you can buy plenty more.”