The dark bar was nearly sound, the only sounds being the occasional sound of a glass hitting the wooden tables and the quiet chatter of two sober men in the back. Men and women lay passed out on the floor or piled in corners, and the aur was thick with smoke, a hint of opium floating through the room.
Elvin Halosis did not let himself fall prey to things such as alcohol. He busied himself in finishing off the last of his meat and bread. He stretched and looked over at thew man at his side. “I have never known so many people to be intoxicated at once, have you?
His friend, Folges Artheir, smiled. “Never inb my days,” he replied.
Elvin shook his head and laughed, his deep booming laugh causing some of those aleep to stir.
The door slowly creaked open, and a finely dressed man walked in. His neatly trimmed hair was wet from the drizzle of rain falling outside. His white saitn gloves were now more transparent. . Houlled them off revealing smooth hands with tightly clipped fingernails.
Without asking, he sat down next to Elvin. “You are Elvin Halosis?”
“who wishes to know?”
The man glared at Elvin, clearly much more accustomed to revered respect than direct conversation. “Ardi Matheson, personal representative of the Great and Holy Lord of All Realms himself.”
“Lord of All Realms of Terra, you mean.” He turned to the King’s persional representative. “How did you find me?”
“Merely a matter of checking all the bars near the fringe.”
“Why that’s where one finds mercenaries.”
“Well, most of us actually prefer fine dining, but times are tough, and one must take what they can get.” He laughed a little. The representative flushed to a slightly pink coral.
“Mr. Halosis, the government has a proposition for you.”
“I politely decline.”
“”But you haven’t heard it yet.” Ardi’s face continued to redden, to a hue of dark salmon.
Elvin shrugged. “I am already engaged. I have been entrusted to deliver some cargo to the Encerion system.”
An eyebrow was raised by the royal ambassador. “delivering cargo? I was under the impression that you were a thu, not a trader.”
“I am neither of those. I am a mercenary, and sometimes commere requires a more physical presence. YOu, I am sure, am aware of the barbary taking place around the area.”
Behind the counter, the sleepy bartender began to stir. “We shouldtake this conversation to my ship. The bartender isn’t a big fan ofme.”
The two men stood up, and Elvin motioned for Folges to join them. As the three of them walked out, a half-drunken man pointed to them. “Hey man,” the man spoke to Elvin. “You have yourself a shadow.” His finger shifted to Folges and his darker skin. The man began to laugh hysterically.
The man cut his mirth short as he felt the cold metal of the knife blade against his throat. A furious Elvin glowered at him. “It would do you well to mind your tongue.” he said, nearly shouting. “Or you might find that you don’t have one.” He pressed the blade just deep enough to draw a little blood, and a small pinprick of scarlet liquid began torun down the man’s neck.
“Have I made myself clear?” Elvin half-whispered. The man shook his head rapidly. The blade withdrew. “Good.”
The rain was still coming down in a slight drizzle, wetting the hair on the men’s heads. Folges glanced up at Elvin “thank you.”
“Of course.” Elvin said. Ardi said nothing, too busy fussing over his silk cape and how he would have to wash it in that special solution. This mostly consisted of him muttering Oh dear and What a tragedy. To himself.
Elvin’s ship was a Sol II, produced about 20 years ago. The outside was heavily armed and dented from the multiple barrages of plasma fire it had seen.
“What a dirty old thing.” muttered Ardi. “How you manage to get out of places alive is beyond me. “
“She’s equipped with an X7 Warp Drive Engine.”
Ardi widened his eyes. “That’s the latest model. How did you manage to install it?”
“I retrofitted the infrastructure of the hood the allow the engine to be properly placed inside.” replied Elvin.
For the second time in their meeting, the eyebrow shot up.”That requires an engineering education.”
Elvin grinned and shrugged. “I didn’t want to become a emrcenary; it was morew out of necessary. No one would take a poor university graduate from the Outer Systems.” He motioned towards a plush chair, and Ardi obliged, sitting down. Elvin pulled up two stools for him and his firend. When all three were settled, Elvin folded bhis arms and stared at Ardi, his eyes not cold, but certainly not warm. This was a master negotiator.
“What, pray tell, is your proposition?” he asked.
ASrdi steadied himself, staright as a pole, and said: “The Kingdom has been having some...isues lately.”
“Yes, with the Encerion system, as we discussed earlier.”
“No. I am refferring to threats outside of the nation.”
Elvin looked up, his eyes sparkling. He cold swmeell something; something was in the air,, a chance, an oppurtunity.
“Is it Ignis or Aeros this time?”
“Surprisingly, neither. They are allied to neither belong to neither. In fact, we were unaare of their existence until about three years ago, when one of our scout ships was shot down and captured.”
“And you are sure it was neither of the other two?”
“positive. The hyoer-relay video feed shows a cruiser bearing an emblem unknown previously to others.”
elvin furrowed his brow together,deep in thought. The cabin was silent for a minute, so much so you might have heard the enigmatic talking f the city a mile away.
Elvin looked up. “Why act now rather than before?”
“Recently their actions have become increasingly hostile. They have taken around six of our scouts and three of our small cruisers.” Hwe lowered his voice. “and they sent us a message.”
Ardi allowed that to sink in. Then, he whispered: “They call themselves the Iratxo.They are a tribe of barbarians, and they have threatened us with military action.”
“then why not destroy them? You say they are merely barbarians.”
“One does not attack an invisible enemy.” quoted the representative. “We want you to scout them out for us. Your ship bears no emblem, and your reputation is known throughout the area.”
Elvin gestured to a pile of boxs sitting in the back of his ship. “what about my cargo. I have a prior obligation to carry out..”
“I will send a convoy to deliver it for you.”