100 Posts!!!!!!


Woohoo!

So this crazy blog of mine has reached 100 posts believe it or not!  Admittedly, that includes reblogs of other people’s posts as well, but it’s still 100 dammit!  So, with this in mind, I had planned on doing a character interview, the Shaven Wookiee kidnapping a certain ex-Royal Marine Commando and doing an interview.  I’ve been trying to write it, but my brain won’t let me!

So, instead, I thought I’d post a short story that I wrote a while back, called “Rescue the Princess”.  Caine isn’t in this one, although he is mentioned, and there are several characters directly related (figuratively, not literally).  This was very much inspired by my step-daughter (there is a Tale inspired by step-son as well about trains).

Enjoy.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________

Rescue the Princess

NOW

The bar’s door smashed inward off its hinges.

Wood and mouldy moss flew in all directions.

Something followed it into the room, heavily armed and fury on its face.  The plasma assault rifle in his hands was like a reaper’s scythe, sweeping this way and that, killing the enemy with single shots.

The rifle barked and bucked, and the plasma pulses leapt from the barrel.

Bodies twisted and spun and the rifle’s wielder rushed through the dingy room.

They tried to fight back, but he was too fast.

He rushed past the corpses before they hit the floor, smoke drifting from blackened carbon scores on their chests.

When the dust settled and the smoke cleared, he was stood in the centre, the rifle’s butt to his shoulder.  The barrel was at a downward angle and smoking.

Only one had survived, and the intruder marched towards him, his posture now relaxed.  There was no visible threat to him.

The survivor cowered behind the bar, fumbling for a weapon.

But his arm wouldn’t work properly, a smoking hole where his elbow should have been.

The weapon, a long-barrelled pulse pistol, tumbled from his useless fingers.

It screeched in its native language as the intruder stepped over the mess it had made of the bar’s patrons and staff.  He let the assault rifle dangle on its shoulder strap in front of him.

“Who you?” it said in broken Terran Standard.

“My name isn’t your concern.  I’m here for the girl.”

He was only a few metres from the wretch now.

“Girl?  We have plenty girls.”  The injured wretch was pointing to the stage where a trio of dancing girls were shivering and shaking in fear, hugging each other out of comfort.

The bartender suddenly found the business end of the assault rifle pointed at him, the intruder having flipped it back up in a heartbeat.  The power pack read-out was full and it pulsed and glared at the bartender.

“I’m Major Bluewater,” the intruder growled.  The barrel dipped and he leaned in close.

“Where is my step-daughter you piece of nark?”

*           *           *

THEN

Ram Bluewater ran home.

He’d had a call from the local police.

Something had happened whilst he had been out.  Rhea had asked him to get some presents for Lania, her daughter -his step-daughter.  He had managed to grab a couple of armfuls of gifts –Rhea would say he spoilt them too much, but he didn’t care, they were both worth it.

He had made it out as far as the air taxi rank when his comm unit started beeping.

The NTPD had told him there had been an incident involving his wife and step-daughter.

He had dropped the gifts and run.

Grant City traffic was horrendous at that time of day, so he just ran, barging past anyone and everyone.  Shouts and curses followed him, but he didn’t care.

He got home in record time, only to find five NTPD patrol cars outside his small house, officers cordoning the area off.

Bluewater could see Rhea in the driveway; her eyes were red raw, and there was blood dribbling down her cheek from a cut on her forehead.  Nark-face, or rather Robnys, Rhea’s ex-husband and Lania’s father, was there as well.  He didn’t look particularly concerned, bored even.  Beside him was his deathly pale lawyer from Grace, Find & Lerp.

Whatever had happened, it was bad.

Bluewater pushed past the officers, ignoring their protests.

The police detective questioning Rhea turned and blanched when he saw Bluewater.

The lawyer shifted uncomfortably but gave no other sign that he had recognised an infamous former soldier.

Nark-face glared at him with hooded eyes.

“What’s happened?” demanded Bluewater.  “Rhea?  Are you alright?”

Rhea looked up at him with guilt on her bloodied face.

She was holding an ice pack to her head, and a police medic had put a bandage on her face.

Where was Lania?

“Rhea?”

Tears were streaming down her porcelain cheeks, and her shoulders were shaking.

Bluewater barged past the others, and wrapped his arms around Rhea’s shoulders.  She buried her face into his chest and sobbed openly.

“What happened?” he repeated.

“They took her.  They took Lania.”

“What?  Who?  How?”

She shook her head but didn’t look up, her shoulders still shaking.

She said something that was muffled, but it was lost in her sobs.  He asked her to repeat herself, but she couldn’t form the words properly.

Bluewater looked at the police detective, who visibly shrunk under his withering gaze.

“Four armed men assaulted Mrs. Bluewater, knocked her out, and kidnapped her daughter, Lania.  They used an MF device on her.”

“Memory Flash?” he asked incredulously.

He didn’t want to vocalise the thought that crossed his mind just then.  The MFs were experimental emergency mind-wipers, used to wipe short-term memories, making it ideal for military and criminal operations.  But it was still experimental and temperamental at the best of times.

It would have been easier for them to kill Rhea, than use an MF.  Either they were extremely green, or extremely arrogant that they wouldn’t get caught.  The latter would mean a pro job and powerful employers.

His eyes flicked to Robnys and the lawyer.

Which means it’s not me they were after.  But him.

“Where is she?” he demanded out loud.  The question was aimed at Robnys, but he looked at all of them.  They all shuffled uncomfortably.

“The ransom note…”

“There’s a ransom note already?” he asked, cutting Robnys off.

The lawyer held it out, and Bluewater read it.

“Can you pay that?”

“Of course,” Robnys said stiffly.  “But my corporation does not negotiate with terrorists.”

Bluewater felt sick to his stomach being in this man’s presence.

He won’t save his own daughter, because of what the shareholders might think?

Rhea looked up at him, her shock of bright orange hair framing her pale face beautifully.  He could see the look in her eyes.  He knew what she wanted.

“Get her back.”

Five minutes later, he was marching back out of the house, wearing his armour vest, and his matt-black assault rifle dangling from his shoulder.  He was holstering his plasma pistol, and adjusting the various pouches on his thrown-on fatigues.

“I can’t advocate this,” the detective stammered.  “You’ll be breaking the law.”

“Stay the frag out of my way.”

*           *           *

NOW

“WHERE IS SHE?!”

Bluewater smashed the bartender’s face into the bar itself, making sure to break a few of full bottles of flammable alcohol around his blubbering head.  The smashed containers were a stark indicating parallel of Chinkol’s Bar.

Chinkol himself was among the dead.

“I don’t know!” the bartender shouted.

Bluewater held up a match and struck it on one of the rough pouches.  The flame sparked bright and the bartender suddenly realised just how deep in nark he was.

“No… no don’t.”

“Don’t what?”

He held the flaming match closer to the alcohol-drowned bar.  The bartender’s eyes widened further.

“You wouldn’t,” the little sphincter complained.

“Wouldn’t what?  Look into my eyes and tell me I’m not serious.”

The match lowered again.

“I know you don’t know where she is,” Bluewater said, leaning closer, and therefore letting the match get closer to the alcohol.  “But I know you know those that have.”

“No, I swear.”

“Let me guess: you’re just a bartender.  You don’t know anything.”

The bartender nodded emphatically.

“Then you’re no good to me, are you?”

Bluewater dropped the match.

“NO WAIT!”

The smouldering black head of the match hit the alcohol with a tiny splash, but nothing happened.

The bartender barely dared to move in case his movement set the whole thing alight.

Bluewater looked at it curiously.

“Huh.”

He pulled out the plasma pistol from his thigh holster, and the bartender swore, sweating buckets.  He was gibbering now, panicking beyond belief.  He started hyperventilating.

Bluewater’s finger tightened on the trigger.

“WAIT!  I’ll TELL YOU!  PLEASE DON’T!”

The bartender sagged against the bar, and dropped to the floor.

“Then spill it,” growled Bluewater.  The plasma pistol didn’t lower.

The bartender told him.

“Interesting.”

*           *           *

The NTPD arrived at Chinkol’s Bar an hour later.

The fire that burned the place down to the ground had apparently been ignited by a plasma pulse.  The forensics team that scoured the bar detected the traces of mass plasma weapons fire, and the presence of dozens of bodies of known malcontents.

There was no evidence of an intruder.

The dancing girls were nowhere to be seen.

One survivor, however, had been left in a pile outside the front doors.

The bartender.

And he was screaming to the high heavens that the bar had been invaded by Terran soldiers.  Despite his ravings, it was widely believed that an argument had turned into a brawl, which had turned into a free-for-all firefight.

*           *           *

Ram Bluewater lowered the binos as the NTPD carted the bartender, Moody, off into a riot van restrained in a strait jacket.  He was shouting his head off even as they put him in the rear compartment and activated the forcefield.

With a smile he didn’t feel, he disappeared from his perch far above Chinkol’s Bar, leaving the fire brigade to sort the mess he had made.

*           *           *

THEN

He was nervous.

He and Rhea had been dating for six weeks now, and she had hesitantly suggested meeting her little daughter, Lania.

Rhea, beautiful as an angel, came around the corner.

She had told him to wear something casual.  He had followed her advice and worn shorts and a brightly coloured shirt that looked like someone had vomited the pattern onto it.  He saw a mischievous grin on Rhea’s face when they came around the corner.

Lania had Rhea’s shock of orange hair, and the slim carved face as well.

But she had a wariness about her that had her hiding behind Rhea’s long legs.

She held a stuffed linker bear in one hand, biting the thumb of her other hand.

“Hi,” he said with a nervous wave.

Lania hid behind her mother’s legs even more, her eyes just peeking around the edges of the skirt.

“Don’t be shy, Lania.  Say hello.”

“Hello,” the little girl said in an incredibly quiet voice.

Bluewater crouched down so he was almost at Lania’s eye-level, but she still didn’t come out of her hiding place.  Rhea tried to move so that she was exposed, but Lania moved with her.  The tiny little girl didn’t seem as afraid as a few seconds ago, her eyes filled with mischievous intent.

Like her mother, he thought wryly.

“Well,” he said, his voice faux-serious, “I guess you won’t be wanting tickets to the new Oceanix Park down the road then?”

Lania’s eyes widened and her head popped out from cover.

“But I love whales,” she blurted accidentally.  Realising her mistake, she covered her mouth with a shocked expression on her face and popped back behind the skirt.

Bluewater made a show of pulling the paper tickets out of the breast pocket of the shirt.

“I best give these to someone else.”

Eyes wide, Lania came rushing out with linker bear in hand, her other hand grasping for the tickets.  He snatched them out of her reach.

“You can hold onto these for me, but only if you let me come with you to the Park.”

She nodded excitedly and jumped on him, wrapping her tiny arms around his neck and smothering his face in bright red hair.

Rhea was practically glowing with happiness.

*           *           *

NOW

The information Moody had given him had been… interesting.

It was a word he used a lot, usually sarcastically.

This time, however, it was apt.

According to the bartender, Lania had been taken by a group calling themselves the Hand of Terra.  He had heard of them of course.  Just another group of humans claiming to be taking back Terran territory from the alien interlopers.  Bluewater had put in a comm-line to some old friends, and discovered that the Hand were indeed operating on New Terra.  It turned out that Robnys owed them a great deal of money –the exact amount in the ransom letter.

And according to his last contact, the Hand were currently occupying a large house on the edge of Grant City under the guise of visiting merchants from Viich.

The authorities hadn’t been informed.

The house was standard for the area: steel and glass, square and modern.

Unlike New Amsterdam, Grant City was modern, and had been built to a specific plan at the centre and most of the suburbs.  The city was an organised sprawl of neighbourhoods, each one’s buildings built with similar principles.  It gave the city a patchwork feel, and yet still in keeping with the city’s aesthetics.

The house –Brecham- was located in a corner suburb away from the city centre.

Away from attention.

It would be a while before the NTPD could react.

Bluewater stood in the shadows of a nearby house.  The place was full, a big family gathering by the sounds of it.  The heat from the active building would mask his own heat signature for a few crucial seconds.

He pushed the stock of the assault rifle into his shoulder, and ran towards Brecham.

He kept low, not knowing what kind of monitoring the Hand had.

On a normal operation of his, he would have incredible resources and back-up.  Now all he had was what he had on him: his body armour and weapons and a few spare power cells for the rifle and for the pistol on his hip.

He reached the small wall, and silently clambered over.

Still no sign he had been detected.

He had strapped everything down so nothing made a noise as he moved.  It was tight, and restricting, but he could still move.

One silent foot after the other, he crept to the front door.

There was one guard.

He was facing away, watching a heavy freighter rising up into the sky in the distance.

He was carrying a Moach’a heavy plasma rifle, built to put the fear of the gods in one’s enemies, but not big on accuracy.  Either the Hand didn’t think much of this idiot, or they didn’t have a whole lot of military experience.

The sentry was still facing away, chuckling as the freighter developed an engine problem and had to land again.

Simple things please simple minds, thought Bluewater.

The sentry continued to watch even as the freighter disappeared from sight.

He didn’t see Bluewater or the powerful arm that snaked around his throat.  Bluewater used the crook of his arm to hold the sentry by the throat and slammed the point of a combat knife into the base of his skull, pushing it up into the brain.

He let the lifeless body drop to the ground without a noise, before lifting a set of digital keys from the man’s pocket.

One of the keys glowed blue, matching the barcode on the face of the house’s front doors.  He held it up to the matching barcode and twisted the key.  Something clicked in the door, and it flipped open a little.

He gently coerced it open and slipped through.

The receiving room was spacious and the stairs off to one side.

The lighting was low, the Hand mostly asleep.

There were no more sentries that he could see, but he could hear muffled voices coming from another room.  Soft light came from what looked to be a kitchen down a side corridor.  If there was anyone there, they would be the current threat.  The Hand seemed to be overly lax in their security.

It was almost like they were being lax on purpose.

The thought made him stop.

What if they had set all this up?

Bluewater shifted quietly against the wall as the voices became suddenly louder, making himself as small and unnoticeable as he could.  The voices were heavy and accented –one of the outer colonies certainly.  They seemed to be joking and laughing.

They were distracted, but in no hurry to get him if they thought he was there.

He stepped closer to the door.

It was cracked open a little, and he could see silhouettes moving past the door every now and then followed by a bout of raucous laughter.

A plate smashed onto a solid surface, and two of the voices from within found this very amusing.

Bluewater crept slowly to the door.

The voices in the kitchen suddenly became silent.

The door opened, and a deep voice spoke to him.

“Welcome to Brecham House.  We’ve been expecting you.”

Bluewater hadn’t seen the second sentry, the one hiding in the darkened living room.  He hadn’t seen or heard the non-human sneak up behind him.  The creature smacked him on the back of the neck with the butt of a rifle, and Bluewater fell into unconsciousness.

*           *           *

He awoke with a groan.

His head pounded like a herd of pachyderms had stomped all over it, and his neck felt like it had been snapped several times over.  His arms refused to move, and he soon discovered it was because they were restrained behind his back, tied to the chair he was sitting on.

The room he was in wasn’t especially dark, and it seemed to be getting lighter with every second.  There were several figures around him, just silhouettes to his abused vision.

It was starting to lighten even more, the figures resolving into people.

Consciousness returned to him fully as he looked around.

There were six of them, five Terrans and one creature that wasn’t.

All but one of them looked like hired muscle, and one of them in particular stood out as bigger than the others.

They were mercs, hired to do the dirty work.

They were tough, mean and individually armed; different weapons and different armours, although they wore a red armband with a simply-drawn fist on their left arms –their one concession to their current employer.

The creature was dark-skinned, a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth, and a long, lizard-like head.  A whip-thin red tongue darted in and out of its mouth, licking its lips.  Bluewater wasn’t sure what race it was, but was willing to bet it had come out of the Savage Halo.

“Who are you?” one of the mercs asked him.  None of them seemed to be in a hurry to beat on him.  They were confident.

“I thought you were the ones expecting me?” he said back.

The one talking –seemingly the mercs’ leader- shrugged.

“We were expecting some ill-gotten rescue attempt, but something a bit more organised than this.”

“Organised?” Bluewater tried to chuckle, but his throat was dry and it came out as barely a whisper.  “I’m guessing you were expecting a team or something?”

The leader grunted with amusement.

“You’re not working for Robnys?”

“No,” Bluewater snapped.

“Interesting,” the leader mused.  “I thought for sure he’d sent you.  It was you that destroyed Chinkol’s place, wasn’t it?”

Bluewater nodded warily.

“Interesting,” the leader repeated.  “So who are you, if you’re not with Robnys’ lot?”  The leader sat down on the edge of a large wooden dining table that was festooned with dirty dishes and disassembled weapon parts.

The big one, the one taller and bigger built than the rest looked at Bluewater with curiosity, as if searching into Bluewater’s soul for something.  The man reminded Bluewater of a stereotypical drill sergeant, all bluster and pomp, even without saying anything.  He just had that look, like he should be chomping on a cigar or something.

“Bluewater,” he said, trying not to give too much away.

The leader scoffed.

“As in Major Bluewater?  The merc of mercs?  Friend of the Samaritan?”

Bluewater didn’t move, didn’t say anything.

He’d hoped nobody knew who he was, or would at the very least deny it.

But judging by the way some of them shifted back from him a step or two, they believed him.

“Where’s the girl?” he demanded.

“What’s your interest?” the non-merc asked.  He had half-moon glasses perched on the end of his large nose, and had the look of a bureaucrat to him.  He was definitely no fighter, and was smaller and reedier than the others.

“I’ve come to get her back.”

“If Robnys didn’t hire you, then who did?” the non-merc asked again.  He was definitely the mercs’ employer, and a member of the Hand of Terra.

“Who said anybody hired me?” he said, looking from the bureaucrat to the merc leader.  There was a look of confusion that passed between the two.  It worried Bluewater; it meant there was something else going on.

“So who are you really?” asked the merc.

“I just want the girl back.”

“So you keep saying.”  The mercs were eyeing him suspiciously now.  He shifted his hands as imperceptibly as he could.  They were bound with rope –actual rope!  He was expecting force-feedback cuffs or stun cuffs, or even some form of metal restraint.  But not rope.

The merc leader nodded to one of the others, and he stepped forward.

He thumped Bluewater with a jab.

Bluewater tried to turn his head at the last second to deflect some of the hit, but the merc was too quick and bloody strong.  Spots and stars appeared in his vision and it felt like his jaw had been hit by a hammer.

“What’s the girl to you?”

Bluewater shrugged.

Another punch to the face snapped his head round.

The merc hit like a grav train at full speed.

“What’s the girl to you?”

Bluewater refused to say anything.

“Tell us, Bluewater.  Why are you so interested in a spoilt little rich kid?”

Frustratedly struggling against the rope, which was now handily starting to come apart, Bluewater’s anger got the better of him.

“Lania’s not spoilt.  Robnys is just an ass who throws money at her to keep her quiet.”

The rope came apart, and Bluewater lunged out of the chair.

He tackled the merc leader into the kitchen cabinet behind, brief satisfaction at the look of horror on the leader’s face speeding him on.  The two rebounded off the cabinet and onto the floor.

Despite the state of his face, he could still see well enough.

Bluewater was up first, and delivered a hard kick to the merc leader’s abdomen.

The merc coughed up blood, and groaned.

The big merc stayed back, away from the others, as if weighing up his options.  The weedy bureaucrat had already disappeared from the room.

The remaining two mercs and the lizard creature charged Bluewater.

The creature screeched and its bottom jaw distended outwards, growing to accommodate more teeth that seemed to come from nowhere.

It was first to reach him, its slobbering tongue trying to wrap itself around his face.

Just as the thing reached him with overly long fingers, he threw himself backwards, using the momentum of the drop and the creature’s charge to roll it over him and into an active set of hot-plates.  It screamed and smoked, and collapsed to the floor, patting its burning wounds with its hands.

The other two mercs hadn’t seen Bluewater pilfer the creature’s solid-round Merok 9mm pistol.  They only noticed the empty holster when Bluewater stuck in their faces.

He shot them both with the entire clip, splattering the wall behind with gore.

The noise was deafening.

Breathing hard, he struggled to his feet.

The big merc just stood there in the corner, utterly motionless, watching Bluewater with hard eyes.

Bluewater just held the pistol up; the barrel pointed at the merc, despite the fact that both could clearly see the slide had automatically clicked back, exposing the empty firing chamber.

He felt something hot on the back of his neck.

The merc suddenly drew a plasma pistol and fired.

Bluewater clenched his eyes shut.

But there wasn’t any pain.

He looked down to check his torso for plasma wounds, but there were none.

He caught a glimpse of something out the corner of his eye, and turned to see the lizard creature in mid-step, about to bite down on Bluewater’s neck.  The plasma round had missed his side by nanometres and taken the creature in the stomach, a steaming hole evident.

The creature collapsed to the floor with a comical look of surprise on its face, and didn’t get back up.

“Who are you?” asked Bluewater.

“Rarsh.”

“Who are you working for?”

Rarsh smiled, and it didn’t comfort the former soldier at all.

“You don’t wanna know.”

“Then why save me?  If you’re undercover, why save me?”

Rarsh shrugged, his big shoulders barely moving.

“Let’s just say my organisation is aware of who you are, and who the girl is to you.”

“Oh.”

“You’re step-daughter is up on the next floor.  There’s another two mercs up there guarding her.  If you help me with that Hand of Terra idiot, I’ll help you with those two up there.”

As if like magic, a voice called from upstairs.

“Trevan?  Broek?  What’s happening down there?  Is the intruder dead yet?”

There were multiple thumping footsteps from above.

Rarsh threw Bluewater’s captured body armour and assault rifle to him.  He put it quickly, making sure they hadn’t messed with the rifle’s workings.

Stock up to his shoulder, he waited patiently by a flimsy door in one corner of the kitchen.

The barrel of the rifle trained on the door, he waited until the footsteps were just outside.

There were whispered voices outside that he couldn’t hear.

He pulled the trigger, mercilessly emptying the power cell into the door until it came apart.

Smoke wafted up from what was left of the carbon-black remains.

Rarsh looked at him approvingly, and they both stepped through.

One of the mercs was dead, having been stood directly in front of the door.  There wasn’t much left of him, just charred meat and bones.

The other had been hit, taking his arm off, but he had survived, crawling back towards the staircase.  Blood was leaking where the plasma pulses hadn’t completely cauterised his wounds.

Bluewater brushed past him, pausing only long enough to put a plasma round into the back of his head.  Rarsh glared at him, apparently having wanted some sort of prisoner, as he disappeared up the stairs.

The big soldier grumbled and went back to the other mercs, tying the leader up to a chair.

*           *           *

THEN

Lania had hit puberty, and Ram had quickly learnt that he would rather face down a fortified position than have to deal with a hormonal fifteen-year-old girl.

“YOU ARE NOT GOING TO THAT PARTY!” he shouted.

“I CAN DO WHAT I WANT!” she shouted back.

It had been ten years since their first meeting, nine since Rhea and Lania had moved in with him, and eight since the wedding.  The last six months had been horrendous for Ram.  Lania had decided that the world was against her, and the conspiracy was led by Ram Bluewater himself.

“THE HELL YOU CAN!  IT’S TOO DANGEROUS!”

“YOU ARE NOT MY FATHER!  I’M OLD ENOUGH TO NOT HAVE TO LISTEN TO YOU ANYMORE!  MY REAL FATHER SAYS I DON’T!”

The admission staggered him back, as if he had been slapped.

“Fine; then go and live with him,” he said quietly.

Angrily, she stormed out the front door to meet her mother from her work, and he slumped down on the nearest chair, holding his head in his hands.

He stayed that way for an hour, before picking himself up and grabbing his credit chips and house keys.

He went out and did what he always did in this situation: got her a personal gift that meant the world to both of them to smooth over the rough edges.  He just hoped this wasn’t the last straw.

*           *           *

NOW

The door was locked so he kicked it in.

There was a tiny squeal of surprise and fear.  He charged into the room, looking around.

“Daddy!” shouted a familiar voice.

Battered and beaten, Lania Bluewater jumped into his powerful arms.  Bruises marred her beautiful face as well as a split lip.  Her hair was a mess, and her clothes were ripped a little.

She started sobbing.

“I’m so sorry I stormed off like that, Daddy!” she cried into the crook of his neck.

“I’m sorry for shouting at you.  I never meant the things I said.”

“Can you forgive me, Daddy?”

“There’s nothing to forgive,” he breathed.

They stayed that way for at least five minutes, when they were interrupted by someone clearing their throat.

A head popped round the door.

Rarsh.

“When you’re done with the touchy-feely crap, there’s something you need to hear.”

*           *           *

The merc leader had come around, and had earned a working over by Rarsh for his trouble.

He glared at Rarsh as the three entered the room.

Lania kept a handful of her step-father’s sleeve.  Gone was the sixteen-year-old girl, replaced by the frightened little eight-year-old that had accidentally found his assault rifle on top of his wardrobe.

Her eyes stared in horror at the devastation Bluewater had caused.

The merc leader switched his concussed view to Ram and Lania.

“Tell him what you told me,” Rarsh growled.  He gave the merc leader a kick in the shin for good measure.  The prisoner bit back the pain, and snarled at Rarsh.

“Tell him yourself,” spat the prisoner.

Rarsh backhanded him, sending the man sprawling on the floor.

“It’s an insurance ploy,” he told them.

“What?”  Bluewater looked at him incredulously.

Rarsh nodded.  “According to this piece of nark, they were employed by some lawyer on behalf of a businessman.  That reedy little piece of work wasn’t actually a member of the Hand of Terra; he was some sort of understudy for Grace, Find & Lerp.  The Hand of Terra were never involved.”

“What?” Lania said.  She didn’t understand; Ram wasn’t sure he understood either.

Rarsh sighed wearily.

“Your father, Robnys Fieferbachen, hired the mercs, through that bartender Moody, to kidnap you.  When he paid the ransom, he could then claim that the Hand of Terra were responsible, and claim insurance money back on it, regaining the ransom money as well as compensation from the government.”

Lania was shaking her head.

“No, that can’t be.”

Ram wasn’t so sure; Robnys wasn’t the most pleasant of people.

Rarsh grunted with what Bluewater took to be amusement.

“Take it up with him.”  Rarsh handed a data chip to Bluewater.  “This is your evidence.”

Ram frowned.  “Why are you helping me?  What’s your involvement?”

Rarsh shrugged again.  “You’re interesting.  Plus my mission here’s a bust if this is all a sham.  I was only meant to be following the Hand of Terra angle.  So I’m going back to the last place they were heard from.”

Ram nodded.

“Thank you for your help.”

Rarsh shrugged again.

“You guys better get out of here.  I alerted the NTPD just before you woke up.”  He pointed at Ram.  “Unless you want to explain all this.”  He swept his arm around the room, taking in the bodies and the blood.

Ram shook his head.

“I’m guessing then you have somewhere to be?” the big soldier said.  “Robnys is in his office, ready for the exchange in an hour.  That little rat understudy is probably already on his way there to warn them the jig’s up.”

Ram nodded again.

Rarsh threw him a mock salute and walked out.

“I’ll see you around, Major,” Rarsh said over his shoulder before he left.

*           *           *

Fieferbachen Industries had its headquarters in Grant City, down in the Central Business District that towered over much of the city.

It was an ugly, misshapen building that had no place in Grant City’s common aesthetics.  And yet, somehow, Fieferbachen had managed to get the right to build it nonetheless.  Money, it seemed, was everything, even in the 41st Century.

Ram and Lania barged through the front doors.

They were both looking dishevelled and tired, and the receptionist had been reluctant to let them through.

Security hadn’t had much to say about it either.

The two armed guards were still lying on the floor where Ram had knocked them unconscious with a quick few punches.

They hadn’t had time to change.

Ram marched towards the nearest elevator, and they both jumped in.

The reedy little understudy was there at the back of the elevator.

He moaned when he saw Bluewater.

*           *           *

Robnys’ office door smashed in off its hinges.

The occupants of the office leapt to their feet.  Rhea screamed in fear, as the wood splintered inward towards Robnys’ desk.

The understudy from Grace, Find & Lerp came flying through the mess headfirst and crashed into the big metal desk Robnys had been sat at.  The law firm’s senior partner was calling for security, but they wouldn’t get here in time.

Ram Bluewater, beaten, bruised, and with blood splattered on his body armour and assault rifle, marched into the office, ignoring the mess he had made of yet another set of wooden doors.

He strode straight towards Robnys and grabbed a handful of his expensive suit.

“What’s the meaning of this?  You’re going to pay for this intrusion!”

Robnys was trying to be intimidating, but it was just hot air.

Rhea was already on her feet.

She wasn’t looking at him though.  She was looking at the person that had followed him in.

Rhea wrapped her arms around Lania and didn’t let go.

Robnys quivered under Ram’s brutal gaze.

“You’re going to give yourself up to the NTPD, Robnys, or I swear to all the gods that you will suffer for putting Lania and Rhea in danger.”

Robnys tried to speak, but Ram cut him off.

“Stow it.  I don’t wanna hear any excuse you come up with from your diseased brain.  Anything you say is just gonna be as lame as this entire scam.”

The senior partner, who had been glaring at the understudy for doing such a poor job, cleared his throat, and approached.  He was tall, taller than Bluewater, and his overly thin appearance gave him an air of death about him.

He had an upturned-nose demeanour that made Bluewater want to ram a fist into his face.

“My client is not, and never has been, involved in the likes of mercenaries, nor the kidnapping of his own daughter.  And if anybody attempts to publicly claim otherwise will be sued for every penny he’s worth.”

Ram snorted.

“You’re just as guilty as he is.”

He held up the data chip Rarsh had given him.

“This is all I need.”  He tucked it back into a secure pocket on his armour vest, and then pulled out the plasma pistol on his hip, placing the barrel against the lawyer’s chest.

There was a brief moment of panic in the old man’s eyes, but it was gone.

“You won’t kill me in cold blood,” he scoffed.

“You don’t know me at all,” countered Bluewater.

“You certainly won’t in front of your family.”

Bluewater considered this, and nodded.

“True.”

The plasma pistol lowered, and then fired.

The energy round went straight through the lawyer’s thigh, cooking off the meat, and cauterising the wound.  The lawyer dropped to the floor screaming in agony.

“But I don’t think they’d mind me shooting you in the leg.”

He glared at Robnys once more, before escorting his beloved wife and (step) daughter out of the building and back home.

*           *           *

A week later.

Bluewater sat on a bench in a shopping mall.

Lania and Rhea had gone into one of the big clothes ships for some retail shopping, and he had decided not to go in with them, figuring he’d be bored stiff within seconds.

He pulled out a compact digipad and began reading the book he had uploaded.

Dark in the Night was apparently enjoying its fifteenth re-print, so Rhea had told him he needed to read it.

He was having a hard time getting into it.

He got to the second page, and someone sat down next to him.

He was wearing a military uniform, one he hadn’t seen before, and that was saying something.  He had a pig-nose, but he looked relatively human besides that.

“I’m Colonel Sojun,” the newcomer said.  “I’m here to offer you a job.”

Bluewater eyed him suspiciously.  “You’re Rarsh’s boss, aren’t you?”

Sojun nodded.

“I’m sorry, but I’m retired,” Bluewater apologised.  “I have a family to think of.”

Sojun shrugged.

“Next time you’re at a terminal, do some research.  Look up the Independent Royal Marines and Adam Caine.”

Bluewater said he would, and meant it.

Sojun stood, and made to leave.

“Oh, one more thing -more of a gift than anything else, actually.  That bartender, Moody, the one that hired the mercs in the first place.  He’s being released on bail.  Apparently, he has friends up high.”

“Thank you, Colonel.”

Bluewater watched him go.

The idea had already planted itself in his head.

*           *           *

AFTER

Moody laughed.  He laughed so hard he could barely breathe.

The drink helped.

Since his release he had drank… a lot.

He had been celebrating his release.  And celebrating his escape from Chinkol’s, of course.  The fate of the mercs at Brecham House had spread, and only Moody had known who had been responsible.

But there had been no sign of the soldier who had destroyed the bar.

His friends, or rather people who could stand to be around him, were slowly heading for home.  The last one drunkenly nodded to Moody before disappearing from sight.  The bar staff of the establishment ushered him out and called a hover-taxi for him.

He was hammered.

He got into the taxi, but it didn’t go anywhere.

The driver turned.

“Hello Moody,” said Ram Bluewater.  “What?  You didn’t think I’d forgotten about you, did you?”

Moody screamed.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Well?  What did you think?  Too cheesy?

50 points to the person who can tell me who this is!

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