Episode 35: Target

Gator, sketch. --dr. no

Gator, sketch. –dr. no

Crimson received the Linkburst from Rullorg containing all the hottest tips on Qualvana’s most wanted. It was quite a list. The Gortassa wasn’t joking when he said they didn’t have enough man power. She could set up a criminal farm. The only problem was: would the inhabitants of the Khibarra system take kindly to extra law enforcement? Were the majority frustrated, or complicit?

She called Gator up to the Archive; the communications and admin alcove behind the compact bridge. Gator helped her choose their bounties. Usually they just took the highest paying ones; they had enough crew now for the dangerous fugitives. But if Crimson was yin, then Gator was yang. The slime of the universe eventually made Crimson’s eyes cross with rage… Gator had a cheerfully objective way of hating criminals. Besides, they’d stared this together; they ran it together.

She usually called Shaak-Rom to help too. His years of service in the distant Legacy Galaxy had made him focused—good at assessing risk and man-power needed. But at the moment she didn’t want him around. Her cybernetic implants, and encyclopedic Mindframe, usually dulled her emotions; but her calm, robot rage had gotten the better of her on their last bounty, and she’d snapped their quarry’s arm and leg after apprehension: assault and battery at least. Shaak-Rom, in no uncertain terms, informed her he’d turn on her the next time she broke the law.

Self-righteous, completely legal, jerk.

But it was probably good. A few days in a local pokey wouldn’t hurt her much, but losing her commission from the Galactic Precinct would make wandering the stars as a vigilante hunting criminals a lot more hypocritical. Blasted moral high ground.

Anyway. She and Shaak-Rom weren’t talking.

Gator lumbered up the catwalk, his gigantic scaly frame stretching his greasy coveralls to their limit around his barrel middle. A wrench larger than her entire arm was thrust into one pocket. The Megladyte clapped his yellow hands together and rubbed them. “So what low lifes have we got this time?”

Crimson finished keying in a sequence. She jerked her head in the direction of the bridge. “Grab a seat.” There was no way Gator was fitting his hulking body into the Archive. She’d forwarded the communication to the bridge displays.

“Uh-oh,” Gator grunted, “Long list?”

She yanked herself upright by and upright hand hold, and clumped past the would be reptile. “I’ve seen shorter seed ships …”

“Ha!” Gator laughed, “Should’ve told me! I just walked a kilometer to get here. Could’ve started reading from down there.”

“You’ll wish you had.”

 

*

 

Three hours passed. They’d split the list in two and made a shared file of the potential targets. Gator hummed and mumbled to himself, as though selecting flowers for friend. Many of the cases looked complicated. Payoff for effort, Crimson was beginning to question coming back to Qualvana.

Suddenly Gator’s claw floated up into the air towards her, “Wait a minute, Crims.” He looked like a dinosaur perched over a bassinet, still scrolling his nav-ball with one scaly forefinger, reading the case. Something in his voice made her look up: the octave was lower, the distracted murmur of a sniper.

His long jaws slowly sawed out the bullet points: “Mad scientist… convicted. Eescaped… works for the slave trade… performs organic manipulation and modification for the Skeddian Mines.” Gator turned his crocodile head her way and stared at her down his predator snout. “He replaces the slave’s limbs with robotic enhancements to improve the miners’ performance.”

Crimson felt an sickly shudder walk along her spinal implants. She clenched her cybernetic fist.

“I hate him already.”

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