I like doing what I do. I like it even more as I am continually bombarded with great comments, reviews, and well wishes from so many people I might not have ordinarily met. Last year we ran through the first volume of Tomorrow’s Demise. This year let’s tackle the conclusion. Its going to be a strange, wild ride filled with monsters, pirates, and political corruption. I’m excited, are you?
The impossibility of reason seldom factored into Leggis Fint’s personal decisions. A con man on good days, killer on others, he and his specially crafted team of mercenaries roamed the galaxy in search of quality paychecks. He wasn’t amoral, though some of his work was beyond questionable. Fint was a man of practicality. He never took a job he wasn’t sure he could accomplish.
Arrogance and pride took him to Helscape and now it threatened to undo everything he had strived for. Sometimes, he reluctantly admitted, life just sucked. Fint closed his eyes and dreamed of that fateful moment he wished he could take back.
The clandestine meeting with what he determined as rogue military leadership went well enough. Once he fulfilled his contractual obligations he and his team would be set for the rest of their lives. Never before had he dreamed of so much money. It should have set off warning bells but the demon greed managed to snake into his mind much quicker than he’d ever felt.
Leggis Fint stalked back to his ship. Every step was with purpose. He’d done his homework on the Berserkers. Perhaps not as much as General Gulluette but enough to know what he was getting the others into. His team also knew there were individual bounties on each of the genetically created monster’s heads. A man just might be able to get rich off the endeavor without backdooring the Imperium. Not that he cared much about that. The Imperium was a bureaucratic nightmare with too much on its plate already. They’d never suspect what he intended, at least not until it was far too late to matter. Smiling, Fint boarded the back ramp.
Kreegin Faul stood waiting on the ramp, watching as Fint returned. Fint’s body language told him much, but it was the chagrin on his face that left Kreegin feeling suddenly uneasy. His coal black skin and pasty white hair blended perfectly with Neen’s darkness, a fact he was suddenly grateful for. He didn’t want Fint to see his unease. His red eyes glowed hotly in the semi-darkness, giving his spiked hair an uncanny appearance. The blaster on his hip seemed natural, as did the long blade knife tucked neatly behind his back.
“What’s the word, boss?” Kreegin asked with naturally slurred speech.
“Recon op. We have one month to prepare for insertion.”
“Recon? Again? Squaffa. When are we finally going to get the chance to kill someone?” He didn’t feel the need to explain to Fint just how much he hated recon.
Fint grinned. “You’ll like this one.”
An eyebrow arched. “Where are we headed?”
“Helscape. Seems the Imperium is interested in the Berserkers all of a sudden.”
“Those monsters? What could possibly make them want to get involved?” Kreegin asked.
Fint shrugged. “That’s not our problem.”
“We considered this once before and decided it was too dangerous to go after the Berserkers on our own. I hope the price you agreed on is worth it.”
“I think you’ll find it more than any of us could ever spend,” Fint said.
Kreegin shook his head. Once Fint got an idea stuck in his head it was next to impossible to displace. “I hate deserts.”
“How do you feel about joining the Imperium?”
Kreegin’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “I don’t look good in silver and grey.”
Fint shrugged. “Doesn’t matter. I think we both know the perfect man for the job.”
“He’s going to love you.”
Fint slapped him on the back playfully. “Come on, let’s take off before those officers change their minds and shoot us out of the sky.”
“I really need to settle down and find a good woman,” Kreegin groaned.
“That’s assuming any woman would have you.”
The ramp slid closed and the small team of mercenaries blasted into orbit, leaving the brooding Imperium generals in the darkness of Neen.
Revelries hadn’t stopped since the division first left Minion. Streets were crowded with merriment and partiers on a nightly basis. There were doubters still, sure, but they stayed home where there was no risk. Alcohol and women were selling just as fast as people could pay for them with no end in sight. Minion stood on the verge of freedom for the first time in two hundred years.
Leggis Fint wasn’t normally one to shy away from a good party. He and his team enjoyed fighting hard and playing even harder, but tough times had befallen the mercenary. There was still no word of their third man, Ardn Kelg, or even any information on the Imperium’s extinction campaign, for that matter. These civilians were behaving too brashly to know better.
Securing the Imperium uniforms from the local underground had been an easy accomplishment compared to having papers forged. Any fool could procure a uniform, but no one was getting on post unless the ID checked out. They’d already been to a handful of petty con men, all of whom would have done a less than superior job for too much money as far as Fint was concerned. Still, no other choice was presenting itself.
“I’m pretty damned tired of this place, Boss,” Kreegin growled. He looked ridiculous in a uniform — not to mention the fabric was chaffing him terribly.
“Will you quiet down already? You’ve been trying to get the point across since our shuttle was blown up. I can take a hint.”
“So when can we get the Hells out of here?” the mercenary asked, stepping over a sleeping dog.
“Just as soon as we rescue Kelg and kill the maggot who set us up,” Fint replied. “Not that those two tasks should be difficult,” scoffed Kreegin. “We’d have a better chance at actually joining the Imperium.”
Fint’s eyebrow peaked with interest. “Funny you should mention that.”
“Squaffa!” the black skin mercenary grimaced. “I did the army thing once, remember? It wasn’t any fun then either.”
“Will you relax? I have a plan, my friend.” Kreegin Faul kept walking.
“I was afraid of that.”
The insistent laugh was almost as bad as hearing him say it.
They eventually tracked down a man whose work was good enough to pass the gate guards but still not up to Fint’s personal standards. Posing as rear detachment troopers from the division, Leggis and Kreegin roamed the majority of Fort Evans for the morning and part of the afternoon. Satisfied with the layout of the base, they left to finalize their plans. Fint figured on only getting one shot at this, and he aimed at making the most of it.
“I still don’t like it,” Kreegin told him for the tenth time.
Leggis set his binoculars down and shook his head. “You get pretty annoying, do you know that?”
“So my mother keeps telling me,” he with a shrug. “Now what?”
“Now we wait for the shift change. I sneak back on post, and you drive our handy little jeep to the back wall. If everything goes right, Kelg and I will be up and over the wall before any of them know what’s going on.”
“Of course, if everything goes wrong, you’ll have two shifts of military police hunting you across their base,” Kreegin concluded with a grim smile.
“You always know the right things to say, don’t you?”
The moons were already rising, not leaving them much time. Standard Imperium procedure called for the guard change in a few minutes.
“Well, here I go. Give me thirty minutes, and then hit the wall.”
Leggis offered him his sincerest smile and said, “I don’t believe in luck. Don’t be late.”
He was off and running back towards town before Kreegin could respond. They always had worked well together, though Kreegin often felt his boss made bad decisions when it was on the line. Then again, none of them had gotten them killed to date. Sure, there’d been a few times….
Kreegin smiled to himself and hit the timer on his watch.
“Almost didn’t make curfew, Trooper,” a gnarled sergeant said through a puff of smoke. “That’s a day in the slammer, you know.”
“Sorry, Sarge,” Fint hiccupped. “But I was drinking and met this woman.”
The Sergeant held up his hand. “Save it, Trooper. I hear the same thing a hundred times a night.”
Fint hoped he didn’t have to kill the man.
“Go ahead on, then. But don’t ever let me catch you late again.”
Fint smiled. “That’s one thing you don’t have to worry about, Sarge.” And he meant that with sincere honesty.
The mercenary passed through the gates at a brisk pace, wanting to put as much distance between them as possible in case the guard changed his mind. He laughed at the thought of him and Kelg sharing the same cell. The amusement quickly faded the deeper he went onto post. There was little way of knowing how many of the people milling about worked for Menzel, or even where Menzel was at that moment. Part of him hoped to run into the weasel, though caution dictated otherwise.
There was little to gain with a direct confrontation amongst so many other soldiers, but the thought persisted. Fint desperately wanted Menzel to pay for his treachery, and one way or another, he would. He found himself entering the jail with dark thoughts of murder racing through him.
“Can I help you?” asked the clerk without looking up from her duty log.
“Captain Menzel sent me to check on his prisoner,” Fint said with authority.
She scanned her paperwork quickly and said, “I don’t have any visitors expected. I think I should call this in.”
“Trooper,” he snarled, leaning forward. “Are you sure you want him messing around down here anymore than he has too?”
“You’ve got a point,” she said. “However, I can’t let you in without authorization.”
“Are you sure you want it this way, trooper?” Fint asked, his words slow and precise.
She looked up from her terminal to see the barrel of a Thidum power blaster pointing at her chest.
“Now be a good girl and open the door.”
With some small clicking noises, the reinforced titanium door slid open. “He’s in the third cell on the right,” she told him as they stepped into the cell bay. Fint pushed her in ahead of him, just in case they had a dual security system. He almost laughed at the thought. The majority of soldiers were either north fighting in the campaign or downtown drunk right now. Security across the post was considerably lax.
“You don’t really expect to get away with this,” she whispered.
The rounded tip of the barrel prodding her back was the answer.
Fint leaned close and said, “Just be glad we’re not taking you with us. Now open the cell.”
They kept the bay partially dark, as if the prisoners weren’t deserving of light. There were various murderers, rapists and other petty criminals locked away, all awaiting transport back to the Imperium prison world for sentencing. Some of them were top-notch soldiers in the field, but alcohol running through their system helped suppressed urges rise and assume control. Such was the way of life.
“On your feet, traitor,” Fint snarled once he stopped in front of Kelg’s cell. His friend and partner was facing away from the door.
“Or you’ll do w’at?”
Leggis smiled. “Or I’ll leave you in this stinking cell for a long time,” he whispered.
The giant mercenary got to his feet and stretched. Muscles expanded and swelled, he was nearly twice Fint’s size. “Like you could actually keep me in ‘ere. W’ere in the ‘ells ‘ave you been? I’ve been sitting in this cell for almost a week.”
“We’ve had some technical difficulties lately. Kreegin’s waiting on the other side of the wall, but we can stay here and talk all night if you wish. I’m sure this lovely young lady wouldn’t mind,” Fint said.
Ardn looked over at the guard and smiled. Somehow, he doubted Fint had managed to charm her so quickly. Leggis edged her into the back of the cell and smiled at her.
“I can’t exactly say I’ve enjoyed the company, but we do have matters to attend to. The next shift will let you out. Just hope we get to Menzel before you do.”
The door hissed shut as Fint and Kelg left the building. One down, one to go.