I promise I haven’t forgotten about blogging. I’m honestly just awful about it. I have been so wrapped up in reading lately that writing has been a struggle. Even writing a blog post.
Then I have been busy with the distractions of WWII research and documentaries because I came across two different areas of interest that would make intersting historical fiction novels. I really need to find some focus. If you find my focus, I would appreciate it’s return.
Anyways, into chapter 8 we go and we’ll almost meet the whole crew. I feel like the story is dragging a bit, but that could also just be me cause I don’t have a clear plan yet. Hope you enjoy!
Leaning against the building across from Clemens’s scrap yard, Zaralynn folded her arms over her chest, her eyes glued to the front doors of the operation she knew the gnome claimed as legitimate. Behind those doors was a legitimate, nugget losing operation. At least during working hours. If the government really cared what happened on the outer planets, any account inspecting his books would find out that the numbers were cooked. Zaralynn was also sure that Clemens had buttered the right pockets in the government in case they ever came sniffing around. The pros to working both sides of a war.
She hadn’t bothered retrieving the good doc yet and Flake was attending to some business before leaving. Zaralynn hadn’t bothered to ask what the nymph needed to do, but it would be far easier to talk to Clemens without her. Less distracting anyway.
Ragtag crews entered the shop, leaving with various parts, some having to be carted away. Zaralynn was waiting for a lull. No one needed to hear what she and Clemens would be discussing.
“You’ve been watching for two hours. Planning on robbing me or just love the view that much?” A small gnome, barely coming up to her thigh was standing next to her admiring the view. He held a cane in front of him, both palms resting on the head. The man wore a cheap suit further giving off the impression that he was sleazy with his awful comb over. His white hair stuck up at odd angles, fighting the grease he had used.
Old men should have kind eyes, thought Zaralynn. Clemens did not. When Zaralynn looked down at him, there was a wicked gleam. “I was planning to close you down for the day so we could chat. The mustache is new.”
Twirling one end of the handlebar between his finger and thumb, the gnome smiled. “Thought I’d grow hair where I could seeing as my head is rejecting it. Gives me a bit of class, don’t you think.”
“A real gentleman,” Zaralynn quipped, thinking back to the doctor.
Zaralynn stood straight. “Is there somewhere we can go to talk?”
“There are many places we can chat. One would like to know the nature of a conversation before one decides on where to go. Like does one need witnesses?”
Zaralynn rolled her eyes. “If I wanted to kill you, it wouldn’t be during the day. Besides, chances are you have a few eyes on us now. I’d never kill you when I’m at a disadvantage. Who is it that has me in their sights?”
“Never show your hand before the other person.” Clemens rolled on the balls of his feet. “S’pose we take a stroll over to my office? That work for you?”
“As long as you aren’t going to be raided,” Zaralynn nodded.
Clemens laughed again, sleaze oozing into his voice. “You know very well that I’m prepared for anything like that.” He stepped in front of her, leading the way. “It’s been awhile elf. We should celebrate with a drink, though from what I hear, you’re probably halfway to buzztown already.”
“Keeping tabs on me now? First a sharp shooter, now this. I thought we were friends.” It troubled her to know that someone had been keeping tabs on her and she had failed to recognize it.
“We are friends!” Clemens quickly agreed. “That is precisely why I know what you’ve been doing for the last six years since you came to this planet. Long time without a word from someone who is my friend.”
He held the door open to his shop, the hinges squeaking slightly. With one last glance to the rooftops, she thought she spotted the reflection off a scope, but couldn’t be sure.
Stepping inside, she was instantly surrounded by clutter. To someone not familiar with spacecrafts, this room would only appear as a pack-rat’s wet dream. Zaralynn had a more discerning eye. There were parts on display from over a dozen different craft, both space and hover alike. Silver, copper, and brass were all dulled with corrosion and blast marks as was the custom in a scrap heap, yet Zaralyn could tell that some of it was intentionally placed.
“Bold,” Zaralynn nodded at an aerofilter in the corner. “Only the rich have the NS31. There is no way a vessel that would carry that has been here in two years. To have that in plain sight is asking for trouble from the authorities or any respectable buyer. I guess you don’t get many of those in here.”
“Part says JV31,” Clemens noted. “How’s an honest gnome to know the difference?”
“Honest.” The snort that emitted from Zaralynn couldn’t be helped. “Honest like when you brought us new rifles while delivering semi-automatics to the Governance the next day?”
“That was honest! They had more money and offered a better price.”
“And we walked into a trap because you couldn’t be bothered to tip of off.”
Clemens unlocked a door with a dirty glass window that read Employee’s Only on it. “I wasn’t offered a price from the rebels for information. I never do nothin’ for free. You know that.”
Stepping through, Zaralynn could tell this was where Clemens spent his nuggets. This room was meant to impress. The wall behind a desk too big for an orc displayed mount after mount of weapons. The chairs in front of the desk were a green velvet while Clemens’s chair was a royal purple. People who entered this office were meant to know that Clemens saw himself as their better. Zaralynn wasn’t going to give him the opportunity. Crossing the room, she slipped behind his desk, taking his chair while kicking up her boots up on the polished surface. The lights in the room all faced her, spotlighting her and his collection.
Clemens frowned as he made his way around the desk. “At least remove your muddy boots. Takes me a whole day to polish this thing.”
“How inconvenient for you,” Zaralynn replied lazily while removing her feet.
He nodded. “It is. Now, friend, what has brought you to the surface of your liquor lake?” As he spoke, he pulled a bottle of whiskey from his drawer and two shot glasses that looked like they had been used by a hundred others before. He poured the drink, which Zaralynn accepted.
“To alcohol’s ability to sterilize,” Zaralynn toasted. Clemens cocked a fuzzy eyebrow and drank. “To business then.” She set the glass down which was promptly refilled. “Did you hear about the robbery of the Siren Song?”
“Might have heard a thing or two. Bad business that. Some fellow dead. Tragic.”
His mock sorrow gritted on Zaralynn’s nerves. Jumping to the point, she needled him. “Who was behind it?”
“That I don’t know. I only heard it was done, not who done it.”
“You expect me to believe that? If there is a nugget to be made in a less than reputable way, you’d know everything about it.”
Clemens shrugged. “Like I said, I’m honest. I could ask around. Why do you want to know?”
“Don’t yank me around gnome. Who’s behind it?”
To her annoyance, he simply chuckled. “That threat, if you can call it that, would be a lot more intimidating if I didn’t have a bead on you. Way I hear it, you’ve been hired to hunt them down. If true, what’s my cut?”
“Tell me who’s crosshairs I’m in and I might cut you in.”
Clemens leaned against the desk, crossing his arms. “Come down. We’re clear.” Whether he wore a radio or had the room under surveillance, Zaralynn couldn’t tell. Not that it mattered. “I don’t know who is behind your tragedy. I am willing to help, provided my cut is deep enough.”
This was the game Zaralynn knew they would play. It was always the same with him. Clemens had absolutely no imagination.
“Can we skip this? I say a number, you say a number, we end up in between and that’s what you get? Let’s just jump to the middle number because it’s the only offer I have. And seeing as you don’t have information for me now, you’ll have to come with me.”
“No, can’t leave,” Clemens shook his head. “Too much going on. I’ll give you a discount. Four hundred nuggets and I’ll find out who is behind your robbery. I’ve heard of similar thefts on other planets. I’m sure they are connected.”
It was Zaralynn’s turn to laugh. “First off, you need to come. It’s not an option if you want a cut. Second, you lowball yourself. I think a thousand nuggets would allow you to put your assistant in charge of whatever operations you have going on here while you help us track down this gang.”
Clemens eyes bulged. Never had he expected an offer that extravagant. Zaralynn new he had a few thousand nuggets hidden away, but there was no way he was going to pass up an offer like this. “Who else is going? You have a ship?”
“I… Yes, I have a ship. I am the captain. There is a doctor. I don’t know his deal, but he is paying for fuel. You, me, and a friend of mine, Flake. Planned on finding Spolt and Norsed to round it out.”
Clemens was still doing math in his head. “You don’t want Norsed. Never trust an elf in the underbelly. Present company excluded of course.”
“We may need someone with his abilities. Norsed is the best at what he does.”
“Second best,” a voice called through the door.
It was Zaralynn’s turn for her eyes to bulge. She gripped the chair, anger filling her being, her fingers, chest and head flushing.
“He should be locked up,” Zaralynn hissed.
“Yet here I stand,” a dwarf stood in the doorway, his sniper rifle over his shoulder.