I pulled up with a start when I turned around from my console to find Arr standing behind me. Someone else might have screamed, but I’m not a screamer. “You’re quiet. Good thing I didn’t have anything in my hand. I would have hit you with it.”
“Sorry,” he apologized. He had on his leather knee boots and he was silent - real light on his feet.
“Next time whistle or something before you get close enough to be in striking range,” I said with a smile.
He smiled back as he curled up in a chair on the bridge. His beautiful china blue cat eyes followed me around as I continued to work on my communications system.
“Where’s Jake?” I asked as I slipped back down on the floor under the open control panel with a tester in my hand.
“Cleaning his blaster,” Arr answered.
I was fumbling for a tube of weld beyond my peripheral vision.
“To the left,” Ma-rye-a couched over the com system. She was always watching over me.
I could feel the baby fine hair on the back of Arr’s hand as he placed the tube in mine. I had a fleeting desire to pet him. It was not the first time since he had come aboard that the thought had crossed my mind. His body, except for his face and the palms of his hands was covered with a soft red/gold fur, but fine like hair.
“Thanks,” I told Arr. “I would think he would have you doing the maintenance of the equipment,” I said to make conversation. “I thought the new guy always got the grunt work.”
“He doesn’t trust me,” Arr said.
“He trusts you with his life,” I countered.
“Yes, but his blaster came first.” I could hear the smile in Arr’s voice even though I wasn’t at an angle to see it from where I was lying.
“How long have you been with Jake now?” I scooted out from under the controls and fastened the panel back in place. I turned around and sat with my back to the closed panel on the floor.
“Three seasons on my planet. Almost a year by ships time,” he answered.
“Do you like being a mercenary?”
He didn’t even hesitate, “I like being with Jake.”
“That’s good, cause I think you’re stuck with each other. I haven’t seen him in this good a mood for ages.”
“Have you known him a long time?” Arr asked.
“I met Jake through Tim. I helped them transport a shipment of seized quillanium they recovered years back. We’ve been friends ever since.” I pulled my knees up and wrapped my arms around them.
“What’s quillanium?” Arr asked.
I kept forgetting I was talking to an alien that had lived all alone on a planet practically his whole life until Jake came along and found him. Just because he seemed to have adapted so quickly and learned languages just by listening to them did not alter the fact that he had huge gaps in his knowledge of the verse.
“It’s an alloy used to reinforce our ships. Very valuable and very heavy in a raw state,” I explained. “One of Andrew Daily’s shipments had been high-jacked. Tim and Jake were hired to get it back. The smugs had already off loaded the shipment and sold Andrew’s ship by the time they arrived. The guy’s ships weren’t heavy duty enough to carry all the goods.”
“I’ve met Daily and his daughter,” Arr said quietly as he looked out the viewport ahead of us.
“Yeah, I heard Jake’s dad and Andrew were good friends. I figured Jake would keep in touch with him.”
“Not anymore,” Arr said softly.
“Really? Why?” I asked. I’d just done that transport of the pair of those God awful Golden Screamers a free months back.
“Sarah was kidnapped by the Hydra,” Arr started to explain. “Andrew sent for Jake.”
“Did you guys get her back?” The Hydra were known all over the verse as a slaver race. They picked up victims wherever they found them and sold them to other cultures like meat from a market. Damn, I had just seen her on her birthday. She hadn’t impressed me as that likeable, but she didn’t deserve the fate of a Hydra kidnapping and sale.
“We found her.” Arr answered.
“And she thanked us be getting her father to offer to buy Arr for her menagerie,” Jake said from the doorway. “I had no idea he was so racist.” Jake almost spat the words out. “Arr pretty near gets killed saving his precious daughter and they both thank him like that. I felt like dusting them.”
I couldn’t imagine being on the receiving end of a ‘Jake Rage.’ I’d seen him angry before and it wasn’t pretty. Jake was almost always for the underdog. His being a mercenary didn’t prevent him from loving small animals, children and the oppressed. His daily tolerance of Kayo’s often rash actions proved that.
All the mercenaries I knew were good men. They helped the Galactic Officials keep peace and settle disputes that the Galactic Forces could never manage with their limited coverage. The mercenaries were bound by a Galactic code of conduct and were held accountable if they failed to abide by it.
I rose to my feet and put my hand on Arr’s shoulder. “Don’t judge us all by Andrew Daily. We humans are very diverse creatures. There are many of us that are down-right likeable.” I squeezed his shoulder.
We all three turned at the sound of a loud bang down the corridor off the bridge as though something enormous had slammed into the bulkhead. Kayo came running in at breakneck speed. He slid to a stop at Jake’s feet.
“Woke up and found no one there, huh?” Jake asked the dar-dolf. “Some protect mutt you are.” He scratched Kayo’s head. “Come on Arr. Let’s see what kind of damage repair we need to do.”
“There is a corridor panel in Zone 3 damaged,” Sam announced over my com system.
“I know, Sam. We’re on our way.” I picked up my tools, including a straightening mallet and headed out to catch up to the guys.