“Drop it!” Watts ordered in a hoarse growl. He had reached the limits of his patience. His tolerance of the situation was at an end. No more looking the other way. No more non-interference. No more mister nice-guy. He hated bullies.
“Now!” he roared. His voice echoed throughout the cavern.
He had been on this God forsaken rock for just under two weeks. He was miserable. His throat was raw from lack of liquids. His skin was cracked and bleeding in places he didn’t want to discuss for the same reason. He hadn’t had a shower since he arrived and could hardly sleep from the overpowering stench of his own body. On top of all that, he had been turning a blind eye on what the rest of the men were doing to a young kid named Lucas.
Lucas was here when Watts arrived. No telling how long he had been here. The youngster was ill equipped, alone, and way out of his element. He had already become the Omega dog in this miner’s pack. He was the brunt of all their frustration - the receiving end of all their stupid pranks to relieve the boredom. Lucas’ hands were permanently bound in rags to protect them, or bandage them, from falls or collisions with the crystals of the floor or walls. The guys were pushing him constantly.
The men would come up behind the kid and flip the light off on his headgear. The device was so antiquated that Lucas would have to remove it in order to get to the switch with his bandaged hands and turn the lights back on. This was all done with his eyes closed because the other miners would direct their lights and laser pics toward the crystal to create as much refraction as possible to blind the kid. His shades were permanently attached to the outdated headgear and couldn’t be worn alone for adjustment of the gear. He had a mild case of crystal blindness.
When Watts first arrived the kid was scavenging crystals from anyplace not claimed by another miner. A few days ago he actually claimed a small area on the tenth level and was working it with his barely operating laser pic. This morning he hit a small, but rich vein. He actually mined out a nice handful of semi-precious crystal. A few hours ago he couldn’t contain himself when he hit a deeper pocket of precious crystals. He let out a whoop that echoed through the whole level. The other miners had been watching ever since just waiting for him to pack up for the night.
Lucas set his force field screen over the front of his site. It too was ancient and probably couldn’t keep mice out much less a determined rouge miner, but the men knew they would have to deal with the kid before they invaded his site. The six men on that level ganged up on him the minute he turned away from the wall. They had not imagined the old black guy would interfere. He had stuck to himself since he arrived. Didn’t even associate with them above ground. They were wrong.
Watts picked up his own satchel heavy with crystal in one hand, tucked his laser pic in the side pocket of his pants and grabbed his mining pick ax with his other free hand. Throughout his mercenary career he always picked the jobs defending the underdogs. This was no different. When the gang descended on the kid and wrestled his picking pouch away from him Watts came in swinging. He took care of two of the miners before they could even turn to put up a defense. Swinging the heavy crystal bag he caught the third under the chin and sent him flying. The fourth guy was smart enough to raise his laser pic, but his aim was off. He missed Watts and hit his bag. The laser slit it open mid-flight into the next guy and exploded a rain of sharp crystals projectiles through the air. Everyone got hit. The fourth guy being the closest this side of Watts caught one right through the left temple.
Four down, two to go. Watts wrung an arch with his mining pick and took out the guy with the laser pic before he recovered from the assault of the crystal ‘rain.’
The last man didn’t think to take Lucas hostage. He thought Watts was in it for the crystal, not to protect the stupid kid.
“Drop it!” Watts ordered.
He stood transfixed holding the bag to his chest.
“Now!” he roared.
The man tossed the bag at Watts and held up his hands.
“It’s yours,” he relented.
Watts leaned down and picked up the pouch. He tossed it to the kid.
“Clean up this mess,” he ordered the last man standing, indicating the fallen miners around him. “And once you’ve done that, I don’t want to see any of you on this level again. Understand?”
The man nodded his head. The walking injured picked up the crystal impaled dead guy and vacated the cavern as quickly as their damaged bodies could move.
“That won’t be the end of it,” Watts warned the kid.
Watts uncoiled the fresh bandages from the roll as he wrapped Lucas’ hand.
“I really appreciate what you did for me down there,” the kid said. “I was thinking maybe you and I could partner up. I have a pretty good claim.”
Watts sighed – just what he needed. He would end up being the kid’s bodyguard.
He cut off the roll of bandage and started taping over the cloth. The cloth would never hold up to the cutting crystal, but the tape was pretty indestructible. Give Watts a roll of Tough Tape and he could repair just about anything. He never traveled without it.
“I know you think I’m sucking you into a lot of trouble you don’t have to deal with, but look at it this way,” Lucas continued, “you already put yourself in the middle and those guys aren’t going to forget it. Team up with me and at least you get some good crystal and you have someone at your back.”
The kid had a point. He may be physically weak, but he had a head on his shoulders. He assessed the situation to a tee.
Unfortunately, Watt’s didn’t have the opportunity to agree. It was at that moment that the Hydra attacked.