Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Chapter 10 Negotiations

I watched Tasha close the door, satisfied only after the lights on the panel changed indicating it was locked. Then I headed back down the hallway toward the main lifts.  That is where I would find a public computer terminal.  I wanted to get some information before I went storming into Geklov’s office.   

Like before, the area became more congested with people the closer I got to the lifts. People lived on stations for a variety of reasons. Some came because it was where their corporation was based. Many more came because of the job opportunities and the chance to be away from the political situations on the planets.  It was the illusion of a better life.  Politics and religion still reached to the stations but it was an easier place to hide from it all.   

I had a message from Pelton on my communicator.  I checked it as I headed for a station public terminal bank.  He left me the location of Geklov’s office and a reminder to come as soon as possible.  I memorized the office location and stepped up to the nearest terminal. 

I let the terminal interface with my communications band and paid for local access. Some of the data was free, but anything good was going to cost me.  After the scan was complete, the welcome screen popped up and provided me with my current location and the environmental settings for this particular area of the station. I quickly typed in Geklov's corporation name and waited for a response.  Eventually all of the corporation’s information that was available through public channels filled the screen. Currently there were one-hundred and fifty-two members. They were recruiting pilots that could fly Jump Freighters and Capital Industrial Ships.

I called up the station schematics and plotted multiple routes between Tasha’s room, Geklov’s office, and the docking bay.  I downloaded the corp information and the lift schedule then disconnected. 

The lift arrived and several of the station workers got out leaving three tired looking men standing inside. I entered, and after punching my destination into the keypad stepped to the back of the lift. After about three minutes the doors slowly closed. During heavy use hours the lifts have scheduled times of departure like the shuttles on planets.

I leaned against the back wall and closed my eyes.  One breath is all it took to slip out of my Lakasha state of mind and into my pirate persona. I didn't let the pirate completely take over, but I needed her calm and killer instincts. A cool detachment washed over me and a smile spread across my face. She was ready, and knew it was only a matter of time before she was in charge. It was creepy that I felt like I was two different people. Honestly though, there was less Lakasha and more pirate all the time.

Eventually the lift made it to the floor I was waiting on.  I shoved a couple guys dressed in business suits out of my way as I stepped forward. They started to protest, but I glanced back at them with dead pirate eyes and they found something interesting on the floor to look at. I heard myself laugh as I exited the lift.  As I walked down the corridor people instinctively made a path for me.

I walked toward the confrontation with Geklov and my mind stayed clear and cold. The coming conflict felt good; there had been too much sitting around and waiting.  My heart pumped a little faster and I was ready for the fight.  I wanted to kill him more than anyone I have ever wanted to kill. That is saying a lot.  The pirate protested, but I let some of that cold anger slip away because I had to keep my head straight and remain calm as I could.  He had left an order that if anything happened to him Tasha was to be killed. 

After walking a quarter of a kilometer I turned the corner leading to Geklov’s office.  There was one guard standing outside the door. He was young and taller than average. As I walked up he nervously fondled the gun in his holster. I kept a close eye on his hand in case he decided he would be doing his boss a favor if he shot me. He wouldn't have a chance, but I didn't need to deal with station police for hours while we sorted the whole thing out. I probably wouldn’t win big points from Geklov either if he had to remove splattered body guard off the walls outside his office.

I walked up nice and slow, stopping about ten feet from the door. He put his hand firmly on the butt of his gun.

“I am here to see Geklov.”

“He already has a guest, you will have to wait.”

Slowly I walked closer to the door and rested my back against the wall. I put one foot up and let my arms hang loose at my side.  I made an effort to not to pay too much attention to the guard. I could see his hand and gun out of the corner of my eye. He relaxed and moved his hand off of the gun, resuming his position at the door. As I stood there I started to notice a muffled shouting on the other side of the door.

“So, who is Geklov with?”

“Herrier is in there with him right now. I am sure he will be with you momentarily.”

Herrier was one of Geklov's lead guards. We fought together against the Blood Raiders on a station in null sec to help sneak Geklov's people out that were trapped. During that fight Geklov had managed to work a deal to sneak himself and another guard named Antov off the station. The coward ran away and left his people there to die.

Herrier had led the assault forces that protected the station from the Blood Raider boarding parties. He proved to be an exceptional soldier and during our time trapped there we built some mutual respect.  He seemed to be too good of a man to work for a piece of shit like Geklov.   I guess if the money is good enough you can overlook a lot of things.  Mercenaries rarely concern themselves with the poor moral decisions that their employers make.  It’s not good for business. 

As I stood there waiting my turn I mentally reviewed the routes to the lifts and the things I was going to say. There wasn't any doubt in my mind that I was going to get Tasha out of here and safe. It was just a matter of what lengths I would have to go to get the job done.

I crept closer to the door. The kid didn't seem to notice. He had slipped back into that passive “spending my time until shift change” attitude. It was good to see that he wasn't much of a guard. I would keep that in mind if I needed to pick which shift to return on.

The door opened a crack and Harrier’s voice boomed into the hallway.
“That is bullshit. There is no way you can pay me enough to keep saving your ass when you do stupid shit like this.”  Then the door shut again leaving me with nothing to listen to but muted voices.

Finally, the door opened and Harrier came out. He was shorter than me with a tight military haircut. He was one of those guys that you can tell is dangerous. A completely oblivious person could sit down next to him in a bar and immediately get up and leave. They might not know why they decided to move but they needed to go somewhere else.

He was dressed in combat pants and a plain black shirt. His military issue carbine was secured in its holster on his left side. It was the only weapon visible but people like Harrier never stopped at one. Weapons are like drugs and a security blanket all rolled into one. At least that is how I feel about them.

“Get lost,” he barked at the kid standing next to the door. The kid jumped and mumbled a startled “yes sir” before grabbing his bag and hastily heading down the corridor.

I relaxed and gave Harrier a friendly smile. A few days ago he and I were on pretty good terms considering we had been working toward the same goal, but it was hard to say if any of that mattered now. Mercenaries had rapidly shifting loyalties.  He shook his head back and forth and blew out a deep breath of air. Then he nodded back.

“He is expecting me? I assume that is why you are guarding the door.”


I walked past Herrier and through the door. A large ring of furniture occupied the area just inside. It served as a little meeting place for business clients, but it also blocked easy access to his desk.  The walls were covered in all kinds of semi expensive looking art.  Behind the furniture were a few short steps that led up to an enclosed business area. Geklov's desk and a single chair were offset into a corner.

Geklov was sitting at his desk with a welcoming smile on his face.  I'm not sure if it was possible or not but I could swear he had gained ten pounds in the few days since I last saw him. His hair was greased back again and he was wearing another all white business suit.

He stood behind the desk and said, “Welcome Lakasha, I have been expecting you. I have been looking forward to establishing a promising business relationship with you.”

I smiled back, but it wasn't a happy smile. I knew the smile held no warmth and my eyes would be cold as well. It didn't make him drop his though. To him I was just another business associate who he thought owed him.

“Me too Geklov. I have been looking forward to this for days,” I said and my heart sped up as I tried to stifle the thought of choking him to death with my fist. 

He gave me a little wave indicating that it was fine to come up and sit down. I accepted the invitation and walked around the furniture and up the stairs.  The room was empty and his back was to the wall.  He probably had a gun behind that desk somewhere. He was also standing behind the most expensive thing in the room. All the art and furniture wouldn't add up to the cost of the desk. I recognized the make from some of the offices I visited as a pilot in the Caldari military. On occasion, I had the opportunity to meet with high ranking officers or even a member of the Caldari government. They all had desks that resembled this one.

It was made by Rohm United, a company that specialized in protection services. If he was sitting behind that desk he would be safe from almost all firearms. If he paid enough, he would be protected from a pretty significant bomb blast. All he had to do was recognize he was in trouble and dive under the desk. Then his guards could come in and take care of assailants while he was safe on the ground.

The desk was a good piece of protection. There were probably plenty of other little safety devices around the room too. Some things are harder to see than others. Then there was the sleeping area off to the side where guards could be posted.  I mentally gave him credit for a pretty good setup.

I stood in front of the desk and tried to slip into my most cold mental state.  It was not a good situation and I was not in a strong position for negotiation. Tasha owed him a lot of money and was a valuable asset. If he was worried she might get away or some harm might come to him he would be willing to kill her as an example.   Now it didn't matter how fast I could shoot or how reliable my friends were.  It was all up to me.

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