USD: ~17 days after Tears of Fire arrival to 92 Pegasi, an hour after the ambush
Location: Ackman Station, Main Concourse, Annex 3
The Station Authorities showed up first, but they had been little more than glorified police who seemed at a sort of loss at what to do with the dozen smoking bodies lying around the section.
When the Iron Horse soldiers arrived they took charge of the situation. Beeper and Booper had already arrived by then, and Alex had thought for a second that the authorities were going to get themselves killed by all the shouting and pointing of weapons toward the two combat drones.
Alex had made sure to disable the pesky little setting that said they couldn’t harm humans before docking, and the old-style projectile rifles weren’t going to punch through their steel carapaces unless they found a different ammunition that would poke holes in the station.
Wyles Hammok had proved his good qualities a second time when he had settled things down with his clout alone. Although Alex had received an angrily worded message from Mr. Whitely, stressing the fact that combat drones were not legally allowed to be present on the station under any circumstances and asking if she could kindly send them back to her ship before he had to take official notice of them.
She had bit back her first reply of ‘Sure, but next time I get ambushed on your really secure station I will have my ship ventilate the section with 32mm AP rounds until it is safer.’
Barely. She was in a bad mood after her adrenaline high had run out and seeing Elis wounded had not made her happy.
Wyles continued to improve her impression of him when he offered to take them back to his store, which had turned out to be a large warehouse. Inside it had its own ecosystem almost, separate from the station. It wasn’t just a gun shop; the space opened into a massive hangar that was separated into three levels, the lowest below them had multiple types of vehicles, from tanks to what looked like space fighters and combat dropships.
The first level they entered was a public area with multiple shops with their own employees helping customers browse and examine the myriad displays of tactical gear, clothing, accessories, and firearms. At every entrance stood a guard who was equipped with the same gear the shops were selling.
Wyles led them to the second floor via a three-flight rail staircase. The stairs gave Alex a good chance to give Wyles a thorough look-over. He was a large man, and his broad back was well muscled enough that the tactical gear failed to hide it. It was no wonder that he was able to handle the huge anti-material rifle as he had. She still thought the weapon had been a bit of overkill for the situation though.
As soon as they reached the bottom Alex realized this was where they kept most of the weapons stocked as employees moved about loading and unloading crates nearby. Some took pieces and examined them, presumably for quality or damage, while others took different articles to various machine shops and work areas for repairs or recycling.
They had passed through mostly in silence other than necessities on the way so far, until Alex broke it.
“Big operation compared to what I thought would be on this station. Mr. Whitely said there were two of you, even.”
Wyles laughed, “No, no. There is only one of me. Crawford Arms is an amateur operation.”
They paused outside a sealed section, before the door slid open for them quietly. Inside was what felt like the entrance to a hotel room, with clean reflective, faux-stone flooring and with a healthy amount of décor and lounge space. There were plenty of employees that appeared to be taking a break or off duty enjoying the lounge that also had an eatery and what Alex guessed was a company store. It was the most affluent part of the station she had seen so far.
“Your operation looks a lot like what I’d imagine what a mercenary company would be like, although I didn’t expect to find a space like this on the station,” Alex murmured.
“An arms dealer and a mercenary company often blur the lines, these days. It’s not a long leap to jump from weapon sales to security services, after all. I have decent providers from Meltisar that make their way across Corporate space that let me take advantage of the location.”
Alex looked over at him, interested in the first mention she had heard of the small little area on the map that had managed to not be swallowed by the other larger powers. “Oh? How’s that?”
“Dedia IV is a class II frontier world. Very habitable, but the reason it can’t be considered class I isn’t the climate, it’s the fauna. Militias there need military grade hardware just to keep predators outside of the fences, and they still have a high death rate. Ackman Station acts as a transshipment point. Large ships can’t land, so it gets dropped off here, and we deploy it to Dedia. For a small upcharge, of course.”
It took Alex a second to place ‘Dedia’ in her mind, but then she remembered either Nameless or Elis had mentioned it to her, as a colony world that produced most of the triangular traffic in 92 Pegasi.
“We saw the super freighters heading toward Nu Crateris on our way in.”
Wyles grimaced unhappily, “Solarians have been pushing that recently. Desperate to maintain access to the frontier and not be cut off from future expansion. Dropping more and more colonists off. People on Dedia aren’t doing very well though, they bring them in unprepared with a few months supplies and then let them fend for themselves. A few months after the supplies are used up, another wave of colonists is brought in, and the cycle continues.”
Alex made a note to study the economic relationship between Ackman and Dedia later, to see if there was anything that could be bent to the Tear's benefit. There was another pressing concern that bothered her at the moment, though.
“Do you have any idea on who our assailants were? I was rather surprised that we got such a reception on our way here.”
“I can’t say that I do, I am afraid. I can make a few guesses, though. They were geared out in standard tactical equipment, but the fact that there were twelve of them means that someone with resources organized this on a short notice because you only just arrived.”
A frown creased Wyles face, “Solarian or Corporate agents, maybe. I don’t know what other things you or your ship might be involved in, or if some group jumped ahead of you to setup the ambush.”
“It’s possible we have a target on our backs, but there was no way for anyone to have known about our destination before our arrival here.” After all, neither her, Nameless, or Elis had any idea they were going to arrive in 92 Pegasi.
“Then I’ll reiterate the Solarians or Corpos. They might have seen you as presenting a target of opportunity, and someone who could possibly be a disruption to some plan. The entire sector has been full of tension the last few years as both Factions have been pushing more and more claims and personnel into the region. It’s nothing on the scale of open war or the like, but most of us are wondering who is going to pull the trigger first and move in and try to take over.”
He looked at her and gave her an appraising look, “You’re sure no one could have had word to look for you and had a wide net? The imperials probably have some agents here as well, and the team could have been hired.”
Why would he think the Imperials would be looking for her? Alex knew she lacked the insights to understand just what one of the major factions taking over would do to the area, so she didn’t comment and instead looked to Elis. Despite her calm and collected demeanor, Alex couldn’t miss that her bandaged arm had some blood seeping into the fabric, and she stopped with a frown.
Wyle’s gaze followed hers, “We have a medbay that can take a look at that arm for you, Master-Sergeant. I can have a man escort you.”
“I will stay with the Captain.”
Alex shook her head, “Elis, please go get looked at. Wyles and I have business to discuss, and it will probably take a while. I would be much more comfortable if I knew you were tended to properly.”
Elis frowned, wavering between accepting or not.
Wyles spoke first, before Alex could try to convince her again, “Master-Sergeant, I will see to the Captain’s needs, there is nothing for you to worry about here. You are both safe here in my little fortress in the station as it were.”
Elis sighed, “Alright. Where am I headed?”
Wyles looked over to a nearby guard and waved him over. The guard promptly approached, the man in the same tactical dress and gear that all the other’s had been carrying.
As soon as he reached them, the guard went to attention, “Sir!”
“Take the Master-Sergeant here to Medical. Then go find someone to relieve you and then go and ensure that no one bothers her.”
“Yessir.” The guard looked to Elis, “Master-Sergeant, if you would follow me, please? It’s not far.”
Alex watched Elis’s back for a moment as the two disappeared toward another hallway.
“Thank you for that Mr. Wyles. I appreciate it.”
“A good leader always looks out for their subordinates. I wouldn’t want you distracted by your Marine collapsing while we haggle, and I am very interested in what you’ve brought me.”
“Other than the unfortunate demonstration in Annex 3, are you familiar with the pulse rifle we brought?”
“They aren’t generally present out here on the frontier, but yes. I’ve seen them. The Imperial Praetorian Guard on Sol has an entire battalion equipped with FedTech. They like to go on parade and perform displays with it, to demonstrate the power of Her Imperial Majesty Psi. The bread and circuses there are done to remind the masses what would happen if they objected to the new noble class’s whims.”
He gave her a funny look that she couldn’t read, “Not that you didn’t probably already know that. I am not trying to pry, Captain. Yes, I am familiar with them, they are worth quite a few credits, although I won’t be able to pay you what they are worth. I am afraid you could likely get four or five times as much if you took them to a core system in Solarian or Corporate space.”
“We aren’t in Solarian or Corporate space.”
“No. No we are not. Still since they are in limited supply and unable to be produced any longer, I thought I would mention it. Would you like to get something to eat before we discuss, or shall we go to my office?”
Alex glanced over to the eatery that had been prickling at her attention the entire time. Taking a deep breath, she smiled at Wyles, “Business first I’m afraid.”
He nodded and led the way to a nearby door that Alex assumed went to his office, “I’ll send for some refreshments then.”
“Mr. Wyles, bribery will not make my prices go down.”
Wyles Hammok let out a chuckle.