Traveller: All Aboard the Diamond Dog
Fiction: Kostya and Hal's Day "Off"
0800 hours on Rhylanor. The normal hustle and bustle of civilians had turned into a low roar of panic and hushed tones. War had broke out in the Spinward Marches, and everyone on Rhylanor knew they were close to the action. Way too close, in fact. Kinorb was recently attacked by Zhodani backed Vargr forces, the Kforuzeng corsair band to be exact. That was only two parsecs away, and everyone knew that a fleet could descend upon Rhylanor within a week's notice at any given time.
Kostya and Hal, two of the Diamond Dog, sat back at their rented hab on the Old Station. It was abnormally quiet; the rest of the crew was off doing a job for Scout Commander Holtby. There wasn't much Hal could do about working for the IISS again— they still technically owned the ship he mustered out on, and there was no way he was going to skip out on working for the IISS. They'd just shut his ship down, track it down, and then board it. He'd rather avoid all of that.
The hab was sparsely decorated in the living room. It was originally a common room for various tenants but ever since renting out the entire top floor of the hab, it was just known as the 'living room'. A large flat screen sat against the wall, mounted at about chest level; it was playing a documentary on Oort clouds on mute. Kostya sat on the floor, pulling apart and putting back together his revolvers he had since his service in the Army, setting every piece gingerly on a white towel. Hal flipped through the news on his hand terminal, browsing social media, and checking the status of the Diamond Dog— it still hadn't came back into orbit. He stroked his stubble and set his phone down, sighing, looking out the window and pondering about random things— whatever came into his head.
"You think they're dead?" Kostya asked, not bothering to look up from the cylinder he was cleaning. I sure hope not, Hal thought, still looking out the window. I have a lot of money in that ship.
"Probably not, Kostya, probably not." Hal sighed and winkled his nose a little. It was boring here without the hum of the Diamond Dog's engine.
Kostya set the cylinder down and began cleaning the barrel of one of his revolvers. "Well, it's been a hot fuckin' minute. Think the 'donnies got 'em?"
"I wouldn't think so."
"What makes you say that?" Kostya still didn't look up from his gun.
"I just don't think they would get them selves killed, is all." Hal looked at the back of Kostya's head.
Kostya let out a deep sigh, stared off into the TV, and then around to Hal. "You put a lot of faith into people."
Kostya's right, I do. Hal had thought about that in the past. In all of his years in the Scout Service, he had always put a lot of faith in the crews he worked and served with. They tended to let him down. He put his head back on his hand and snorted a little. "I just trust them, Kostya."
Kostya began to open his mouth when Hal's hand terminal began to ring. Hal let it ring for a few seconds then looked down on it. He mouthed something then picked up the terminal. Kostya began signaling for Hal to tell him who it was. H. O. L. T. B. Y.
Hal began to speak but was immediately cut off. His eyes darted left and right as if reading something in front of him. That was the face he normally made when taking in any sort of information. Okay, Hal said, alright, he said, will do, he said. Click. Hal set the terminal on the arm of the couch and stared at it for a few seconds.
"What was it? What'd he want?"
Ten minutes and both Hal and Kostya were dressed in regular civilian clothes. Underneath was their reflec. Ten minutes earlier, Holtby called Hal. There had been a Vargr and a Zhodani spy that had been caught on Old Station and had fled into their district. On the terminal, Holtby sent Hal security camera footage of the two fleeing. A blonde-white-black-grey dappled Vargr with pointed ears, and a Zhodani with medium length black hair and a scar running down his lips. Easy enough, they both stood out.
Two minutes of looking over their projected paths and their pictures, Hal and Kostya were out the elevator and out the lobby into the promenade that the hab overlooked. Overhead, the rest of the Old Station's habs, shops and other districts hung upside down, suspended by the Torus's constant gravitational spin. Kostya still couldn't get used to that.
Kostya wore a little bit of an oversized version of his BDUs of his time in the Army. They were olive, and the jacket hung open to a black t-shirt with the web of shoulder holsters being masked by it's color. He wore regular jeans. He looked like any other veteran. Hal on the other hand wore a bomber jacket that he had made for him during his time in the IISS. He was captain of the Diamond Dog, and when he mustered out, he lost his old crew. The bomber jacket was zipped up, and the arms had patches for the Scout Service and the Rhylanor branch, and right on the back was a patch version of a Sulieman class scout ship, and underneath it said the IISS Diamond Dog. Hal was real proud of wearing it.
The promenade was sparsely populated, with a fountain in the center. Small tourist trap shops flanked either side of it. The duo had to make their way to the next platform, where the escapees were suspected of making their way to. If the two waited, maybe the pair would make their way to them, but Kostya and Hal knew they couldn't risk it. The next platform over was a bunch of shops and restaurants, and it branched off into another hab block and another recreational block. Kostya and Hal had to make their way across the bridge that had light traffic until it finally got toward the block with all the shops.
They pushed their way past crowds ogling the latest fashions, the latest news, the latest trends. Though Hal and Kostya served the Imperium on two different branches, they had a mutual distaste for the metropolitan living on the Old Station. They were both happy they were living in a place that was nice for a change. But, again, with metropolitan living comes large crowds you have to push past, and today was no exception. The artificial habitat kept it at a nice room temperature, but the crowds made it feel like a summer's day planet side.
Kostya spotted their targets before Hal could. The two spies pushed past the crowd in a violent hurry. They had left the bridge that led to a residential block, where all the actual houses reside. Rich neighborhood. Extremely rich. Kostya tugged Hal's sleeve and nodded discreetly to the two who stopped in a pocket in the crowd. It was empty here, and they were catching their breath, the Vargr panting with its paws on its knees.
Hal tapped the throat mic. It captured the vibrations of his throat, which allowed him to speak in loud environments like this. "Best not catch them in a fire fight here… too crowded."
Kostya looked back at Hal and frowned. Finally, some action, and he couldn't even use his freshly cleaned revolvers. He looked back at the pair who had disappeared. He caught their trail, heading for the hab blocks. Most people would be inside. Kostya nodded in their direction and Hal followed suit. As they sprinted, Kostya began to speak. "Permission to take 'em out?"
"No. No, not unless they shoot at us." Hal panted out as he sprint at full speed, pushing past people. He caught a glimpse of the Zhodani pointing at the two of them. They were spotted. The Zhodani pulled out something from his jacket, but kept running. "Speaking… speaking of which I think one's got a gun."
They ran into the hab block. It was quiet here, and empty. The sounds from the entertainment block behind them began to fade as Hal and Kostya chased the two into the crisscrossed alleyways of the habs. Everything was tight, and a firefight here could be deadly. Kostya knew that full well. His mentor from his commando days would always tell him that sometimes guns were useless in these sorts of ranges.
As they ran, the spies would be lost, then found again, then lost, then found yet again. Because of the hab planning, the alleyways always met in a sort of square of sorts with pillars and a center piece. The spies split off, as did Kostya and Hal. As the two made it into the square, they completely lost sight of the spies.
"Did we lose them?" Hal managed to irk out through pants. He wiped his brow with the sleeve of his bomber jacket.
"I don't…" Kostya began to say. He could see the Zhodani leave over a pillar, holding a pistol sized weapon at them both. "Fuck!"
Their training kicked in. They both ducked behind the centerpiece of the square— a diamond shaped, thigh high planter, with cacti in the middle of it. The shot didn't make a sound, but looking up, Hal saw what zipped past their heads. A laser bolt.
The bolt collided with a corner of one of the habs and blasted a baseball sized crater into the wall of it. "Laser pistols?" Kostya began to pull out one of his revolvers from his shoulder holster. "Rare, real fuckin' rare."
Hal lifted up his bomber jacket and tugged out his old service pistol from a belt holster. He unlatched the safety. "Return fire! Come on!" Hal wasn't used to firefights, even during his service, but he was trained to fight in them. He sat up on one knee, just enough for himself to poke out the top of cover, and fired three shots at random. The firing rang and bounced against the walls of the habs around them, making it sound louder than normal.
An SMG burped out a volley of bullets that smacked into the planter in front of them, kicking up dirt, debris, and cactus. Kostya fell to his left side and fired off two shots at the pillar in front of him. The Vargr's heel protruded out from the pillar and he managed to catch him with both bullets. The Vargr howled in immense pain, and another shot from the laser pistol smacked in front of Kostya, just before his chest. Concrete kicked up into his face, but he still managed to pull himself back into cover. Hal had already radioed that they were engaged with the spies.
Another burp, this time longer and wilder. Hal leaned over the right side and fired a few more shots. The Zhodani shouted, but both Kostya and Hal couldn't make out if any of his shots connected. Kostya nodded at Hal and motioned for them both to hop up out of cover. He counted with his support hand.
As they stood up they saw the Vargr limping in pain, blood trailing from behind him. He had dropped his SMG and was struggling to skip away. He fell to a knee and went to stand up. The Zhodani was running with his back turned. Before he could turn back around, Hal fired the rest of his magazine into the man's back, causing him to immediately collapse. The Vargr turned, but another two shots from Kostya's revolver caught it dead in the snout. The snout exploded into what Kostya could compare with a ground meat MRE, the body of what was a Vargr got sent sprawling forward into a fetal position. The Vargr twitched a few times and finally expired.
Shtiekr Pienzhplansheqaf, aged 20, and Klazughevgh, aged 18. A Zhodani Commando and a Vargr corsair special unit, respectively. Both killed by independent agents hired by the Imperial Interstellar Scout Service. Their bodies will be returned to those who claim them, but they are currently being held at the Aleksandr Vyrianov Memorial Hospital on Rhylanor's Old Station. If no one has claimed them, they will be sent back to Consulate space during peace time.
— IISS Office, Rhylanor. Signed, Scout Commander Allan S. Holtby.