Dreeb watched the uneven, crater-strewn surface of Phobos roll slowly past the observation window of his cruiser and congratulated himself on how close he was to finally catching up with the man who, he was convinced, had robbed him of the last fifteen years of his life.
“Six,” he barked, “when will we be above the target crater?”
The mercenary who Dreeb had christened number six checked a readout on his console, “We should be within range of the drop zone in just under ten minutes, sir.”
Dreeb ignored the sarcasm in the man’s tone; he wasn’t paying his crew of disgraced soldiers and hardcases-for-hire for their manners, just their loyalty and silence. Besides, if the operation went according to plan, he wouldn’t need to pay them the balance of their fee.
“Have the device ready to deploy on the next pass.” said Dreeb, “I don’t want there to be any disturbances on the surface to make our heroic rescuers suspicious when they arrive. None that they aren’t supposed to see anyway.” He grinned at the thought, “You have the shuttle prepared?”
“It’s in the bay as you requested.”
“Good, tell whoever is operating the remote to keep the trajectory as steep as possible, it has to look like it was out of control when it crashed.”
“Don’t worry, he knows what he’s doing and I programmed the coordinates myself.” Six gave Dreeb a withering stare, “We have done this before, you know.”
Dreeb rounded on him, his eyes blazing with fury, “I couldn’t give a shit what penny-ante jobs you’ve been on before, this is my fucking operation and you will do as I say! Otherwise, you know where the airlock is and I’m sure your comrades would be only too glad to split your share of the proceeds.”
Six threw Dreeb a lazy salute, making no effort to hide his disdain for the raging psychopath, who looked as though, with any luck and a bit of extra encouragement, he might suffer a massive aneurysm and save them all a lot of trouble. “Aye aye Cap’n.” he said with a grin and with that, turned and strolled calmly back to his station.
Dreeb left the bridge, stomped his way down the corridor to the shuttle bay and slammed open the bulkhead door.
Another of his hired guns, this one called Three, was guarding the shuttle and narrowly avoided being crushed by the heavy hatch cover as it was flung open. He came to a vague approximation of attention and made an even less impressive attempt at saluting than his higher-numbered counterpart.
“What is it with you people,” said Dreeb, “didn’t any of you learn to show respect when an officer comes on deck?”
Three looked at him with a nervous grin, apparently waiting for a punchline, then, when no further entertainment was forthcoming, went back to picking his filthy nails with a bayonet.
Dreeb was tempted to just ram the insubordinate scumbag into a torpedo tube and watch him fly like a fat, greasy meteorite down to the surface of the tiny dead moon below, but he restrained himself and headed for the loading gantry.
Hanging from a small but powerful crane above the floor hatch, a cylindrical object was swinging gently, a small red light blinking rhythmically on its side beneath the word ARMED.
Dreeb caressed the black titanium casing and smiled.
“Oh, Eric, please come quickly, we’re in terrible trouble, hahaha haha haha hahaha…”
Three (whose real name was Travis, a veteran of countless brutal, bloody coups and blacker than black “wet” operations) heard the cracked, maniacal laughter from the far end of the shuttle bay and shuddered. He’d be bloody glad to get this job over and done with; no matter how much they were getting paid, it wasn’t enough to be trapped in the middle of fucking nowhere with this lunatic.
Checking that he was unobserved, the mercenary slipped through the door, closed it quietly behind him and went in search of a drink.