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Chapter 2: Unnamed
A few days have fluttered away, it has been silent for those who live in Titan. A normal, average morning.
The ability to heal is as important compared to eating and sleeping. If you do not allow your body to rest, then you set yourself up for failure.
And so with the days he took off, it was about time for him to wake up, to feel the sun tingle his skin through the curtains. Warm thoughts of breakfast danced on the tip of his tongue.
His eyes cracked open, he could see that his phone was vibrating. He was going to ignore the calls and continue to rest for a bit longer.
PAT PAT PAT! knocks reverberated inside the room. “Aston!”
He jolted up, heart racing and unsure of what to do. He had drunk a hefty amount last night and left the living room with empty beer bottles and food containers; he himself looked disheveled and smelled of vomit. He picked up his phone and found that he had several missed calls.
PAT PAT PAT!
“Uh, yeah—uh. Hang on!” He dashed into his bedroom, stumbling along the way. He put a clean shirt and a fresh pair of sweatpants on. He looked in the mirror and found that, well, he’d still have to handle what was to come. He hurried back over to the door and realized that the beating stopped. He slowly turned the knob, opening it just a few inches before Lyza kicked it open, sending the door flying into Aston’s head. He stumbled and fell on his back, the hangover was still looming over him.
“Twelve times I’ve called,” her red high heels clacked on the ground as she approached him. “I thought something had happened, but no.” She stood over him, looking down at his pitiful shape. Her eyes were knives, stabbing him down, judging his very being; no one could handle such a look of disgust. He frantically hurried on to his hands and knees, begging for her forgiveness.
“Hey look, I’m sorry! I’ll do anything to make it up, just please stop with that stare!”
Her face lightened up, a smirk brushed over in its place instead.
“Anything?” He should have chosen his words a bit more carefully.
-Why did I have to drink?! “Make it reasonable, please.”
“Then…” Again, she would ask the same question a few nights before. “May I stay the night?” Aston clinched his teeth in frustration. He knew that's what she wanted. If it gets her off his back, then he will happily take on a smack to the face instead of a full blown demon with horns.
“If that’s what you want.”
“Really?!” In her mind she was certain that he would turn her down, as per usual. Even if he had, she made a mental list of other things she would ask for. She pranced around with joy, bursting out the seams with eagerness.
“What’d you come down here for anyway?” Lyza stopped in recognition of how she was acting, clearing her throat and putting on her familiar professional tone.
“I came to check the fluids on your back. It’s around that time.”
“Strange how you remember that.”
“You are my number one patient, after all!” Aston gets up from off the floor and drags out a bar stool from underneath the bar counter. He plants himself on the chair and takes off his shirt, an implanted metal brace sits at the center of his neck to the top half of his back. Seated tightly to the right of the brace were three cylinders, ranging an inch in diameter and in length. She cleans off a portion of the table and sets a case down. She unzips it and inside were three needles, each having different contents. “Let’s see…”
“You remember which goes in what?”
“Of course! Top for the pain medication, second for adrenaline, and the last one morphine.” She grabs the first needle and administers the drug into a tiny hole in the center of the cylinder, then does the second needle, then the third. “I’ve seen enough faces with different types of Mech enhancements, but yours is the only one like this.”
“Yeah and without those meds my back feels like it’s in flames.”
“Why the morphine and Adrenaline, if you mind my asking?”
“Who knows? Probably to keep me alive.” His service for the N.F. Army wasn’t the least bit enjoyable, having an explosive detonate just a few inches behind him, resulting in substantial damage to his spine. He doesn’t remember when or how they put the brace in, the rest is just a bleak, hazy past that is still fragmented to him.“More importantly, don’t you have a damn key to get in?”
“I forgot it.” She went behind the counter and started rummaging around in the bottom cabinets, taking out a trash bag and cleaning up the unruly mess Aston had left. “So, what do you have planned for today?”
“Actually, my boss wanted me to give him a call. He wants to speak to me, directly.”
“My, sounds serious.”
“He isn’t happy with my last report.” Aston pulls his shirt back on and slides off the seat. He’d have to go to a more private area to contact his organization. “I’ll be back.”
“Oh! I’ll make us breakfast while you’re doing that!” She ties up the bag and gains more enthusiasm, humming a sweet tune to herself.
He passes the restroom and enters a room with racks filled with different types of champagne and wine, glistening in all their glory. He looks up at the top of the right rack and twists one bottle ever so slightly. A faint click met his ears, then he took out his card and swiped it over the back wall. The center of the wall caved in, splitting into two separate pieces and disappearing back behind itself.
The inside has a large corner desk with a computer and several lockers containing guns and ammunition. Various types of body armor and plates are hung up and left on display, waiting for their next use. Over the desk sits a wide screen, his main communication hub between his work and potential clients. His boss dislikes the use of mobile interconnections, so he rarely uses phones.
Aston taps a button on his desk and the screen fires up, the company logo W.M.S flash across the screen before fading away. He clicks a few times on his computer, bringing up a caller ID with no information. The word “connecting” shows, then a timer begins to count up.
“You took your time to call, Malice.” The voice on the other end did not sound human, but robotic, deep in tone and digital, almost static-like.
“Sorry sir, I had something come up.”
“My time is precious. I have no room for ‘come ups’.” Aston would rather much deal with the Ten Fingers directly instead of having to call this person. The voice exhaled. “Your recent blunder was laughable. Wolves are loyal—they die for those they protect. You agreed on this principle, no?”
“Yes sir.” He agreed, but never committed. Aston was to die for those who bring little to themselves and their community? Not a chance.
“We defend anyone who can pay for our services, no questions asked, and yet you’ve allowed some to be killed. Why is that?”
“With all due respect, I believe that some aren’t worth protecting.”
“Your animosity towards these individuals is not an excuse.”
It is indeed an excuse. Many of his clientele were those that he loathed. Pedophiles, Traffickers; those who stripped the rights from a human being he viewed as sub-human. Granted his last one was neither of them, just an unfortunate turn of events.
“I favor you out of the many we have, so I’ll give you a chance to redeem yourself.” On the other half of the screen detailed a profile of a person—it was another high ranking official. “A man by the name of Tresten Corwark needs someone to protect him in case of a failed market trade. The deal’s been made, though suspicions of a rival corporation stealing the credits have been passed around. The payout for this job is 500 Credits.”
“He must be expecting a huge profit margin,” he yawned, “if he’s willing to cough up that much.”
“Which is why this will be make or break for you. If you fail, then I will manage who’s jobs you’ll take from now on, choosing only the most lethal of requests. If you wish to hold on to your life so sacredly, then I shall make you fight for it. Understood?”
“Yes sir. Understood.”
“Then get to work.” With that, the call ended. Death was something he faced all the time, but to encounter it so many times would make him on edge. He did not relish in the idea of having someone play god with his soul either, so he smacked his face and amped himself up for his next job, ready. He glanced over at his mask hanging from a peg, the words “Kill Me” written on its face. He laughed at it, wondering if that statement would come sooner than anticipated.
He left his office and reset the wine bottle, the walls coming back out and reappearing. A sweet scent came flowing into his nose; a pleasant aroma . He went out into the kitchen and found that Lyza had made a large scaled breakfast, almost too large. A stack of pancakes here, sausage links over there, she went all out for a two-person breakfast.
“Welcome back Aston! Everything go alright?”
“You could say that. Got a high-paying job.”
“Then eat up! You’ll need as much energy as possible!
The two sat and ate, Aston using that time to prepare his body and mind for the trek ahead.
The sun that was once rising is now being engulfed by the horizon. Two men moved up the steps to a modernist mansion; windows enveloped the home, giving it that rectangular and box shape seen normally when it comes to these structures. Fountains in the front yard, the coastline in the back, and lush, green grass blowing silently in the wind. The rich side of the neighborhood never ceased to impress Aston. He pressed a doorbell once at the top, standing idle.
Overall he was fine, unlike his client who was sweating missiles, tapping his foot constantly and checking his wrist watch whilst tugging at the neck of his collar. Aston couldn’t help but to scoff at his appearance.
“Aren’t you a businessman?”
“Y-yeah. I am.” He rubbed the back of his neck, his face twitching. Aston chuckled, lifting a hand to his chin and adjusting his mask. His sling carried a favorite weapon of his: a UMP45. He shouldn’t have to use it, but it would be a shame to not give it at least a few trigger pulls here and there.
Tresten had on one of his finest suits, hoping that the term “dress for success” would give him some encouragement. A knot formed in his neck, chasing it down with the spit in his mouth. He looked down at the briefcase swinging in his right hand—the credits inside weighed a hefty sum. Two men approached the doors and swung them open, checking around to see if they brought any unwelcome company.
“The boss is ready for you,” one said, gesturing at them to come in. Tresten’s mind was racing, going back and forth between calling the whole thing off or staying. Unfortunately, Aston forced him to make a decision as he was the first to step inside.
The entrance went into one of the larger foyers that Aston has seen. Marble pillars were in every corner of the room and a chandelier dangled from the ceiling. Red carpet made it seem that they were soon to have a conference with some noble or king. “Nice place ya got.” Tresten followed behind them, silent.
“Up the steps, to the left and in the fourth room. He’s waiting.” Aston put a thumb up in the air and continued forward. Tresten was supposed to be the one leading—calling the shots to his disrespectful mercenary, so why was he behind the man he hired? He ran over in front of Aston and spread out his arms, he was certain he could show him up.
“We hugging or something?”
Tresten shook his head. “No. I’ll take the reins from here on out.”
“Oho? Putting your big-boy-pants on finally?”
“Enough! You do your job and I do mine!” He straightened his posture and adjusted his neck tie. He will make a deal, for his life and his beloved depended on it.
-Heh! I’ll do my job all right! If he wanted to take the initiative, then Aston, by all means, will allow him to do so. Tresten searched around before seeing a well decorated desk to his right. Sitting at this said desk was a man with such a muscular frame that his biceps wanted to rip out from his plaid shirt. Several unfamiliar faces were also lying in wait.
“Welcome,” said the man, “please, come in.” His voice was clear, honeyed, and sounded of a being with many negotiation skills under his belt. He turned his hand to a seat in front of him, waiting. Tresten’s heart burned with confidence, taking wide strides and narrowing his brows with a grin.
“Once again we meet, Mr. Granger.” He reached out to him, giving him a firm handshake, then sat down. Granger rested his cheek on his knuckles, glaring at Aston.
“Is he your...protector?”
“Oh, yes sir.”
“Lovely.” He grabbed a lit cigar that was sticking out from an ashtray, giving it a few puffs. “To the matter at hand: I want to change my proposal.”
“Yes, sir?” Tresten blinked a few times, caught off guard at the grinding noise those words produced inside his ears.
“You never mentioned that you were invested in the E-Logix stock. I want a quarter of those assets.”
“Lemme tell you something,” He eases his elbows onto his knees, leaning towards Tresten, “I transport and sell weapons, right? That ain’t cheap, and for someone who wants to become business partners? you sure have a pair to low-ball me.”
He settles back down, taking another puff from his cigar. “I understand that you’re in deep with loan sharks, so I only ask for a quarter percentage. I originally wanted half, but that would be cruel, wouldn’ it?” Tresten fidgeted with his fingers, calculating his possible options to somehow squeeze himself from this proposition.
Aston stood quite amused over how swiftly Tresten went from managing his situation to being a sweaty mess again. It’s no wonder why he has some financial issues. However, he could tell that the sorry excuse for a salesman wasn’t ready to wave the white flag—he gave him a few pointers for his perseverance.
Trestens head snapped up. “What about co-ownership of my business? It’s not doing well currently, but we can work something out!”
Granger hummed at the possibility of using his warehouses for storing larger quantities of firearms. It would be a decent trade if not for the recent crackdowns on illegal contraband, which would result in massive losses.
“You have little left in regards to your work, so no. My proposition still stands, so?”
Tresten twisted his head, praying that his face portrays his longing for help. Aston did notice him, his eyes squinting with delight.
“Don’t look at me! I’m just doing my job!”
A few guards broke face, suppressing their laughs in their mouths. Mr. Granger himself tittered at the masked man.
“I have to say, I didn’t like the looks of you at first, but you seem alright. Name?”
“The names Malice.”
“How peculiar. I’ll remember that.” Granger stands up, arms folded under one another. He towered over Tresten, “Perhaps our deal can wait. I find it sad that you hoped to rely on someone who has no say in this trade.”
As quickly as he sat down, he was equally rejected; he lost him. Who was he to turn to now? Granger was the only one who would even listen to his offer, let alone meet face-to-face. He grabbed onto his sleeve, his voice trembling in sync with his shaking body. “Hang on! Please!”
“Now Listen…” The room went quiet as shouts poured their way throughout the house. One of the guards, holding his bloody hand to his arm, barged into the room.
“Well I’ll be damned,” Granger swept his arm across, pointing at all of his men. “Defend the front entrance! One of you, call in the boat!” They rushed out, leaving Aston and Tresten behind. Aston tapped his shoulder.
“Hey! Quit moping and get up! Grab your man purse and let’s get out of here!”
A firefight could be heard outside, glass shattering and yells made it hard to tell what was going on. Tresten turned his head, his eyes illustrating his disbelief; he picked up his briefcase.
“What am I going to do?”
“Now’s not the time!” Aston gripped his arm, yanking him off from his knees. Together they went back to the foyer, finding several guys dead on the bottom floor, pools of blood forming around the bodies. Shots whistled through the windows, shattering glass and ricocheting off the walls.
“You two! Come here!” Granger was taking cover on the other side of the hallway, shotgun in hand. They dart across as bullets rain on them, a THPAK comes from Aston’s mask catching a round. His ears ring as he staggers to safety, touching the side where he got shot. The throbbing in his lower jaw angered him, spitting out white pieces from his chipped tooth. “I have a favor, Malice.”
“Tsk! What could that be?”
“They broke into the back yard. My men need some aid—go to them.” Granger peaked around the corner, firing a quick shot at the doorway and dropping a man to the floor, lifeless. A few of his guys were still pulling triggers down range at the ones near the entrance of the home. The scent of gunpowder loomed in the air, smelling of a warzone. “Meet at my dock.”
“If it saves our asses, sure.” Aston grabbed the back of Tresten’s shirt, “Lay low and come outside when I tell you!” A set of steps lead to the back courtyard from the second floor, he’d have to provide cover fire from there and hope that he doesn’t get shot dead on the spot.
-Agh! Fuck it!
Aston clenched the handle of his gun, sprinting to the back door and kicking it open. His eyes met that of several other armed men scattered around the courtyard. He swished his weapon close to his cheek, looking down the iron sights at his first victim. Aston held on the trigger, his body moving with the motions of the recoil.
TAT-TAT-TAT-TAT! Like a bag of stones, his target dropped. A devilish smirk rose about his face, bullets twanging and breaking off pieces of concrete around him.
“Fucker!” some yelled at him, their voices filled with bloodlust. “You’ll pay for that, bastard!” Aston cackled, standing up from behind his cover.
“Come get me then!” He held on the trigger again, spraying at every spot he could. Granger’s men contributed to the suppressive fire, making it a clear chance to move. “Now Tresten!”
He flinched at the sound of his name, contemplating whether it was safe or not. He swayed back and forth psyching himself up, sending himself flying into the stair railing. Tresten patted his body down, surprised to find that he hadn’t had a hole ripped through him yet. His relief was short lived as Aston prodded his ankle with his hard boots.
“Down the stairs,” he grabbed the back of his coat, shoving him, “go dammit!” Tresten scattered to get his feet underneath him, falling down a few of the steps in his scurry to safety. Aston jerked a fresh magazine from his vest, reloading mid-way down.
In the dense noise of gunfire, an engine could be heard humming out in the ocean somewhere. It was the boat Granger had mentioned, making its way at a remarkable pace. They had no time to waste; the quicker they could escape, the quicker his client could survive. If he paid or not Aston didn’t care, he just wants to have his boss stop breathing down his neck.
“We’re going to gun it to that dock!”
“Huh?! Are you insane?!”
“There’s still too many!”
“Shut it! You’ll be fine!” Aston went ahead and charged onward, watching as figures popped out from their hiding spots. TAT-TAT-TAT went one, TAT another, TAT-TAT a third; it recalled memories of playing a game of Whack-A-Mouse, though this version was a lot more grim.
Tresten witnessed the onslaught going on with every step Aston took, watching as the brass casings ejected from his weapon and landed cold beside someone he just slaughtered, laughing all the while. A sense of fear enveloped his heart against the man. He would be sure to interview the next one he hired for sure.
The boat drifted over to the dock, having a few gunmen hop out and run to aid the others. Aston waved Tresten on, signaling him to come. At last, the feeling of losing the trade no longer compared to the weight that was now lifted from his chest. Tresten did not hesitate to start running, a glowing smile in tow.
He didn’t take into account, however, the fact that gunmen were still around. A man seemingly materialized from behind a hedge—Aston was not fast enough to stop the inevitable, shooting just a few seconds late.
Tresten’s smile faded as a warm sensation filled his throat. A glob of blood belched from his mouth, splatting onto the ground. The briefcase in his hand thumped onto the earth’s surface, his body collapsing beside it.
What happened? He told himself. Move!
He gagged and gargled, breathing was no longer manageable. His heart skipped beats as panic blanketed around him, left with only the darkness in his eyes.
“Fuck…” Aston went to him, flipping Tresten on his back. “Hey! Can you hear me?!” He was met with only the shallow breaths of a dead man—Tresten could only muster enough strength to cough up spittles of blood onto Aston’s mask, decorating it with gore.
“M...-aria…” His last words whistled through the hole in his throat; a name, then all life had dispersed, dissipating into the unknown. Aston hammered his fist onto the floor, seething with pure irritation. He had failed another task, but this time he was expected to pay a hefty amount.
-Fuck, fuck, fuck!
His attention drifted to the briefcase—all this happened over some damn credits. How much could there possibly be inside that thing? A large figure approached him; it was Granger walking with a few of his lackeys. He went to Aston’s side and picked up the case, a small, artificial sound of grief was in his voice as he took his cigar out from his mouth. “A terrible way to die.”
Aston swung his gun up into his arms, “Hey!” He thrusts his elbow into the side of the head-cocked Granger, forcing him off balance. His gun racks off several rounds, piercing the body of another man who was waiting to strike. Two last shots came from the unknown man's pistol, one jostling Aston’s upper torso, burying itself in his left shoulder.
Granger’s face stretched out, grateful to his savior. “I might have thought you planned to kill me with how hard you rocked me there.”
“Enfgh—that bastard got me.”
“That he did. What will you do about your colleague?” Aston took another glance at Tresten’s body, clicking his tongue at how foolish they both were. For Aston it was his false belief that the area was clear enough, and for Tresten’s lack of awareness.
“Can’t cry over spilled milk, I guess.”
“I see. What about your higher-ups?”
“They’ll be pissed.” Granger puffed out a stream of air from his nose, going over towards the dock.
“Come on. They’ll take care of the rest.” Aston knew that once someone was dead that it could never be reversed. He screwed up, and it was time to grit his teeth and take his loss like a man. He stepped off of the dock and onto the wooden floor of the boat, taking a seat on the front side. It made a wide U-turn, heading to where it had originally come from. It glided through the water, cutting into the ocean's surface as salty waves lapped the side of its hull.
“How are ya going to clean that place up? It became a shithole.” Granger runs his fingers through his hair, allowing it to catch some of that ocean breeze.
“I have my connections. Plus it’s not my main home.” Aston pecked at his wounded arm, thankful that nothing feels broken. The pain was the only real issue, but other than that a stunningly clean gunshot wound. A heavy object makes Aston flinch as it plops onto his lap, and to his surprise Granger had tossed the briefcase over to him. “Take it. You saved my hide.”
“Wait...all of it?”
“You have my thanks. I have no use for it now.” Aston was hesitant to click the thing open; something of this weight could easily be thousands of credits. His focus shot over to Granger, who nodded, giving him the “go ahead”. Sure enough, it was many cylindrical metal containers housing fifty credits each, well over 50,000 dollars worth of cold, hard cash. It was enough to make his eyes nearly bulge from their sockets.
-No wonder why they wanted that dumbass.
They turned into a long channel of water, the sand walls scaling higher the further they went in. The boat came to a stop at a concrete platform, a rusted metal grate fixed into the side of the wall; the door had long lost its padlock.
“I guess this is farewell, my good man.” said Granger.
“You're not coming along?”
Granger bellowed out a single chortle. “Of course not! I have more important things to do than navigate run-offs!” and it was so. Aston struggled to keep balance as he stretched his legs out to get off, eventually grounding himself. “We’ll run into each other again, I know it. I’ll have a proposal for you—one that you won’t refuse.”
“Hm! We’ll see.” Little was exchanged besides the two waving one another off, Granger making slow progress backing out of the channel. Stars were beginning to peak from behind the darkening sky.
-Guess I’ll head home, but first…
He rattled the credits around; his mind became filled with many possible splendors that he could purchase with his new found blood money.
-Let’s see what all this can buy…