{6} Rahab

Rahab’s first thought is: This’ll all go faster if I just blow his brains out now.

She’s only a little sorry for thinking it. It’s only Tarsus buried in that rubble, and her stomach is already churning thanks to…gods. Devith. Froggy. Those assholes should have had the courtesy to die in a less grotesque way, so she can get some sleep tonight.

Rahab sheds the grim thoughts and rests her arms at a 90-degree angle—one pistol pointed at the door, the other at Tarsus. Just in case, she tells herself. The old man could be bluffing.

“Kin,” Rahab says warningly, but he’s already hefting Fray so he can support her with one arm and crossing over to where Tarsus’s cry came from. Rahab groans and dances in place. She wants to split, wants to kill these fools who attacked them and get back to Falcor, but she’s worried sick about Fray. Their leader doesn’t look good.

Nonetheless, Kin dumps her on the floor in favor of that creepy old pirate. Rahab doesn’t get that man sometimes. He puts forth such an effort to stick to his guns, and yet the guy can’t prioritize right. Then she realizes Fray is saying something, wheezing sharply—so, probably commanding him to do exactly what he’s doing.

Rahab’s nerves are frayed. She needs to cough, but she’s afraid to look away from either the door or the scene in the room. Now Dog is bringing Dragon over to—investigate? Back Kin up against the wounded old man?

Sometimes, Rahab doesn’t understand any of these idiots and their complete lack of self-preservation. For some reason, she sticks with them anyway.

Kin is digging with his hands in the rubble, flinging chunks of cushion and bits of dildo behind him. Rahab ducks as a long blue object whistles end over end past her ear, and she glares daggers at Kin’s back as he drags the limp form of Tarsus out from the destruction.

Even Rahab sucks in her breath when she sees the old pirate.

His squarish chestpack is the only reason he isn’t already dead. It stopped the largest points of a brass lamp, the smaller spikes of which are buried in his shoulders and neck. He’s missing a hand and a good portion of the side of his body. His thick eyebrows ooze with blood. But his iron will burns behind his eyes as he stares at them each in turn.

“S-s-sss,” Tarsus tries to say, and Kin dabs at the corner of the wounded man’s mouth with the back of his gloved hand and props up his head. “S-scouting par…party,” the old pirate finally manages. “Silver. Will not rest.” He coughs, a rasping sound that lingers in Rahab’s ears even after it dies away.

Fray struggles to roll onto her side, and Kin is beside her, trying to help her up. She pushes his hand away and leans towards Tarsus. “He won’t rest until what?” she demands.

Rahab hears the bootfalls before the first shot flashes past her face, so she’s already ducking and turning and firing on the three figures barreling down the hallway towards the orgy room. The one in the middle takes two of her shots to the face and collapses, but the others dart to opposite sides of the hallway and take cover in a doorway and behind a statue respectively.

Cursing, Rahab springs over and behind a downed armchair and thumbs the settings on the pistols to maximum output. The charge packs won’t last long now, but she hopes they won’t have to. She throws her senses outward, trying to hone in clues as to where the assault might come from.

There, the slight slip of debris underfoot as someone trying to be stealthy loses their balance. She’ll have a shot now, in this split second. She leaps up from behind the chair and fires both pistols at the source of the noise.

She’s dead on, and the attacker’s helmet explodes into shrapnel and goo. But with both her weapons trained on the now-dead Silver soldier, she’s left her whole side vulnerable. Rahab feels everything slip into a slow-motion time stream with the realization of her vulnerability. The pistol butts are sleek against her palms. The soldier—a woman, Rahab can see through the untinted faceplate—has a rifle she’s bringing to bear against her shoulder. There’s a splash of bright blue paint on the barrel of the gun. The woman’s eyes are dark green.

Rahab readies herself for the pain or the death, breathing a few words of comfort to herself—a ritual she’s performed hundreds of times in her 26 years.

A soft whuff and a caress of air whisper past Rahab’s temple, and the Silver woman’s forehead sprouts a glittering black dagger. Those dark green eyes roll up into her head and she collapses, her hand spasming, the rifle taking out a chunk of the crystal ceiling in her death throes.

Rahab whips her head to see who her savior is. It’s Dog. Their expression is serene, their hand still outstretched exactly where the knife left the deft fingers. They realize Rahab is looking and settle down onto both heels with a smile.

At that smile, something very odd happens in the spot between Rahab’s lungs and her stomach.

She quickly chalks it up to the whole “suddenly not dying” thing. “Thanks,” she says gruffly. She’s out of practice with the word.

Dog doesn’t seem to mind. They give her a nod that summons images of chivalrous Earth armor. “Of course.” Their huge eyes would look creepy on anyone else, but on them, it’s endearing.

Rahab can’t believe she even thought that word.

They’re both pulled back to reality as Tarsus coughs, this time a stream of hacking that lasts for a solid minute. Rahab and Dog exchange a look and move closer to the scene, even while they each keep one eye on the doorway.

“All clear?” Kin asks Rahab.

“For now,” Rahab says with a non-committal shrug. “Don’t count on it. Don’t waste time.”

Normally, he would react poorly to her bossing him around (much to her delight), but right now he just nods and turns back to Tarsus.

The spat seems to have scared some of the fire out of the old man. Rahab notices he’s not keeping his eyes open very well now. He lolls his head towards Fray and gives her a lopsided smile. “Pipe? Have you s-s-seen Tars-sss-sus’s pipe?”

Fray smirks back. Rahab wonders if they’ve all snapped.

“Haven’t,” Fray says. “Please tell me what we’re up against. And why.”

“Not much…time,” Tarsus says, coughing, “but Tarsus will…give you what is left, P-Princess. Please…large friend. Take off chestp…p-pack.”

Kin swings his big head side to side. “I can’t. It’ll kill you.”

“This…is known,” Tarsus says as wryly as he can manage with a mouth full of blood.

Kin swallows hard. Then he does as Tarsus asks: with the utmost care, he gently release the chestpack straps and draws it away from Tarsus’s flayed body. The lamp prongs still jut out of the pack. Rahab reaches over and yanks it out, flinging it aside without looking; Kin barks in surprise but doesn’t press the matter, just glares at her. She sticks her tongue out at his back when he returns to babying Tarsus.

Dog shifts beside her and she looks back at the hallway. No more signs of intrusion, but Riph hasn’t come back, and they haven’t heard from Avi at all. And they really need to get Fray the hell out of here before she bleeds out. Not to mention that Dragon woman, but Rahab doesn’t feel the same sense of urgency for a hired gun that she does her Regent.

When the chestpack is on the ground beside him, Tarsus clears his throat and raises the hand he has left in the air. He seems to have saved all of his strength for this moment, because his speech is less clouded by pain. “There is real monstrousness behind this. A snake like Silver does not operate how Silver operates without a head, yes? That head, very angry at anyone who makes him separate from his money, I think. This establishment, it is made of Silver money. Tonight will cost much. Silver does not like this.”

“The Spyglass? Urand, take Silver money? I don’t think you know who you’re talking about, Tarsus.”

Rahab straightens at the sharp derision in Fray’s voice. Even Dragon stirs at the sound.

Tarsus simply chuckles, a sound raspier than his cough. “Do not underestimate the reach or the power of Silver, Princess. It will end the Damn Shames.” He flops his remaining hand on the battered chestpack, his voice beginning to fade again. “In here…the items of immense importance. They must get…to Buloi.”

That again!

Rahab finds that to be the biggest red flag in all of this, that for some strange reason, some objects related to the search for the treasure of a quasi-fictional pirate captain had to get ferried at top speed to a sataball arena. Sataball hadn’t even existed until about forty years ago, so how could a recently-constructed arena have anything to do with Chalcedon? I mean, unless he needs a big-ass de-magger.

Nonetheless, the idea of being this close to—well, Rahab doesn’t know the legend that well, so she isn’t quite sure what might be in the chestpack, except maybe a map—the idea of being this close to a legend sends electricity through the room again. Dog goes and takes Dragon in their arms again. Kin balances himself on his fingers, squatting between the prone Fray and Tarsus. He looks up and meets Rahab’s eyes, and she finds she needs to draw a deeper breath.

“Promise me!” Tarsus snarls suddenly, lunging upward, gagging on a throatful of blood and bile. The wrist where his hand is missing spurts as he flails it, and Rahab takes a step backwards to get out of range. “Promise you will take them to Buloi!”

“We promise,” Kin says in a half-panicked, half-soothing voice. He pats the back of Tarsus’s head worriedly, but it’s clear he knows there’s nothing for it.

Rahab finds a flame of rage growing in her belly. How dare he give the Shames’ word to a stranger without asking anyone else, especially when Fray is lying right there, and it’s her decision—

Tarsus begins to twitch. His chest heaves and he slams the heels of his boots on the ground. Then he dies.

Promises to Tarsus don’t matter much anymore.

The air in the Spyglass shakes. Rahab goes down to a balanced squat, ready to whip up the pistols and blast anyone who comes down the hallway. But there isn’t anyone. Now the brothel is silent, an eerie kind of silent that makes Rahab’s skin crawl.

Then she sees the light, the dancing, enticing red-orange-yellow-white glow of fire.

“Kin,” she says warningly, “we need to go. Ten minutes ago.”

“Get the pack,” Kin says, grunting as he hefts Fray’s weight again.

“Gods damn it, Kin, I’m not taking anything we don’t need, and we don’t need some ancient pirate…drama!” Rahab jams both of the pistols back to a lower setting; if Silver is willing to set this place on fire, it might be because they have enough people outside to smoke out their targets. Fuck that noise. She knows Urand has a back way out of here, at least one, and as long as that bartender hasn’t managed to get himself killed…

She looks up to find Kin glaring at her. “Take. The. Pack,” he says through his teeth.

Rahab thrusts her nose almost against his. “And what’ll you do if I don’t, you—”

“We promised him!” Kin yells.

You promised him!” Rahab yells back, flinging her arms open. “You told a dying man what he wanted to hear. Don’t hold me to that.”

“Rahab, take the pack,” Fray says from Kin’s arms.

Rahab’s spine goes ramrod straight.

“Yes ma’am,” she forces herself to say, and even pulls a salute with one of the pistols. If she doesn’t follow protocol, she’s going to snap and do something horrible to Kin’s beard. Prick. There’s no reason to care about an old creep’s dying demands, not when they’re about to be crispier than Fray’s stupid favorite noodle snacks.

Nonetheless, she sweeps past Kin, plucks the chestpack off the floor next to the handless corpse, and tries not to think about how warm and wet it is when she pulls it onto her chest. She spins on the toe of her boot and plants her hips wide, bringing the full force of her pent-up anger to bear on Kin.

“Now can we please get the fuck out of here?”


Source image thanks to Dana. Buloi, sataball, and all elements of Star Citizen belong to Chris Roberts and Cloud Imperium.

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