Tio and Destyn, pt. 10/?

It was a cramped flight back to the Honeybadger. The Deegaf was really only equipped for single passenger flight, so Tio found himself sitting uncomfortably in Destyn’s lap for the duration of the short flight off Mars. Thankfully, it didn’t seem that Tio’s tail had caught up with them, which he was starting to worry very seriously about. It wasn’t like the most powerful syndicate in the system to just go and lose somebody. Something had to be up. He brought this to Destyn’s attention.

“Who can say,” Destyn said with a shrug. “Maybe you just got lucky?”

“They offered me a lot of credits. A lot of credits. I can’t think they’d be letting me go.”

“You should just be thankful they don’t have a bead on you. I mean, there’s a lot that go can wrong with messing with the syndicates.”

“I know. I’ve dealt with them before. We intercepted a shipment of tobacco paraphenalia about a month ago. Really disrupted their trade network. Had a couple bomb threats called in after that one.”

“So you’re the reason my smokes are so expensive now?” Destyn gave a low chuckle. “I should launch you out into the void, copper.”

“It’s bad for your health, smoking and dealing with the Black Market.”

“You can’t live forever, kiddo.” Destyn shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “What is in your pocket anyway? A rock?”

“Quit your griping. At least I got us off planet, didn’t I?”

“That you did. That you did. And what exactly were you planning for us to do next, exactly? I’m not running a charity.”

“Oh, really.” Tio turned as best he could under the circumstances and craned his neck to face Destyn. “Then let’s call it payback.”

“Payback? I’ll get you your credits if that’s what-”

“It’s not about the credits. Or whatever that was between you and Fort earlier. I’ve got the mob off your tail, and you owe me.”

Destyn adjusted awkwardly in his seat. “Yeah, well, I didn’t ask for any help. I’m a big boy.”

“Big boy or not, you’ve got it. And I’m currently persona non grata back on Mars, so you’ve got me too.”

“I have a policy against taking in strays.”

“Stray nothing. I’m capable.”

“Capable of getting fired, may be.”

“I saved your sorry ass from that android, didn’t I?”

“And promptly lost him.”

Tio frowned, and turned back to face the vidscreen. They were coming up on the Honeybadger now, and it seemed to very much live up to its name. It was a hulk of a ship, not a lean sillhouette to be found on the whole of the thing. It looked like an old barge that someone had taken from a scrap heap, rubbed off the rustier spots, and then armed to the teeth. Tio said as much.

“Got it in one.” Destyn grinned. “Found her in a dump on Europa. They practically gave her away.”

“You almost sound proud of her.” Tio shook his head. “She’s an ambling wreck. How do you manoeuvre in that thing?”

“Very poorly! But she’s got enough oomph on board to take care of any moderate threat. I mean, she’s not going to take down any armada, but most of my caps don’t come with too much firepower. I try to leave those up to the big boys.”

“How do you make a living going after the small fry?”

“I don’t, if we’re being honest. Bart was the biggest payday I’ve seen in some years. I’ve been scrounging a living doing towing lately.”

“Good god, it is a barge, isn’t it? You’ve gone and gussied up a glorified tow truck.”

“Hey now, she’s a good girl. Gotten me this far, hasn’t she?”

Tio sighed, shaking his head, and looked back to the vidscreen. They were in docking distance now, and it sounded like the computer was taking over the proceedure, firing the retro rockets or whatever the horrible noise was coming from the rear of the Deegaf. He could make out some of the finer details of the ship now that they were on the side with sunlight. She wasn’t the ugliest craft he’d seen, he had to admit, as far as barges went. And it was a good colour, a darkish teal with lighter turquoise highlights that helped disguise some of the bulk and make it look overall leaner than it had any right to be. Painted in a goldish-brown colour along the rapidly approaching port side was the blazon HONEYBADGER. It had to be at least two stories high, and looked like it had been a homemade job.

“I see you’re admiring the fine touches!” Destyn was beaming like a child showing off a favourite toy. “Did that myself. Took damn near twenty gallons of paint and I nearly broke my leg falling off the side, but I didn’t have to pay a credit more than I had to.”

“It really looks like you’ve outfitted her personally, alright.”

“I’m not entirely sure I like your tone.” Destyn frowned briefly, but perked up again when the Deegaf shook slightly, the docking complete. “Oh thank god, we can get out of here now.”

Tio staggered out into the airlock first, crouching to pop his knees before stretching out his calves. Destyn followed, limping on a numb leg to the ID panel by the entry door.

“Honey,” Destyn said into the intercom, “I’m home.”

Tio rolled his eyes. “You cannot be serious.”

“Voice pattern analysis complete. Welcome home Captain Wu.”

Destyn just grinned at Tio before limping through the now open iris doorway, heading into the belly of the ship. Tio followed, close on his heels, fighting off a cramp that kept threatening to overtake his calf. The first thing Tio noticed was the smell. His throat caught in a gag and he quickly covered his nose and mouth with both hands.

“What the hell, is there a gas leak?”

“Nah, that’s just the Honeybadger. Sweet, isn’t it?”

“God, it smells like a landfill on fire.”

“Yeah, it does have some burnt notes.” Destyn breathed in deeply through his nose, exhaling with every air of satisfaction. “It is good to be home. Don’t worry,” he slapped Tio on the back, forcing a cough from the younger man, “you’ll get used to her in no time.”

Tio shuddered, but lowered his hands, breathing as shallowly as he could. Keeping his nose closed at the back of his throat, he sounded like someone doing a bad impression of himself with a cold. “Why does it smell like that, though? The burning dumpster?”

Destyn shrugged, leading the way down a connecting hallway to the bridge of the ship. “Came like that. I’ve scrubbed her down a dozen times over and it keeps coming back. Even left her open to the vacuum for a bit, didn’t do much.”

Tio suppressed another gag and followed Destyn onto the bridge. And automatic door closed behind the pair and they stood in darkness for a moment before the overhead lights slowly flickered to life. One of the fluorescent bulbs was flickering at a frequency just fast enough to severely irritate. Tio sighed. It was going to be a long time away from the comforts of home.

“So here’s the brainbox of the whole thing,” Destyn said, casting his arms wide and spinning, as though he were unfurling a world wonder before Tio’s very eyes. “Ain’t she a beaut?”

“That lightbulb is going to give me a migraine.”

“Ah, don’t bother about that. You’ll get used to it. You’ve stopped choking every third breath, haven’t you?”

Tio squinted. It seemed to help. “Fair enough. So, can we get moving now?”

Destyn laughed a short laugh, shaking his head. “No can do, amigo.”

“What?” Tio opened his eyes wide, clearly upset. “But we have to. We have to get away before the cartel figures out I’m not coming back with you.”

“I mean, be my guest, hammer down the throttle, but we’re not making it to the Belt, much less any place past Jove.”

“Well why the hell not?”

Destyn tapped his wristcom, or at least, where his wristcom had been. There was a paler band of flesh where his arm hadn’t seen the sun in some time. “I don’t get the credits for another ten hours. And without those credits, I don’t got any fuel. And without fuel…”

“We’re sitting ducks then.”

“Pretty much.”

“Well what the hell are we going to do then? We’re an easy mark. Surely they know your ship signature.”

Destyn held up both hands in front of Tio, trying to calm him down. “Look, I’ve got enough to throw us into low orbit. That’ll keep us moving while we wait for the transfer to come in. After that, we’ll hit the nearest fueling station and hell, what do you say, I let you pick where we go after that, okay? Deal?”

Tio slumped, his arms hanging loosely at his sides. “Deal. But tell me, Wu. Why do they want you?”

Destyn sighed and pulled out his last cigarillo, lighting up. “That,” he said, “is a long story.”

“Well,” Tio replied, “we’ve got nothing but time.”

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