Kill Fee by Mychael Black

Kill Fee by Mychael Black

Kill Fee

Coriolis, Book 2
by Mychael Black

Changeling Press

eBook ISBN: 06290-02021

For Joren, former Leader of the Syndicate, life took an abrupt turn when rebels took over humanity’s galactic government and military. Now he’s in hiding, he and his brother — the scientist Ashley Mracek — constantly aware of danger lurking around every corner. When Joren joins Ash and Captain Carter Therres on the lawless planet of Geren in search of allies, he comes into the sights of an assassin.

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Chapter One

“Seventy thousand.”
Morgan Reid didn’t look up from the rifle he was outfitting with a new scope. “One hundred.”
“Eighty.”
“You’re asking me to assassinate the Leader — well, former Leader — of the Syndicate. How much about this man do you know?”
“Enough.”
Morgan snorted. “Obviously not. Joren was a Marine, a sharpshooter and top marksman. Hell, better than me in his heyday. He’s not an easy point-and-shoot target. You want him dead, it’s going to cost you. One hundred grand, half up front.”
“Shit.” A plastic card slapped onto the scratched tabletop. “Fine. Fifty now. He’s been traced –”
“I’ll find him,” Morgan interrupted. He glared up at the man before him. “Run back and tell your master like a good little rebel.”
The man scowled, then turned and stalked off. Morgan picked up the card and thumbed the imprinted symbol for the Syndicate. It didn’t surprise him — much — to find out the government had collapsed so fast. Many resented Joren’s policies of diplomacy with other species. Morgan didn’t give a shit either way. Here on Geren, survival of the fittest reigned supreme. People either found their niche and lived, or they didn’t.
Joren.
Fucking figured.
Morgan couldn’t get away from the man. Twenty-six years ago, he’d been fresh out of the Marines. Joren had just gained his first officer’s assignment. It hadn’t mattered. Two young men. Ten years. And a fucking lifetime of haunting dreams he’d yet to shake.
“Waitress!” Morgan flagged down a server and waited for the beautiful Tessi to come over. He gave her a disarming smile he didn’t quite feel. “Another Abyss.” She nodded and walked away, leaving Morgan to survey the ramshackle bar.
Geren had once been the Syndicate’s pride and joy: a whole planet housing a vast network of prisons. Then it all went to hell in a hand basket in 2170. A few corrupt guards here and there, pirates coming in unchallenged, and the biggest inmate uprising the galaxy had ever seen. That was all it took to turn Geren into the largest black market shithole in the Milky Way. Every species, every manner of criminal — they all flocked here now, knowing damn well no one dared touch them.
Morgan came here to escape the politicians he despised. And maybe a memory or two.
The waitress returned with his drink, and he handed her his private card. He had only two rules: never mix business with pleasure, and never make eye contact with a target. So far, both had served him well. The Tessi scanned his card, deducting the credits for his drink, and then gave it back to him.
“Busy later?” she asked.
“Probably.” He sipped his drink and she left, most likely on to her next prospect. In many Geren bars, prostitution went hand in hand with, well, just about everything.
“How the fuck can you drink that shit?”
Morgan lowered his glass and, for a moment, thought he’d seen a ghost. “Therres?”
Captain Carter Therres, quite possibly the Syndicate’s most dedicated Marine. What the hell?
“Mind if I sit?”
Morgan shook his head, still a bit dumbstruck. He hadn’t seen Carter since he’d left Earth. And Joren. “What in God’s name are you doing here?”
Carter sat down and waved away the waitress when she paused by the table. Once she’d moved on, he rested his arms on the top and leaned forward, voice lowered. “I need your help.”
One eyebrow lifting, Morgan polished off his drink before speaking. “With…?”
“The Syndicate’s been overthrown.”
“I know.”
Carter didn’t seem too surprised. “I have… a charge. He’s being hunted.”
Morgan listened, almost afraid to ask the one thing he needed to know. “Who is he?”
“Joren.”
Morgan closed his eyes, wondering if he’d wake up sometime soon. Why? Why, out of all damned people, did he get involved in this? “We need to talk, but not here,” he said, opening his eyes once more. “Meet me in Apartment 17, D level, in half an hour.”
Carter nodded and stood. “Look, I know you two –”
“Don’t go there,” Morgan snapped. “Ancient history. I’ll see you in thirty minutes.”
Carter left without another word, and Morgan slung his rifle strap over one shoulder as he stood. In civilized places, carrying weapons so openly would’ve gone over like a lead weight, but on Geren, not doing so was an invitation to any number of unpleasant experiences. Morgan left the bar, giving one of the Bysin doormen a nod as he passed.
The Bysin appeared almost human, though they had much longer lifespans. Females and males were in high demand as prostitutes due to their abnormal limberness. The Tessi came in right behind them in popularity, though mainly the females. The males were too militaristic and generally acted like they all had rods up their asses. As for the Atji — well, most people avoided the feline species except in trade deals, and even then, Atji needed constant watching. Damned cat burglars.
Morgan took one of the service elevators down to D level. When the doors opened, he spotted Carter down the hall, leaning against a grated part of the wall. Morgan dug out his key card and swiped it through the scanner. The apartment door hissed open and Carter followed him inside. The apartment was tiny — miniscule kitchen, bathroom, and a single room where he slept. One table, one bed, one chair. Not much else in the way of furniture. It suited him just fine.
“Now tell me how the fuck you’re involved in this shit,” Morgan demanded as he set his rifle and key card on the table.
“Joren sent me to get a scientist from the Hilasah sector after a Revenant attack.”
“Ash?”
“How’d you know?”
Morgan shrugged and pulled off his shirt. Carter didn’t bat an eye. “Always figured there was some kind of relation between those two. They were close. Never met Ash, though.”
“He’s… different,” Carter said.
“Not surprised. So what happened with Joren and his beloved Syndicate?” Morgan started on his pants, not giving a damn if Carter noticed the bitterness or not. Joren had been the one to give up on ten years just for the sake of his damned ambition.
“Rebels,” Carter answered. “They tried to kill Joren — tried to use him to get to Ash, I think.”
“Why?”
Carter sighed and sat down. “Look,” he said, leaning forward, “what I’m going to tell you, no one knows, Morgan.”
Left in nothing but his underwear, Morgan arched an eyebrow, curiosity getting the better of him. “What?”
“Ash and Joren were bred as the perfect soldiers: brains and brawn. They had microchips implanted when they were infants, tracking their communications and movements all their lives. Ash is immune to dark space, and now we believe the Syndicate rebels are working with the Revenants to get him.”
“You’ve got to be shitting me.”
“No. We need your help. Do you know how to find the others?”
“A few,” Morgan said. “Wallace and Williams are still here. Baker shipped off-world somewhere, but I can find him. What do you intend on doing?”
“Getting to the bottom of this mess. I don’t know how yet.”
“Well, at least you’re honest about it,” Morgan laughed. He raked a hand through his too-long black hair. Last time he’d looked, there were even a few streaks of gray. He figured it made him appear distinguished. “Listen… someone paid me to knock off Joren. Someone with a ton of credits.”
“Fuck.” Carter stood and began pacing. “Any idea who?”
“Someone high enough to have this.” Morgan tossed Carter the card emblazoned with the Syndicate seal. “Joren’s made some enemies, some very important enemies.”
Carter thumbed the seal. “I can’t let them get near Ash, Morgan.”
“I figured as much. You always were a sucker for a pretty face.” Morgan pulled on a fresh pair of fatigues and one of his older Local Marine T-shirts. “Does Joren know who you’re talking to?”
Carter met Morgan’s gaze. “No.”
Great. This promised to be… interesting. “Lead the way.” Morgan waved his hand toward the door.

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