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The Mercenaries’ Tale – 3.05 The Tamed Dog

The mercs undertook all the little tasks they knew were required when embarking on a job, the little everyday things that might not be possible for a while. They cleaned themselves, prepared their equipment and relaxed. Doug utilised his innate talent for materialising alcohol from out of nowhere to produce a four-pack of beers; he availed himself of two and graciously gave his comrades one each.

Around three o’ clock, there was a knock on the door. It was one of the locals, a small man in robes, with a message for Blaise from Annie. They would all be at the monorail sometime that evening. Doug asked if ‘the Scouse’ would be joining them but the little man did not know, he only had the prepared message. The messenger lingered at the doorway, expecting a tip. Doug gave him half a tin of warm beer, which wasn’t completely unappreciated.

As the sunlight outside took on strong orange hues, Blaise checked the clock on the wall and announced that it was probably time to move. The mercs grabbed what few possessions they had, left the payment for the villa on the living room coffee table, locked up and left the key under the flower pot next to the door.

The streets of Galmanoc were far emptier in the evening, with the majority of market vendors having closed for the day. A few stalls were still open, the ones belonging to disinterested owners with nothing better to do with their time and the keen hagglers looking to pick up the big score the early closers might miss out on. The mercs strolled along the winding streets, heading down the very slight decline towards the lower, more modern sections of Galmanoc. It was like descending a resting animal, one lazily sleeping against a big outcrop of rock.

The monorail was situated on the edge of the city, looking out on the vast desert beyond the city’s boarders. It was the main point of access to the Salmanic pipe network, the station being built into a Salmanic information centre; a lavishly plush building that housed a call centre and a number of offices. It also had a helipad bolted on to the side for those quick trips to the desert that required a more direct route compared to one provided by the meandering tracks that cast out across the sands, connecting all the various relay stations to one another. The exterior of the building gave the impression that it beheld a great purpose, being three storeys tall and having exquisite architecture; intricate archways and impressive stonework dominated its walls and a giant fountain with a mighty glass sculpture of the Salmanic logo sitting outside the entrance. Despite appearances, the building itself wasn’t particularly important, essentially being used to handle customer complaints and to act as an access point for those wishing to visit the pipe network.

The mercs were prepared for anything, but they had expected to be outside the city before encountering any trouble. They didn’t expect trouble to lumber out of the shadows of a nearby alley close to the information centre’s entrance, the looming form of Mad Dog Delgado striding forth towards them. Blaise’s hand was on her gun within a split-second and Doug threw down his bulky plasma pistol and put up his dukes, spoiling for a rematch. Gratin stood quiet, watching.

Doug went for the first blow, an attempted snap-shot with his human hand, a kick with his left boot followed by an uppercut from his bionic. Mad Dog deflected the punch, took the kick to the gut with no obvious harm and leaned back away from the uppercut. Blaise went to aim at the man’s head, but lowered the weapon when she realised that Mad Dog’s attack on them was missing a crucial element, namely the ‘attack’ part. He was clearly deflecting and dodging Doug’s repeated attempts to rough him up without any intention of counterattack or physical recourse.

“Doug,” Blaise called. Her colleague ignored her and was now trying in vain to scale Mad Dog like he was a particularly cumbersome tree flailing in the wind. “Doug,” she repeated with a bit more emphasis. She repeated his name a third time as Mad Dog pushed him off of his front with one massive hand.

“You ain’t putting up much of a fight,” growled Doug crossly, scowling like an inconvenienced cat. It struck Blaise that he was clearly more angry about a lack of fighting rather than the supposed surprise attack.

“That’s what I was trying to tell you,” she sighed, holstering her gun.

“I don’t want a fight!” blurted Mad Dog, “I had enough of that earlier, thanks. My ears are still ringin’.” He readjusted himself, having been ruffled from Doug’s mounting, and Blaise further noticed he was wearing a small knapsack on his back tied over one shoulder.

“You just want a chat, is that it?” chanced Blaise in disbelief.

“Uh, yeah,” admitted the big man. He looked sheepish, which was a very odd emotion for the man to be wearing – it didn’t quite fit his face, which leant it an air of genuine credibility. It was a sheepishness so sincere, it looked like a big wolf had put on the sheep’s clothing and, realising that standing around eating grass isn’t so bad, tried their very best to wear their adoptive face skin and ‘baa’ properly.

“What do you want?” groaned Blaise with a big sigh. She caught herself rubbing the bruises around her neck and stopped herself. “We’ve got places to be.”

“I really don’t want a fight! Honest!” repeated Mad Dog, his hands up in front of him. Doug had noticeably been hopping excitedly while flexing his fists, and this declaration stopped him dead. He sunk down into a slouch and busied himself lighting a fresh cigarette using his current one.

“Aw, that ain’t no fun,” he sulked.

“I was actually wonderin’ if I could…sort of…tag along?”

“Fat chance” and “sure” were both spoken aloud at the same time1. Doug looked at Blaise quizzically, and Blaise returned a confused glare.

“He’s not coming,” stated Blaise so flatly that the declaration could have slid under a closed door.

“Don’t see why not,” replied Doug, human hand in his pocket and a casual slouch in his shoulders, “always found a bigger guy to be useful on the team.”

Blaise just stared. Doug shrugged at Mad Dog, who had the face of a disappointed puppy.

“It’s her call, mate. Sorry.”

Mad Dog removed his hat and groped it nervously between both of his massive, scarred hands. He shuffled towards Blaise and got down on one knee, a considerable movement given the man’s size that did cause Blaise to flinch.

Mad Dog Apologises

“I’m terribly sorry for our earlier encounter, er, madam. I do hope I didn’t ‘urt you too much,” said Mad Dog, making eye contact with Blaise and looking like the little boy who’s been forced to apologise to the little girl who’s hair he pulled. Almost in disbelief, Blaise looked to Doug and Gratin for help, only to find that the particular beacon of hope she was looking for had in fact went out and a ship had crashed into it – they were completely blank. She rolled her eyes and groaned loudly.

“Urrrggggh, fine! Sure! Come along! Bring your friends!” she proclaimed, storming off towards the information centre’s entrance. The three men stood in silence for a moment, watching her walk away.

“Hope I ain’t causing too much of a fuss,” said Mad Dog, replacing his hat on his head.

“Nah, she just doesn’t like meeting new people,” replied Doug. “That’s Blaise walking away there,” Doug raised his human hand, “and I’m Doug McCracken. We met earlier. I dropped the nut on you.”

“That you did. I’m Raulo Delgado, but most people just call me ‘Dog’,” said Delgado, presenting his paw.

Delgado took Doug’s hand in his, and the sheer size of the man made Doug’s fairly manly hand look like a five year old was exchanging pleasantries with a bear. There was the typical manly squeeze of a handshake, Doug wincing as the bigger man slightly pulped his one good hand. Taking his hand back, Doug shook the life back into it with a smile.

“Hell of a grip you’ve got there mate.”

“Consider it revenge had for my ringing ears, friend. Who’s your other friend?”

Attention turned to Gratin, the non-entity with a talent for hanging back and becoming part of the scenery at a whim.

“That’s Gratin. He’s our mage,” stated Doug. Mad Dog frowned.

“So you’re the infamous mage!” greeted Mad Dog at Gratin. “You’re the reason for all the aggro we went through earlier when you weren’t around.” Mad Dog extended his hand and, quickly realising that neither of Gratin’s hands were going to move to meet his, changed the gesture into a single wave instead. “A new recruit, is ‘ee?”

“Nah, he’s been with us yonks. Long story. As for earlier, he was busy in a bro…” Doug tailed off when he realised that Gratin had presented two upright extended fingers in front of himself, and immediately recognised the potential for spontaneous combustion to conflagrate the hair on his scalp, too. “He, er, let’s just say that even mages have to indulge certain natural desires. Rebalance the carnal auras, or somethin’. If you catch my drift.”

Gratin’s hand lowered, the threatening fingers along with it. Doug let out a big sigh of relief and ran his hand through his hair as casually as he could, just to make sure. Delgado clearly didn’t catch Doug’s meaning, but he grunted and tapped the side of his bulbous nose with one equally round finger.

“Say no more, say no more,” he said conspiratorially.

“Come on, we’d better catch up with Blaise,” said Doug, lifting his gun off of the floor and strapping it back on around a shoulder. The three misfit men wandered towards the information centre.

The interior was just as fancy as the exterior, Salmanic never missing a chance to rub their wealth into the faces of the general public at every opportunity. The lobby was expansive with marble floors and roman columns lining the walls. The extravagance of the place was lost on the current visitors though, who had better things to be thinking about than how wealthy their hosts were.

The men found Blaise surrounded by the other mercenaries from earlier, taking up space in the waiting area. The Southern Belle was seated next to the Gentleman, the Sniper and the Madman were leaning against a nearby pillar and the Scouse was indeed there too, sitting restlessly on a bin next to the settee. Doug wondered briefly if he should rename himself “Doug the Bastard” to match convention. He decided that actions speak louder than words and he found it more satisfying for others to figure out and declare it (usually at the top of their lungs at the back of his head as he left them in the dust) rather than introduce himself as such and give away the game.

The other mercs immediately leapt to their feet when they saw Delgado tagging along behind Doug and Gratin. Hands went to weapons and Harper called out to warn them.

Doug, behind you!

Doug turned and looked to the left of Delgado to see what was up. Finding nothing, he leant to the other side to see if the warning was for something on Delgado’s right-hand blindside. He shrugged at the big man, and then at Harper. There was a brief moment of tense confusion, and Doug could see Blaise muttering something to them. Harper immediately took offence to whatever she had said.

Like hell!” she yelled. As Doug approached he could hear more of the conversation.

“…technically speaking, if you don’t like this turn of events then you’re quite welcome to leave our little party,” Max was saying, ever the diplomat.

“You’d rather have Mad Dog along than me?!” Harper declared in utter disbelief. “He attacked us earlier!”

“It’s alright,” said Doug, “he’s been tamed.” On cue, Mad Dog removed his hat and bowed his head slightly.

“Apologies fer the events earlier today, clearly we were bested by the better men,” he apologised, noticing that Blaise and Harper weren’t fantastically happy with his presence. “And women,” he added hastily. Doug leant over towards Blaise.

“You didn’t warn them about Mad Dog?” he whispered.

“I was hoping you’d get into an argument and deck him out before he reached the door, I didn’t honestly expect you to make friends!” she snapped under her breath.

While they were whispering, Max was asking Mad Dog what attracted him to their little adventuring party given the odd circumstances from earlier.

“Well, you figgur that I was takin’ out the competition with my little gang. Contrary to belief, I was lookin’ to take on the Salmanic contract in all seriousness, but since you all gave my previous guys a good kickin’ I’m going to have to sign on if I’m ever hopin’ to lay my fingers on Silverton’s cash.”

“Isn’t this nice?” declared Doug. “See? We’re all one big happy family!” He placed his arms around Harper and Blaise, who both gave him that special glare women reserve for the opposite gender for when they’re particularly conforming to type.

The Happy Family

“I understand that Salmanic Incorporated will be sending an airshuttle for us within the next hour or so,” announced Max, tapping his cane to get everyone’s attention. “I recommend that we all mingle and get to know one another. I hate those ‘teamwork’ speeches as much as the next person, but we’re all going to be working towards the same thing and I actually agree with Mr. Mad Dog on this one, I too would like to get my hands on that generous cash prize. I don’t want those hopes to be scuppered by people treading on each other’s toes!”

  1. Technically speaking Gratin chimed in with a very vocal silence of indifference, but until there’s a way for people to loudly proclaim an ellipsis we’ll just skip over that.

Post by | September 26, 2014 at 9:25 pm | The Mercenaries' Tale | No comment

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