Interstellar Security and Extraction Services Book 1: Never Too Expensive
The trained experts of the transportation branch of Intergalactic Securities can handle anything thrown at them. Even a spoiled heiress who is parting a little too hard.
Music throbbed in Captain Juno Kalandros' ears as she slipped through the club. Brilliant, colored strobes cut through the darkness, revealing sentients of all sorts in various stages of inebriation.
The driving beat called to her primal instinct to move with it, but the volume had already given her a headache, and the sea of humanity pressing close triggered other instincts.
Ramses Algeroth appeared more at ease in their surroundings. It wasn’t his usual scene, but his head and body moved subtly in time with the music, and he mouthed some of the lyrics.
“What’s our approach?” he asked as the music lulled, allowing them to speak without yelling.
“The package is in the VIP section.” Kalandros pointed out the area. “We need to get her out without causing too many problems, which means getting through those two bouncers.”
“Right. You want me to crush them?”
Ramses wasn’t a large man. He wasn’t much taller than her and lacked the bulk of most security bruisers, but he was highly effective. That was why she'd picked him for this mission. He doubled as her bodyguard, but he was the talent—the muscle.
As Kalandros and Ramses spoke, the two bouncers denied entry to a handful of drunk idiots. “Let’s try a different approach first.”
One of the VIP bouncers lifted a hand to halt their progress. “No admittance. It's a private event today.”
“Great approach,” Ramses whispered. He popped his neck and drew a deep breath. It took a moment for him to be completely ready for a fight.
Kalandros laid a hand on his shoulder to keep him from going off on the poor bastards and muttered, “Not yet.”
She faced the bouncer with a small credit chit extended between two fingers. “We don't need to go inside. I only need you to deliver a message to the young miss partying in there ‘like there ain't no tomorrow’ according to her social media feeds.
“Her name is Justina von Atkin, and she’s wearing a short black skirt, brightly colored glasses, and a pink shirt that says ‘Party Don't Stop' with all three words misspelled. If you’d please inform her that her escort has arrived, I’d be most appreciative.”
The pair of bruisers exchanged a look and shrugged. Finally, one took the chit and headed into the VIP room. It wasn’t a complicated message, but Kalandros had a feeling he would screw it up anyway. That might be for the best. From what she'd heard, it sounded like their package wouldn’t cooperate with any attempts to bring her home.
“See what I mean?” Kalandros patted Ramses on the shoulder. “I told you there are far better ways to lubricate society than resorting to your usual tactics.”
“A lube for every circumstance.” Ramses waggled his eyebrows as his gaze swept the club. He winked at a pretty woman dancing nearby and dazzled her with a roguish grin as she checked him out.
The captain shook her head and fought to hide her smile.
Ramses added, “We'll see if your errand boy got slicked up enough when he comes back.” He smirked as she rolled her eyes, then sobered. “Besides, even if our package does want to head back with us, we might have problems.”
Kalandros scowled but quickly smoothed her expression. Ramses had a point.
If their package wanted to leave—doubtful, considering her current content uploads to her social media feeds—she was hanging with the wrong crowd. These people looked at the CEO's daughter partying in their relatively lawless district and saw dollar signs beyond what she dropped for their alcohol and drugs.
Ramses probably would have to break through and drag her out.
The captain sighed. None of what they were going to do was technically illegal, but there were still a lot of ways for the wrong people to throw a hissy fit if they happened to mishandle someone's darling little princess.
The bouncer wasn't in the VIP section for long and returned with no sign of their package.
“Nobody matching your description was present in the VIP lounge, sorry,” the bruiser growled in a deep voice.
“See, I happen to know you're lying to me.” Kalandros pulled out her tablet and held it up so both bouncers could see the screen, where pics and vids showed off the inside of the room and their package. “Or are you telling me that Miss von Atkin isn't live-streaming her party with her newfound friends from your lounge?”
Both men shook their heads.
“Must not be a live feed, maybe from some other day,” the other muttered and shrugged.
“Damn. I hoped it wouldn't come to this.” Kalandros quickly waved Ramses down. “I don't know what you're hoping for, but I’m willing to pay you a little more to ensure our client leaves the premises unharmed. You'll have to show me the first payment did some good, though.”
“Are you deaf or just stupid?” They moved forward, and one of them laid hands on her shoulders. “I told you Van…whatever her name is, isn't here, so fuck off!”
The shove was a little more powerful than it needed to be. The captain stumbled backward and would’ve fallen if Ramses hadn't caught her.
“Thanks, Ramses. I appreciate that.” She straightened, then brushed off her shoulders.
Ramses smiled. “I hate to say I told you so—”
“The hell you do.”
“You're right.” He cleared his throat. “I told you so. Now can we do this my way?”
“Have at it. And have fun.”
She doubted he would. Ramses was violent by necessity, not by nature. Still, something chilling shone in his eyes when he faced the pair of bouncers and drew a deep breath. He had half a dozen combat implants, readying him for a fight in ways that regular humans couldn't achieve. Plenty of people had the tech, but Kalandros was always willing to put her money on her man.
Not that he was “her man” in the romantic sense—he was part of her crew.
That said, Kalandros privately enjoyed watching how Ramses attacked. There was no warning, no squaring off against the pair. He lunged at the closest bouncer, who extended his hand, expecting to stop the smaller man without much effort.
Ramses slipped past like it wasn't there and flowed into a double kick at the man’s knees. A loud crack sounded, and the bouncer let out a strangled cry of pain before a deft yank flipped him over Ramses’ hip to crash into the steps.
Her crew member was upright again in the blink of an eye, facing the second heavyset bouncer closing on him. He smoothly sidestepped the charge and brought his knee up into the bruiser's gut, knocking all the air from his lungs before sending him staggering back with an uppercut to the face.
The bouncer’s broken nose bled profusely, and he was still dazed from the strike as Ramses snapped around in a high kick. It thudded across the side of his neck, dropping him immediately.
A hint of satisfaction showed in Ramses’ eyes as he turned to the bruiser that had shoved his captain and straddled the man’s chest.
It took three more strikes for Kalandros to realize what was happening—Ramses was teaching the man a lesson. She shook her head. So far, no one seemed to care that they’d bounced the bouncers, but that would soon change if Ramses didn’t stop.
“The man is down, Ramses. I'm fine. He made a mistake, but not a lethal one.”
Ramses snapped around as she patted his shoulder, his dark eyes open wide, and nostrils flared. He carefully lifted off the battered man and took the handkerchief she offered.
“Sorry, got a little lost in the heat of the moment.” He wiped some blood from his face and cleaned his knuckles before handing her the stained cloth.
Kalandros shook her head. “Keep it. Now, we still have a job to do.”
He tucked the handkerchief into his pocket. Then he grabbed the bouncer by the wrist and dragged him to the VIP entry, which required a handprint to open. Ramses muscled the man upright and pressed his hand against the scanner.
The door opened, and a wave of vapors, sounds, and smells slammed the captain’s senses and nearly made her choke as she strode through.
More guards stood inside, but before they could react, Kalandros snapped her hand forward. The grip of her hidden caster settled in her palm, and she aimed at the two men.
“Stand still,” she shouted over the loud music and other guests partying. “Otherwise, I'll let my friend beat your skulls in.”
Neither resisted as Ramses disarmed them and got them on their knees. Kalandros kept the caster on them. “We’re here for Justina von Atkin, on her mother’s orders. We know she’s in here. Where?”
One guard jerked his chin at a shadowy alcove.
“Ramses.” She didn’t need to say anything else. He headed over, then the sounds of a tussle floated out.
He emerged soon after, dragging the girl by her collar. She was a tiny thing, barely breaking a hundred and fifty centimeters in height, but her attitude was twice that size and so were her incessant insults.
Another figure staggered out of the alcove. “Guards!” Then his wits caught up to his vision, and he shut up, raised his hands, and retreated.
Kalandros kept an eye on everything as Justina twisted and fought against Ramses.
“Who the fuck are you? Let go! Ow! I said let go, you idiotic sheepshagger!”
“We're taking you back to your family on your mother’s orders,” Ramses growled, still moving forward despite the young woman’s uncoordinated attempts to stop him. Even trying to trip him wasn't doing much good.
“Family? That’s rich. What, did Mommy Dearest spin you a sob story that I got kidnapped? I didn’t. I came here because I wanted to party and have fun.
“I was, too. Didn’t you bother to check my social feeds? Goddamn asshole. You might be cute, but your dad should’ve shot his load into a sock instead of procreating. If brains were dynamite, you wouldn’t have enough to blow your nose. People! Do something about this jizz-guzzling shit-for-brains!”
No one was stupid enough to move as Ramses dragged her out.
No one tried to be a hero between the club and the FIS Odysseus’ berth, either. A flash of the captain’s caster or Ramses’ chilling glare with a finger drawn across his throat sent a clear message the few times things got tense. The rich bitch’s party was over.
Kalandros wished Justina got the message too.
Finally, they reached the ship. Ramses wasn't out of breath despite literally dragging their package along more than once. “Here we are, Captain. Time to lock and load. Have you decided where we’re stashing the degenerate brat? If not, I have some ideas.”
Before she could answer, the hatch opened to reveal the third member of their party, Petty Officer Pietr Ludovski. He offered them a broad grin as they boarded the ship. “Velcome back, Kaptain. Ramses. Now… Vhen I said you should work on your skills for picking up girls, my friend, this is not exactly vhat I had in mind.”
That earned him a scowl while Ramses forcefully sat the girl on the deck as the hatch closed. “That kind of club isn't my scene, Pietr. Neither is this spoiled brat.”
The brat in question sucked in a breath. “Why you—”
“You haven’t tamed ze shrew?” Pietr winked and spoke over her.
“The only taming I’d like to do with this one involves—”
“You couldn’t handle me with all three of you trying, you jackass!” Justina yelled, cutting off whatever Ramses was about to say.
“Enough!” Kalandros barked. “Secure her where she can’t hurt anything, including herself, and get ready for takeoff.” She stalked away, heading toward the bridge.
Ramses pinned the corporate brat with a withering look as he dragged her to her feet. “We got you here, didn’t we? Besides, I’d rather pass a kidney stone than another minute in your company.”
Justina screeched in wordless fury as she flailed wildly, trying to hit, kick, and bite him. Pietr grunted when a few of her blows landed on him instead. When the captain’s countdown warning rang through the ship, the two men looked at each other in wordless communication and nodded.
Moments later, the strung-out party bitch hung between them as they carried her to the nearest emergency jump seat with crash-webbing and strapped her in. Ramses locked out the automatic release function and glowered at her. “Try not to hurl. If you do, you’ll thank me later for keeping you upright so you don’t choke.”
He and Pietr left without another word.
A few hours later, outraged shrieks shattered the relative quiet of normal shipboard life in space.
“I knew it was too good to last.” Ramses scowled. “Too bad her drugs du jour didn’t keep her passed out for longer. At least moving her to the brig was easy.”
“She probably needs ze head.” Pietr shrugged when Ramses looked annoyed. “Nature calls after parties like that.” A sly grin blossomed. “Being helpful is useful vhen trying to pick up ze girls.”
The captain smothered a smile at the ribbing. “Pietr’s right.” She couldn’t prevent her snicker at Ramses’ look of betrayal. “About our package needing the head,” she added as the petty officer chortled. Quick finger-flicks indicated both men. “See to her basic needs, then bring her to the common area.”
A short time later, the three joined Kalandros. The girl was running her mouth again, heaping indiscriminate abuse on crew and captain alike as they entered the common area.
“Miss von Atkin,” the captain interrupted. “Sit.”
The girl seethed but didn’t have much choice since Ramses and Pietr “escorted” her to a chair.
Kalandros studied her for a moment. “You recall why you’re here, correct?”
Justina’s eyes blazed. “I already told you I was at the club because I wanted to be. I don’t want your so-called rescue.”
“You don’t have a choice. Our contract is to bring you home.”
A calculating gleam entered her eyes. “I'll pay you double to let me go.”
The captain snorted. “You don’t have that kind of money, and we both know it.”
Justina threw her head up defiantly. “You don’t know everything.”
“I know enough to know that you don’t have the money. Even if you did, I’m not about to break a contract so you can keep partying.”
“Contract?” She sneered. “More like a bunch of low-class wretches accepting the scraps my mother dishes out.”
“Considering you also take what she gives you, does that make you a wretch like the rest of us?” Ramses mused.
“Shut up, you useless shit. I was talking to the conniving bitch you take orders from.”
“Miss von Atkin, our instructions are to return you unharmed, but if you don’t restrain yourself, I’ll have you gagged.”
Pietr gestured impatiently and scowled. “That’s all? I vas going to threaten to seal ze brat in an airlock for ze rest of ze trip to make sure she behaves.”
The captain arched an eyebrow in surprise. Pietr was usually the milder-mannered of her crew. “That could create some problems, Petty Officer Ludovski. I’ve noted your suggestion, though.”
“Who the fuck do you people think you are to threaten me like that?” Justina spat. If looks could kill, Pietr would be dead on the spot. “Go ahead and try it, you self-righteous twatwaffle. An airlock? I dare you.
“Maybe you should let bitchzilla here think for you. She at least understands what a contract with my family means. You, on the other hand… If you were twice as smart, you’d still be stupid.”
Pietr growled, “You do not get to—”
The brat unexpectedly lunged from her seat and slammed her fist into Pietr’s jaw. It wasn't a particularly good punch, but it—and sheer surprise—were enough to make him stagger back.
Before the girl could follow up, Ramses was on her. Kalandros hadn't seen him move, but the effects were easier to follow. A hard fist smacked the girl's jaw with enough power to drop her to the deck.
She would be up in a minute or so, but it was enough to shut her up, at least for the moment.
“Sorry, Captain.” Ramses turned his attention to Pietr, who was rubbing his jaw.
“I could've handled it, you know,” the petty officer muttered.
“I know, but I've been itching to hit the little shit since the club.”
“I understand ze feeling.” Pietr shook his head.
Kalandros massaged her temples. “I appreciate that she provoked you, but don’t let it happen again. Take her to the secure bunk.” She lowered her hands and raised an eyebrow. “Make sure not to accidentally drop the brat or run her into any walls on the way. No need to cause our package any further damage.”
The pair nodded. Ramses lifted the girl and motioned for Pietr to join him as he carried her out.
“You know we'll end up listening to our ‘esteemed passenger’ bitch and moan for the rest of the trip, right?” Ramses hefted her a little higher as they walked.
Pietr was silent until they reached the galley. He paused, and a wicked grin popped out as he nodded at the stasis lockers inside. “Maybe it does not have to be so uncomfortable.”
“They’re supposedly quite safe to transport humans and many other species in…” A slow smile brightened Ramses’ face
This job seems like small potatoes for this highly efficient team. What challenges might lie ahead for The Captain and her crew? Find out on April 28, 2022, when Interstellar Security and Extraction Services Book 1: Never Too Expensive is released. If you can't wait until then head over to Amazon and pre-order today.