Sikarra's second sun, a distant yellow star known to Sikarrans as "The Nightstar," had already risen by the time Haley and Malachi arrived at the Red Shift Café. Parking the hoverbike on the side of the building next to others like it, Malachi inspected the area for any signs of a trap, while Haley waited and watched passers-by with a look of disinterest. When Malachi had finished his patrol of the area, he nodded and she made for the entrance, with him following just a few feet behind.
"Look all you want but keep your hands to yourself," Haley said over her shoulder.
"Damn, girl," Malachi said. "You sure you ain't a telepath?"
"I'm sure. I just know how you think," Haley replied.
"If you knew what I was thinkin' you'd backslap me into next week," Malachi laughed.
Haley stopped at the entrance, turned to look at him and smiled. "Don't think I haven't already considered that, Mr. Tall, Dark and Naughty."
Malachi lifted up his visor to expose his ice-blue eyes. "Oooh, I love it when you say things like that," he laughed.
Inside the café, Haley looked around as Malachi came up behind her and whispered in her ear. "The mutie sittin' at the table to the right, a ways back."
Haley made her way over to the mutant and slid into the booth while Malachi sat at another booth on the opposite side of the café. keeping an eye out for anything suspicious. Haley scanned the mutant in the dimly lit booth, noticing that except for his seemingly normal legs and a thin mouth, he reminded her of the Protoss she had seen pictures of on the HoloNet.
"Well, well. Mal hadn't mentioned you'd be packing," said the mutant with a serious look.
"Packing?" Haley said with a confused look.
"Armed with such lovely features, you make a dangerous opponent for any man, mutant or not," he replied with a smile.
Haley blushed slightly, now understanding that the mutant was breaking the ice with a joke.
"Kaiyrnyn is the name but my friends call me Kai," he said extending a hand.
Haley returned the handshake. "Well, Kai, thank you for the compliment. I hope your business skills are just as suave and gentlemanly," she said with a smile.
"Then you have no fear, my lady, for I have been instructed to offer you a handsome bid for the relic you have acquired. My employer is offering fifty thousand."
"Handsome is a good start but I'd like to move on to drop-dead gorgeous. Seventy-five," Haley replied.
"Spoken like a true businesswoman. Sixty," Kai returned.
"Deal," the mutant said with a smile. "We'll meet in Docking Bay 1138 for the exchange."
As Malachi watched Haley and Kaiyrnyn strike a deal, he lightly probed the mutant's mind, being careful not to let him sense the intrusion. Detecting no hostile feelings or duplicity, he scanned the others in the café. At one table, he detected a man who was thinking about skipping out on his bar tab. At a nearby booth he saw a married couple and sensed the woman harboring lustful thoughts about a man at the bar. The man at the bar, chatting with the bartender, was thinking about how to pay his rent this week. All in all, he sensed nothing out of the ordinary from anyone inside the café.
Extending his senses outside of the joint, however, he immediately sensed something very wrong. He sensed fear emanating from a woman and her daughter who were scurrying away from the café, and picked up a number of violent thoughts — six to be exact — all surrounding the café. Instantly, Malachi knew that two of them planned to come in the back way, two in the front, and the other two would cover them from outside and make certain no one else went inside — or got out.
Malachi looked over at Haley and Kaiyrnyn and saw them rising from the booth.
Six targets. Two in front. Two in back. Two outside. Avatar not involved, he projected to her.
As he made for the wall next to the entrance, he saw Haley look at him and then say something to the mutant. He waited a few seconds and the door swung open. He saw a C-14 enter followed by its owner's armored hand. Grabbing the Gauss rifle, Malachi yanked the marine inside, using his enemy's body as a shield to block any attack from the second marine behind them. He twisted around, dragging the first marine in a semi-circle before opening fire on the second one.
Behind him, the first marine recovered from his initial shock, and clamped his metal-covered hands on Mal's shoulders, spinning him around for a sucker punch that would have removed most of Malachi's face. Fortunately, Malachi's visor flew off during the spin and the marine saw his eyes. His jaw dropped open and Malachi smiled. A split-second later, Malachi fired off a psionic pulse that propelled the marine backward toward the bar.
Haley and Kaiyrnyn were already on the move when the other two marines popped out from the kitchen door, just in time to see one of their comrades being hurled at high velocity toward them. The flying marine crashed into marine number three, knocking both to the ground in front of the kitchen entrance. The fourth marine looked down at his comrades crumpled in a heap in front of the doorway, and looked back up. Spotting Haley and Kaiyrnyn heading for the front entrance, he fired off several rounds.
As the hypersonic spikes tore through the air, Haley went into a dive, dragging the mutant avatar by the collar as she flew downward. Spikes impacted with tables, splintering them in an explosion of wooden fragments, shattered drinks and splattering liquor and food. Malachi watched as one round clipped "Mr. Rent" in the side of the head, sending his brain matter flying outward. A second burst followed, punching through his chest and stomach like paper. People were screaming and yelling now, and most were dropping to the ground to avoid being hit.
"Go, I'll handle this," Malachi said to Haley as she pulled Kaiyrnyn in tow. The fourth marine had stepped over his friends, who were now making progress in standing.
Haley nodded and he heard her thoughts: Be careful.
She tugged Kaiyrnyn behind her as they went out the front door. Malachi began moving toward the fourth marine just as his two friends had made it to their feet.
Careful is my middle name, Malachi thought as the marines came toward him. My parents had a funny sense of humor.
The Antioch Chronicles™ © 1998, Eric Dieter & Ruben Moreno. All rights reserved. The Antioch Chronicles™ trademark and associated logos are the exclusive property of Eric Dieter & Ruben Moreno. Characters and distinctive likenesses thereof, character names, item names, place names, named events, artwork and all other related material not disclosed herein are protected under the laws of the United States of America and other countries. Any reproduction, retransmission, or unauthorized use herein is prohibited without express written permission.
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