Lady Nistrie explored the wide arrangement of guns laid before her on Arthur's stall. Even though her mind was comfortably stuffed full of all kinds of technical manuals, most of these weren't about cutting age Terran made weaponry.
This vendor had quite the inventory!
Arthur's stall was split in four parts; one was where his handguns were arrayed in alphabetical order. The second part was where her eyes noticed the most enticing and compact looking armaments, yet she decided to explore the entirety of this kiosk, before making her choice.
The third section was where all long guns were laid out; an assortment of big sniper rifles, assault guns and even two light machine guns. Below, the kiosk's fourth section was where the gorilla displayed spare power packs, and various gun mods. Those included custom modules, handmade power packs, after-market upgrades; she quickly noticed at least two items which would nicely fit her gifted particle-beam pistol.
“Slavers, Narcos, Munchers or Clanners?” - Calmly inquired with his deep voice Arthur, gifting Lady Nistrie with a wide, shining smile.
“I am not... sure.” - She mumbled confused, her eyes darted between the kiosk owner, his merchandise and Hector.
“Well, I think you have exactly the thing to shoot ghosties with.” - The bunny pointed at her belt, and Arthur's eye glinted when Nistrie unholstered her pistol.
“Krupp's Silverbeam PB71; the very fist Terran-designed particle-beam pistol to go into serial production. 'Tis not for sale? Pity.. I'd offered you a fair price, Lady.” - Quickly cited the merchant after examining her beam pistol and returned it, when she politely refused to sell it.
“Guessing these Munchers are the Jaern?” - hesitantly asked Nistrie.
The two Terrans nodded.
“What works best against them, then.” - Her eyes went back to Arthur's stall, where she again looked at the compact weapons.
“Hector has spent more than a few years on the battlefield, making various invaders shit their suits just before he ventilated them, but I don't ever recall him fighting the Jaern.”
“Bah, I wiped enough Tazzie stench off my armor to last me a lifetime! Clanners too and I became quite good at drowning them or squishing their shippies underwater. But you are correct, the Munchers hadn't had the luck of bumping into me... yet. Art, you my man, you had a lot of encounters with them. I remember that story about Farpost 3 you keep retelling; I swears, tis getting longer every time I hear it.”
Lady Nistrie was happy to observe how the two old friends engaged in pleasant banter.
“Read what the patch says, Heck? I'm not a Spacer, but a Merchant of Life and can stretch the liquorish.” - Hector snarled jokingly at his friend and this one winked - “Well, at least a tad bit.”
The gorilla reached and carefully picked up one small railgun, unfolding its stock with a press of a button, before he offered it to Nistrie. She weighted the unloaded weapon; examined its simplistic, yet stylish frame and then tried how it handled. Stamped on its side was “Colt,” which she logically assumed was the gun's manufacturer. The moment she aimed at a training dummy Arthur placed next to his stall, a holo sight immediately appeared to aid her.
“This is the Colt M1980 snub railgun, Lady. As you can see and feel, it is both ergonomic and easy to operate, reliable too. Those who lambaste us Terrans for using railguns will also underestimate diminutive weapons like this one. Its small size is deceptive since this gun is capable of unleashing a hail of 4mm pellets, and keep firing long since most alien guns had overheated.”
He took the weapon from her, then showed how to open its megasteel cowl. There were a number of parts she didn't recognize, but the heatsink and power capacitor were easy enough to spot. Arthur pulled one long, stick shaped power pack and after closing the weapon's cowl, gestured both to follow him. Behind his stall there was a secure shooting range and Nistrie noticed the gentle shimmer of an energy field, protecting bystanders and clients from accidental misfires or ricochets.
“Care to try?” - The gorilla expertly loaded the snub gun and clicked its charging button, while leaving the safety on.
“I never fired a railgun before.” - She shouldered the weapon and even though it felt incredibly comfortable, Nistrie was hesitant to pull its trigger.
“You gots to brace for the recoil, legs first, then lean with your torso a bit forward. Yes, your grip is tight and finger off the trigger... good, good.” - Hector's paws pointed at a drawing on the ground as he gave her tips on how to stand.
“This weapon has a firing selector switch; up is safety, medium short burst, and down is full auto.” - Arthur pointed with his big finger and waited as she clicked said switch to medium.
“Weapon set on short buzz,” - chuckled Hector - “the correct firing mode when you are shooting from afar. This one had an armor-piercing module, am I correct Art?”
“It came factory equipped with it, and the double power packs, yes. Otherwise the gun is considered a stock model. Since you are my old buddy's partner, I will include the specialist grip and one bag of handmade power packs for free.”
Hector's eye squinted and he waved his paw in the air, asking with suspicion laden voice:
“Wait, wait, waaaait a minute! You sneaky, tree-climbing, bread-eating, son-of-a-gorrila; you need something done or you never would've offered such a deal from the get go!”
Arthur's smiling face didn't moved a muscle; the gorilla gently chuckled before saying with the most innocent tone Nistrie ever heard:
“Why, whatever do you mean? No strings attached, a family member of mine just needs a small favor. Your choice bro...”
The two locked eyes; one grumbling and scratching his long ear, the other still smiling.
“Ummm, can I shoot now?” - A bit confused asked Nistrie.
“Sure, just be careful. I am here if something happens.” - Arthur stood behind her, ready to grab her or the gun if she messed up.
Lady Nistrie took a breath; her finger finally lay on the trigger and she squeezed once. There was a sonic boom and she felt the gun kick, but the recoil wasn't at all scary or hurtful. Quite manageable, she said to herself while looking downrange, inspecting the piece of slagged metal which Arthur used for target practice.
She did hit almost the exact spot where her holo-sight was aimed at! Satisfied with the result, Nistrie set the weapon's firing selector to full auto.
“Better brace with all you have, Lady. Also, do not worry; even if the weapon escapes your hands, it can't shoot. There is another safety built in and the moment your finger is off the trigger and hand no longer holding the grip, it stops firing.”
Hands holding the gun, she shouldered it even tighter and then pulled the trigger.
The loud sound ripped through the air; even her protected by the helmet ears rang for a few seconds. This time the kick was significantly stronger, but since this weapon was fitted with a good stock and that handle, it was easily controlled. There was a hiss coming from its now slagged power pack and she was quick to press the unloading lever. A little bit of steam was coming from under the snub gun's front cowl, where its heatsink was located.
The sound of something made of metal hitting the ground shook Lady Nistrie; she expected the slagged power pack's thump, not this. Eyes wide open, she looked downrange and finally realized what this weapon did to the scrap metal. One big chunk lay smoldering in the dirt, littered with glowing hot, fist-sized holes!
Hands shaking and heart pumping a whole lot of adrenaline, Lady Nistrie exclaimed:
“Hector, I am buying this! So elegant, such control and so much power!”
“Excellent choice, Lady. With the discount I am offering - one hundred fiddy measly credits.”
“I want that after-market beam chamber and focus module for my Silverbeam. How much for those?” - Nistrie counted the credit chits without bargaining, inducing one sad sigh from Hector.
“The beam chamber is another fiddy,” - Arthur's eyes glinted as he pocketed the credits, uttering - “focus module is on the house, if you agree to help my bro.”
“Sure, we'll bail your 'bro' out, Art! What pile of dreck did this cookie-gobbler fell face first into this time?” - Hector apparently suspected something since he called Arthur's bro “cookie-gobbler.”
“Stumblers, just a couple of them, nothing serious.” - Grinning victoriously said the gorilla, while he pocketed another handful of credits.
“On Phobos?! Bro, you have got to be kidding me! There is literally nothing on sodding Phobos. No water, no big cities; just piles of dust, abandoned mines and old mining gear. What are them Stumblers ever there for, to nab sand and pickpocket rocks?!”
Arthur sniggered while he replaced Nistrie's old beam chamber, and then quickly placed the new focus module.
“This armament of Peace will serve you well! May you be successful in your quests and become an able defender of the Minarchy. We don't sell these guns to just anyone, you know...”
Lady Nistrie holstered her newly upgraded pistol, then flung the Colt's vacfoam strap over her back and finally, maglocked its power pack bag on her waist. She was huddled away from Arthur's kiosk by Hector, who kept mumbling something about constantly having to pull off freebies. The gorilla graciously bowed and then waved as they walked towards the Bulgarian food cart.
“I don't understand, did I do something wrong? I thought Terrans loved to help one another.” - Said Nistrie, as she glanced at Hector's snout, noticing his anger get slowly replaced by mild annoyance.
“You are not at fault, here. I should've warned you about him, but... what's done is done. We have to fly to Phobos now and possibly shoot some stumblers dead.”
“What are those 'stumblers,' Hector? I am not the most knowledgeable alienist, but this definitely sounds like one rather exotic specie...” - The bunny canted his head, one hand scratching his left ear.
“Criminals, idiot crooks 'tis what a stumbler means, Lady.”
“You have bandits too?! - Startled, Nistrie stopped dead in her tracks even though the aroma of cooked meats coming from the food cart was hard to resist.
“No and... yes.” - He reluctantly stated, beckoning her to move.
It took a few minutes, but the two were once again comfortably sitting at a table with more, delicious food. This time Hector ordered stuffed with ground meat and kashkaval peppers, plus a loaf of freshly baked rye bread and two tankards of black Kvas. The look in his eyes told Nistrie that it was food first and talk after, so she wiped her dripping nose and got to work.
Not only were those stuffed peppers tasty, but that bread complemented them perfectly well. The different Kvas also paired well together with this meal and she drank the tankard dry.
“I should say that yes, there are criminals around and no, they are not exactly... ours.”
“Not yours? I don't understand, Hector.”
“They are all aliens, Lady, this is what I mean by not ours. No matter, we will soon find out who they are, why are they on Phobos and, deal with them one way or another. Take some time to rest now...”
For half hour they sat at the table, the buzz of this small market town rumbling around them. Lady Nistrie noticed a throng of children carrying tools, bags filled with handcrafted merchandise, running down the street. A cacophony of screams and cries followed; each child or group of kids, advertising their goods or trying to sell their services.
By far those who offered to do chores for credits were the largest bunch. They cleaned stalls, polished windows, painted walls, did minor repairs on small appliances, and even carried shopping bags. Amazed by seeing all of this mad drive to work, she gave her partner a questioning look, one hand pointed at a child who was no older than six.
“Lady, the children on your world, are they not free to work for themselves, make money and learn valuable skills?” - Hector asked, giving her a confused look.
“Well, no, not really. The androids do all of these jobs and they are getting paid for it. Our time is spent learning how to shop for fashionista approved clothes and accessories. That and how to plot against other dzenta'rii Ladies in Longing; there are schools where they teach us how to rope in a 'good catch.'” - She answered with a dreary voice, yet was smiling a few seconds later, after one adorable little girl sold her a handmade ring.
It was so skillfully carved from a piece of salvage, that it did almost look nano-printer crafted.
“I gather you were a bit different than your peers, am I right?”
“Yes, because since early childhood I read tech manuals and fiddled with engineering tools. Instead of attending these classes, I ran with the androids; they learned me how to repair computers and craft components. The only class I didn't ditch was dueling. Which reminds me...”
“Short blade or a long one?” - Asked Hector after he finished his Kvas.
“Medium blade length, and thin - it is what you Terrans call a rapier. I don't think our credits will be enough to buy a brand new vibroblade though.”
Hector nodded understandingly and then jokingly said:
“Yes, that is what happens when you get overexcited and shoot all of your creds on one bloody gun!”
“But it... this Colt is amazingly powerful!” - Defended her investment Nistrie.
“Those with guns, but without swords, could still die upon them.” - Hector cited someone else, and then added:
“This is what our star marines often say and I do know from experience, that they are correct. However, after all those years protecting the Minarchy and serving my clan, the Shimazu, I have a long list of people who owe me favors. After our short trip to Phobos, I will contact one of our retainers; he can arrange things for you.”
“We are going to Phobos now?” - Nistrie slowly stood up and followed Hector's paw, who pointed her a small starport nearby.
“It is a short ride, about half hour, maybe less. The sooner we deal with them stumblers, the better!”
“I noticed something before agreeing to Arthur's proposal, partner.” - She tapped her holster and then pointed at her now empty credit purse.
“What is that?”
“He never said anything about salvage rights, which means...” - Nistrie left her sentence unfinished on purpose, and made a semi-graceful pirouette.
“It means that everything we find on those stumblers is ours!” - The bunny chuckled, victoriously hopped on the spot and wagged his paw in her face, jokingly scolding his partner:
“Ah you, sneaky...”
In minutes the two paid their tickets and boarded a passenger shuttle to Phobos, neither of them noticing the ghostly figure which stalked them from the shadows.
I and @todolomejor have been planning and working for months. Mystery, spooky stuff Starshatter style, fishies, munchies, and, of course - aliens! This will be a series of stories following the adventures of two characters - the old submariner Hector and the Dzenta'rii, Lady Nistrie!
Episode eleven coming soon...