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Landfall: Serenity Valley - Armed Robbery

Posted on Sat Jul 25th, 2020 @ 6:01pm by Alden Loxley & James Thomson

Mission: The Milk Run
Location: Hera - Serenity Valley
Timeline: Day 12 - Late Afternoon

"Didn't think we'd be losing the ship so gorram fast," muttered Alden and he looked to his cousin as they both heard the merest of movements from behind them, and then a shot went wide, hitting the ground at James' feet. They were pinned, between the shooter up on the cliff, and another from the direction the Echo had previously been.

James still had his boot in one hand, the laces to one side. Alden’s left arm was wrapped up in his cousin’s donated shirt and hurt like hell, but the elder man chose to ignore it for the time being. They had bigger problems for sure.

Before them, up above on the far cliff, some utter Hwen Dan had set up on their position with a marksman rifle. From that same direction, a small, fast ship about half the tonnage of the Fortune’s Echo had hightailed it after said Echo, firing missiles with intent. And if that wasn't enough to contend with, now, from behind them, someone else had decided to join this unwanted party.

Alden swore colourfully as he turned his face to regard this new threat, his and James’ backs protected only by the guns in their own hands. He looked up at a man of mixed descent, Chinese and Western features forming a serious, single-minded glare. This man stood in partial cover. He had his weapon, a combat shotgun, aimed directly at James, and a pistol holstered to his side. It seemed highly unlikely he was alone, though he was the only one currently visible.

“Drop the gun. Stand up. Walk towards the grave,” said Zan, a man who James absolutely recognised from his time working for Niska. The younger man noted no sign of recognition in that regard from the elder Ezran.

“Dig up your own damn prize,” Alden told him. So Zan shot James in the foot and Alden reluctantly dropped the gun.

“Stand up, walk towards the grave,” came the far less patient request, uttered for a second time. “You got nowhere else to go.”

James' expression was a mixture of pain and fury, "BUN tyen-shung duh ee-DWAY-RO" (Stupid Inbred stack of meat) he exclaimed as he hunched over to put pressure on the wound, "Why don't you try walking with a hole in your foot, Zan!" he yelled, barely thinking.

"Stop shooting us!!" Alden demanded, but in the aftermath of the moment, as he stepped forward to block the line of sight between the man with the shotgun and his little cousin, he froze. Suddenly, clarity grabbed him with both hands and he realised what he'd just heard. "You fucking know this guy?!" He fired the question at James, fury wrapped around his every word.

"I'll shoot him again, Loxley," promised Zan. "If'n you don't get your ass to the graveside and get me what I want."

Alden held his hands up, and, slowly, deliberately walked back to the edge of the hole with its broken coffin. His malevolent glare didn't leave James for a second though, even as Alden picked up the shovel.

"We know each other through my last job," James bit through clenched teeth, throwing his own glare right back at his cousin. So what if he knew Zan? He had a freaking hole in his foot, "I worked for Niska, Alden," he added matter of factly, thankful that the pain made it easier for him to sell his minimisation.

"Well, James, good to know you have friends, but it ain't helping us much right now," Alden infused venom in his words, then flinched as a rifle round hit the ground beneath his own feet. Definitely a second party in the mix then. Good to know.

"Dig!" Zan ordered. He let Alden glare at him, then switched back to James again and gave the younger Ezran a malicious grin. "Drop the gun, friend," he said. "You're surrounded, and I only really need one of you alive."

James spat at the ground, his eyes like slits as he stared daggers towards Zan, "Friend? I don't usually want to put my friends down." He bit out as he emptied the rounds from his firearm onto the floor before his feet; several rested in the thick puddle of blood that was forming around his feet. Weapon now less deadly, he threw the weapon a meter in front of him. He didn't need it anyway, not that Zan knew. He'd just play the good boy until he had the opportunity to repay the favour.

"Not the only one with a gun pointed at me, Cousin," James pointed out as he wiped the thin layer of sweat forming around his brow. Though he worked to push it back, the anxious voice in his head reminded him that given enough time the hole in his foot would become increasingly dangerous.

Zan watched James intently as the other man ranted and raved some. A grim smile crossed the former's face. "Any others I'm not seeing?" Zan demanded.

Meanwhile from a position further south, a mocha-skinned man dressed in a suit jacket and trousers stepped into partial view. He looked grumpy, dust coating his left side, and in his arms was a rifle held casually with intent and directed at Alden. "Nope, just these two," the rifleman noted. And he muttered something into a personal cortex along the same lines.

"Yeah," Alden threw moodily back at James. "I'm aware." Concern crept into his gaze though, because despite his ire, the elder Ezran hadn't failed to notice the pool of blood. "Hey fella," he said, boldly to Zan, as he moved to smash the shovel into the coffin's top from his current place above the rectangular pit. "I'll dig, but you gotta let him plug that wound."

Zan shrugged. "Guess our mutual employer would prefer to keep you alive, James," he agreed, aiming the words with a derisory chuckle. "Never know when you might be useful again," he sneered. "Go ahead. Wrap it up," he added, moving in just a little closer as he warned. "Don't do anything stupid, Thomson."

Meanwhile, Zan's buddy settled his firearm in Alden's very specific direction as he silently resumed his own vigil. Alden obediently broke the coffin box fully open by dropping the shovel repeatedly down onto it from above, but he stepped back at the sight and scent of the dry, dead body within. Empty eye sockets stared upwards and the Alliance uniform was still obvious. Cursing followed as, once again, their presence here haunted Loxley's thoughts.

"Get in there!" Ordered the rifleman, and he sneered a grin as his target shot him a look of pure annoyance. His finger teased the trigger enough to promise further delays were not about to be tolerated. "Now!"

With a heavy sigh, Alden jumped down into the grave.

James smirked despite the pain, "Speaking of our mutual employer, did he ever get around to telling you why he found me so useful?" James asked as he limped towards Alden subtly putting himself between Zan's weapon and his cousin.

Zan took one step back and sighed. "No," he said, sounding utterly disinterested. "But please... Do tell me."

"I'm not like you second-rate goons," James goaded, "Look at you, playing the big man because you're covered. Without your firepower though, I'd have slit your throat and laid you to rest before this goody-two-shoes here had the chance approve," James admitted casting a fleeting guilty glance his cousin's way. He knew Alden wouldn't approve. James was supposed to have left that side of himself at Erin's.

"Move the body!" Came the next order from rifleman to grave robber, and Alden swore loudly in Chinese. "Move. The. Body." Zan's partner demanded again, ever more impatient at the delays.

The addition of yet another shot into the side of the freshly re-opened grave rang harshly in Alden's ears as he grimaced and reached his bare hands into the coffin. "Sorry, buddy," he told the unknown Alliance corpse, and with a quiet reverence, lifted him up just enough to search beneath.

James rolled his eyes and groaned at the heavy-handed, and thoroughly unneeded intimidation tactics. Both of the cousins were already bleeding and despite James' words up until that point, the pair had been compliant. He limped a small circle so that he faced Alden before casting his cousin a wink and dipping his hand into the right side of his jacket.

"He also likes that I never miss," James said over his shoulder before snapping round quickly and throwing a knife towards the rifleman. The knife itself was small, several inches at the most, and well balanced, a gift from a companion Niska had ordered him to 'collect' years ago. As far as Niska had been concerned they'd run to the safety of the guild before he'd even laid eyes on his quarry.

He stumbled and almost dropped to his knees on account of the momentum and the fact his foot was worse for wear, but the proud smile was unmissable as the air was filled with screams of Zan's partner who now had a matching injury to James.

"We'll keep digging, but the next one's going in your face, and trust me I'll kill you before your sniper gets us." James promised, his brown eyes almost blackened by rage, a jarring contrast to the smile he'd previously had.

"Liu Kou Shui De Biao Zi He Hou Zi De Er Zi!" (Son of a drooling whore and a monkey.) Zan howled in defiant rage a second later than his friend's pained scream. He fired the shotgun at the same time, the rounds only missing James' head due to the Ezran's drop groundward. "Jiang! You okay?" Zan demanded.

That wayward shot brought Alden's rage into the mix, and the elder Ezran grabbed at the edge of the grave to pull himself back up to ground level. Jiang stumbled, but hefted the rifle in Alden's direction, catching the man across the side of the head with the butt and dumping him back down into the grave.

"I swear, James," Zan growled, the shotgun adjusted to be levelled at the new position of James' head. He noticed the man's features were paler, and sneered his words with genuine derision. "You so much as twitch again and your cousin here dies. Niska didn't say anything about keeping him safe." Well, not specifically anyway.

Jiang sat on the edge of the grave, dark eyes stormy. One hand grimly pulled the knife from his wounded foot, the other kept the rifle levelled at the man beneath him in the muddy hole. "I could shoot him again, let him die slow," Jiang pointed out without turning around to look at James. "You have any idea how much these boots cost me?!"

Shaking out his head to clear it from the hard knock, Alden crouched down by the long dead man with whom he was currently sharing the rectangular hole in the ground. "Found something," he said, and quietly apologised again to the corpse as he rifled about beneath and beside it. There were nightmares coming, deeply disturbing ones and Alden knew it, but right now he needed to live in order to have them.

"Throw it up to me," Jiang ordered, and as the small cube of a box sailed into the air before him, he fired blindly into the grave. Twice. There was a muffled howl and then silence.

Zan grinned. "Thanks for digging us the hole," he told James and levelled the shotgun at the younger man's groin before pulling the trigger.

James scrambled back but not fast enough and his legs were peppered with buckshot. He yelled out in pain and frustration before lying backwards, writhing in pain. "You'd better - usethatmoney- to find yourself anicelittlehideyhole," James bit out between groans as his eyes rolled backwards, seeking his cousin's for a moment before they closed. Still conscious he quietly groaned as the pain in his legs overwhelmed him, both limbs radiating sharp pain.

While he couldn't see James from his position hunkered down deep in the grave, even with his hands over his ears Alden heard his cousin's voice well enough, and he noted the pain wrapped around every word. Battered, bruised and slightly shot, Alden pushed upwards swiftly, just in time to see James hit the ground, then took a rifle butt to the face from Jiang before he could climb all the way out of the pit.

"Don't think I need to hide from you, Sha gwa!" (fool) Zan threw back casually, chuckling to himself as he regarded the mess that was James right now. "You, I always see coming. C'mon, it's sleepytime for you two," he noted, a dirty grin on his face as he grabbed James' injured leg and twisted, then dragged him forcibly the short distance to dump him into the open grave.

The swing of Jiang's rifle was the merciful last thing James saw before everything went dark.

 

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