Black-Heart: Protector

Aaron blinked, thrown off guard by Jayko’s answer.  He wanted to get away.  Like me…?

It wasn’t an answer that he’d been expecting.  How could this man know why he was here on this planet.  Why he’d left behind all the killing and hardships he’d been put through.  Why he’d run from the the curse that had plagued him.  No.  Jay had to be grabbing at strings.  Yet the way he’d said it with such confidence, as if he knew it was the complete truth…

“Why do you say that?  Why do you say you’re here for the same reason I am?” asked Aaron, challenging his answer.

Jayko gave him a small smirk.  “Over the years I learned to read people fairly well.  I can see it in you.  The way you look mournfully at the weapon you carry, the fact that you always seem to have alcohol within reach, the way you move too.  A man who wants to get away, who wants to hide what he is capable of and forget his past.  You and I have very similar reasons for being on this planet.”

Aaron shook his head slowly.  “And why are you hear then?”

“I wanted to get away.  I was a very sought after man.  I’ve participated in wars, killed others in them too.  Some say I changed the fate of this galaxy.  I’m a legend and though most people have never heard of me, those who have, want my head most of the time.  I possess too much power in their eyes.  I never wanted my life to turn out the way it did, so after many years I decided it was time to retire and get away from it all.”

Jayko placed his hat back on his head, shading his eyes.  “I’ll admit, I’m sure they aren’t the same reasons you are here for, but they bare similarities from what I’ve seen.”

Aaron sighed softly to himself.  The man had him figured out it seemed.  And the little display of power that all three of them had put on in their scuffle definitely just provided evidence to back up what Jay had said about him.

He glanced over at Mai.  This was the very reason that he had not wanted her anywhere near.  Not only was she compromising his facade he had carefully constructed, but she was destroying his ship at the same time.

“Do I get to speak now?” she asked irritably looking up at him.  She wasn’t happy about being forced to back down.

Aaron made a sound of displeasure, but he knew she would never sit silently.  “Fine,” he said, watching her closely.

Mai crossed her arms.  “Well, since my capture is being impeded, I might as well get on with the other reason I’m here.  I don’t like taking information from a lying fugitive, but my contact said that you are the only one who has knowledge of my target.”

Jay raised an eyebrow from where he was sitting, tilting his hat back so his face was visible.  “I know a lot about the people and the planet.  What do you want to know?” he asked matter-of-factly.

“Rivers Virgil,” she said, her voice hard.

Aaron turned to look at Jay to see if he recognized the name.  He’d tipped his hat down again to shade his eyes and by the set of his mouth, he could tell Jay knew of the person Mai was talking about.

“I’ve heard of Rivers.  You’re going after a very dangerous target.”

“That’s irrelevant.  Tell me all you know about Rivers.”

Jay thought about it for a moment and then nodded.  “Against my better judgment and only because I think there might be something that you can do.”

Aaron raised an eyebrow in question but kept quite.

“Most of what I’ve heard is second hand through my own contacts.  Rivers is a powerful person if there ever was one.  Influence, contacts, a network of agents willing to die at a single command.  All of that collapsed when the balance of power shifted in the galaxy during the War.  Mostly that power was used for personal wealth, but that was lost too.  All I know now is that Rivers is here on this world.  I’m not sure where though, but I have heard that Rivers is making a push to rebuild and start over.  But with the power vacuum left by the War, I’m certain Rivers’ going to make a push for more than just personal wealth this time.

“Rivers will know you’re looking.  Don’t let up and don’t falter.  You are stirring up a hornet’s nest and you’re not going to like what you find inside.  Rivers is cautious and plans for every encounter.  All I can say is good luck.  I can direct you to where you should be able to find Rivers’ trail, but not much more.”

Mai let out a hissing breath between clenched teeth.  “It’s more than Headquarters could give me, that’s for sure.  I don’t trust you but I don’t have a choice.”

“A trade for a trade,” said Jayko after a moment.

“What do you mean…” said Mai slowly.

Jayko laced his fingers behind his head and rested it against the railing.  “I want to know what organization you are from.”

Mai stared hard at him not speaking.

“You’re not from a government organization.  Nor a corporate one, so that rules out Fringe Exploratory or any of the other major corporations.  You have many contacts it seems, but you don’t have access to all the knowledge you need.  You possess skill far above the level that most humans are able to achieve.”  Jayko paused.

Aaron could see him weighing his thoughts.  The people that Aaron had worked for had no name that he’d known of.  But their were rumors that they were overseen by some higher power, though that was information that Aaron had never been privy to.

“You’re a Protector,” said Jayko slowly.

Aaron saw Mai twitch.  It was a slight tightening of her muscles, but if he had seen it, then Jay had as well.  Protectors were what they were called when they had completed their training and they were sent out into the galaxy to fulfill their orders.  Aaron had never thought about it much.  At the time his thoughts had been consumed by the presence from that cursed pistol.

“I was wondering when your kind would make it all the way out here.”

Mai stayed silent.

“Thank you for the info,” he said, reaching up to tip his hat in a friendly manner.

Aaron sighed.  He backed up to the mast.  His back hit it and he slid down into a sitting position.  He examined the palm of his and.  It was already starting to heal, the pain from the burn fading away.

Out of the corner of his eye he saw Mai flex and lunge.  She was halfway across the deck before Aaron reacted.  The moment he saw the glint of one of the combat knives she carried, his arm was raised and he fired a single shot with her weapon.

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