Episode 44: Rock In A Hard Place

“Good to see you, Murk,” said Igneous, maintaining her pin on the terrified Jen. “How’ve you been since Ravelar?”

“Marvelous,” said Murk. “Today’s quite the reunion. I take it you’re here to help Gamma as you did back then?”

“He’s not with the Agency anymore,” said Igneous. “There’s a nice bounty on his head. And he’s here in your facility. If I suspected it before, I’d say the wind prophet confirmed it.”

Igneous carefully shifted her weight and Jen gasped. It was a technique that came from a lot of practice, and too much time associating with humans. The right amount of weight on the right part of the abdomen, and a human couldn’t breathe enough to talk most of the time. The woman with the cabbie hat was an unfortunate witness. Even if Jen managed to catch her breath enough to speak, the threat would be clear; much more pressure would cause permanent damage, if not a painful death.

“That mad child is always informative when he can be coaxed to talking.”

“Child?” asked igneous. “He looked old for one of his sort. Aren’t most of the prophets older than you?”

“I grew up,” said Murk. “The prophets are useful, but some people cling to their current stage of life so much longer than they should… ignoring the bright future they have ahead of themselves.”

Igneous kept a blank expression at that comment, but the glow from within the cracks in her hide brightened. Murk’s face twisted into a grin, though his two rock soldiers looked uncofortable.

“What’s Gamma worth to you?” asked Igneous. “The bounty I’m after is a large one. Very large.”

“I’m not planning on paying the DMA’s prices to you for the fun of killing off Zack, if that’s what you’re asking,” said Murk. “Even for only a quarter of those prices, imagine if any other DMA agents were nearby. It’d set a horrible precedent if they got here after you.”

Igneous’ mind raced. She knew this conversation wouldn’t last much longer before either Zack did something stupid like running around the corner, or before Murk’s patience wore out. The witness she was pinning would complicate issues as well.

“Consider this, then,” said Igneous. “I was with Gamma already, trying to coax him out of Helix and back to Veskid City, humoring his plans without revealing mine. If other bounty hunters are on their way, you may have a lot of trouble in the near future if Zack is still here. Let me take him off your hands, and you’ll avoid that trouble.”

“How generous of you, offering to receive a giant bounty payment like that,” said Murk. “It would leave me without my chance for vengeance, though. If I smother him myself, the problem of bounty hunters still goes away.”

“Why does vengeance matter that much to you?” asked Igneous. “Gamma says he doesn’t remember you at all. And I can attest to the fact that his memory seems… faulty.”

“Even if that’s the case, I’m excited to see him dead,” said Murk. “I don’t care if he can’t remember how everything unfolded on Ravelar. Besides, I’m not convinced that he’s not lying. He’d say or do anything to survive, one of the more pitiable traits in humans.”

Igneous slowly picked herself up from the ground, letting Jen breathe. She hoped that everything she’d said matched closely enough to what Jen had seen.

“So, you won’t match the DMA’s bounty for Zack, and you won’t let me take him to help you avoid a future problem. We’re at an impasse.”

“Not for long,” said Murk. He gestured to the two rock men. “You two, don’t let her interfere. The rest of you, to the cells.”

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