by Shannon H
Captain Taryn Bellin and Jon Lachlan had planned to enjoy some R&R planet-side. No chance.
|The open top landjeep sped along the rutted dirt road, bouncing its two occupants about in their seats. “I did say it was a nice day to get out and see the county but this isn’t exactly what I had in mind,” Taryn commented wryly from the passenger seat. She had swapped the duster, pants and combat boots look that she was so known for in favor of a light, floral patterned dress. With Eden experiencing its hottest summer in fifty years she was glad of the cool breeze the dress allowed. She still felt absurdly naked however without her revolver holstered at her waist.
Comfortable attire was one thing but Taryn silently cursed the fact they had been unable to rent a vehicle with a better suspension than their current mode of travel. Jon was seemingly oblivious to her discomfort laughed in response. He was in his element as he skilfully steered the speeding jeep over the back roads. “I know you’re not the outdoors type anymore Taryn but even you have to admit that this beats the hell out of being cooped up on a ship.”
Taryn rolled her eyes, “At least on my ship my kidneys don’t take such a pounding,” she shot back with a small chuckle. Her response elicited an easy laugh from her companion. Lover, Taryn corrected herself as she looked over to Jon shyly. She couldn't have imagined all those months before when they had met on the Providence docks that she would have fallen so hard for the former Major. Maybe it had been the age factor, at forty five Jon had thirteen years on her. Although if she was being honest with herself his age had barely registered when she had first saw him in the Zenith's cargo bay. Tall, tanned and muscular he had certainly stood out from the rest of the fares they had picked up. His hair was thick and dark, showing the first hint of grey at the temples and crow's feet were beginning to show at the corner of his eyes but in her mind they only added to the allure.
She had been smitten from the start even if she hadn't realised it at first. Today there was no doubt as she looked at him again, dressed in a pair of cream pants and a light, short sleeved shirt, worn tight against his muscular frame. She reached across, placing one hand on his leg and slid it slowly upward.
“I guess we might have seen enough for today,” Jon conceded with an easy grin. “How about we call it quits? Sound like a plan?”
“Major Lachlan, you read my mind.”
“I thought I might have,” he said smiling as he checked the heavy gold watch on his left wrist, gleaming in the bright sunlight of the summer afternoon.
“Somewhere you’d rather be? I thought this was better than being ship bound,” Taryn teased gently, having noted the numerous look at his expensive timepiece in the last hour. “Something special planned for tonight?”
“Captain Bellin, I couldn’t possibly comm….” His voice trailed off as their jeep rounded a corner to find the road blocked by another jeep and three sheepish looking figures crowded around it. Their own vehicle came to an easy stop five meters away. “Everything alright?” Jon asked from his seat as he killed the engine.
“Oh….uh, car trouble,” a dark skinned female replied with a nod to their stricken jeep.
Jon sighed as he stepped out of his jeep, leaving the keys in the ignition. “Can’t have that, can we?” he remarked with another glance at his watch. “Pop the hood so we can have a look.”
Taryn followed Jon from the jeep but hung back, knowing nothing of the mechanical workings of landside vehicles. Shame Garrett wasn't hear to have a look. She satisfied herself as she watched Jon go to work, crouching over the engine of the other jeep. “Hmmm… Can’t see much wrong here. You say it just cut out on you?” A stout young man standing behind behind nodded in the affirmative and began to point at the engine.
The third of the stranded trio drifted away from the group and toward Taryn. He gave her a friendly nod which she returned, figuring the man was as mechanically backward as her and did not wish to get in the way.
“You sure you haven’t just run out of gas?” Jon gently chided.
“N-no. We made absolutely sure….”
“Relax. Just a joke. Although, I can’t see what the issue is. Anyone have a C-Terminal with them? Might need to call for pick-up.”
“Have you been stuck here long?” Taryn asked, turning her gaze away from where Jon worked and toward the man who had walked by. He looked up as he removed the keys from the ignition of her and Jon's jeep. “What are you…?”
She instinctively reached for the revolver that wasn't there. “Jon!”
The shouted warning got his attention but it was too late, the trap had been sprung.
Jon looked up from under the bonnet in surprise. “Taryn? What's th-Mmmmmppphhh!!!” The second man who was standing behind Jon as he worked suddenly shoved a white rag over his nose and mouth, clamping it tight as Jon desperately tried to free himself from his attackers grasp.
In a fair fight Jon would have beat his attacker handily but whatever was on the cloth was an equalizer. Taryn could only watch in horror as the drug took effect on Jon almost instantly as he clearly began to weaken. She started toward him but felt a tug at her arm pulling her back.
Distracted by the attack on Jon she had completely forgotten about the other man. “Easy Lady!” He warned as he tried to pin her arms in a restraining hold. Taryn had no intentions of taking it easy, with little effort she broke free of his grasp and rammed an upward rising elbow into his face, sending him staggering back with a shout of pain and blood pouring from his nose.
Jon's arms dropped limply to his side as he passed out from the potent drug. Keeping the cloth over his face, the attacker lowered his unconscious form gently to the ground. Taryn sprinted toward Jon and his attackers but was stopped in her tracks as the female raised a Machine Pistol at her, letting loose a burst of bullets. She dived into the bushes as the hail of fire buzzed by, much too close for comfort.
The bullets had missed but Taryn knew that it was no warning shot. These people meant business and were prepared to kill.
“Come out and fight coward!” An angry female voice challenged.
“Leave her!” Called the man crouched over the unconscious form of Jon. Taryn offered a silent curse. The bushes in which she had found refuge did not leave her with many options. Even if she could try something she didn't want to spook the attackers; she had no idea what they were after and if they would hurt Jon if challenged.
Instead, Taryn could only watch as the woman angrily stalked back to where Jon was laid out. “So this is Major Lachlan,” She commented looking over the inert form. “Handsome.”
“Yeah. Rich too.” Replied the man with the chloroform rag as he held up Jon's limp left wrist to show off his watch.
“Nice! Gimmee!” The man with the bloody nose spoke up as he rejoined his cohorts before bending down beside Jon and grabbing his watch as if to unclasp it.
“Leave it Baker!” The other man barked a sharp command. “We’re goddamn professionals, not muggers.” The would-be thief rolled his eyes and let go of Jon's wrist with a childish tut. “You take care of their comms?” The man taking charge asked, ignoring the petulant response.
“Yeah," the bloodied man responded triumphantly, holding up Taryn's terminal. "Found it in the glovebox."
“What about the girl?” The woman demanded.
“What about her? No comms thanks to you and Cortez is just about to take care of her jeep. Right Cortez?”
The woman gave a grim smile in response before raising her machine pistol once more. Taking aim, she fired a long burst at Taryn and Jon's jeep, bullets tearing into the engine, shattering the windows and puncturing the tyres.
“Problem solved,” Hanson offered a humourless smile of his own. “Alright, back in the jeep. I want to be back to the shuttle in less than twenty minutes. His girl might be stranded for now but it won't take her too long to raise the alarm with the local Constabulary. Cortez and Baker you’re up front. I’ll ride in the back with Major Lachlan. Cortez, you drive, Baker give me a hand with him,” he said, nodding down at Jon's unconscious form
Baker and Cortez nodded their understanding; she hurried to their waiting jeep and started the engine while Baker grabbed Jon's legs as Hanson lifted him under the arms. Carrying him to the idling jeep and with a degree of care they deposited him in the back seat, arranging him in a sitting position. As soon as he was aboard the jeep roared away with a squeal of tyres.
After a few seconds Taryn appeared from her hiding spot in the bushes. She felt her throat tighten as the jeep sped off into the distance. Focus, you have to focus, Hiding in the bushes had been the right move; she now knew where they were taking her man. It was all about time now. She took off in a dead sprint back toward town.
"Hang on Jon. I'm coming for you."