Stumbling up the ramp, Zaeed dropped his duffel bag in a corner of the cargo bay, giving the place a quick glance. Like most of the freighters he'd been on in the last year, it was dark, dingy, and filled with people he'd rather not be around. The captain was a bare-faced turian, though you could probably put together his colony markings based on the scars. Grabbing a grav dolly, he shifted a few of the stacks of crates, giving himself a nice, defensible corner with two clear firing lanes.
The last year had been closer to hell than anything since Shanxi. A lone merc had far fewer choices in what jobs they could take – and a lot worse luck in making it through them, too. Like his last job, bodyguarding a red sand dealer on Aite. Naturally, the idiot had been a little too happy at sampling his own stock, ignored his orders, and gotten gunned down. Leaving Zaeed holding the merchandise. Which, also naturally, was only drugs and not a single credit chit to be found. He'd barely gotten enough off the bodies of the rival dealer to pay off the freighter captain.
Two others came on board as well, a pair of salarians barely looking old enough to be out of school, frantically building their own little nest in another part of the cargo bay. The ship shuddered as the captain took off, the other two turian crewmembers quickly heading up the neck of the ship, locking the door behind them.
"Great," Zaeed muttered. "Hope they don't forget about us. Or that some of these crates have food." One of the salarians stared at him for a moment, until he turned to stare back. Flinching, the alien quickly ducked through the tiny opening in their pile of crates.
One grenade, and they're a smear on the floor, he thought grimly. Stepping back into his own foxhole, he quickly checked Jessie, reloading the block and giving the barrel a quick clean. They were supposed to drop supplies at a few bases in the Terminus before finally landing at a mining operation on Zanethu. He hadn't decided where to get off, so long as it wasn't Purgatory. He even had a high collar shirt he'd bought just for occasions like that.
He leaned back against the crates as he put Jessie back together. The Suns were quickly becoming the kind of operation that Vido always wanted them to be. Rumor said he'd made a deal with the Hegemony, employing certain criminals the batarian ruling class didn't want kept around, but didn't want killed, either. Or at least, not killed by their hands, Zaeed thought grimly. The missions that succeeded tended to bring Vido lots of money, while the ones that failed usually resulted in a total massacre of blue-armored forces. The son of a bitch had even set up a convenient batarian stalking horse as the public face of the company now, while he "just" ran the finances from an undisclosed location.
The last one had been on Aite, but somehow the bastard got word of Zaeed heading his way and cleared out, leaving a very empty warehouse office. Which was how he'd ended up with the damn job for the sand dealer. And now his thoughts were running around in circles. "Goddamn it," he muttered.
Standing up, he pulled out his sleeping bag and stretched out on the floor. It would be hours before they met up with the relay, let alone the next ship. Kowloons were slower than an elcor with constipation, only used because they were cheap, easily fixable, and could move a couple thousand tons of cargo in a trip. Closing his eyes, Zaeed pushed away the memories of his old "friend" and tried to catch some sleep.
The explosion woke him, opening his eyes to find himself already crouched on one knee with Jessie in his hand, safety off, muzzle pointed towards his redoubt. Stomping feet and guttural shouts told him there were krogan in the hold, which momentarily confused him, as no krogan had come on board on Aite. A shotgun blast, and the screaming from one of the salarians, got him up to speed.
"They're trying to hijack the goddamn freighter," he muttered. A quick dash put him behind the crate full of reactor parts, giving him a partially obstructed view of the hatch the krogan were entering through. The two salarians lay on the floor, one of them obviously bleeding out while the other one wailed in some salarian dialect thick enough his omni wasn't translating it.
The leader stepped forward, red helmet in place, and blew away the sobbing salarian before stomping brutally on the injured one. A quick count said he was backed up by at least six more, possibly eight. What the hell do they need so many krogan for? he thought. One krogan would probably be enough to take the goddamn ship if I wasn't here.
Sighting on one of the other krogan, also in red painted armor, he pulled the trigger, blowing out the shields and putting three rounds into the neck. He ducked and rolled, turning down his other tunnel. "Nice group of friends!" he shouted.
"Show yourself, human! The Blood Pack will make your death swift!" Zaeed ducked between another pile of crates, dropping to crawl through an opening and get another look. The leader, plus six and the dead one. He'd had worse odds … no, actually, aside from Vido and Gus holding him down, he really hadn't.
"Why? So you can sit back and make your buddies do the hard part?" Zaeed shouted back. A grenade bounced off the crates near him on a bad throw, and he heard krogan cursing as it exploded. Hopefully the crew wasn't asleep in the cockpit, and were actually doing something.
"What? You think to challenge Weyrloc Gesark, leader of the Blood Pack? You are delusional, even for a human!"
Zaeed ducked back through the gap as a pair of krogan came around the corner. Gunfire would just give away his position right now. "I'm saying a suitless quarian could kick your ass! I could beat you in combat with only one weapon!" He dashed down the row of crates, leaping over the one blocking the salarian hideaway. He couldn't fit in there naked, let alone in his armor. But they probably hadn't brought weapons on board, either.
Growling krogan language echoed through the room, distorted enough he couldn't understand it, but he took the opportunity to get back into his corner, picking up his only two grenades and his knife. They all went into concealed compartments in his armor before he peeked back outside.
"Alright, human! I accept. You and me, single combat. One weapon each," Gesark shouted. "Or are you the scared one now, hiding like a bug in its hole?"
Zaeed took a moment to curse himself out, then stepped out. Two more krogan saw him, weapons pointed in his general direction but not aimed. "Really? You, me, single combat? So when I kick your goddamn ass, are your toadies going to retreat?" He jerked a thumb towards the pair as Gesark came around the corner.
"Hah! When I kill you, I promise to space your body near a sun, instead of feeding it to my varren," Gesark said. His shotgun dangled from one hand, and his expression was unreadable behind the skull-painted helmet. "Now prepare to die like a warrior!"
Zaeed was already moving before the last declaration. Jessie came up as he dodged aside, blazing away. Like most krogan, he didn't depend overly much on shields, trusting in thick armor and his own regeneration.
Which was part of why he normally used incendiary bullets in Jessie.
Gesark's shotgun chewed a hole in the crate next to him as the krogan toppled, his legs burning. Another burst took out Gesark's fingers and sent the shotgun spinning across the floor. Another krogan shouted in anger, raising his assault rifle, only to blink as the grenade bounced off his helmet and exploded. Phosphorous burst into flame, melting holes in cargo crates, deck plating, and several places in the warrior.
Zaeed rolled away, going over the top of another crate before more krogan could open fire. His second grenade went flying, toppling a whole set of crates onto another pair of them and giving him more room to maneuver.
The fighting ranged through the cargo bay as Zaeed gunned them down, one by one, until only Gesark was left. The krogan, even injured, had dragged himself towards his shotgun with the one uninjured arm, just getting his hand back on the grip as Zaeed's boot came down. "I goddamn told you," he panted, "you should've brought more friends."
Bending down, he ripped off the helmet. He'd faced down numerous krogan over the years, especially after that clusterfuck with the archaeologists, but this was the first time he'd ever looked into a krogan's eyes and seen fear. Tucking the helmet under his arm, he pulled out the knife and buried it to the hilt in Gesark's eye.
Returning to his corner, he set the helmet down, looking at it. "Stupid goddamn design," he said. Sniffing, he scowled. "Guess I better move the bodies before they start to stink worse."