Home > Alien Mercenary's Prize (Lathar Mercenaries : Warborne Book 3)

Alien Mercenary's Prize (Lathar Mercenaries : Warborne Book 3)
Author: Mina Carter

 

Prologue

 

 

Previously, in the Warborne Series…

 

There was a certain gravitas and respect granted to mercenaries, none more so than being a member of the infamous Warborne. Unlike other crews, they didn’t wear colors or insignia on their clothing or kit. They didn’t need to. Everyone knew who they were, as their likenesses were splashed across the media throughout the galaxy and beyond. Forget human superheroes—every little boy and girl wanted to be Warborne.

And never more so than here, on Skinny’s home planet. To say they were fond of their famous son was an understatement. Beauty had passed no less than five statues and seventeen posters of the big lug in various windows. That he’d come here, come home, for his bonding ceremony, had sent the entire place into a frenzy.

“That’s him… that’s Beauty!”

“They say he was the champion of the pits. Undefeated.”

He didn’t give any indication he heard the excited comments from the two slop-boys huddled near the bar, watching him with wide eyes and more than a healthy dose of hero worship. To be that young again, and so full of wonder…

But he never had been. As soon as he’d been old enough to understand what he was, and even before, he’d known he had to be careful not to reveal what he was and what he could do… If anyone found out, he’d be hunted and killed like the rest of his race.

Like his mother.

Run, Ilar. He remembered her voice, and her hair, but not what she looked like. He’d been too small. Run like the wind and hide. Be careful.

He’d run, the sound of their door breaking down behind him. He’d run, the sound of his mother’s roar of challenge and defiance behind him. He’d run, the sound of his mother’s final bellow in his ears, imprinted on his memory.

He could never reveal what he was, not even to his Warborne brothers.

The bleep of the comp on his wrist drew his attention. Putting down his tankard, he flicked on the display. One of his seeker programs had been flagged.

He frowned as he read the notification. A new shipment of fighters had been delivered to Tarviisa. Even though he had long since earned his freedom from the pits, he was still reigning champion. More than that… some of his wins had included shares. So keeping an eye out was just good business practice.

Normally though, a new shipment wouldn’t have flagged any of his programs. Confused, he flicked open the manifest, watching a vid of the new slave-fighters being unloaded.

When a female trudged out, hands manacled in front of her, his eyes shot open. A growl rolled through him from the darkness within he dared not show anyone lest they discover his real nature, and he shot to his feet in shock.

The new shipment to the pits didn’t just contain a human female.

It contained Marika’s lost sister.

 

 

1

 

 

The Star Lounge was the shittiest bar in the shittiest sector of Versia III. And, as such, it didn’t attract the best level of clientele.

Natalia, Nat to the very few people she called friend, sighed as she kept an eye on the raucous group in the corner and wiped the bar down with a rag. The battered steel countertop was too old and pitted to gleam, but she did what she could, moving from left to right. She didn’t want any of the customers to catch anything on her watch.

Movement tugged at the corner of her eye. One of the whores sashayed her way through the bolted-down tables and chairs over to the small group near the shuttered window. At least, she didn’t want them catching anything from the drink, anyway. Anything else they caught was not the Star Lounge’s business or responsibility.

And, well, she’d noticed the tattoo that peeked out over the neckline of the girl’s top. She was one of Prantok’s, who didn’t keep his girls in the best condition. He often scrimped on their immunizations and meds. Just last week one of her regulars, Kevin, had come in and complained that his dick had almost rotted and fallen off after he’d hired one of Prantok’s girls. He’d offered to show Nat, but she’d politely declined. Most of the regulars at the bar knew not to push her to an impolite refusal. That way led to more than bruised egos.

Not her circus, she told herself firmly as voices rose in the corner. Then the whore stomped out the door, slamming it behind her. Nat caught the eye of Knox, the bouncer on the door, who shrugged, spreading shovel-like hands. The expression said it all. Obviously, services had been offered, but a price hadn’t been agreed on... which meant insults had been exchanged. Whatever had been said, it had to be fairly serious. Whores didn’t usually like to burn bridges with potential customers.

The order tab embedded in the surface of the bar sparked to life with a drink order. Moving over, she glanced down at it and sighed. The casing glass had fogged up. Banging the counter with a heavy fist, she released the cage underneath and slid the pad free so she could read it.

Cazlos, the bar’s owner kept it locked up in case any of his staff decided to steal the "expensive tech" he’d had installed. Her lip curled back as she flicked through the order, lining up glasses. Not that any of them would want to pinch this piece of junk. It was at least ten years out of date and would probably stop accepting updates soon. Besides, all of them knew where to hit the bar to make the case underneath release.

Sliding it back, she locked it into place and finished making the drinks. She loaded them on her tray and walked over to the table by the window. The scratched plexiglass was shuttered, the mesh on the outside cutting daylight while it protected the glass from being smashed. Not that anyone wanted to look outside in this sector. Not with its crammed streets and pollution. The buildings were all dilapidated steel and concrete in monotonous lines that reeked of hopelessness and despair. Sector 4-B was the place parents in the other sectors warned their kids about.

“If you don’t do well at school, you won’t get a good job. You’ll end up in Sector 4-B.”

It was the place dreams came to die. People too. They were the lucky ones. The unlucky ones... you saw those every day, shuffling to and from their shifts at some low-paid factory, or blank-eyed on the streets, their veins full of whatever cheap shit the street dealers were hawking.

For her, Sector 4-B was a place to hide—a place no one cared who you were or if you used a false name to rent a habitat-pod. Hell, half the landlords weren’t legal themselves. They rarely asked questions, and if one did, she cut and ran.

“Okay...” she said as she reached the table, looking through the drinks. “I got an Aertos lager, two scotches, and a Sunrise on the Rings.”

The four men at the table grunted or made some other indication when she mentioned their drink choices. Dressed like dock workers, three had the hard faces and expressions of born sector 4-Bers. They were second or third generation for sure, born and bred in the shit. The last one, with the sparkly pink cocktail in front of him, was different. He was softer, definitely a new import trying to imitate the hard man attitude of his friends.

“Yeah, darling. Are you on the menu?” He leered at her and sniggered at his friends.

“Nope.” She didn’t let her expression alter, swiping his credit chip over her payment module. It bleeped to register the sale. “Since you ran the last whore off, you’ll have to step outside to find a different one.”

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