Chapter 9

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"What the fuck happened?!" Nausika hadn't seen Malik this angry for a long time. "Well? I'm fucking waiting!" Malik pressed, referring to the incident from earlier that day. He was right to be mad. She was supposed to be in charge of an easy gig – providing security detail for a meeting. Until it all exploded in her face.

"It's on me. My crew, my fault," she said as she snapped back from the events replaying in her head. "Nice try. It is your fucking fault, don't get me wrong. If you can't control your crew, then we've got a problem. A big fucking problem! The whole negotiation meeting almost exploded because of that voidhead - Jrue. Captain Yang almost tore my head off, Nausika. While I was trying to protect you. What the fuck happened?" Malik was shouting, spittle flying off the sides of his mouth.

"That moron Jrue got into a fight over sports with one of the guards they brought. Apparently, the guard is a big Sliders fan and was dissing the Aeros. They started shouting, and the other guy threw the first punch according to Jrue and Omer - "
"...Jrue drew out his gun in the middle of the fucking street, Nausika!"
"Yes, he did, and that's why he was punished so severely. I used the laces. He won't forget this mistake for a long time." Malik winced slightly, his tiny braids flailing as he shook his head. Not that it wasn't called for, it was just that anyone who was ever on the receiving end knew just how harsh of a punishment it was.

"Ok, good. That should at least get Yang off my back about voiding the kid. That leaves you." Nausika knew she'd be punished, and she accepted that. "I'm cutting your personal commissions by twenty percent for the next half-year and your crew is banned from high-bounty missions for the next year. She nodded solemnly; it was a tough blow, but it could have been worse. Her team wasn't going to like it, especially the veteran ones. Thinking about it, she needed to make sure no further retaliation was exacted on Jrue.

With that unpleasant business out of the way, Nausika and Malik had to hurry to get to the seniors' meeting. She didn't know what it was about, and Malik said he didn't either. They went to the cargo hold. It was the only place in the headquarters large enough for the leadership to gather. They were among the last to arrive, so they had to stand at the back of the room. There were a few light strips on the ceiling, but just like anywhere else in HQ, the place was dim and crowded. People had to stand between crates and boxes of anything from foodstuff to ship parts.

Mr. G, their leader, climbed up on top of a large container on the other side of the room and was getting ready to speak. No one knew his real name. Nausika suspected the top captains might, but the lower ranks didn't. There were rumors, of course, but she didn't have a way to know if any were true. Probably none were. G used his hands to signal everyone to quiet down. He wore a sleek black suit that couldn't hide his slightly bulging belly. His hair was fair, graying around the temples. Despite his shiny clothes, he was far from striking.

The room was filled with silence. G's face was grave. "Ok, people. I'll keep it short. I took this time to talk to you about a couple of things. First, we have had a good year. Revenue is up considerably. We have more territory under our control and more partnerships than ever before. Most of you can expect full commissions -" He had to stop as people were cheering, some were banging on the nearest crate. Again he raised his hands and pressed down to regain attention. "Ok, Ok! Quiet!" he shouted, and silence returned. "Ok. So, good job. Keep it up," he said in his uncharismatic way.

"Second, big things are coming our way. Nothing I'm gonna share details about right now, but I promise, it's going to be big. Real big. But for things to work according to plan, we all need to draw less attention for the next couple of months. So no unnecessary exposure, no new moves -" Nausika had the impression it wasn't easy for him to say that last part. Laying low was definitely not the man's style. Mr. G. was as flamboyant as they come. Even his sexual predatory nature was a matter of gossip. Apparently, the man fucked any young body, woman or man, that he could get into his bed.

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