“Hey, Boss! You gotta visitor.” Ahmed Mubai jumped in his chair.
“Feckless brack! Jace! I told you never to do that.”
“Do what?” Jace said leaning against the door frame picking at his nails.
“Pop up outta nowhere like that. I hope you realize how lucky you are to be alive right now,” Mubai waved the laser pistol in his hand. “Could shot the base offal right outta ya.”
“No ya wouldn’ta. Ya love me too much.”
“No. Really. I hate you.” Mubai took out a cloth and began wiping down the gun.
“Ya keep me around, though.”
“You just happen to be hard to get rid of. If there was anyone else with better skills than yours, I woulda gotten rid of you long, long ago.”
“Speaking a people with skills, why ya never get Rowan on ya side?”
“Rowan? Rowan Grovenski? As in Cakeman Grovenski? Are you kidding?” Mubai grimaced. “He wouldn’t listen one bit to me. Too stuck following Lex Palming. Not that I hate the guy, jus’ he’s much too talented at finding good people.”
“Oh, well Boss, ya gotta nother chance at it.”
“Wait what? What do you mean?”
“They’re here ta visit ya. Wendle’s gottem in the front parlor.”
“Bracking prat, Jace! Tell me sooner!” Mubai launched his plump self out of his chair and down the hallway. Jace followed behind the hurrying man with a smooth, easy grace. When they reached the door to the front parlor, Mubai paused to smooth his shirt and wipe the dripping sweat off his forehead with a cloth. He cleared his throat and signaled to Jace to open the door.
Mubai walked in poised, as if he hadn’t just been bolting down the hallway. He glanced over at the four other people in the room. One was his man, Wendle, standing guard at the door. Lex had seated himself in the middle of the embroidered settee. He leaned slightly forward with his hands steepled resting on his knees.
Lex watched as Mubai made his entrance. Mubai crossed the room and sat in the settee across from Lex. He made careful note of Mevin and Rowan standing on either side behind Lex’s seat. Jace came and stood behind Mubai. The air in the room grew tense as both Mubai and Lex strove to intimidate the other.
“Lex Palming,” Mubai said, breaking the silence, “My, how it has been such a long time. What brings you to my humble aboad? Care for a drink?” He gestured to the glasses on the table between them.
“Hello, Mubai. I’m glad that you are looking just as well as when I last saw you. Sorry, I must decline your offer. I have recently made the resolution to abstain from alcohol. Please forgive my offense.”
Mubai waved his hand in the air. “Perfectly alright. I admire that. Please, by all means, no need for further small talk. We’re friends. Let’s be candid. Lex, forgive me for asking, but what are you here for?”
Lex gave a wry laugh. “I make you nervous?” Mubai’s clenched fists grew white.
“I wouldn’t be lying if I said you did. You have a surprising amount of power for just a mercenary. Who knows who else could be life indebted to you.”
“I’ve come to help you with that actually. I know you hate owing me.”
“Oh? You finally have a favor to ask? After all these years saying you had nothing you needed?” Mubai raised an eyebrow.
“Yes. As a matter of fact, I do. However, whether or not you can help me with it…”
“There’s not many things I cannot do.”
“I see. However, tell me, friend. Has Toulene contacted you recently?”
“Toulene? Jacob Toulene? No. Why would he?”
“Mubai. My favor is rather difficult. It involves something that Toulene wants. Are you willing to risk getting on his bad side to grant it?”
Mubai drummed his fingers on his knee. “Why would I not be? I can handle Toulene. He doesn’t have as much influence in India as he thinks he does. He was never one of my favorites anyway. Though, I am curious. What’s got him to make a move? I assume you already know he had a ship cross the Wall the other day.”
“Yes, I know. He hired marauders to raid us on our way in.”
“I pity them.” Lex cracked a grin.
“He wants a kid that I picked up from Pandora. Not only him, but the People’s Army most definitely has their eye out for the kid as well.”
“Okay, what do you want me to do?”
“I need supplies. We’re almost out of missiles. Food, guns, your newest stealth gear, anything you think will be useful for staying low. If we could use one of your safe houses in the Himalayas, that would be much appreciated.”
“That’s not hard to arrange, but you know that’s only a stop gap measure.”
“Yes, I know. It’s just until I figure out how to get Toulene off our backs. He’s known for a rather short attention span.”
“He’s also known for not letting go until he’s got what he wants. You’re walking a short line, Lex.” Mubai watched as a tired expression flitted across Lex’s face. “As long as he know’s you’ve got this kid that’s spiked his interest, I don’t think he’ll let you off.”
“You have something to suggest, then?”
“I know you don’t trust me, not even as far as you can throw me, but listen to this. Let the kid stay here. Toulene can’t get into my Camilla group, and people here in India don’t take well to outside influence. I’ll be sure to protect him, and if you’re still unsure, you can leave Rowan with him. That way, you can go and deal with Toulene directly.”
Lex pursed his lips together. A sudden commotion sounded outside the door. Basalt burst into the room followed by several breathless men in suits who failed in restraining him.
“Basalt?” Lex said.
“Hime! Hime! It’s all my fault!”
“Sorry, Boss, he rushed in like a mad man. We couldn’t keep him down,” one of the men said.
“It’s alright. He’s one of Lex’s, but be better about it next time.” He shot a heavy glare at the man. An audible gulp was heard.
“Basalt,” Lex gripped him by the arms. “what’s the matter? What happened?”
“Seven! It’s Seven.”
“What about Seven?”
End of Chapter 6