Time: Shortly before Hell for the Company
Place: Caravel Station
There was a huge slab of military beef lounging by the access tube. Shax might have said lurking with any other loiterer but this one was far too conspicuous to hope for his lurking license to come any time soon. He was just the sort Verin went after for a quick screw but Ver never, ever brought his toys home.
"Can I help you, young man?" Shax pulled out his most charming smile.
"Looking for a demon." The voice was gruff though much higher than Shax had expected.
Shax spread his arms wide. "You've found one. What can I do for you?"
"Not you. Bigger demon. Big…" The soldier made a swirling gesture with one hand. "Curly horns."
"I see." Shax stopped flirting and took on a vaguely bored air of authority. "This is my ship, soldier. Why would you come looking here?"
"Only demon registered ship in port." The answer was sullen, the young man's forehead crinkled as if he were being forced to think too hard.
"I suppose that's fair. Though a large, pugilistically inclined demon could be employed as security on anyone's ship."
This only brought more wrinkles of confusion. Shax tried smaller words.
"Why were you looking for the big demon?"
"Took my chip."
"Your…what sort of chip?"
"For access. I'll be missing at head count. They'll toss me in the brig."
How any authorities this benighted soul answered to could toss him in the brig when he wasn't there was a bit of a puzzle, but Shax supposed that wasn't really the point.
"I see." Shax swaggered up to him and patted his chest as if he were no more than a bulky pet. "I suppose I'll see what I can find out, shall I? Back in a tic or so."
Ivana must've been monitoring since she opened the iris for him discreetly and shut it right on his heels.
"Thank you, darling. Is Verin aboard?"
"You bet your adorable buns he is, Captain. Are you going to get all butch and bellowy?"
Shax strode to the nearest comm panel. "I suppose that depends on Verin." He hit the pad and sang out sweetly, "Veeerrr-innn. Are you busy?"
"The fuck, Shaxy?" Verin growled in response. "I'm off shift. Which means asleep, you spoiled asshole."
"Verin, you get your foul-mouthed, disrespectful, lazy backside out of bed and get down here. You want to leave potential trouble on my doorstep and go to bed? Fine. You can stay behind when Ivana and I leave tonight."
"I'm counting to ten. One…"
The comm cut out on a searing blue streak from Verin, though Shax only made it to six before Verin careened around the corner in nothing but a pair of work pants.
"The fuck, Shaxy? What's got your corset in a twist?"
Rather than answer, Shax brought up the vid of the tube entrance where soldier boy still loomed, staring at the closed iris with angry eyebrows.
"Hey. He wasn't following me when I left. And I'm not gonna ask if I can keep the damn kid."
"So he was your shag of the day?"
"And you took his ident chip that he needs to get back on his troop ship?" Shax waved both arms in expansive arcs. "Why would you do such a thing?"
"He was a sucky lay. Worst ever. I stole his sidearm too. Dumped the shitty thing in a compactor."
"It was out of spite?" Shax waited until Verin tilted his head in an almost-nod before scrubbing both hands over his face. "Hell's sharp, sizzling gates, Ver. Now I have this puppy outside our ship attracting attention, who probably has some internal tracker so the soldier boys won't lose any wandering sparrows. If you're going to steal something that brings us trouble, at least make it something good!"
Smoke curled from Verin's nostrils, just enough for perplexed annoyance. "Yeah, yeah. Mixing your metaphors and shit. I didn't expect the brainless wonder to follow me. Figured he'd wander back to his unit, take his punishment duty or whatever and get a new chip."
Shax rested his head on Verin's shoulder. "Tell me you have it, Ver. Please. At least tell me that so I can salvage this. The last thing we need is to kick up the interest of space marines."
"Yeah, I got fucking the thing. But he—"
"No. Not another word. Just give the chip to me and I will fix this."
"I don't see—"
Shax pulled himself to his full height, which, granted, wasn't much, held out his hand and said in his best imperious voice, "Chip. Now."
Verin grumbled, snorting sparks as he checked his pockets, and finally handed over the data chip in its plas-film holder. Shax snatched it up, palmed it, and took several slow, deep breaths so he wouldn't march out there looking like a little ginger thundercloud.
"Well, I've consulted," Shax began as he breezed back out the access iris. "And I'm afraid I can't help you with this other demon."
"But he has to be here!" A bit of a wail had crept into the anger. Soldier boy was on his last thread of reasonable behavior.
"Now, now." Shax sidled close to put an arm around him. "Are you certain you've lost it? Have you checked your pockets thoroughly, my dear?"
"Of course I checked my pockets!" Nevertheless, the soldier began stuffing his hands in his pockets in quick succession. Shirt. Jacket. Top pants pockets. "I'm not a complete id—" Cargo pockets. His hands stilled and his eyes went wide as he withdrew his data chip from the left pocket. "I—"
"Did you find it? Lovely!" Shax patted him on the shoulder and gave him a beatific smile.
"I'm… Sorry. To bother you, Captain. I'm—"
"No bother at all, my dear. Always nice to see a handsome face. Now toddle along. I'm certain your sergeant must be missing you." Amusement warred with his annoyance as the soldier turned about and wandered off, shaking his head. Shax waved cheerfully when he glanced back. "Buh-bye! Have a nice tour of duty! Stop picking up bad demons in bars! Call your mom!"
Shax stomped back through the access tube and planted his fists on his hips to confront Verin. "Well?"
Verin had the audacity to snicker. "Call your mom?"
"The next time you want a bit of rough trade, you either stay away from the damn enlisted men or you keep your damn hands out of their pockets. Are we clear?"
"Yeah, sure, Shaxy." Verin was still chuckling as he wandered back to bed. "Heh. Call your mom."
With an exaggerated sigh, Shax turned the unavailable light on at the access port. He needed a nap himself. "Honestly, what good is it being a demon prince if you can't even intimidate your one minion?"
About The Brimstone Journals
Extra treats for our Brimstone readers, Brimstone Journals will post every Tuesday. Short scenes from characters' lives before, after or during the stories.
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