A hexagon in Namurova
Rauni left the store carrying the box under his arm with a relaxed but firm step, getting into a gray and smelly maze of buildings which were either closed or abandoned businesses. He looked for the way back to the main street where he had parked his vehicle and following his distracted nature, he decided to cross the street without paying much attention. Cluelessly, a man on a motorcycle with wide tires and covered in a plate body almost ran over him. By dodging it, the man shouted a rudeness at him in a foreign language.
“Idiot...” said the blonde and sighed.
The main avenue was made up of several buildings of no more than five stories of cold colors, worn by the passage of time and the carelessness of people. Most of them remained empty and in dire condition, especially if it was further and further away from the central area of the drevokov. Dozens of old posters, broken light signs, murals and graffiti decorated the environment, leaving a depressing feeling when walking through those streets. People who managed to live in Ranthal and didn’t have much money had no option but to settle in an overcrowded area in the first level of the tower. So it was not uncommon to find an unpromising and otherwise dangerous scenario.
Rauni thought for a few seconds that he had taken the wrong path but he finally managed to get out onto the main avenue and this time he decided to look both ways before crossing the street. The street that made up the avenue was a lot different and a little more active. People walked on both sides of the street at a brisk pace, avoiding the street vendors who offered their wares at tempting prices. As for the vehicles in the area, not many passed by since people did not have the need to leave the drevokovs. Going up in the tower was usually the only option. Rauni, who used to oppose popular trends, had his vehicle parked in the direction of the exit of the gigantic tower-shaped city.
The vehicle, clearly out of date, was a black van decorated with two horizontal red lines that seemed to divide the sides of the vehicle in half. It had off-road tires and black iron head guards with additional lights. Above the driver’s window, it had four lights that could surely illuminate a fair amount of night terrain. On the right side it had a sliding door that Rauni avoided opening for some reason, while at the back two doors could be opened wide. Only the cabin had windows, and through it you could see a black-haired young man, lost in thought on a tablet in the passenger seat.
Rauni opened the driver’s door, tossed the box containing the sword behind the seat no matter where it fell and with an annoyed expression, climbed in and stared at the almost empty road.
The co-pilot jerked upright and raised his voice.
“Half an hour? Really?” the young man exclaimed.
The boy was dressed in a navy blue jacket with pockets and zippers throughout, black cloth pants, and old dark boots. However, what was most striking about Louhi’s appearance was something not very common in Namurova. It was a metallic implant that covered part of his right face, extending to his ear, which was also part of the device. This prosthesis channeled the visual information from his right eye through a circular lens very similar to a camera. A reddish light indicated the level of process the device was performing, although Louhi had learned to modify it for certain occasions, as when he added a closing function, which covered the lens every time his brain gave the order to blink or close his eyes. As for his ear, there was nothing to mimic it having only four diagonal grooves you could see if you took jet black hair out of the way, something a bit difficult for anyone. He combed it to the right side of his face so no one could look at it.
“Leave me alone, for the love of The Celestials. I have the sword, that’s what counts. Are we leaving or will you scold me like a mother all day?” Rauni quickly replied.
“Just ...” Louhi took a deep breath and sighed heavily “Just start driving, will you?” The boy crossed his arms as he looked towards his window.
“Yes, Mom ...” Rauni started the van and the vehicle drove down the street, slowly moving away from the suburbs.
As he made his way down the old highway, the buildings got smaller and smaller but at the same time, the carelessness became more apparent as did the presence of empty land littered with trash or debris. Few people walked through these places, a lot less compared to the place that the mercenary had parked his vehicle. The desolation of the place was understandable because everything was located near the central tower. The vehicle was moving at a speed between 60 and 70 kilometers per hour while it was still in the city, but when he was able to cross the abandoned entrance control, Rauni immediately changed gears and accelerated reaching 100 km/h in a few seconds.
“I don’t know why I keep letting you drive, you’re too sloppy,” Louhi grumbled, thinking that Rauni probably wasn’t even approved at driving school.
“Because I remind you that this preciousness is mine. Isn’t that right, my love?” Rauni stated with a proud smile on his face. He honked twice and looked at Louhi. “See? She loves me.
Louhi shook his head in disapproval and went back to his tablet. It lit up and a hologram was appeared on the small metal plate that the brunette was holding. By selecting a couple of options, a map expanded upwards in a three-dimensional way. Louhi had swapped his position icon for a vehicle and he could see that they were slowly making their way down the road outside Ranthal.
“On a different matter, according to the GPS we should be there in a little over than an hour. And by the way,” he added “don’t you think it’s about time you told me what this work is about?” Louhi said as he fiddled with the map, turning it from side to side. “You just told me to look for the location, I don’t even know what the hell is there.”
The mercenary was going to make a joke about it, but glacing out of the corner of his eye at his companion, he realized that it was not the right time to do so. He lowered the volume of the music a little and decided to answer to his friend.
“Do you remember the star we saw a while ago? The one that we joked about it falling down.”
“Of course I do, it was about a month ago. Not much was known after that and not even the black market media knew anything about it. Wait ... ” he looked at him expectantly “Don’t tell me that the rumor about it being a meteorite was true.”
“I knew it!” Louhi exclaimed excitedly. “Many people commented on the possibility that an object from space had fallen to Earth, but that hasn’t happened in centuries. Falling stars are common but we have never heard of one that actually fell to our Earth. There are even people who say that meteorites are part of mythology.”
“Well, that’s precisely our loot. I have no idea what the hell is it or why they want it, but apparently there are many scientists who desperate for having it even for a few minutes.” He paused. “It’s what I imagine, at least.”
“And? What’s the trap?” Louhi narrowed his eyes suspiciously.
“T-trap? What are you talking about?” Rauni hesitated and even released the accelerator pedal for a second.
“Point one: it’s meteorite that fell in our country.” he held up his left index finger and continued with each point he mentioned. “Point two: the government and the media gave a false public statement regarding this and also, they revived an absurd conflict so that people’s attention was diverted; no one cares at this point about collusion on UniNet services. Point three: there are no mercenaries or hunters even mentioning the meteorite, which means it is so valuable that it is not shared with anyone or, in fact, no one has any kind of information. Point Four: You bought a new sword, which means there will be trouble; from the location of the target I assume there will also be beasts. And finally, your contact is too suspicious. So, the moment of truth has come. Who is paying? The boy turned off the hologram on the tablet and stared at Rauni’s nervous expression.
The mercenary sighed.
“Is it... the government? Do you want to work for the government? Rauni, I think we had talked about…” The mercenary cut him off.
“Worse.” The word seemed to baffle the young man. And since he didn’t say anything else, Rauni continued. “Mariah.”
There was a pause, until Louhi reacted.
“Oh for the love of The Celestials, Rauni! Mariah? Are you serious!?”
“We’ll steal the meteorite from the government and deliver it to my contact for an absurdly high sum. We’ll be able to buy a better vehicle and we can become the best equipped mercenaries in the whole country. They would hire us on any important job!”
A new silence settled down among them for a few seconds. All the noise that could be heard was the engine and the music played on the radio. Rauni, uncomfortable by the long moment and the expressionless face that Louhi had adopted, decided to press.
“Nothing? Aren’t you upset?”
“At this point...” he rubbed his face with his hands and adjusted his hair. “I already expected it to be something that absurd, risky and stupid, otherwise it wouldn’t be you.”
“And... won’t you say anything?”
“If you want me to be honest, I’m really upset because you think I’d back down with something like that. While you know I don’t agree with taking risks this big, we’ve been doing illicit work for years. And it bothers me a little bit to work with that fucking witch of Mariah; she is an unreliable old woman, even by the black market standards. However, am I be upset about that? Or is it because part of me thinks you’re a greedy rat who wanted all the loot for himself?”
A chill ran down Rauni’s spine and he gave a nervous laugh, but he breathed calmly again when he looked at Louhi’s confident face full of expectations for the challenge he was going to face. The eye that was still human was shining with an intensity he had not witnessed for a long time.
“I didn’t want the loot for myself. I just thought it would be very dangerous. I know we’ve done some shady stuff, but this is on a whole different level. If they discover us, we’ll be considered traitors and due to the seriousness of the crime I’d expect nothing less than an execution” Rauni explained, as if it was the obvious.
“But they won’t. We’ll go there and find a way to enter without being detected, as we’ve done several times. We’ll steal the meteorite and sell it as soon as we can.”
“You sound too confident to be true. What’s your trap?” Rauni narrowed his eyes and a thin smile appeared on his face.
“I’m interested on the money. Great risks bring great rewards. How much are we talking about?” Louhi took a bottle of water from the floor and started drinking from it.
“Well, just 30 million kuramas” said Rauni as if it were a smaller sum.
Louhi spat the water forward soaking everything in his path, including his clothes, the glass, his tablet, and the dashboard of the vehicle. Then he coughed a couple of times and looked at Rauni who laughed for a good couple of seconds.
“30 million!? You could buy yourself a damn mansion with that amount and you are only thinking about buying a new vehicle! Now I’m really upset!” The young man shouted and hit the driver’s right arm.
“Come on, don’t you think you are exaggerating?”
“I’m not. You were going to this by yourself and you weren’t going to tell me at all! You’re such a…” Louhi growled under his breath. “I’ll be helping you, so I’ll be waiting for those 15 million.
“I know, I know, you don’t have to tell me.”
The area located several kilometers beyond the south exit of Ranthal was considered one of the most beautiful places left in the world because of its abundant vegetation. The fertile land of southern Namurova gave way to vast grasslands, boreal forests, and vegetation of all kinds. The road had different unpaved exits that led to modern farms with tens of hectares of space where livestock, mainly made up of aegaboses (animals with mixed characteristics of creatures previously known as goats and cows) which enjoyed freedom far from civilization. Other animals that remained over time, such as chickens, pigs and horse were also part of the terrain, but in general the areas were divided for the comfort of each being. All these creatures belonged to level 100 in terms of danger, because they were considered docile species. In that regard, plants were similar as they were also kept in separate productions due to the fear of possible modification of species which was very easy for some of them. For that reason, it was not uncommon to see farms that produced only one type of vegetable or fruit. In fact, the farms south of Namurova specialized in maize (a gigantic one) and various green fruits.
Rauni and Louhi’s first half-hour drive showed the meadows around Ranthal. The only mountains were towards the coast hundreds of kilometers from there, where no human settlement had managed to complete due to the absurd number of creatures level 15 and downwards. The road past the farms gave way to lush forests and wide plains, where wild animals could be seen running around, always far from the road. At least, that was how it was in most cases.
After passing through an extensive tunnel that felt like an eternity to both of them, they managed to reach another meadow where they finally spotted in the distance the place that the geolocation marked; the place where the meteorite had actually fallen.
“Houston, we have a problem” said Louhi, focusing his gaze on the place. Then he added, thinking of the phrase his partner had taught him. “Who the hell is Houston?”
“No idea” he answered, activating the parking brake.
At a distance of 5 kilometers, in a relatively flat meadow on the left side of the road, there was a unknown structure to them and with no sign of having been marked on the map. They discovered that the meteorite was walled within large concrete walls, about 6 meters tall with the shape of a hexagon. They were gray and completely smooth, impossible to climb without equipment. Each part of the structure had the logo of the nation and under it they had the inscription of the National Guard. Surrounding the wall, there were soldiers at each point guarding the perimeter, each one carrying a plasma rifle, something unusual for the Guard. In general, any situation was handled with electromagnetic weapons in order to avoid serious or even lethal injuries, but if there were plasma weapons involved in the matter of the meteorite, it meant that it was the highest priority of the government at that time and that no matter what or whoever interfered, the order would be to annihilate the target.
Despite the size of the vehicle, Rauni managed to hide it completely from the view of the soldiers, locating himself in a small forest on the right side of the road. At this distance, unless they were on patrol rounds or they had snipers, it was impossible for them to be seen. However, Louhi could and immediately got out of the van, leaving the door open. He brushed his hair off his face and started looking through his mechanical eye.
“Walls, chambers, and soldiers with plasma rifles. Rauni, this is big” said the young one, studying the area. “We should probably ask for a little more than 30 million.”
Rauni lowered the glass and began taking note of all the details that his partner was giving him. There were a lot of variables to deal with, but it shouldn’t be that difficult. At least, he believed that. When Louhi finished enlisting, Rauni moved to the back of the vehicle and turned on a light hanging from the ceiling and amid the mess the mercenary took out a piece of paper and a pencil. Louhi got back in and this time closed the passenger door. He turned the seat backwards with a mechanism and stared at his squatting partner smiling as he scratched the paper.
—To win a lot you have to risk a lot, as you said. Let’s do this.
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