There was a roar like yell and Jacoby looked up from the Anti-Gravity generator he was cleaning. This one was from the new hover and hadn’t been maintained any better. A group of children were running away from where Tech had stopped working on the wall to terrorize them.
Like each time before, this had become some sort of game for the children ever since the party, they’d dared each other to get as close to him as possible, and the result was predictable.
He wondered if Tech chased them and actually caught one, would he hurt them? If he did would the rest of the people force them to leave? Putting an end to this waste of time?
What is wrong with you, Jacoby? He wondered. They’re just kids. You shouldn’t want them to get hurt. It isn’t like they are responsible for what Alex is doing, or how the adults are acting.
Some of the adults also came to see Tech now. They tried to engage them in conversation, and didn’t have the good sense to get away when Tech began growling, so they ended up bruised and clawed. Jacoby thought that after a few of those they’d be told to leave, that the town couldn’t accept someone that violent around their temple. But all that happened was that after a few days, they learned to keep their distances.
But now they were leaving Tech food, as a way of honoring him, and other small gifts. Interestingly enough, not one of them offered to help with the wall, and Jacoby couldn’t figure out if it was because they respected the Tech needed to be the one to do the work, or because they were hoping to keep him around to keep fighting against the attacking mercs.
Listening to them talk on the gun range, the Samalian had taken to speaking in Standard as much as they were capable of, so even if the conversation were broken as best, Jacoby was able to piece together that the locals were likening Tech to some sort of god, or maybe a folk-hero called the Aggressor. He remembered the statue in the temple, but he hadn’t cared about what the priestess had said, and with primitive people like this who knew what they ended up worshiping.
“Rig,” Jacoby called. “Shouldn’t you go practice hand to hand?” The Samalian had been shooting targets every day since the battle, and he had already been good then.
“Another time,” he replied and drained the DSU-21 at the target, with a succession of shots that left nothing of it.
Something had happened between him and Alex, and now instead of spending any time not training with Alex, Rig avoided him. Alex didn’t seem to care one way or the other. He focused on the training, hand to hand, and using knives, with the few Samalian who had an interest in leaning it. They already came armed with claws, so most didn’t see a point in it.
Not having Rig at his side didn’t keep Alex from spending time with the locals, he seemed to be able to converse with them well enough without an interpreter now. And he continued to spend far too much time in town. What was there to do in a place like this for someone like Alex? Drink and… Jacoby shook his head. Alex might be one of those who didn’t mind Aliens, but he couldn’t believe he’d be sleeping with someone else behind Techs’ back.
Then again, Jacoby had seen how free Samalians tended to be with whom they loved, maybe Alex figured it was okay since Tech was a Samalian? Well, that was Alex’s problem, if he did.
“Alex,” He asked when he saw him next, his curiosity getting the better of him. “What’s keeping you so busy in town?”
That brought Jacoby up short. “They have computers?”
“A few, but they haven’t been able to use them, they got infected, and the processors got overwhelmed.”
“That can’t be that difficult to fix for you.”
“It wasn’t, but turns out there’s something out there actively trying to infect the computers.”
Jacoby looked at the hover. “Should I worry?”
Alex followed his gaze. “No. We’re safe. It’s targeting these computers specifically. I’m thinking it’s part of the corporations’ strategy. Without them they can’t contact anyone for help or even find out if this is happening to other towns. That’s mostly how they used them before, as comm systems.”
Alex nodded to the table and everything on it. “How’s that going?”
“It’s going. I swear, the rental companies here don’t do any maintenance on their hovers.” He indicated the tree line. “That one’s navigation system was about to fail, and I don’t mean programs too out of date. The hardware crumbled in my hands when I tried to pull it out. Those mercs weren’t going to make it back if they’d survived that fight.”
Alex was silent long enough Jacoby looked up from the power coupling he was repairing.
Alex noticed him. “I was just wondering if that might be part of the Corporation’s plan too. Do you think it was sabotage?”
“Tech would be the one to ask for that. I can repair a hover, but unless they leave a datapad in it saying how they sabotage it, it’s beyond me. You think the corporates are looking to save money by getting rid of their mercs once the job’s done?”
“It’s happened to me and Tristan often enough. Mercs are disposable for them. Promise them lots of money to do some job that’s too dirty for their precious little hands and once it’s done blow them up out of the sky.”
“Blow you and him up?”
Alex smiled. “They tried, and they paid for it.”
Jacoby shook his head. “Back in my time there was more respect for the job we did. But I don’t think this is some corporate double cross. You said that before the merc just showed up, harassed the locals, killed some of the herd animals. The escalation only started once they stopped returning. That tells me they were expected back.”
“Yeah, I expect you’re right.” Alex turned. “I’m going to get back to that infection. I just came to grab a few of those Data pads we’ve been accumulating. And your fan club is coming over.”
Jacoby looked toward the shooting range and six Samalians were heading in his direction. He swore. He’d thought he’d made it clear to them he wasn’t interested.
“Ja-Co-By!” the tallest of them, A woman by the name of Alor’nis, called. “Shoot done!”
“So I can see,” he replied, not bothering to sound jovial. These six either couldn’t or didn’t bother picking up on his mood.
“You go have fun.”
She canted her heard. “Come.”
“Not interested, Told you that before.”
The others exchanged words in Samalians.
She stepped close enough she could place a hand on his shoulder. “Come,” she repeated. “Hero. Celebrate.”
He fought the urge to slap her hand away. It didn’t mean anything to them, they were always touching each other. Even now, the rest were leaning on one another, watching them. They were grinning like this was some kind of show.
“I’m no hero. You guys go have fun. I’m busy.”
She looked at the table. “Busy?” her hand was trailing down his arm.
“Yes, busy,” he growled.
Her hand closed around his and she pulled him out of the chair. “Come!” she laughed.
Jacoby reacted without thinking. As he collided with her, he put a leg behind hers and pushed her off balance. She kept laughing as she fell back, still holding his hand and grabbing his belt with the other. He was airborne, and then on his back, rolling to get to his feet.
She came at him and they grappled. She was strong, he knew that, but not as skilled as he was. He claws were sheathed, so this wasn’t a serious fight as far as she was concerned. It didn’t mean Jacoby wasn’t pissed about it.
He let himself fall back, hoping to throw her, but she moved to the side, his foot missing her stomach and they ended up rolling on the grass until they stopped with her on top of him.
“Come?” She asked, breathlessly.
Jacoby pressed the gun’s barrel against her side. “If you don’t get off me, I’m going to shoot.”
Laughing she rolled off.
Jacoby got to his feet and holstered his gun. “What has gotten into you? If you want to fight with someone, you have plenty of people who’ll do it. Now leave me alone, I have work to do.”
She canted her head. He doubted she’d understood most of what he’d said. Hopefully the tome had been enough.
“Yes, I’m angry. It’s bad enough you keep interrupting me when I’ve told you over and over I’m not interested in getting a drink with you and your friends, but now you think you can force me?” He headed for the table. The five others were standing there, looking like they’d approved of the show. Well fucking good for them. Maybe they’d leave him alone now.
She got to her feet, had still canted. “Not alone.”
“Exactly, so go spend time with them and stop bothering me.” He let himself fall in the chair and forced himself to ignore them.
When they were far enough he didn’t think they’d see him he put his head, in his hands. What was her problem? What was so damned important about sharing drinks with them? It had to be because Alex was doing it with the Samalians he was training. She thought he should go too. Hopefully now she’d gotten the message.
He looked at the sky over the forest and longed for the next attack so he could forget about this place, these people, for a short amount of time.