Radeeka looked around with well-hidden dislike of her surroundings. True there were worse places in the universe, but for some reason she had never liked Stelt. Of course, coming here for a new boat was better than going all the way to Xia on the back of a Razor Whale. So, here they were at one of Radeeka’s least favorite islands in the universe, and they couldn’t get off it thanks to the fact that they hadn’t brought enough to trade with.
She sighed and tuned back in to the conversation between Hardex and the trader who had a boat that fit their needs.
“I am sorry but a couple Kanohi and a paltry 450 widgets are not worth a boat as fine as this, although…,” The traders eye had a glint that Radeeka did not like at all, “I might accept if you toss in that fine sword you have there...”
“No.” Hardex was losing patients with the trader. “This is our offer take it or leave it.”
“Well I have to make some profit out of this boat. They don’t build themselves you know.” He looked over at Radeeka. “Would you be willing to part with her sword?”
“That would be up to her.” He looked her way. “Radeeka?”
She sighed. “Very well.” She tossed the sword into the small pile. “Will that do?”
“Yes or no.” Hardex glared at him. The trader was a full head shorter than Hardex and took an involuntary step back.
“I guess I’ll have to say yes.” He said trying to keep his composure. “Yes, the boat is yours, have a good journey.”
“Thank you, have a nice day.” Hardex said, turning away from the trader, Radeeka right behind.
They walked down the dock to their new ship.
Hardex looked at the sleek sides of the craft, then analyzed the strong, flexible mast then sighed.
“It will have to do.”
* * *
The trader smiled as they walked out. Pulling out a staff he had “borrowed” the last time he visited Onu-Metru, he took aim and fired at the ship as it left port, striking the vessel amidships without attracting the attention of either one of its two crewmembers.
He picked up the screen that had a detailed map with one blinking light on the coast of Stelt and smiled even wider.
* * *
The trip to Xia from there was uneventful at best. The Vortixx, naturally, tried to finagle a higher price out of Hardex. They now know better than to try that with him again. After loading everything aboard, and making sure nothing was missing, Radeeka and Hardex set sail again the next day.
After some time sailing, Hardex left Radeeka on watch, and retired to below decks and, Radeeka noticed, did not give any reason other than being tired.
It was about an hour later that she called him back up and brought his attention to a ship that she said had been following them for some time in an irregular fashion to avoid being noticed.
“Who do you think it is?” Hardex said, looking at her.
“Probably the ones that attacked us on the way Xia.” Then she added, “And the ones that have been causing the blasters to disappear.”
He reached into his pack, pulled out an Akaku, and switched it for the mask he had been wearing. “I see about… a half dozen Skakdi, and one is a little taller.”
“He’ll be the leader.”
He frowned. “Maybe.”
Hardex turned just in time to see another ship that had snuck up on them while they were examining the other craft, come right along side them. He barely got himself out of the way as the crew of the second ship open fire with the missing Cordak blasters, and even then, several chunks of protodermis hit him in the head, stunning him momentarily.
Shaking his head to clear it, Hardex assessed the situation. There were eight Skakdi against himself and Radeeka that had boarded the ship. He could also see two others still armed with the blasters in the masts of the other ship. The damage to his vessel did not weaken the integrity of the hull, but had still badly crippled the craft. However, why Radeeka hadn't seen the other ship heading for them sooner he couldn’t guess.
Acting swiftly he leaped out from his cover and blasted one of his opponents in the other ships mast into the sea as he tried to fire at Radeeka and, dodging several shots from other Skakdi in the mast, he tackled two that were trying to circle around Radeeka. He smashed the head of one into the mast, then parried a strike from the others axe. Recovering faster than Hardex expected the first foe rammed Hardex off balance long enough for his ally to knock Hardex’s sword out of his hand. Twisting painfully to the side, Hardex barely avoided another shot from the sniper in the other ships mast.
However, that move cost him even more footing as two more Skakdi, wielding a clubs, struck him hard from behind, bringing him down to the deck. The Skakdi with the axe smashed Hardex’s mask as he attempted to rise. He lashed out trying to bring one of his opponents down earning himself a blow in the back of the head with a club. Barely conscious, Hardex saw Radeeka, with several Skakdi standing to attention around her, rise from the ground. He smiled slightly, realizing who was behind it all. Then he was struck again and was lost completely to unconsciousness.