The closest settlement to the edge of the desert, New Thebes . It started out as a small outpost for the peacekeepers, the mercenary company contracted to uphold the local laws and handle any disputes that occur. A small town soon sprung up around the base, traders and workers as well as the local watering hole, Krangs bar.
This is where we find Pax.
The deserters are led off into one of the small structures under the guns of the peacekeepers.
"Let's go sergeant, we are taking you to the magistrate."
"Let's go then, get this over with." Pax replied.
Inside the big structure is the main offices and barracks for the stationed troops.
Pax looks around as they walk through the corridors and rooms, before stopping at a desk into what he can only guess is the magistrates office.
A captain stands guard at the door. "Is this the one?" he asks the peacekeeper escorting Korbin.
"Good, bring him in, the magistrate is waiting."
A older man stands before him.
"Sergeant, I'd like to hear your explanation for operating a restricted weapon system in a off-limits zone."
Pax takes a deep breath, makes his case and tells the story of the attack on his company, being knocked out and wandering through the desert before coming upon the deserters and being found by the patrol.
"I am sorry for your loss, mr Korbin, but you now have a problem. No, not the dererters, we would have delt with them much the same way as you. The HARD suit, now that is only allowed to stay in your possession if you are a registered mercenary and with the dissolution of the Corvi Headhunters, you no longer are."
The magistrate pauses for a bit before continuing: "However, we find ourselves with an opportunity, if you are so inclined." Pax nods for him to continue. "We recently lost a member on patrol, he was taken by the same deserters as you encountered. If you could help us rescue him, we would be inclined to offer you a freelancer charter."
With other options thin on the ground, Pax accepted.
It's a good defensive position, high rock-faces on all sides exept for a small opening and that has been reinforced with some rockcrete barriers.
The deserters clearly outnumber the party from earlier reports, something that is quickly confirmed to still be true, as the captain of the Peacekeepers survey the area with a spy drone.
"They haven't noticed our precence yet, we sneak up, take out the guards at the entrance. Then we get the ones around those buildings with these." he opens a small crate that they brought, labled "Explosives": inside is a dozen grenades. Everybody grabs a few each, and get ready for action.
A brilliant beam of light shoots out of the shadows, narrowly missing the guard on the right.
It's close enough to set fire to his sleeve however, sending him rolling on the ground, both to avoid the next shot as well as to put out the fire!
Knowing that they have been discovered, the mercs release a torrent of full auto fire against the gate guards, sending the heavy weapon guard on the left into cover. His rolling friend is less lucky, taking several hits before stopping completely.
"That will do it, corporal. Get the apc before the rest of the enemy come up to reinforce!"
His subordinate took off in a run after a prefunctory salute.
This assault gives the plasma gunner at the gate time to line up a shot at the apc as it swings around the big rock, the ball of incandescent fury slams into the vehicle, boiling off armor before dissipating.
Pax attempts to throw one of the grenades, but it bounces off the protective wall and explodes harmlessly a dozen meters from his intended target..
Having finally zeroed in on the gate proper and it's defenders, the apc's gun starts reaping a bloody harvest, downing both the plasma gunner that injured it as well as the man next to him.
A lucky pistol shot from one of the deserter leaders manage to strike the Peacekeeper captain between two armor plates, throwing him bleeding and cursing to the ground.
The man next to him administer first aid, stabilizing the captain, but he is out of the fight for now.
His beam finds it's mark this time, burning straight through the deserter it hits, dropping him like a bag of rocks.
His headlong charge allows for the accurate leader the brought down the captain to wing him as well, but Pax still manages to reach the cover of the rockcrete barrier!
Meanwhile the second merc come up from behind in support of Korbin, allowing the latter to dispatch another deserter with a searing shot.
"That's far enough! If you want your man alive, you will let us through. When we are safely away, we will let him go!" The leader yells, the tension in his voice evident. "Do you think you can make the shot?" Pax whispered to the Peacekeepers. "Take the shot!" came the captains voice from behind them, still powerful even with the blood-loss.
With an almost impreceptible nod Pax signaled the other two.
As one, they all raised their guns and fired.
All three deserters fell, wounded but very much alive. The trio dashed forward, finishing the job before the wounded men could try to carry out their threat.
This was all well and good, but it didn't change the more basic problem our adventurer has: He is pretty much broke. Restoring the Mk III, resupplying it with ammo and fuel, transportation and lodging would all cost a pretty penny, money he simply didn't have as the last Headhunters contract was null and void, even if he could have found somebody to honor it.
So he did what many men do in such a situation. He went to the bar.
The bar was somewhat dirty and the lighting poor, just like you'd expect. A few patrons arguing over the results of a Battling match in a corner booth, the bartender polishing a dirty glass with a dirtier towel.
He turned around, and found himself staring at Gibson Law, formerly of the Corvi Headhunters.
The Old Man, he survived!
Pax stood up and gave his comrade in arms a bear-hug, while both of them laughed at the improbability of the situation. Two men surviving that firestorm, what were the odds?
"I don't know how you got out kid, but I'm sure glad you did."
"Likewise, I thought I was the only one!" Pax smiled and ordered up a shot for Law as well.
The Old Man wrinkled his nose at the smell of the synthahol, commenting on it's foul taste as well.
"It seems we have fallen on hard times indeed when we are reduced to this stuff."
"Well, with the Headhunters dissolved, I guess we are both out of a job." Pax sighed.
"With that charter of yours you'll do alright, there is plenty of work to be had on Vestra after all." Law offered.
"How do you know about the charter already, that was only hours ago?" Pax asked, surprise evident on his face.
"I know some people, and it always pays off to be in the know in this business, you know?
The Old Man smiled sadly, before starting again: "Say, you wouldn't be interested in a contract? I just so happened to come across one that seems like just our sort of thing.."
"Why aren't you already out there then?" Pax asked.
"Needed another man, and I believe I just found him." Law smirked.
"Ok, so tell me more.."
Things are looking up a bit for our adventurer, having found a old comrade and a possible job as well!
Next time we will find out just what the job entails, and more adventure is bound to follow!
Til next time!