“Gods damn it Taros, you didn’t have to kill everyone,” Ivan shouted. The engines were heating up quickly as they scorched through the atmo.
“I only killed who needed killing, Ivan.” Taros snorted as he buckled himself into the oversized jump seat near the cockpit.
Ivan shook his head. He and Taros had been together a long time. But sometimes it was trying. Taros was a huge mountain of muscle with horns on his head that would have made a Texas longhorn proud, assuming there actually was such a thing. According to Taros, there was. Kin, he said. Best not to press further.
Ivan pulled hard on the yoke. A trilling beep went off, target lock. “Taros, Get in the bucket and shoot that missile down.”
Taros unbuckled and swung his huge frame up the ladder to the bucket, a gimballed autogun station at the top of the ship. His heavily steel-shod hoofs clanged up the ladder as he climbed. Thrown around by Ivan’s wild maneuvering, he muscled his way through. Climbing in, he buckled himself up and pressed the big red button. The bucket became loose and easy, and he swung it around with his thoughts, looking for the target locked missile.
“Any time now would be nice!” yelled Ivan. Jerking the heavy transport around, he was stressing the airframe outside of its operational envelope.
Taros snorted over the intercom. “Don’t get your panties in a knot, Ivan.” Taros focused, the sounds of the overheated airframe, the punished engines, and even Ivan faded away. Taros squeezed the trigger gently like he would on a fine woman.
The missile exploded, shrapnel bouncing off the tough skin of the Avem Vecto.
Taros leaned back in the bucket and relaxed. “Happy now?” he asked over the intercom.
Ivan wiped the sweat from his face. “Yeah. I’m happy, Taros.”
He evened out the flight and brought her around to a more gentle angle of attack. Turning on the autopilot, Ivan tried to relax. Almost getting your ass blown to smithereens tends to make one a bit uptight.
But they did have the payload onboard and a payday around the corner. Taking a drink from his whiskey flask, Ivan lit a cigarette.
He could hear Taros clomping down from the bucket. The cockpit hatch opened a moment later. Taros stuck his great bovine horned head inside.
“You need to relax, Ivan. You know if someones giving you trouble, I’m gonna take care of it,” Taros said in his basso profondo voice.
“Got it, my friend. You don’t need to kill everyone you meet, you know? You might want to talk with them more than once. Hard to do if they’re dead,” said Ivan.
Taros tilted his head for a moment, the huge horns on his head, scratching against the bulkhead. “Perhaps a reasonable thought. We could indeed engage in philosophical conversations that might lead us further on the long slow path of enlightenment.” Taros snorted. “But then again, I could just kill them and let them try again. This reality or another, it matters not, my friend.”
Taros withdrew his head, and the cockpit hatch slid shut.
Ivan drew on his cigarette with sweaty trembling fingers as they crossed the exosphere. Looking out through the armour glass, he watched the stars.
Breathing deeply, he began to run through his mantras, calming himself once more. The deep space ship blipped on the radar guidance systems, and a payday awaited.