The Unworthy Book Three in The Milky Way Repo Series
by Michael Prelee
Copyright © 2023 by Michael Prelee
Nathan Teller, owner of Milky Way Repossessions ó a company that tracked down and repossessed starships ó lay on the large sectional couch in his employee, Coleís, living room, listening to Cole thump around the kitchen. At a pause in the clatter, Nathan rolled his head to look towards the kitchen and saw Cole glowering at him.
He caught the smell of freshly brewed coffee and noticed the machine on the counter slowly filling the pot. Cole laid out mugs but his eyes zeroed in on Nathan as he went about the task. Knowing his friend well enough to realize trouble was on the horizon, he broke the ice.
"Coffee smells great," he said.
"I need you, Kimiyo and I need you, to get the hell out of our house," Cole said from behind the counter. He used the voice Nathan had heard many times. It was his, "Iím asking as nicely as possible for you to do something you donít want to do," voice. Coleís job at Milk Way Repo was to track down people who didnít want to be found and Nathan usually heard that voice directed at starship owners who entertained the thought of using force to keep their repossessed ships. Commands given in this voice with the accompanying look Nathan was getting right now were usually enough to convince them to follow directions.
Cole and Kimiyo owned a two-hundred-acre ranch about ten kilometers outside Go City, New Mexico. It wasnít a working ranch, but Nathan thought Cole liked the feeling he got when he told people he owned a ranch. Go City was the premier location for starship manufacturing in North America.
Their house sat in the middle of the property at the end of a long access road. A single-story affair, the home had four bedrooms and two bathrooms. Cole and Kimiyo shared one bedroom and Nathan and his girlfriend, Tricia, were staying in another.
The house was decorated in a mid-nineteenth century western theme. Exposed, rough-hewn cedar beams ran the length of the ceiling and the furniture had a faux-distressed look. The heavy wood frames for the chairs and couches were cut rough and the cushions were bright reds, yellows, and greens. Nathan was almost positive the furniture wasnít five-hundred years old, but it was authentic wood. The living room was sunken two steps which gave Cole a height advantage in their conversation. Rolling off the sectional and dodging a coffee table, Nathan stepped up into the kitchen and took a seat at one of the tall, counter stools.
"You know I want out of your guest room, right?"
"I know youíre still in it," Cole said.
Nathan crossed his arms on the counter and dropped his head. "Come on, man, thereís a mob enforcer chasing me who can quite literally light himself on fire. These are not normal circumstances. Iím working on resolving the situation."
"Youíve been on the run for six months. Thatís not a plan. Getting your ship back so we can go to work is a plan." He poured a cup of coffee and set it down in front of his boss.
Nathan lifted his head and spied the mug. "Thank you." He took a sip and started to feel like a real human being again. "Look, I donít want to be here either, but being chased by Atomic Jack has definitely screwed up my life."
"We should just kill him," Cole said. Nathan eyed him and couldnít tell whether he was serious or not.
"If we killed him the Syndicate would just send someone else."
"Then weíd kill them, too. Eventually, theyíd get the idea that screwing with us is a bad idea."
"No, eventually weíd be dead. The Syndicate has more guys with guns than they know what to do with. This isnít a problem we can solve with bullets."
"Why not? Itís how we got into it."
Nathan had to concede that Cole was right. "Hey, they started it. They almost killed Marla, Richie, and Tricia and they crashed my ship. That couldnít go unanswered."
"I know, and I know local law enforcement wasnít up to the task of arresting them, but youíre running out of places to hole up."
"And I need some money. Iím getting by on security side jobs but none of them pay as well as repossessing starships. The mortgage on this place is very real so we need to get back in the game."
"I know," Nathan said again.
"So, whatís the plan?"
Nathan smiled. "I donít know."
Cole gestured toward him with his mug. "Look, youíre the guy who plans shit out. Thatís what youíre good at. You see a problem and you solve a problem, but lately, it hasnít been that way. Itís like you canít see the angles anymore. When we first met, I was impressed at how easily all that kind of stuff came to you. Every time we ran into a brick wall, you found a way over it or under it. But these last few years itís like you started digging a hole and you just wonít stop shoveling."
Nathan conceded Coleís point to himself. When heíd put his crew together, all of them were dealing with problems, but all he saw were diamonds in the rough. One-by-one heíd found them and gave them a second chance to succeed, and in every case, heíd been right. Theyíd all excelled.
Cole and Kimiyo were building a life in this very house after meeting on a job heíd accepted from a billionaire named Saji Vy. His engineer Duncan Jax and co-pilot Marla were getting ready to celebrate their seventh wedding anniversary this summer. Even his machinist mate, Richie Pearson, was doing well after beating a gambling addiction.
For as much personal growth as his crew showed, Nathanís life had gone the other way. He was divorced, broke, his business was on the verge of failing, and now he was on the run from the Syndicate. He wasnít sure why Tricia was still with him, any hospital would have taken on an experienced ER nurse like herself. Cole was right, something had to change. It was ridiculous to live this way. The only place to go from here was living on the street.
The thing that bothered him most was that as bad as things were, he was so very close to getting them right again. His crew were biding their time with temporary jobs until he got his act together. He didnít want to tell Cole and Kimiyo just yet, in case things went wrong, but today was different, today his ship was fully repaired and all he had to do to get it back was pay off the shipyard. He just needed one break to get things rolling his way.
"I want you to know that Iím trying to get things working," Nathan said. "Iíve put some feelers out with banks and lenders, letting them know weíre available for work."
Cole took a sip of coffee. "How are we going to work without a ship?"
"I can go to the shipyard today," he said. "Iíll pay off the repairs on the Blue Moon Bandit and get things in gear."
Coleís eyes narrowed. "Where did you get the credits for that?"
"The repairs have been done for a while and when I got the call that it was done, I realized that I was using the excuse of not having a ship as a reason to keep hiding out. I donít have to worry about Syndicate hitmen if they canít find me.
"A few days ago, though, Tricia and I were talking. Sheís had enough and needs things to change." he exhaled heavily.
"Is she leaving you?" Cole asked.
"She didnít say that explicitly, but only because sheís giving me one more chance to get my act together. I donít blame her. This is no way to live. So, I bit the bullet and went to Lucy Bega at Amalgamated Logistics for the money."
"I thought you hated using factoring companies."
Nathan did. Factoring companies gave haulers credits up front in exchange for getting it back, plus a fee, once the work was complete. The problem was that their bite was so big that ship owners ended up using them over and over in cycles. That could lead to ship owners working their asses off and still going out of business.
"What else could I do?" Nathan said. "I donít want to lose her, I donít want to lose the crew, and I want my ship back."
Nathan heard steps clicking on the floor behind him and turned to see Kimiyo Himura moving gracefully across the living room. Kimiyoís dark blue hair caught the morning light with an iridescent flash as she crossed in front of the living room windows. She was dressed in her work clothing: a black pantsuit and low, stylish heels. Nathan could tell the outfit was designer from the quality of the material and the way it was tailored, but he had no idea who made it. All he knew about fashion was that he was legally required to keep his ass covered in public. For him, flight suits and jeans usually did the trick.
"Good morning, boys," she said.
Cole leaned across the counter and gave her a kiss on the cheek as he slipped her a travel mug full of coffee. "Morning, honey."
"Whatís the plan for today?" she asked.
Kimiyo was an assistant to Saji Vy, the same billionaire industrialist whom the crew had been working for when she and Cole had first met. Saji Vy had earned billions of credits manufacturing starship parts and now there wasnít a ship flying that wasnít fitted with SajiCo reactors, filters, seals, or one of another thousand parts.
"Good news, Kimiyo," Cole said. "Nathan thinks he can get us some repo jobs."
She looked at Nathan and he could see the skepticism in her eyes. "Youíre really looking for a repo job?"
"Sure am," he said. "You know of any?"
"I can ask around. Saji may have something."
"That would be great."
She smiled sweetly. "Well, whatever gets you out of our guest room, right?"
He tried returning her smile but was pretty sure he just grimaced. "Right."
She walked around the counter and kissed Cole again. "See you tonight." Then she walked out the side door to leave for work.
Cole turned back to Nathan. "Find something today."