|This article, Arms Bazaar, was written by Actene. Please do not edit this fiction without the writer's permission.|
Stray and Zoey discover a rare war machine at a weapons black market on Venezia.
"Alright then, let's see what the daily special is," Stray said, pushing through the warehouse doors. His nostrils flared and he threw one side of his poncho up over his shoulder, revealing the weapon-studded armor beneath. "Gotta love that smell."
Zoey hurried in after him, squinting as the dark evening sky was replaced by the blinding lights shining down from the rafters overhead. The dark smudges before her shifted and cleared to become a massive floor filled with stacked crates and parked vehicles. An acrid stench smacked her hard across the face, a sharp metallic odor she was already all-too familiar with. Gunpowder mixed with metal and grease.
Burly guards patrolled the rows of weapons on display. Two of them-a human and a Jackal-stepped in from beside the door to inspect Stray's armor. They relieved him of his shotgun, machete, and pistol belt-Zoey was surprised at how easily Stray surrendered his prized weapons-before glaring at the remaining pouches and knives strapped across the armor. After a moment the Jackal hissed and waved him along.
"Don't cause any trouble," the alien warned. Zoey flinched as it turned its beady eyes on her.
"I know the drill." Stray stepped past the guards. "And the girl's clean too. Don't make me take my credits somewhere else."
The Jackal made another irritated noise but let Zoey pass. She hurried around its legs and ran after Stray, already halfway down one of the aisles.
"A bit different from farm equipment, isn't it?" Stray said, looking back at her over his shoulder with a knowing smirk. He pointed out a bulky armored vehicle with several large guns bolted onto its sides. "You'll want to see one of these babies in action. These autocannons can level a building in seconds."
"Maybe I don't want to see a bunch of houses get blown up," Zoey grumbled, eying city-demolishing monstrosity. "You're the one who loves guns and bombs, not me."
Stray shrugged and crossed over to the vehicle. A squad of armed guards kept a close watch on him and the other mercenaries inspecting the goods. "Kodiak APC. Haven’t seen one of these in a while. I don’t think there’s that many bouncing around here on the frontier.”
He stretched out a hand to touch the armor, then looked at the guards and thought better of it. Instead he folded his arms and looked the “Kodiak” over thoughtfully. “Not as fast as a Warthog, sure, but at least you’re not sniper bait in one of these.”
“So you’ve actually used one?” Zoey asked, her curiosity getting the better of her. She still didn’t quite understand where Stray had received his extensive experience and fascination with all things destructive. She’d learned it was usually better not to ask, but there was something unusual in the look he gave the war machine. A wistfulness she’d never expected to see from someone like him, as if thinking back on something he’d lost.
“A couple times,” Stray admitted, not looking away from the APC. “During training, mostly. And then during the war. Once had another team pull us out from under three Covenant platoons with this. Blasted right through them and got right back out once we piled in.”
Zoey looked at the APC. “Must have been cramped.”
“Yeah, it was.” Stray nodded. “Stank, too. But we all laughed about it later. Kodiak in a Kodiak. No wonder he hated driving it around.”
His mouth twitched upwards as if remembering something amusing. But the expression became a grimace a moment later, as if even a good memory about whoever “Kodiak” the person hurt.