"What do you want?" came an unamused accusation as the omni-tool interface lit up.
"Is'at any way to speak to an ol' mate?" responded the man on the other side of the call.
The vid call stuttered and hung for a moment before it established a solid connection. On the other end of the call was a thin man, shirtless and covered in small sores. Pale skinned and thining, wirey platinum blonde hair. On his face was a wide, unsettling grin displaying a number of discolored teeth that more closely matched his gold, front tooth in color than anything that could be considered white. His right arm was missing above the elbow, replaced by a clunky metallic prosthetic. Scabs and signs of an obvious infection riddled the area where flesh and metal meet. A clear case of prosthesis rejection. His left hand didn't seem to be doing much better. The prosthetic hand appeared to have been attached haphazardly. A hack job.
"You're no mate of mine." Bishop said calmly, taking in the sad sight before lowering his gaze back to the datapad on his lap as he took a small sip from the glass of wine in his hand.
"Eh now, 'as a bit mean, 'innit?" the sickly man responded, "We been through a lot, you 'an I, ain't we? Where ya stayin' these days, anyway, eh? I know ya ain't left this rock yet, 'ave ya? Nah, nah. Lemme take a shot in the dark. Hmmm...." He furrowed his brow and glanced to the side, giving a clear look at the large amount of real estate on the side of his head replaced by some sort of alloy, as if someone was repairing a hole in their car by welding a piece of sheet metal over it. A messy patchwork of replacement parts. He looked back to the screen, unsettling grin returning to his face, "I'm 'onna go out on a limb 'ere an' saaaaay.... Linissa. Am I close?"
It wasn't a guess. Certainly more than enough to get Bishop's attention. He looked back to the camera, doing his best to keep a calm veneer.
"So is that what this call is about, then? Blackmail?" Bishop asked, setting his drink aside before sitting back in his seat and folding his hands atop the datapad in his lap.
"Wha-... Blackmail? Is'at what ya think a' me? Think a' yer ol' pal, Lucas? C'mon, mate. Gimme a lil' more credit 'an 'at. I ain't dumb 'nuff ta' blackmail ya. Just.... wanted ta' let ya know I ain't fergotten 'bout ya' is all. Still keepin' up with ya."
"What. Do. You. Want." Bishop repeated, his tone making it abundantly clear that his patience was being tested.
"A'right, a'right. Right down to business, eh? Same ol' Bishop." Lucas snickered, giving a shake of his head which only served to further aggitate the usually-calm Bishop. "See, I been thinkin', eh?"
"That's a surprising change." Bishop muttered.
"I'm'onna let that one slide on account a' you feelin' all cornered an' such. Consider it a show a' good faith, yeah? So, like I said. I been thinkin'. You an' me? We ain't did nothin' too bad, yeah? All 'at mess back home? Big man Cross? What'id we do to deserve all this, yeah?"
"You killed three of his men." Bishop said through a tightly clenched jaw.
It took a moment for Lucas to sort through his laughter before he was able to speak again. "Ah, yeah. All'at? Water under the bridge after this. See, I got me a plan, yeah? You an' me? Gonna get back in the big man's lordly graces, eh?"
"Not interested. The only reason I'm even still on Aite is so I can tie up a few loose ends. Once I'm done here, you and the rest of this God forsaken planet will be little more than a memory." Bishop said smugly and immediately reached out towards the glowing interface to end the call.
"Wait, wait, wait!" Lucas pleaded, causing Bishop to pause, "Jus' hear me out! Yeah? C'mon. I know ya ain't livin' the high life out there. No matter where ya go. Not like you did back in Adrasteia, anyway. People respect ya back home. This is your chance to go back. Both a' our chances."
"Not. Interested." Bishop repeated, but before his finger could reach the haptic interface, Lucas baited the hook.
"Bam Bam!" Lucas blurted out. "Look, Bish. We're small fries compared to ol' Jessie. Ol' boy wants her head."
"Bam Bam is dead." Bishop insisted with renewed interest in the conversation.
"Nah, nah, nah. Seems the rumors a' her death may 'ave been greatly exaggerated. See, your ol' mate Lucas knows people. And them people been sayin' they saw ol' girl walkin' 'round Adrasteia not too long ago. Eh? Eh?"
A moment of silence passed between the old aquaintences until Bishop sighed and sat back in his seat.
"Tha's more like it." Lucas continued, the wide, discolored grin returning to his face. "Did a lil' diggin' an' called a few mates. Managed to track 'er down to Freedom Falls. Workin' down at the Dam."
"Bam Bam? Working?" Bishop asked with more than a small hint of scepticism in his voice, "Not bloody likely."
The call stuttered and the video faded for a few seconds, compliments of Aite's unreliable infrastructure, but when it re-established Lucas was still there, shrugging his shoulders.
"Eh? Two years ago how likely did ya think it'd be that you an' me would be sittin' here on the lam from some wanker with a ponytail? Times change, Bish. People change. Adapt or get swallowed s'what I always say."
Bishop shook his head as he brought a hand up to his face and considered the new information presented to him. "We're in the same boat as her. Why do this? Why go out of our way to help a man that wants the both of us dead? Hasn't she been through enough?"
Lucas' expression faltered for the briefest of moments, the first indication that the man is even capable of feeling guilt, and a long sigh followed. "Adapt or get swallowed, Bish." Lucas repeated slowly. "An' 'ats all we're doin'. Adaptin'. If the roles was reversed, ol' girl would do the same in a heartbeat, you best believe." His tone lowered. Softened. For all of the bad blood and history between him and the man on the other side of the call, there was a time when he considered him a partner. A friend. He understood the conflict going on in his head. "I know Martin was ya mate, Bish, so I know I'm askin' a lot from ya. But I'm jus' gonna be honest here, yeah? That bounty? Dead or alive. We both know if it's me that shows up there alone, then it's only endin' one way. I know you feel you owe Martin after everything that went down. And I feel like I owe you. Thas' why we're talkin' right now. I'm givin' ya a chance to bring ol' girl in alive. Innit what Martin woulda wanted? Meet me in Freedom Falls. Convince 'er to come in quietly. You repay a debt to an ol' mate, we get to go home, an' Jessie gets to keep fillin' 'er angry lungs with angry breath. Win/Win/Win, eh?"
Bishop rested both elbows against the armrests of his chair, pressing the tips of his fingers tightly together as he stared through the display on his omni-tool. He got that distant, blank look that Lucas recognized. That look he always had when he was deep in thought. "Send me the information." he finally said dejectedly, refusing to meet Lucas' gaze even through the barrier of the omni-tool.
Lucas immediately clapped his hands together and stood up as he glanced off to the side. "You 'ear that, Mr. Wiggles!?" he shouted, "We're goin' huntin'!" He pressed both hands flat against the edge of the table his omni-tool sat on and leaned in close to press a big wet kiss against the pinhole camera on his device. "Gonna be jus' like ol' times, Bish!" he cheered excitedly, "You an' me! Back at it again!"
Bishop silently reached out to end the call, terminating Lucas' wild cackling in the process. He leaned his head back against the comfortable cushioning of his chair as he looked to the ceiling of his small residence. "I'm sorry, Martin." he sighed aloud, somehow hoping his words would make it across time and space to the ears of his old friend.