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Story 4

L. Young


L Young was born and raised in Auckland, New Zealand and currently resides there with his family.

"Honor Bound" is a story I have worked on for several years, and I am very happy it has found a home.

- L. Young

"Honor Bound" is the story of a soldier of fortune desperately in need of money, an alien with an attitude, and two beautiful, genetically enhanced sisters, all thrown together on an alien planet. What could possibly go wrong...?




Honor Bound


By L. Young



Layla Lasq peered down at Trent with her cold blue eyes and he knew it wouldn’t work out.

It was mid morning on Chione and with only a handful of barflies lurking around, the dimly lit Starside tavern was just the place for a clandestine meeting.

Trent was familiar with Lasq by reputation only -- a bloody reputation. Layla and her sister Laurel had racked up quite a body count fighting for opposite sides of the local crime war. Though in her current garb, modestly attired in a simple black dress and jacket, with knee-high boots, and her blonde hair tied back, she looked like anything but a bloodthirsty enforcer. She had the glacial beauty of someone from a genetic engineering world. Vance hoped she wasn’t.  All the tanks he’d ever met were constantly going on about how much better they were at everything, at least until you gave them a good punch.

She sat down in the chair opposite him and interlaced her long, delicate fingers. “So you’re looking for work?”

“That’s right.”

Leaning back in her chair, Layla studied him. Trent couldn’t help feeling like a mouse before a cat. “Here’s the deal. Mister Kardos will pay to get your ship out of impoundment and provide you a modest stipend. In return you’ll transport items for him. The nature, number, and destination of such items to be determined. To ensure your loyalty, you’ll be injected with a tracker set to explode if you don’t return here at a specified time.” She finished with a surprisingly warm smile. “How’s that sound?”

Trent sighed; the deal was exactly what he’d expected from one of Chione’s top crime lords. It was depressingly similar to the deal offered by Kardos’s rival, Morfal the Rynpian a few days before. Still, he had to be sure. “What if I’m stopped?”

“Your risk.”

“So I sign up for an unlimited time, to do unlimited trips, to unknown places, with an unknown cargo, and if I fail, my head explodes. Did I miss anything?”


Trent ran a hand through his straggly, brown hair. “I’ll get back to you.”

Layla got up. “Don’t think too long, flyboy. I understand Finlack is losing patience.” 

She tossed him a fed chip. “Consider that a down payment.”

He rubbed it between his fingers. “Wow, twenty feds. Thanks.”

“And how many Federals do you have, blue eyes?” she replied with a wink. 

Trent reddened. Laughing softly, Layla got up and strolled out of the bar.

After admiring her departure, he got up out of his seat and put on his faded black militia flight jacket. Beneath it he wore typical spacers’ garb -- blue military surplus shirt and khaki cargo pants. His old service blaster hung from his belt where everyone could see it. He threaded his way through the tables to the door.

Outside Trent shivered in the mid-winter air. An eclectic mix of ultra-luxury and utilitarian colonial buildings, Chione was a tinpot town on a tinpot planet. Its main streets had a sense of order, but here on the fringes people put up buildings wherever they could and worried about transit later.

Putting his hands into his pockets he started down the winding street, avoiding the metal girders and crates blocking the way. It was a twenty-minute walk to his ship Wanderer. Fortunately Trent was in no rush to get there.

Knocking his leg on a pipe he cursed. “God dammit! Should never have that job.”

The Drive system on Wanderer had blown on arrival. It had taken all his money, plus a fair chunk of time fixing it. The landing fees were now so high, he couldn’t leave and Finlack the spaceport manager was displaying the legendary patience Orlashians were known for.

It pained him to sniff around Chione’s many criminal factions for employment. But the legal jobs available just didn’t pay enough.

Passing an alley, he spotted a couple of Klars and a greasy-looking Drus attacking another alien. Trent reminded himself that it was none of his business and continued walking. After several steps he stopped. “None of my business.” Then he heard another groan. “Dammit.” 

Sprinting back to the alleyway, Trent grabbed the nearest Klar and slammed his fist into the guy’s face. Another Klar threw a wild series of punches at him. Sidestepping them more through luck than skill, he thudded his fist into the Klar’s stomach. The Klar laughed as pain shot through Trent’s arm.

Trent popped him one in the face. The Klar reeled back.

The Drus pulled out a knife. Trent drew his blaster and fired into the air. “No one has to die.”

A Klar grabbed the knife-wielding Drus. “Leave it. We’ve taught him a lesson.”

Trent watched the mob slink away. When he was sure they’d gone, he turned to the alien. “You alright?"

The alien who was just over a metre tall, with a rotund green body, and a round face lined with four short tentacles hanging above its mouth replied in a thick, Russian-like accent, “Fine. They were vigorous, but incompetent.” He glared at Trent, “Why didn’t you use your gun right away?”

“Cartridges cost money.”

The alien nodded. “Ah, yes, frugality is important.”

Trent pointed to the alien's ruffled silver suit. “They take much?”

“This wasn’t a robbery.”

Trent scratched his head. Chione was a violent place, but most attacks involved profit. “Then why’d they attack you?”

The alien let out a honking sound Trent guessed was a laugh. “They didn’t attack me. I attacked them.”

Trent fought to keep a straight face. “Why?”

“They made derogatory remarks about my appearance. It was an affront to my honor.”

“Free advice,” said Trent with a grin. “Don’t start fights around here -- especially ones you can’t win.”

Trent carried on down the road laughing at the enigma of aliens. The alien suddenly appeared beside him. “Wait, Terlish. I am doing business here for the next few days. I could use an escort.”

Trent raised his hands. “Sorry, I don’t go in for that sort of thing. Try Galactic Girls on Main Street. I hear they cater to most tastes.”

The alien’s tentacles stiffened. “No, idiot. I mean a bodyguard.”

“Oh,” Trent replied red-faced. He mulled it over. Being a bodyguard, especially around here, wasn’t his first choice, but with his military training he figured he could make a go of it. Still, he didn’t want to appear too eager. “Depends on whether it’s worth my time.”

The alien gave him an apprising look. “Well you’re Terlish, so you probably take those pitiful Federation Federals. What about 2,000 a day?”

Trent fought to keep a straight face. That much would get Finlack off his back for a while. If he could spin it out for several days, he might earn enough to pay off his debt entirely. He frowned. “It’s a little low.”

“Fine, 2,500 Federals, but not a fed more.”

“What the hell,” replied Trent. “You got an honest face. When do we start?”

“Right now.”

Trent extended his hand. “Trent Kale and you are?”

The short alien took it after a second’s hesitation. “To pronounce it correctly, you would need three tongues. You may call me Ydral.”

“Pleasure to meet you, Ydral.”

Ydral slapped his arms together. “Now introductions are done. Let’s get to business.”

For a short being, Ydral was surprisingly fast, forcing him to catch up. “Where are we headed?”

The Empire.”

Ritzy,” whistled Trent. “They charge you just for standing outside.”

“Good, I have a very exclusive product.”

They continued silently down the street until Trent prompted, “Which is?”

Ydral studied Trent as if deciding whether he could be trusted. “Have you heard of Aloxian Ambrosia?”

“Should I?”

“A barbarian like yourself?” honked Ydral. “I suppose not.”

Trent resisted the urge to thump him. “What’s so special about this ambrosia?”

“It is a drink made from the secretions of the Loberal. An animal found only on my homeworld. Master craftsmen massage the animals into producing a tiny amount each day. It is refined for over 50 years, then bottled,” His tentacles shivered, “Truly a delicacy to savour.”

“Hmm, maybe we can have a glass when this is over.”

Ydral smiled revealing his blunt, white teeth, “You are most humorous Terlish. Now please refrain from talking, I must prepare for negotiation.”

Ydral started shrieking loudly -- Trent nearly jumped out of his skin while passers-by stopped to look at Ydral’s antics. “What are you doing?”

“A traditional money-making song. Now if you’ll excuse me I have another 12 verses.”

In order to ignore the shrieking, Trent focused his attention on their increasingly posh surroundings.

The Empire was a five-storey building with Neo-Classical facade decorated with a mishmash of Ancient Egyptian and Roman imagery. In a world of utilitarian colonial design it definitely stuck out. As they approached a door flanked by a series of columns, two well-built humans in business suits barred their way. “You have business here?”

Ydral turned a deep shade of green. “Of course! My name is Ydral. I have an appointment. This is my escort Tren Kow.”

Trent raised a hand. “Actually it’s Trent Kale.” 

Ydral waved him away. “Unimportant.”

Trent grimaced while the guard pulled a small datapad from inside his jacket. After a quick check, he said, “Go in. Miss Lasq will meet you there.”

As they advanced, one grabbed Trent, who pushed back. “Easy, pal!”

The guard pointed to his jacket. “Your gun.”

“Oops, my mistake.” Trent had hoped they wouldn’t notice but a place like this probably had scanners everywhere. He carefully handed it over. “I’ll want her back.”

The guard cast a critical eye over the old military surplus blaster. “You sure?”

Ignoring the comedian Trent stepped inside and took a deep breath. After his recent haunts it was good to be in a place that didn’t reek of desperation.

They had only gone three steps when Ydral turned back. “What did you say?”

“Nothing, sir,” muttered the goon.

Ydral held his gaze, before turning away. Marble statues and paintings from a variety of races decorated the lobby. But it was another piece of artwork catching Trent’s attention. Tall and shapely, with long red hair and piercing blue eyes, her face was marred only by an expression of disdain.

That was Laurel Lasq, Morfal’s head enforcer and Layla’s sister. She wore a long, black trenchcoat undone at the waist. Underneath that she had on a tight green blouse and black, military-style trousers. Despite her beauty Trent felt a chill run up his spine. Where Layla had displayed a surprising degree of warmness, Laurel looked every bit the ice queen.

While he had little use for genetically engineered humans overall, due to their superiority complex, as Laurel sauntered up to them, Trent had to admit they did have benefits. He extended his hand. “A pleasure.”

With Laurel’s cold blue eyes glaring at him, Trent hastily put it down. “Mister Morfal will see you now.”

She led them into a spacious office dominated by a large, foul smelling pool built into the floor. Swirling around inside was the frog-like Morfal. He swivelled his big, tennis ball sized eyes around to look at them. “What have you got and how much?”

“Aloxian Ambrosia,” replied Ydral. “I can let you have them for 10,000 Federals a barrel.”

Morfal flicked out his tongue, “You must be very confident in your product to try and rob me like that.”

“Very confident.”

Morfal eyed him closely. “I’ll require a sample.”

Laurel offered Ydral a glass. Ydral pulled a metal flask from inside his coat and poured a small amount of brown liquid into the glass. He handed it to Laurel. She waved a small datapad over the glass. “Poison free.”

She handed it to Morfal who downed it in one gulp. Within seconds he was purring with pleasure. Trent wondered why he’d never heard of this stuff.

Morfal finally got control of himself. He narrowed his eyes. “It’s of reasonable quality. I will take ten barrels at 5,000 Federals each.”

“You insult me!” bristled Ydral. 

Laurel exchanged glances with Morfal and her hand went inside her jacket. Morfal shook his head and her hand went back by her side. 

“7,000 Federals,” said Morfal.

“No,” said Ydral.

Trent felt the tension in the room rise. Morfal flicked out his big tongue, “8,000 Federals.”

Ydral fondled one of his mouth tentacles. Just take it, prayed Trent. If Morfal were pushed too far, he could kill them both and take the barrels from Ydral’s ship.

Ydral let out a big honking sound, “I accept.”

“Excellent!” hissed Morfal splashing the water with his hand. “Bring them tomorrow. Payment will be waiting.”

Laurel escorted them out the office. As they reached the exit Ydral yelled, “How dare you insult me!”

Ydral launched himself at Laurel, pummelling her with his fists. “Get off!” snapped Laurel.

The door guard reached for his blaster. Recovering from his surprise, Trent slapped it from his hand, following up with hard right that knocked him to the ground. Reaching inside the guard’s coat, Trent pulled out his blaster and levelled it at the still stunned second guard. With his free hand Trent pulled Ydral off Laurel. 

“What are you doing?” cried Ydral.

Trent levelled the blaster at him. “My job.”

Smiling apologetically at Laurel, Trent said, “Just a... misunderstanding.”

The red slowly disappeared from Laurel’s face. “Remove him, before I have a misunderstanding.”

Trent dragged Ydral away. “No problem. Again really sorry.”

When they were a safe distance away, Trent pulled Ydral aside. “What the hell was that?”

“She said something about my tentacles.”

Feeling a migraine coming on, Trent replied, “She didn’t say anything about your tentacles. Believe me she’s not the sort of person you want coming after you.”

Ydral dusted himself off. “I will not allow my honour to be besmirched.”

Trent took a deep breath. “Look, buddy, if someone actually does insult you, I’ll be right beside you kicking their ass. But this is not the town to pick fights with strangers.”

“I will do as honour demands.”

“Honour's overrated,” sighed Trent, “I’ve seen plenty of people killed doing what they thought was honourable.”


“Nothing,” replied Trent. “Where to now?”

The Indulgence.”

The finest restaurant on Chione or so Trent had heard. He would’ve had trouble affording the water there. It was an oval-shaped building of steel and glass. At eight stories it was the second tallest building in town after Kardos’s stark concrete and steel fortress, which dominated the skyline. As soon as they entered, his mouth started to water as the smell of fine cooking wafted around him.

The manager led Ydral into his office, while Trent waited outside. He made himself comfortable, praying Ydral kept a cool head. Thirty minutes later Ydral came out clutching a bundle of papers. “How’d it go?”

Ydral kept walking. “Are all Terlishes this nosy?”

“Only the good ones,” smiled Trent.

Ydral was so engrossed in sorting out his bag he walked right into a human coming the opposite way. Ydral looked up at the tall, broad-shouldered man with close-cropped, brown hair, dressed in an expensive-looking business suit. 

“Watch where you’re going you big Terlish!” snapped Ydral.

Trent felt his legs go weak. It was Jack Kardos and beside him Layla Lasq, who smirked thinly in recognition and gave him a tiny finger wave.

Kardos turned his chiselled features on Ydral and growled, “Did you say something, alien?”

Ydral stepped forward. “Yes! Now apologise.”

Layla stirred uneasily as Kardos closed the gap between them even further. Trent saw his future job opportunities and lifespan evaporating. He covered Ydral’s mouth. Green mucus began pouring over Trent’s hand. Ignoring the urge to throw up he said, “Sorry. He’s new and doesn’t know the local hierarchy.”

The restaurant had gone deathly quiet -- the patrons silently watching what went on from out of the corner of their eyes. Trent could see Kardos weighing his options. He may control half the town, but getting his bullygirl to gun someone down in front two-dozen witnesses was a bit too public. Finally Kardos said, “Next time don’t let that thing off its leash.”

He walked off. Wagging her finger at them Layla followed.

Feeling his heart beginning to beat again, Trent dragged Ydral outside. When they were a good distance away he released him, wiping the mucus off on the nearest wall. “Eww.”

“How dare you embarrass me in that way,” hissed Ydral. 

Trent slammed him against the wall. “I just saved your life! That was Jack Kardos and his enforcer. They’ve killed people for far less than what you just did.”

Ydral mulled that over for a couple of seconds then muttered, “It still doesn’t excuse it.”

Trent dropped Ydral to the ground. “Look you’re paying me to protect you. If you want to leave here with your life, tone down the honour crap or seriously I’ll kill you myself.”

Ydral’s tentacles stiffened. “I will... consider it.” He waved his hand as if nothing had happened. “Time to leave, I have other customers to visit.”

They spent the rest of the day traipsing between restaurants and bars. Business talk bored Trent rigid and it was all he could do to feign interest. On their way to yet another potential client, Trent led Ydral down a shortcut through an alleyway, Ydral hooted, “I had doubts when my broodbrothers sent me here, but it’s proved very lucrative. I have sold most of my allotment.”

A trio of men eased out of the shadows blocking their way out of the alley. Trent tensed up. “There a problem here, fellas?”

“Your friend shouldn’t have pissed off Kardos,” said one.

Looking behind them he saw another trio blocking their way out. One of them stepped closer and Trent saw it was Layla Lasq. Pushing Ydral into the cover of some crates, he drew his blaster and fired off several shots at both ends. One man went down, but the others moved quickly for cover, firing as they went. As blaster shots lanced by, Trent dived for shelter besides Ydral, who for once looked too shocked to speak. Trent was desperate to fire back before the ambushers got too close, but their covering fire kept him plastered to the ground. Feeling it slacken off slightly he decided to risk taking a shot. He looked up to see Layla standing over him. Her smile was the last thing he saw as darkness enveloped him.

Trent awoke to the sensation of something wet and slimy running across his face. Fearing the worst his eyes shot open, the perpetrator -- a stray dog, scurried away. “Next time buy me dinner first.”

A short distance away his blaster was still where he dropped it but Ydral was gone. Trent cursed he’d failed again, just like he had in the militia and his cargo business, but now someone else was paying the price. 

Trent felt something unfamiliar in his inside pocket. Reaching inside, he pulled out a small, palm-sized data player. He pressed play; Layla’s face appeared on screen with a prerecorded message. “We don’t have much time Kale so listen carefully.”

A short while later he was back at The Empire. A different set of guards, a big, burly Folack and a rat-faced human, were on duty, which, given yesterday’s events, was just as well. “Hey fellas. The name’s Trent Kale. I need to speak with Lasq. It’s important.”

Ratface smirked, “Jeez! Lasq’s taste has really slipped.”

“Funny,” replied Trent. “But this is urgent. Life and death urgent.”

The Forlack raised his hand. “Get outta here!”

Trent made as if to leave, then swung around and smashed his fist into the Folack’s snout. As the Folack reeled back, Ratface reached for his blaster. Trent grabbed him by his shirt and headbutted him backwards. Through a fountain of blood, Ratface said, “You boke my nose!”

Trent grimaced as he pulled his blaster away, “Kill setting, not nice.”

“Neither’s bashing my employees.”

Trent spun around to see Laurel Lasq pointing a substantial blaster at him, not a red hair out of place. Trent flipped the blaster, extending it handle first. “I need your help.”

Laurel didn’t bat an eyelid. “You got ten seconds before I hand you to those two.”

Trying hard to ignore the two angry guards behind him Trent said, “I need your help rescuing, Ydral.”

“Why I should help you?”

Trent lowered his voice. “Layla says it’s time.” 

Laurel’s expression remained guarded, but he noticed the slightest twitch on her face. “I’ll handle this. Get back to your posts.”

Laurel led him to a small, sparsely decorated office.

“I love what you’ve done here. Very... welcoming,” said Trent.

She entered something into her computer. “I’ve jammed the surveillance. We have five minutes.”

Trent sat down in the only chair provided. “So what the hell’s going on?”

Laurel studied him closely. “You’ve just been recruited into helping me rescue Layla.”

“She needs rescuing?”

“Jack Kardos isn’t her boss,” replied Laurel. “He’s her enslaver.”

“I heard you hated each other.”

“No, we’ve just been playing for time until the right... man came along.” 

Trent raised his hand. “Whoa, let’s take this from the top and remember I’ll be marking you on poise and consistency.”

Laurel leaned back in her chair and interlinked her fingers. “We’re runaways from UH –421, a world where everyone is created for a purpose, but our batch started displaying deviant traits, so we were scheduled for termination.”

“What’s considered deviant behaviour?”

“Laughing, smiling, caring.”

“Sounds like my old high school.”

“At my high school, the bottom twenty percent of any class was executed.”

He raised his hand. “Okay, you win.”

“We escaped. There were ten of us at the start, five brothers, five sisters. Only myself and Layla survived. We ran as far as we could. Eventually we ended up here. Unfortunately we weren’t alone. A Tracker caught our scent.”


“They catch runaways. They’re the only ones allowed to leave our world. Totally loyal to the Council. But ours got a taste for freedom. You know him as Jack Kardos.”

Trent slapped his thigh. “Kardos is a tank too!”

Laurel frowned at the derogatory term. Trent shrugged. “Sorry.”

Laurel looked down. “While I was off doing business he captured Layla. She was smart enough to tell him that we’d split up over a disagreement. Kardos decided to go off alone. To keep her inline he implanted a microexplosive with a tracker in her head. An explosive he can activate with just a thought. I joined Morfal while I tried to come up with a way out.”

“Why not kill him?”

“Because I enjoy Chione’s vibrant nightlife!” snapped Laurel. She calmed herself. “All the microexplosives are connected to him. If he dies... ”

“They die.”

“So why me?” Trent leaned back. “You’ve got plenty of men to do your bidding.”

“They’re thugs they’re not going to help me.”

Trent raised an eyebrow. “How do you know you can trust me?”

She smiled, but he’d been rejected by enough women to know when it was forced. “I don’t trust anyone, that’s why I’m still alive. While we can’t talk openly Layla and I do exchange encrypted information. We did a background check on you. You don’t belong to any faction and you have a sense of... honour.”

She brought up a holofile showing him in the uniform of the Federation Militia. “During the Stratford war you were a member of the Federation’s elite infiltration force, Wolf Squad and you were awarded Bravery Cross for being the last pilot out of Stratford.”

Trent squirmed in his chair. “Not my best picture or best moment.”

Laurel paled. “What do you mean?”

“I was meant to go back for one last trip to pick up some refugees I’d promised to evacuate, but my Commander wouldn’t let me, said it was too dangerous. I punched him in the jaw. He forgave me... eventually, but I never forgave myself for breaking my promise. I deserted the service after that.”  He raised an eyebrow. “Still trust me?”

She slumped in her chair. “This time I need to trust someone.”

“But can I trust you?” replied Trent forcing a smile. 

Reaching into the top draw of her desk, Laurel pulled out a small metal credit chip. “That’s good for 5,000 Federation Federals. Half the amount you owe Finlack. I’ll triple that if you take us off this world when we’re done.” 

Trent gave the chip a greedy glance. “It’s a start.”


Trent stroked his chin. The easiest thing would be to walk away, but he’d been doing that for far too long. “Helping a pretty lady? I’d have done it for nothing, but I’ll be happy to take your Federals. So how do we get in?”

There was a tiny twinkle in her eye. “I hope you’re not squeamish.”

The next couple of hours were the longest in Trent’s life, and he’d had some long hours. Ignoring the sewage streaming past him, Trent pulled out his laser cutter and carved a hole into the waste pipeline. As the metal fell away, he dropped down onto the grated, metal floor, landing in a pile of waste. 

Trent removed his mask and vomited onto the floor. They’d come out in the building’s wastecentre located several stories below ground. Somewhere on these lower levels was Kardos’s detention centre and fingers crossed, so was Ydral. The room was dark, lit only by a trio of flickering neon lights. A low-level hum filled his ears as the car-sized processor did its work.

“Not squeamish, eh?” said Laurel, already out of her infiltration suit, looking infuriatingly perfect.

Trent wiped his mouth. “I lied. Seriously, this was your best entrance plan?”

Laurel took up position by the door. “If this was easy I wouldn’t need your help.”

“Touché,” muttered Trent.

He took off his suit, then removed his blaster and other necessary equipment from their protective pouch. “Ready.” 

Opening the door, Laurel rolled a small grey sphere corridor where it began emanating a tiny beeping noise designed to jam Kardos’s security system.

As they advanced in leapfrog formation, Trent noted the corridors were the same grimy grey as the processing room. After several minutes they reached the detention centre. He tensed up as he always did before a fight. If Laurel felt nervous she hid it well. He wished he had that skill.

Laurel opened the door, and he tossed in a flash grenade. Anguished yells echoed back. Storming in they fired a flurry of stunbolts, sending the three men inside tumbling to the ground. Trent gave the nearest man a good kick to ensure he was under.

After locking the door, Laurel moved to the command console on the far side of the room. “Get Ydral. I need a few minutes to enter the code for the microexplosives.”

Trent flicked a switch opening the jail door. The detention centre was little more than a long hallway with six cells on each side. The stench of stale sweat and fear hung thick in the air.


A small, green hand shot out between the scuffed-up bars. “Terlish?”

He rushed over and winced when he saw Ydral’s bruised body. “You’ve looked better.”

Ydral raised his hands. “I’d look a lot better if you’d done your job properly.”

“Which would’ve been a lot easier if you hadn’t kept picking fights.”

“Excuses,” muttered Ydral.

Trent made a show of walking away. “Enjoy your cell.”

“Wait!” said Ydral. “Perhaps I’ve been a little... ungrateful.”

Trent smiled, “And?”

Ydral slowly grinded out the words. “I apologize.”

Trent grinned, “No worries. I’ll have you out in a jiffy. Stand back.” 

Ydral hurried to the rear of cell as Trent drew his blaster. The energy bolt fried the lock with an explosive sizzle. “Come on.”

“How did you arrange this?” asked Ydral, strolling out with as much dignity as he could muster.

“You’ll see.”

Ydral hooted as he turned the corner. “I didn’t think Morfal cared so much for my wellbeing.”

“He doesn’t,” said Laurel. “But Trent’s helping me with a side project.” She turned to him. “The code’s been entered.”

“Now what?”

“When we’re out, I’ll send her a encrypted message.”

Carefully opening the door, Laurel signalled it was clear, and they exited the detention center. Things were going well -- too well. In Trent’s experience that’s usually when everything went pear shaped.

Laurel suddenly signalled for them to go back. When they reached the cover of a junction, Trent asked, “What’s wrong?”

She bit her lip. “Enforcers loitering around the Wastestation.”

The nearest alarm began blaring.

“Not good,” said Trent. “What now?”

Laurel pointed up. “The landing pad. We’ll grab a flyer.”

She led them down the corridor and into the nearest stairwell. Blasterfire rained down on them from above.

They huddled by the door for cover and the eternally calm facade on Laurel’s face cracked. “Damn!”

If Trent hadn’t been in the same situation he might’ve found it funny. “There a plan C?”

Blasting the lock on the stairwells side door she said, “Move.” 

Trent ran in and collided with an enforcer. Using the enforcer as a human shield Trent got several shots out before a blast sent him and his unwilling cover flying back. As he fell he saw Laurel firing over the top of him.

“Get off me,” groaned Ydral.

Trent pushed the body off him. There was only one man standing -- Jack Kardos.

Kardos looked like he’d bitten into a lemon. “Laurel, you’re looking... ”

Laurel’s boot shot up, smashing into his face. “Shut up. Trent, seal the door.”

Kardos rubbed his face. “Usually I have to pay for that kind of service.” He stared at Trent. “I know you.” He pointed at Ydral. “You’re that dungheap's bodyguard.”

Trent muzzled Ydral before he got violent. “Trent Kale at your service.”

“You go far to honour a contract, spacerat,” replied Kardos with hint of admiration.

He shrugged. “I had nothing else on.”

“This thing obviously has more friends then I realised. Too bad you’ll never leave.”

“We will with a hostage,” replied Laurel.

Trent gestured at the sealed room. “How exactly?”

Laurel charged her blaster. “Kardos’s private elevator. It’s under that rather smug picture of himself.”

Trent slid the picture aside and hit a wallbutton. The wall cranked open revealing a small elevator. “Impressive,” said Kardos. “No one knows about that.”

“Wait!” said Ydral.

All three turned to him. “What?” asked Trent.

Ydral folded his arms. “When he assaulted me he took my Kolorian drinking flask. I won’t leave without it.”

Trent sighed, “Kardos do you have it?”

“That’s Mister Kardos to you.” He replied as he made a show of slowly reaching into his pocket and carefully removing the flask. He tossed it to Ydral. “I’ll be getting that back.”

Ydral thrust the flask at Kardos. “Over my dead body.”

“Please don’t say that,” replied Trent.

They stepped inside the tiny elevator.

“If this is about your feud with Layla, you can have her, she’s not worth my life. But you’re missing a great opportunity. The three of us can rule this world.”

Laurel replied with the first laugh Trent had heard from her. “I don’t deal with scum.”

“This is why the High Council wanted you terminated. All that anger,” said Kardos. “Spacerat, you stun Laurel here, I’ll let you and your buddy go. I’ll even throw in some Feds.”

“How many?” asked Ydral.

Trent clipped on the head. “It doesn’t matter!”

“You can’t trust her,” snorted Kardos. “I’m sure she’s told you some sob story about the High Council terminating them because they smiled too much or fell in love.”

Shoving her gun beneath his chin, Laurel growled, “Quiet!”

Kardos laughed, “Does that look like someone who smiles too much? Their crime was they liked killing too much. When this is over she’ll kill you too.”

Trent cocked an eyebrow.

“Trackers are trained in deception,” replied Laurel.

“Says the master,” laughed Kardos. “Who do you believe, spacerat?”

Trent knew Kardos was lying, probably, but a large part of him worried that he wasn’t. “She’s no worse then my sister-in-law.”

The elevator beeped as it reached the building's top. The door opened onto a dimly lit football-field-sized landing pad with six atmosphere flyers. All appeared to have been improved with military grade armour. It was still at least an hour until sunrise. Blaster fire lanced out. Using the confusion Kardos ran, shouting, “Layla don’t shoot!”

Spinning around, Trent shot the elevator's lock, then handed Ydral a blaster. “Take this, Laurel and I will take care of them.”

As they advanced towards the cover of the flyers, Laurel asked, “What are you doing?”

“You’re a crack shot, right?”


“Then get ready to shoot, because I’m about to give you some targets.”


Trent sprung out into the open, zigzagging his way across the field and firing randomly as shots lanced all around him. Reaching the end of the landing pad he dived for cover behind a flyer. Laurel landed beside him. 

“Well?” he gasped.

“I got six, but I didn’t see Layla or Kardos.” She paused. “That was very brave.”


She punched him in the arm. “Don’t do it again. This plan depends on you.”

“I don’t think that’s going to be a problem,” he replied, rubbing his arm.

Kardos and Layla were at the far end of the landing ground with their blasters pointed at Ydral’s head.

Vance frowned. “Dammit, Ydral!”

Ydral looked down. “They surprised me.”

“Pretty ballsy, spacerat,” said Kardos, “But if you don’t surrender now I top squidface here,”

“Bastard doesn’t even know he’s lost,” said Laurel.

“He has?”

She took his arm. “Come on I want to enjoy this.”

They advanced towards the trio; Kardos fired a shot in the air. “Drop the blasters.”

“It’s done, ” said Laurel.

Layla shot the blaster from Kardos’s hand.

“That was your last mistake,” growled Kardos. He put a finger to his temple. When nothing happened he cursed. “This was never about the alien. You deactivated the explosives. You’ve been playing me since day one.”

“It was never playing,” said Layla.

Kardos’s eyes narrowed. “They will find you. Let me live. We can make a deal.”

Trent flinched at the cold-blooded look that came over Layla. “I’m sick of deals,” she replied. “And I’m sick of you.”

Kardos ran, but he wasn’t fast enough. Taking a second to aim, Layla fired. He tumbled to the ground, wispy smoke rising from his head. Layla fired twice more into Kardos, then embraced her sister. “Took you long enough.”

“We could have used him,” said Laurel as they separated.

Layla shrugged. “I like him better this way. The elevators are sealed, but it won’t take them long to override.” Turning to Trent she pointed to a streamlined black Felonian flyer, a brand noted for its toughness. “Can you pilot it?”

“If it’s got an engine I can fly it,” grinned Trent. 

“I knew that 20 Feds wasn’t wasted,” smiled Layla. “We’ll man the blaster cannons.”

“What about me?” said Ydral.

“Just stay out of the way, shortstuff,” replied Layla.

Layla pulled out a command key and the flyer’s door opened. Trent headed to the cockpit. It had that new ship smell. He felt his eyes glaze over at the multitude of buttons. “Damn thing's got more controls than a starship.” 

Layla pointed to a bright blue button. “That starts the engine.”

Thanks,” muttered Trent.

“Hurry!” said Ydral. “They’re coming!”

Cursing, Trent began warming up the engines. Despite Kardos’s death, his remaining enforcers still seemed pretty intent on taking them out. The sisters fired and the advancing enforcers dived for cover. With the satisfying sound of the systems coming online, the flyer rocked side to side as it lifted from the ground.

“We got miniflyers heading our way!” said Layla.

Trent frowned; miniflyers were metre-long, self-aware weapons that would happily destroy themselves if it meant taking out the target. Screeching alarms filled the cockpit.

“Faster!” yelled Ydral.

As Trent pulled back on the controls, the flyer shot forward, shoving him back in his seat. It plummeted nose first as it left the safety of the landing pad. Ignoring Ydral’s wailing, Trent drew back on the controls. The flyer lifted up, heading straight for the nearest building.

“Crap!” Trent jerked the flyer right, grimacing as its wing grazed the building’s exterior.

Laurel commed, “They’re opening up! Rockets incoming.”

“Great,” muttered Trent. The flyer vibrated as its cannon opened up. Glancing down at the sensors, he saw that the sisters were cutting a swath through the approaching rockets, but it wasn’t enough. The flyer shook as the rockets thudded against its armored hull. Smelling acrid smoke from somewhere inside the flyer, Trent knew he had to try something desperate. “Heads up. I’m doing a loop.”

“A what?” yelled Ydral.

“Just hold on!” replied Trent pulling on the controls. The flyer’s engines whined as it rose in the air and came in behind the small swarm of rockets. The sisters opened up decimating the rear ended rockets and the miniflyers that spawned them. A massive explosive rocked the rear; the flyer wobbled violently setting off another set of alarms.

“What was that?” yelled Trent.

“A miniflyer,” replied Laurel. “It must have held back.”

“Dammit,” said Trent. “The port engine’s gone. We’ll have to land.” Or crash, he thought, whichever came first.

Chione’s patchwork of inhabited areas flew by beneath him as the flyer continued to lose altitude despite his best efforts. Then he saw it -- the vast open tarmac of the Spaceport. “That’s more like it.” Now he just had to reach it.

A voice came over the radio. “This is Chione Port Control. Please identify yourself.”

“I’m coming in hot,” he replied.

With no warning the engine gave out. The spiralling flyer fell from the sky shaking its inhabitants about like rag dolls. It skidded violently along the tarmac, throwing up a storm of sparks and debris for several hundred meters until it slammed into a bulbous shaped ship. Trent shut his eyes as the two ships spun in opposite directions. Reopening them he saw the other ship in flames. After several seconds the flyer stopped spinning. The alarms still wailing, Trent staggered to his feet and grabbed a woozy looking Ydral who vomited violently. Wincing at the gunk covering his boots, Trent threw Ydral over his shoulder. The sisters were already at the door. 

“Ladies first!”

Trent jumped from the flyer, bounding forward as fast as he could. The flyer lit up behind him flinging him forward several metres. Landing with a thud Trent rolled himself over. “Ow.”

Casting a critical eye over the others he saw they were dazed, but otherwise uninjured.

“You’re as good a flyer as you are a bodyguard,” moaned Ydral.

“You’re still alive aren’t you?” replied Trent.

Ydral’s tentacles went limp. “My ship. I’m ruined!”

“That’s your ship?” replied Trent, cringing at the flaming wreckage. “Uh, sorry.”

“Sorry? You’re sorry?” 

A huddle of port security personal led by a being who looked like a mound of fat in search of a body surrounded the group. “What’s going on here? You’ve destroyed a ship and damaged my runway.”

Trent raised his hands. “Finlack, I can explain.”

Kale, I should’ve known you’d be involved. You’ve just earned a trip to the mines.”

Layla stepped forward. “Finlack, this will solve matters.” She tossed him a small cylindrical device. Before Trent could see what it was, his feet were swept from under him. As he landed he saw a bright light fill the sky and heard blaster fire. Rolling over he saw Ydral groaning beside him. Standing over them was Laurel. “Sorry for knocking you over, but we couldn’t have the flash grenade blind you.”

Getting to his feet Trent saw the only man still conscious was a shaking, blinded, Finlack. “Not the first time a woman has knocked me off my feet, but why didn’t it affect you two?” he asked.

Layla batted her eyes at him. “Light protective eyes. One of the benefits of being a tank.”

Trent wiped his forehead. “You ladies had me worried for a second there.”

“You can practise your pick up lines later,” said Layla. 

She grabbed Finlack by the collar. “You’re coming with us. Kale, where’s your ship?”

Trent pointed to a green, triple engined, saucer shaped, vessel on the far side of the port. “That beauty right there.”

“The Korf was better,” sniffed Ydral.

Layla jabbed her blaster into Finlack’s chest. “Move.”

Leading the way, Trent entered the security code. The door swept open. “Welcome to Wanderer.”

Finlack backed away awkwardly. “Have a good journey.”

Laurel shoved her blaster into his back. “Inside.”

“Do we really need him?” asked Trent.

“We do if you want to leave,” replied Laurel.

Happy to be back on his ship, Trent closed the doors, then ran the short distance to the bridge while the others sat behind him in the ready room. He activated the engines. “If we don’t pay, the autodefenses will shoot us down.”

“Let me go and I’ll consider us even,” spluttered Finlack.

“We’ll handle it,” replied Layla.

After months of inactivity it took several efforts for Wanderer to lurch off the ground.

“This thing is safe, yes?” said Ydral.

“It was,” grinned Trent.

A disembodied voice interrupted them. “This is Chione Port Control, please refrain from movement or you will be fired upon.”

Laurel escorted Finlack to the comm station. “Tell them you have payment.”

Sweat running down his blubber, Finlack said, “Merle, it’s me. Kale has just paid me. He’s offered to take me on a short tour of the system to... celebrate.”

“Okay, and the crash?”

“Get a clean up crew assembled. I’ll be back shortly.”

The weapon alarms stopped chiming and Trent felt secure enough to head into the atmosphere. The higher he got the more he felt his worries slip away. Staring down at the green planet below he could finally relish being free of Chione. “Good news we’re out of weapons range.”

“Then we don’t need Finlack anymore,” replied Laurel.

A tiny yelp emerged from the Orlashian.

“Trent put this thing on autopilot and come with me,” said Laurel.

Wiping his forehead Trent followed her out the bridge.

“So all's well that ends well right?” said Finlack, jerking his head around.

“Open the escape pod,” said Laurel.

As the access door slid open she said, “Finlack get in.”

He started blubbering, “Thank ... ”

Laurel fired. The blue stunbolt sent Finlack tumbling into the escape pod. She gave Trent a nod and he hit the eject button.

They headed back to the bridge. Trent sat himself down. “So what now?”

Laurel exchanged glances with Layla, who nodded. Laurel reached into an equipment pouch on her belt. “Time to take care of the two of you.”

Trent drew his gun. “Damn. Kardos was right. You two can’t be trusted.”

Layla got up from her seat, shook her head, and stepped between them. “Take care of the two of you. Could you have picked a poorer choice of words?”

Laurel reddened. “I’m used to talking to criminals.”

“What’s happening?” asked Ydral.

“I wish I knew,” replied Trent his blaster still raised.

“Show him,” said Layla, brushing hair from her face.

Laurel opened her hand to revel a pair of blue green stones. “These are Klorian crystals. Compensation for the two of you.”

“These things are worth a fortune,” said Trent, lowering his blaster.

“They were also the easiest way to convert our currency,” replied Laurel.

Layla smirked, “You must be more trusting.”

“I’m trying,” replied Trent admiring the crystal. “So where to ladies?”

Layla stretched her arms. “Anywhere, but here.”

Trent set in a course. “My favourite place. There are cabins to the rear if you want to get yourselves cleaned up.”

Laurel patted him on the shoulder. “Thank you.” 

“Yes, thank you flyboy,” replied Layla. “I knew you could handle it.”

Trent forced a smile. “I’m glad someone did.”

The sisters departed, leaving Trent and Ydral alone. “Sorry about your ship. I’ll be happy to drop you off wherever you want, and you can forget paying me for my escort work.”

Ydral looked around, then whispered, “It was a piece of junk. This crystal will more then cover the ship and the Ambrosia. If they don’t get you killed perhaps we can do business in the future.”

Right now all Trent could think of was taking a holiday, still he couldn’t help asking, “I don’t suppose I could get a taste of Ambrosia. To see what the fuss is about.”

Ydral studied him. “I suppose a small shot.”

He pulled out his flask and filled the tiny cup attached. He handed it to Trent who carefully sipped it.

Ydral looked at him expectantly. “Well?”

Trent shrugged. “Tastes like lemonade.”

Ydral rolled his eyes. “Barbarian!”

 The End


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