By L. Young
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.
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?”
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?”
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?”
“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
up. “Don’t think too long, flyboy. I understand Finlack
is losing patience.”
him a fed chip. “Consider that a down payment.”
He rubbed it
between his fingers. “Wow, twenty feds. Thanks.”
many Federals do you have, blue eyes?” she replied with
reddened. Laughing softly, Layla got up and strolled out
of the bar.
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.
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.
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
Knocking his leg
on a pipe he cursed. “God dammit! Should never have that
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
him to sniff around Chione’s many criminal
factions for employment. But the legal jobs available
just didn’t pay enough.
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.”
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
him one in the face. The Klar reeled back.
pulled out a knife. Trent drew his blaster and fired
into the air. “No one has to die.”
grabbed the knife-wielding Drus. “Leave it. We’ve taught
him a lesson.”
watched the mob slink away. When he was sure they’d
gone, he turned to the alien. “You alright?"
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
nodded. “Ah, yes, frugality is important.”
pointed to the alien's ruffled silver suit. “They take
scratched his head. Chione was a violent place,
but most attacks involved profit. “Then why’d they
let out a honking sound Trent guessed was a laugh. “They
didn’t attack me. I attacked them.”
to keep a straight face. “Why?”
derogatory remarks about my appearance. It was an
affront to my honor.”
advice,” said Trent with a grin. “Don’t start fights
around here -- especially ones you can’t win.”
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.”
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.”
tentacles stiffened. “No, idiot. I mean a bodyguard.”
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.”
gave him an apprising look. “Well you’re Terlish, so you
probably take those pitiful Federation Federals. What
about 2,000 a day?”
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.”
Federals, but not a fed more.”
hell,” replied Trent. “You got an honest face. When do
extended his hand. “Trent Kale and you are?”
alien took it after a second’s hesitation. “To pronounce
it correctly, you would need three tongues. You may call
meet you, 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?”
whistled Trent. “They charge you just for standing
have a very exclusive product.”
continued silently down the street until Trent prompted,
studied Trent as if deciding whether he could be
trusted. “Have you heard of Aloxian Ambrosia?”
like yourself?” honked Ydral. “I suppose not.”
resisted the urge to thump him. “What’s so special about
“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.”
we can have a glass when this is over.”
revealing his blunt, white teeth, “You are most humorous
Terlish. Now please refrain from talking, I must prepare
started shrieking loudly -- Trent nearly jumped out of
his skin while passers-by stopped to look at Ydral’s
antics. “What are you doing?”
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.
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?”
a deep shade of green. “Of course! My name is Ydral. I
have an appointment. This is my escort Tren Kow.”
a hand. “Actually it’s Trent Kale.”
him away. “Unimportant.”
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.”
advanced, one grabbed Trent, who pushed back. “Easy,
pointed to his jacket. “Your gun.”
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.”
cast a critical eye over the old military surplus
blaster. “You sure?”
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.
only gone three steps when Ydral turned back. “What did
sir,” muttered the goon.
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.
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.”
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?”
Ambrosia,” replied Ydral. “I can let you have them for
10,000 Federals a barrel.”
flicked out his tongue, “You must be very confident in
your product to try and rob me like that.”
him closely. “I’ll require a sample.”
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.”
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.
finally got control of himself. He narrowed his eyes.
“It’s of reasonable quality. I will take ten barrels at
5,000 Federals each.”
me!” bristled Ydral.
exchanged glances with Morfal and her hand went inside
her jacket. Morfal shook his head and her hand went back
by her side.
Federals,” said Morfal.
the tension in the room rise. Morfal flicked out his big
tongue, “8,000 Federals.”
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.
out a big honking sound, “I accept.”
hissed Morfal splashing the water with his hand. “Bring
them tomorrow. Payment will be waiting.”
escorted them out the office. As they reached the exit
Ydral yelled, “How dare you insult me!”
launched himself at Laurel, pummelling her with his
fists. “Get off!” snapped Laurel.
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.
you doing?” cried Ydral.
levelled the blaster at him. “My job.”
apologetically at Laurel, Trent said, “Just a...
slowly disappeared from Laurel’s face. “Remove him,
before I have a misunderstanding.”
dragged Ydral away. “No problem. Again really sorry.”
were a safe distance away, Trent pulled Ydral aside.
“What the hell was that?”
something about my tentacles.”
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.”
himself off. “I will not allow my honour to be
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.”
overrated,” sighed Trent, “I’ve seen plenty of
people killed doing what they thought was honourable.”
replied Trent. “Where to now?”
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.
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?”
walking. “Are all Terlishes this nosy?”
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.
you’re going you big Terlish!” snapped Ydral.
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.
turned his chiselled features on Ydral and growled, “Did
you say something, alien?”
stepped forward. “Yes! Now apologise.”
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.”
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.”
off. Wagging her finger at them Layla followed.
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.”
you embarrass me in that way,” hissed Ydral.
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.”
that over for a couple of seconds then muttered, “It
still doesn’t excuse it.”
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
tentacles stiffened. “I will... consider it.” He waved
his hand as if nothing had happened. “Time to leave, I
have other customers to visit.”
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,
shouldn’t have pissed off Kardos,” said one.
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
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.”
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.
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
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.”
smirked, “Jeez! Lasq’s taste has really slipped.”
replied Trent. “But this is urgent. Life and death
raised his hand. “Get outta here!”
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!”
grimaced as he pulled his blaster away, “Kill setting,
bashing my employees.”
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.”
didn’t bat an eyelid. “You got ten seconds before I hand
you to those two.”
to ignore the two angry guards behind him Trent said, “I
need your help rescuing, Ydral.”
should help you?”
lowered his voice. “Layla says it’s time.”
expression remained guarded, but he noticed the
slightest twitch on her face. “I’ll handle this. Get
back to your posts.”
him to a small, sparsely decorated office.
“I love what
you’ve done here. Very... welcoming,” said Trent.
something into her computer. “I’ve jammed the
surveillance. We have five minutes.”
down in the only chair provided. “So what the hell’s
studied him closely. “You’ve just been recruited into
helping me rescue Layla.”
isn’t her boss,” replied Laurel. “He’s her enslaver.”
“I heard you
hated each other.”
just been playing for time until the right... man came
his hand. “Whoa, let’s take this from the top and
remember I’ll be marking you on poise and consistency.”
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.”
considered deviant behaviour?”
“Sounds like my
old high school.”
“At my high
school, the bottom twenty percent of any class was
He raised his
hand. “Okay, you win.”
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
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.”
slapped his thigh. “Kardos is a tank too!”
frowned at the derogatory term. Trent shrugged. “Sorry.”
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.”
enjoy Chione’s vibrant nightlife!” snapped
Laurel. She calmed herself. “All the microexplosives are
connected to him. If he dies... ”
“So why me?”
Trent leaned back. “You’ve got plenty of men to do your
thugs they’re not going to help me.”
an eyebrow. “How do you know you can trust me?”
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...
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.”
squirmed in his chair. “Not my best picture or best
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?”
in her chair. “This time I need to trust someone.”
“But can I
trust you?” replied Trent forcing a smile.
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.”
the chip a greedy glance. “It’s a start.”
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
There was a
tiny twinkle in her eye. “I hope you’re not squeamish.”
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.
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.
squeamish, eh?” said Laurel, already out of her
infiltration suit, looking infuriatingly perfect.
his mouth. “I lied. Seriously, this was your best
up position by the door. “If this was easy I wouldn’t
need your help.”
He took off
his suit, then removed his blaster and other necessary
equipment from their protective pouch. “Ready.”
door, Laurel rolled a small grey sphere
corridor where it began
emanating a tiny beeping noise designed to jam
Kardos’s security system.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.”
his hands. “I’d look a lot better if you’d done your job
would’ve been a lot easier if you hadn’t kept picking
Trent made a
show of walking away. “Enjoy your cell.”
Ydral. “Perhaps I’ve been a little... ungrateful.”
grinded out the words. “I apologize.”
grinned, “No worries. I’ll have you out in a jiffy.
hurried to the rear of cell as Trent drew his blaster.
The energy bolt fried the lock with an explosive sizzle.
“How did you
arrange this?” asked Ydral, strolling out with as much
dignity as he could muster.
as he turned the corner. “I didn’t think Morfal cared so
much for my wellbeing.”
doesn’t,” said Laurel. “But Trent’s helping me with a
side project.” She turned to him. “The code’s been
out, I’ll send her a encrypted message.”
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.
suddenly signalled for them to go back. When they
reached the cover of a junction, Trent asked, “What’s
She bit her
lip. “Enforcers loitering around the Wastestation.”
alarm began blaring.
said Trent. “What now?”
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.
by the door for cover and the eternally calm facade on
Laurel’s face cracked. “Damn!”
hadn’t been in the same situation he might’ve found it
funny. “There a plan C?”
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.
me,” groaned Ydral.
the body off him. There was only one man standing --
looked like he’d bitten into a lemon. “Laurel, you’re
boot shot up, smashing into his face. “Shut up. Trent,
seal the door.”
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.”
muzzled Ydral before he got violent. “Trent Kale at your
“You go far
to honour a contract, spacerat,” replied Kardos with
hint of admiration.
“I had nothing else on.”
thing obviously has more friends then I realised.
Too bad you’ll never leave.”
with a hostage,” replied Laurel.
gestured at the sealed room. “How exactly?”
charged her blaster. “Kardos’s private elevator. It’s
under that rather smug picture of himself.”
the picture aside and hit a wallbutton. The wall cranked
open revealing a small elevator. “Impressive,” said
Kardos. “No one knows about that.”
turned to him. “What?” asked Trent.
his arms. “When he assaulted me he took my Kolorian
drinking flask. I won’t leave without it.”
sighed, “Kardos do you have it?”
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.”
the flask at Kardos. “Over my dead body.”
don’t say that,” replied Trent.
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.”
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.”
clipped on the head. “It doesn’t matter!”
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.”
gun beneath his chin, Laurel growled, “Quiet!”
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.”
are trained in deception,” replied Laurel.
master,” laughed Kardos. “Who do you believe, spacerat?”
Kardos was lying, probably, but a large part of
him worried that he wasn’t. “She’s no worse then my
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
around, Trent shot the elevator's lock, then handed
Ydral a blaster. “Take this, Laurel and I will take care
advanced towards the cover of the flyers, Laurel asked,
“What are you doing?”
crack shot, right?”
ready to shoot, because I’m about to give you some
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.
“I got six,
but I didn’t see Layla or Kardos.” She paused. “That was
him in the arm. “Don’t do it again. This plan depends on
think that’s going to be a problem,” he replied, rubbing
Layla were at the far end of the landing ground with
their blasters pointed at Ydral’s head.
down. “They surprised me.”
ballsy, spacerat,” said Kardos, “But if you don’t
surrender now I top squidface here,”
doesn’t even know he’s lost,” said Laurel.
She took his
arm. “Come on I want to enjoy this.”
advanced towards the trio; Kardos fired a shot in the
air. “Drop the blasters.”
” said Laurel.
the blaster from Kardos’s hand.
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.”
never playing,” said Layla.
eyes narrowed. “They will find you. Let me live. We can
make a deal.”
flinched at the cold-blooded look that came over Layla. “I’m
sick of deals,” she replied. “And I’m sick of you.”
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.”
have used him,” said Laurel as they separated.
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
me?” said Ydral.
out of the way, shortstuff,” replied Layla.
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.”
pointed to a bright blue button. “That starts the
said Ydral. “They’re coming!”
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.
miniflyers heading our way!” said Layla.
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.
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.
commed, “They’re opening up! Rockets incoming.”
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
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
that?” yelled Trent.
replied Laurel. “It must have held back.”
said Trent. “The port engine’s gone. We’ll have to
land.” Or crash, he thought, whichever came
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
A voice came
over the radio. “This is Chione Port Control.
Please identify yourself.”
in hot,” he replied.
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.
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.”
critical eye over the others he saw they were dazed, but
good a flyer as you are a bodyguard,” moaned Ydral.
still alive aren’t you?” replied Trent.
tentacles went limp. “My ship. I’m ruined!”
ship?” replied Trent, cringing at the flaming wreckage.
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.”
his hands. “Finlack, I can explain.”
I should’ve known you’d be involved. You’ve just earned
a trip to the mines.”
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.”
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.
her eyes at him. “Light protective eyes. One of the
benefits of being a tank.”
his forehead. “You ladies had me worried for a second
practise your pick up lines later,” said Layla.
Finlack by the collar. “You’re coming with us. Kale,
where’s your ship?”
pointed to a green, triple engined, saucer shaped,
vessel on the far side of the port. “That beauty right
was better,” sniffed Ydral.
her blaster into Finlack’s chest. “Move.”
way, Trent entered the security code. The door swept
open. “Welcome to Wanderer.”
backed away awkwardly. “Have a good journey.”
shoved her blaster into his back. “Inside.”
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.
handle it,” replied Layla.
of inactivity it took several efforts for Wanderer
to lurch off the ground.
is safe, yes?” said Ydral.
disembodied voice interrupted them. “This is Chione
Port Control, please refrain from movement or you
will be fired upon.”
escorted Finlack to the comm station. “Tell them you
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.”
“Get a clean
up crew assembled. I’ll be back shortly.”
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.”
don’t need Finlack anymore,” replied Laurel.
A tiny yelp
emerged from the Orlashian.
this thing on autopilot and come with me,” said Laurel.
forehead Trent followed her out the bridge.
well that ends well right?” said Finlack, jerking his
escape pod,” said Laurel.
access door slid open she said, “Finlack get in.”
blubbering, “Thank ... ”
fired. The blue stunbolt sent Finlack tumbling into the
escape pod. She gave Trent a nod and he hit the eject
back to the bridge. Trent sat himself down. “So what
exchanged glances with Layla, who nodded. Laurel reached
into an equipment pouch on her belt. “Time to take care
of the two of you.”
his gun. “Damn. Kardos was right. You two can’t be
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?”
reddened. “I’m used to talking to criminals.”
happening?” asked Ydral.
“I wish I
knew,” replied Trent his blaster still raised.
said Layla, brushing hair from her face.
opened her hand to revel a pair of blue green
stones. “These are Klorian crystals. Compensation for
the two of you.”
things are worth a fortune,” said Trent, lowering his
also the easiest way to convert our currency,” replied
smirked, “You must be more trusting.”
trying,” replied Trent admiring the crystal. “So where
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.”
patted him on the shoulder. “Thank you.”
you flyboy,” replied Layla. “I knew you could handle
a smile. “I’m glad someone did.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
studied him. “I suppose a small shot.”
out his flask and filled the tiny cup attached. He
handed it to Trent who carefully sipped it.
at him expectantly. “Well?”
shrugged. “Tastes like lemonade.”
his eyes. “Barbarian!”