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SteveTrevor

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About SteveTrevor

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  1. SteveTrevor

    Chapter 3

    Stay tuned
  2. SteveTrevor

    Chapter 3

    3. They moved out slowly toward the cargo bay with their weapons still drawn. Further resistance was highly unlikely but John had been in this game long enough to know it paid to be cautious. Dahl and Nakamura led the way with the rest of the squad falling in behind. “So. Who got the prize in the end?” Liddle asked, keeping his voice low and rifle high. John turned to look at his friend. Don Liddle was in the prime of his life; supremely fit with jet black hair and a row of perfect white teeth. Yet the man staring back at John was just about hanging on to the last wisps of grey hair on a balding head whilst the paunch of his stomach fought against the tight constraints of his combat armour. “The prize?” Taylor, the rookie asked. His throat was a ruin, a yawning gap where a bullet had torn through it. Even so the words came out unimpeded and clear. “Yeah rook, the prize,” Liddle replied. “You know, the target.” “Ah, I got you.” “Good thing you’re pretty, Jacob,” Harris muttered loud enough for the team to hear. Mika Harris had the quickest wit John had ever known, so long as you didn’t mind your comedy stylings on the darker side of black. “As to the original question, that would be Boothe.” “Shot him dead,” confirmed the veteran sharpshooter. Roeden’s disease had taken Boothe hard; his complexion was wrinkled and pallid, loose skin dangled from his cheeks and neck. He had a few months left at best. “Drinks on you back in the Mess then Boothe?” Beasley asked, ever the optimist “Nope.” “Well, nothing ventured…” The short man sighed. They took the steps down to the second floor in silence; the double doors to the cargo bay at the end of a short corridor flanked by a number of small rooms which were quickly swept and cleared. “Locked,” said Dahl, testing the bay doors. “Sharvin.” The petite infiltrator limped forward, favouring her right leg. She produced a small, round device from her belt pouch and placed it over the door release. The lock-bypass switched on automatically, connecting to the lock as the squad pressed themselves tight against the wall either side of the door. Louise McDaid stood across from John. While the whole team might have been in top physical condition, Lou was a whole different beast. Small in stature but thickly muscled, McDaid would entertain friends on base and in the bars by challenging and beating the meanest looking Marines at push-up and chin-up contests. John had given valiant losing efforts in both but his pride had stopped him from going zero and three and accepting her arm wrestling challenge. She caught John looking and offered a smile in return. Her physique had remained as had the colour in her short, jet black hair but lines tugged at the corner of each eye and wrinkles furrowed her brow. Dahl was a shadow beside her, a grey wraith where John knew a man should be. He had been lost on a training accident. His body was never found. “Done,” said Sharvin after a few seconds. She removed the bypass and pressed the door control. The gears sprang to life, slowly parting the metal barriers. The cargo bay was barely lit, relying on a low powered ambient source somewhere in the ceiling. “Bad mojo,” John heard Lou murmur as Dahl’s grey ghost waved them forward. John felt the familiar sensation of his heart beating hard against his chest. Don’t go in there! He wanted to shout out but found himself unable. The smell was rank, the stench wafting over them as they passed the door threshold as if the pungent odour had been waiting to greet them. “Light!” Dahl whispered, like the rest of his squad he was quieted by the atmosphere that reached out from the cargo bay. Shadows danced on the walls and along the floor as the bright lights of their torch attachments swept over the murk of the cargo bay. “Jesus!” It was Sharvin who called from a few feet to John’s left. He swept his rifle to where she was standing looking at a crate directly in front of her. No. Not a crate. A cage. John approached slowly; already knowing he did not want to see what was inside. He stepped forward anyway. “No….” Sharvin almost whimpered as John joined her, taking a few steps back. Empty eyes stared back at him. Flies and maggots crawled over rotten skin. Up close the smell of piss and shit became almost overwhelming. John just about managed to fight down the bile that was at the base of his throat. “Ro,” he coughed. “I see it,” Dahl’s wraith replied. His rifle light swept over the room to reveal more cages, more bodies crammed into confines half the height of a man. “Don,” Dahl turned to his Deputy. “Take Beasley and get a call through to Colonel Higgins. Tell him…” he trailed off. Liddle nodded a silent understanding and took off toward the bridge with Beasley following close behind. “Count at least fifty,” said Boothe as he joined John, Sharvin and Harris. “Closer to seventy,” Harris replied, looking to his feet and offering nothing more. John looked away to see McDaid, who had drifted away from the group, take a particular interest in one of the cages. “Lou?” He said softly as he approached. She said nothing, just shook her head as she looked to him and back down at the cage. A starved infant clung tight to where it had died, sucking at the rotting breast of his mother. A baby cried. John woke with a start, a silent yell dying in his throat as he found himself sitting upright in his bed. The first light of the morning peeked its way through the thin curtains and into his room. He lay back down on his bed, breathing hard. Using the back of his hand to wipe the sheen of sweat from his brow he fumbled for his watch on the bedside table. The heavy gold timepiece told him it was just before 0500 but John knew it would be the last bit of sleep he would be getting. He had served close to twenty five years with the New Terran Navy, had fought in two major wars and numerous smaller conflicts throughout the galaxy. He’d been a Marine, spec-ops, and retired as a Colonel in Naval Intelligence. Throughout it all he had slept soundly each night but now, less than two months after handing in his papers the nightmares were becoming a regular occurrence. With a tired sigh he collected his clothes and walked over to the small en-suite. The man who looked back at him the mirror was different than the fresh faced Lieutenant from his dream. He still had the same flinty jaw and deep tan. His muscular physique had remained strong well into his forties; a testament to the active lifestyle of a professional soldier. The passage of time couldn’t be completely ignored however. His dark hair was still thick but had lost the battle with the grey at the temples, while laughter lines marked the corners of both eyes. It was 0540 when John checked his watch again. Freshly showered, he carefully descended the stairs of the boarding house. Mrs Finch would have roused herself and insisted on cooking him breakfast if she heard him up and John had no wish to inconvenience the kindly old woman. He let himself out the front door and headed off in the direction off the docks. Even at such an early hour there was still life about the Providence port. Workers just clocking on mingled with those on the night shift whilst crewmen from the docked ships stumbled out of the numerous taverns and brothels. John deftly dodged the commendable efforts of a burly spacer to vomit over his shoes as he continued toward the ship berths. It was his fourth day in Providence. The previous three had been interesting but had not yet turned up what he was looking for. He had enjoyed his time in the town so far. Providence had a life to it, a mixing pot of an established Phase One World thrown together with the crews who flew in and out of Phase Two and Three space. Ares was a developed world but its largest spaceport still held an almost rustic charm. Brick and mortar buildings were thrown together with high-rise steel and girder corporation offices and canvas tents. There was no question that it had an ugly underbelly; he couldn’t think of any port that didn’t but he’d heard it said in the past that a man could find anything he wanted here. John hoped it was true. He cast an eye over the docked ships as he walked slowly up and down the lines where they were berthed. He had seen most of them the day before and those he hadn’t did not inspire him much. Truthfully, he wasn’t sure exactly what ship he was looking for but he knew those that stood in the berths were not it. Those that looked like they would be taking passengers were too clean cut, too artificial. Perfect for a tourist looking for a quick and direct flight but not for what he sought. There were other ships there, working ships that could make room for a passenger paying the right fee. Those that seemed to fit his need were ruled out one by one. Some were not well enough looked after; you could tell a lot about a ship from the way it was maintained. Wear and tear was expected but a couple looked ready for the boneyard. He turned on his heel. He’d have to come back later in the day when the dock was busier and newer ships had landed. He left the berths behind and walked back in the direction of the boarding house. As John rounded the corner he narrowly avoided colliding with a younger man. He offered his apologies and moved on. John was in no particular hurry. He walked slowly, enjoying the atmosphere of the dock at such an early hour. Eventually the machinery and equipment of the port slowly gave way back to bars, storage facilities and cargo offices. The streets weren’t empty, it should have been a simple enough task to tail someone without being spotted but as John passed a shop front he could see he was being followed. He allowed himself a quick glance over his shoulder and saw it was the man he had almost walked into at the corner. An amateur at best, John wagered. Local thug who had been looking to roll one of the early morning drunks stumbling out of a tavern. He must have spotted John checking out the ships and thought he had stumbled on a clueless tourist. His clothes, while casual, were of good quality and the expensive watch on his wrist stood him out from the crowd, especially this early in the day. Desperate man, John thought to himself. And desperate means dangerous. He might be getting old but at six foot and just a little over two hundred pounds, John was not a slight man. His pursuer had considered this and still reckoned it worth the risk. John looked behind him again to see the man cross the street. Upon reaching the far side he quickened his pace, taking him ahead of John before crossing back over once more just before they reached the next corner. The man had placed himself nonchalantly against the wall but stepped out to block John’s path as he approached. “Hey,” the man said, holding a hand out to stop him. He was a young, probably not quite twenty. He was a head shorter than John and at least fifty pounds lighter. A long dark duster was wrapped around his slender frame and his hand twitched as it reached into his coat pocket. John tried to sidestep him but the man blocked him again. “I said hey.” John took a step back but said nothing. “I fancy that watch you got,” the man pointed. His hand came out from the coat pocket holding a flick knife. “Any cash you got on you too.” His speech was rapid and jerky. His eyes jumped about, first to John, then to his feet and back to John. A sheen of sweat was slick on his brow. It was the summer season on this part of Ares but it was a cool morning. John kept silent, slowly shaking his head. “Maybe you didn’t hear me,” The man’s teeth were stained brown and a thin sliver of thick black gunk dribbled out of the corner of his mouth. Chew, John thought to himself distastefully. The new drug of choice for the discerning junkie. “The watch and wallet.” “Not really in the mood for getting robbed today,” John replied, raising his voice. It echoed along the quiet street. Above them, John thought he saw a curtain twitch. He could defend himself if it came to it but there was a lot of uncertainties when dealing with a man holding a knife. Preferably he could resolve the situation before that was necessary. “You playin’ with me?” the man demanded, his already skittish voice getting higher. If he was used to holding up tourists it was unlikely he encountered any sort of resistance. If he did, it probably ended as soon as the knife was produced. John’s flat refusal had thrown him. “You think I won’t start cuttin’ you up?” John could see that the thug held his knife in a hammer grip; far away from the body with fingers and thumb wrapped around and under the belly of the handle. Holding it so far from the body gave an opponent the chance to trap the hand holding the knife. The thug was angry now, riled up over the fact his latest victim simply wouldn’t hand over his possessions. John knew he had to be careful. There was fear in the man’s voice too. Fear of the uncertain outcome, fear that the encounter was not going as he had thought. Fear made a man, any man, incredibly dangerous. Although John was clearly bigger and stronger than his would-be mugger, he also had twenty five years on him. Whilst he knew he was still in excellent shape, there was no question he had slowed down in the last few years. Age and a lack of time in the field would do that to anyone. “I think you need to find a new line of work,” said John. “The fuck do you know!” Spittle shot from the man’s mouth. John waited for the attack that didn’t come. “The fuck do you know!” he demanded again as he took a step backward. He was shaking now, on the long road of the comedown. He let out a sob and sat himself on the kerb, dropping his knife. Just a junkie kid. John fought the sudden urge to throw some cash his way. There was only one thing he would have spent it on. Keeping one eye on the man, John reached down and picked up the knife. The blade was blunt and rusted. The kid could barely have cut through butter with it. He dropped the knife in the nearest drain and walked back to the boarding house. It was a little past 0630 when he arrived. The smell of fried egg and bacon wafted invitingly from the kitchen. “Colonel Lachlan?” His hostess greeted him in surprise. “I didn’t know you were already up. Come,” she said, taking him by the arm and leading him to the dining room. Mrs Finch had doted over him in the four days he’d been staying with her. She was so used to short term guests using her house as a stop-over between trips that she was genuinely delighted when someone resembling an actual tourist showed up. When she had found out that he was a veteran her kindness only grew. She had lost a son in the war, a sailor who had died when the UCS Brutus broke up over Selene. John’s time as a frontline combatant was long over by the time the big one had rolled around but that didn’t stop Mrs Finch treating him as an almost surrogate son. He’d miss her when it was time to go. “Where did you go at such an hour?” she asked as she heaped two eggs on top of the bacon and sausages already on his plate. “Fancied some fresh air,” John said as he seated himself in the empty room. She tutted, “Looking at those ships again.” He nodded as he reached for the teapot. “Not much to see,” he admitted. She smiled. “Maybe you’re just too damn picky.” “Patient,” John corrected her with a grin. “The right ship is out there. Just a matter of waiting.”
  3. SteveTrevor

    Chapter 2

    2. Lydia Bowri grimaced as she finished off the dregs of her coffee. They’d be back on Ares in a few days and she resolved to find some of her favourite premium brand and stow it in her footlocker. She washed the cup under the kitchen sink and left it to dry on the sideboard before making her way into the corridor holding the crew quarters and up the steps to the Zenith’s cockpit. She found Sunny and Garrett watching the small holo screen perched on top of the flight controls. Neither looked up from the monitor as she entered. On the screen a number of fancy suited people were arguing over…something. Politicians. Who else has the ability to talk so loudly without apparently saying anything at all? “What’s this about?” she asked after a few seconds, none the wiser as to what the discussion was. “It’s on Selene,” Sunny answered. “Their government is arguin’ about joining the Coalition.” The pilot’s tone suggested she was unsure herself. Garrett gave a quick nod. “Turned their coat quick enough,” he murmured, keeping his attention on the screen. Lydia shifted uncomfortably; Garrett was from Athena. His people had led half the cluster into taking up arms against each other. The Zenith’s engineer had been a non-combatant, his job in a shipyard deemed too important for him to be pressed into service. Lydia had been on Athena toward the end of the war. Garrett’s home planet had suffered greatly for its aggressive and unsanctioned expansion. Most of its major cities had been bombed to rubble, its economy was crushed into the dirt and now its populace had to put up with an occupying force determined not to allow them to repeat past transgressions while surviving loyalists of the last regime stoked the flames of a civil war. No wonder the engineer has gotten out when he could. “…a plastic monarchy ruling over a weak willed parliament who led us to near annihilation!”A fat and very red faced man pointed his finger angrily across the room. He was momentarily drowned out by angry yelling but continued on unabated. “…Now we have the chance to fix the mistakes of the past and take our place among the United Coalition of Planets, where we should have been years ago!” Turncoats, Lydia mused as she turned her attention back to the screen. Not even five years after General Jaeke’s surrender to the Coalition and Athena’s staunchest ally is debating the merits of joining the UCP. She looked to Garrett knowing how it must rankle him. Athena was re-building, slowly. But the planet had become a pariah state and most people throughout the galaxy seemed happy to accept the narrative of Athena being the big bad, stringing other colonies along for the ride. “It’s a good thing though. Right?” Sunny asked. Pale skinned and slender, she was the baby of the crew, barely into her mid-twenties. Her dark brown hair was worn in a long pixie style and a tattoo was partially visible on her upper right arm; a full circle intersected by a partially complete second one. Lydia had once asked her what it meant. “Lost love,” Sunny had replied and Lydia quickly decided not to press the matter. Their pilot was bright, loyal and had an uncanny talent for flying but she cared little for the world outside her cockpit. Lydia shrugged at the question. Like Sunny, the doings of politicians held little interest for her these days. “Any word from the Captain?” she asked, changing the subject. Garrett swivelled his chair around to face her. “Nothing yet.” The Zenith’s engineer was clothed in his work attire, a dark green jumpsuit covered in grease and oil stains. His face had a thin layer of dirt from whatever odd job he had been doing on the engines and his lank, dark hair was stuck to his brow. He rested both hands across a generous gut. Their engineer hadn’t been a particularly slim man when he joined the crew a year and a half before but his time on the Zenith had only made him larger. Lydia had caught him one too many times sneaking food back to his cabin. He ate like someone trying to cover up some sort of hurt but Lydia couldn’t say what that hurt was; Garrett never talked about the war, or Athena. Having heard enough of the debate, Garrett flicked through the channels. He paused on a program discussing the effect of the terraforming process and subsequent human settlement on native species. “It’s a unique challenge every time,” a pretty blonde haired presenter explained directly to the camera. Over her shoulder a skircel scuttled past, its eight spindly legs supporting a cylindrical, hard-shelled body. “When humanity arrived in the Pegasus Cluster, the challenge for the biologists and ethologists on the arks was the integration of old Earth species into new and unknown ecosystems. Today, as we push out into Phase Three space, the challenge is much the same as it was for the first wave of colonists five hundred years before....” Lydia scuffed the toe of her boot on the floor, watching but not watching the screen. She hated times like these, waiting for the crew to come and feeling utterly useless. She had never been a fighter. She had been a medic in the war and never fired her weapon after basic. These days her main job was to fret about everyone else and then try to patch them up when they came back with exciting new bruises and holes. Assuming they’re not too punctured already, she thought as she felt her mood darken. “I’m sure they’re fine,” Sunny said brightly, seeming to sense Lydia’s worry. “You know the Cap’n.” “We all know the Captain,” Garrett replied. “I think that’s what’s troubling her.” Sunny’s smile faded slightly. “Probably just haggling out a price,” he suggested. “Or exchanging bullets.” Lydia murmured, crossing her arms. “Bullets seem more likely.” Neither of her two crewmates replied as Lydia scolded herself. There was no point making the rest of the crew uneasy just because she was in bad form. “I’ll be glad to get back to Providence,” Sunny announced, choosing to ignore Lydia’s attempt to put everyone else in bad form. “Hit the market, get some proper food in my belly.” It was a clumsy attempt to move Lydia away from her fretting but she appreciated the effort. “Could do with picking up a new buffer for the secondary core as well,” Garrett added. “Jury-rigged it back on Landinum to last us for one trip but that was weeks ago. It’s a little piece but if it goes you could lose that core.” “I’ll make a note,” Lydia replied before turning to Sunny, “And I wouldn’t get too excited about Providence. Captain’s planning on making it a quick turnaround. Get what’s owed, grab some supplies, hopefully get a couple of fares and back into the void.” “We’re taking on passengers?” Sunny asked. Lydia nodded. “That’s the plan.” “Doubt we’ll be lucky enough to get anyone like those two sisters we took to Sark on our last run,” Garrett said with a wry smile. “Raimo wouldn’t have minded giving the older one a go.” Lydia gave a derisive snort. “Maybe in his lonely dreams.” Garrett gave a rare laugh and Lydia felt her mood beginning to rise again, as it usually did when she made fun of Raimo. Ribbing was a fact of life on the Zenith and Raimo made himself an easier target than most. Not to say he didn’t return the ball-busting with equal gusto. “So…” Sunny said, “No free time on the dock?” “Captain might give some time for people to pick up a few wants,” said Lydia. “Depending on how fast we get the cargo unloaded and deal with Hoddell.” “Couldn’t hurt to stop in to Pretty Jane’s for a few,” Sunny suggested, not quite ready to give up on whatever plans she had already made for Providence. Despite her diminutive size, their pilot had a fearsome talent for alcohol consumption even amongst a crew of veteran drinkers. “Cap’n could do with a night out too. Been wound awful tight lately,” said Sunny. “Everyone has,” Lydia replied. “Last month and a half we’ve been zooming about half the cluster without stopping.” As suggestions went, Sunny’s wasn’t the worst. “So...you’ll ask her, right?” Before Lydia could open her mouth to ask why it always seemed to be her nominated to ask the Captain anything, the console in front of them beeped with an incoming message. “Zenith,” Sunny said as she opened the channel. “Ander here. Could do with a pick-up if you’d be so kind. Same coordinates as originally planned.” “Roger that,” Sunny replied. “Be with you in two.” “Everybody ok over there?” Lydia cut in. “Yeah, everyone’s good,” Ander said. “What about Hagen? The deal went down ok?” Lydia asked, ignoring an eye roll from Sunny. Ander paused. “Yeah…We got what we came for. It was touch and go for a bit but Captain Hagen decided to do the decent thing in the end.” “Good.” Lydia said, feeling the tight knot in the pit of her stomach loosen. That’s good.” “Yeah. Any chance of that pick-up?” “On our way,” Sunny interrupted, closing the channel before Lydia could ask anything else. She began to work at the controls, flicking a number of buttons upward. The Zenith responded with a low rumble as the main engine and side thrusters began to power up. “Ever think you worry too much?” “You have met our four shipmates before?” Lydia asked sardonically. Sunny snorted as the Zenith lifted from the ground. The pilot let the ship ascend to only a few hundred feet before gently angling it toward the rendezvous point. “C’mon,” Lydia nudged Garrett as she walked over to the flight of stairs behind the flight controls. The engineer sighed but dutifully followed. The steps led down to a long corridor which had once housed a number of offices, when the Zenith had been operated by a legitimate company and was ruled by administration. That was about fifty years before Taryn had found her in a boneyard on Eos. Nowaday the rooms were mainly used for storage or workstations. One room at the end of the corridor stood out from the rest. With a heavy metal door, a thin strip of spyglass and a keypad lock, Lydia supposed this room could also be considered storage. It was one of the many contradictions of life out in the void. A crew who skirted the fringes of legality more often than not, would be employed to hunt down fugitives by the law enforcement agencies of the frontier worlds. Considering how well bounty hunting could pay, the irony was happily ignored. By the time Lydia and Garrett descended the two flights to the bay floor, Sunny was already bringing the Zenith in to land. The cargo bay door opened outward to make a ramp for people or vehicles coming aboard or disembarking. Lydia was surprised to see they had somehow inherited a second four-wheel hauler. She looked quizzically at Raimo as Ander manoeuvred the machine up the ramp. “Courtesy of Captain Hagen,” Raimo said with a grin, casually shouldering his rifle. “What happened?” “Tried to cheat us. Taryn took it kinda thick.” He tapped the butt of the rifle to make it clear how thick. Lydia shot a look at Ander as he hopped off the newly acquired hauler. “I thought you said Hagen did the decent thing.” “I meant he did the decent thing and died.” Lydia shook her head slowly. “It was probably only ever going to end one way,” Raimo said, almost apologetically. “Taryn was right, he was always going to try and shaft us.” “Worked out well for him,” Donovan said with a harsh laugh as he helped Ander unbuckle the large container on the back of the hauler. “Hey Garrett, get the door for us, would ya?” The engineer obliged, walking over to the far wall to remove the panel to one of the Zenith’s numerous hides. “He always was a shit,” Lydia admitted quietly. She managed a smile for Taryn as she walked by. The Captain clasped her shoulder briefly. “Everyone’s ok,” said Raimo. “That’s what’s important, right?” Lydia nodded. “Right.” She watched Taryn walk over to the small intercom at the rear of the bay. “Sunny, everyone’s onboard. Get us into atmo and lay in a course for Ares.” “Roger that.” Taryn took a step from the console before turning back to it. “Oh, and Sunny? Send a line out to Hagen’s ship. Let them know they got a wounded crewmate needs medical attention at the rendezvous.” “You think they’ll come back on us?” Raimo asked Taryn as she flicked the comms off. She shrugged, “Possible, I suppose. He has-“ “-Had,” Ander interrupted. “-Had a decent sized crew. Might be a few looking to even the score.” Lydia suppressed a shudder. More than three years on the Zenith and the harsh reality of their life out in the void could still slap her across the face. No matter what way someone tried to dress it up, four people who she considered family had left the ship and gunned down other human beings. She had no doubt Taryn had been in the right, that she would have tried to make the deal go through but the result was the same. “Na,” Donovan said as he and Garrett re-joined the group. “Figure those five were the best Hagen had and they weren’t up to much. I’d say they take it as a lesson and move on.” “Maybe,” Ander said, “But they lost five crewmates and a decent payday. Might be naïve not to expect to get some blowback.” “Maybe,” Taryn said as she looked to Lydia, sensing her unease. “But we won’t let it worry us. Could be they count themselves lucky they don’t have to work under Hagen any more.” To Lydia it looked like at least some of the weight had been lifted from Taryn’s shoulders. The prospect of a confrontation eased by the fact everyone on her side had made it through. “Nothing to do now but sit back and enjoy the burn to Ares,” Raimo grinned. “Sounds like a plan,” said Taryn as she made for the rear door of the cargo bay. Lydia followed her. “Sorry you couldn’t talk him around,” she said once they were out of earshot of the others. Taryn gave her a tired smile, slowing her pace to allow Lydia to keep up. Lydia wasn’t as quick on her feet since a mortar had taken her left leg off below the knee. “I tried. All you can do, right?” “Right,” Lydia agreed. She found that she tended to agree a lot. They climbed the stairs to the den in silence. “Been thinkin’,” she ventured. “You mean, someone else has been thinking and pushed you forward to speak for them.” Taryn’s smile remained as she made the accusation. “Crew could use a break. You could use a break.” “Probably,” Taryn shrugged. “But it’s not like we’re hard pushed between here and Ares. We’ve got exactly one crate of cargo and zero passengers.” “Not what I was talking about. I meant some time off ship. Actual time off the ship, not just to collect cargo and supplies.” Taryn regarded her with those cool blue eyes for a couple of seconds. “Who put you up to this?” she asked. It wasn’t an angry question, her tone was curious. Aside from Ander, Lydia had known the Captain the longest out of any of the crew. The three of them had served together through most of the war. As the platoon’s medic she had enjoyed a certain fudging of respective ranks between herself and her Lieutenant. That particular aspect of their relationship had continued to the present day. When an unpopular opinion amongst the crew surfaced, it was usually Lydia that got put up to bring it to Taryn’s attention. The Captain had raised her voice in anger plenty of times since she had bought the Zenith but never at her. “No one,” Lydia answered. “But people talk. We’ve been cooped up together for the past couple of months. The Zenith isn’t that big. I’m just proposing one night on the town in Providence. Get a good meal, a few drinks, a chance to unwind like regular people.” “We’ve got things to do on Providence; meet with Hoddell, take on supplies and passengers. We got a new crewmember to pick-up and we’ll have to look for work if Hoddell doesn’t have anything for us.” Lydia nodded. As usual, Taryn wanted a quick turnaround. To add to the work that would be waiting for them on Ares, they were also taking on a new shipmate, Pol Singh. Taryn had been looking to strengthen the crew for a while, in situations where a fist or gun were needed. Such situations were alarmingly common for the Zenith despite prior preparations or planning. It had taken time but the Captain had finally found someone matching up to her lofty estimations the last time they were on Providence. Singh had agreed to ship out with the Zenith when they returned from the current job. “You’re right though,” Taryn conceded. “It would be good to get everyone off the ship, even for a night. We get everything we need to do on Providence out of the way first and then we’ll kick back.” “Great. I’ll let the crew know.” “You do that,” Taryn said as she walked toward the stairs leading to the Captain’s cabin. “And tell Sunny it was a nice idea,” she called over her shoulder.
  4. SteveTrevor

    Space Adventures

    Some pictures inspired by characters from my sci-fi stories.
  5. SteveTrevor

    Chapter 1

    1. “Looks like you’ll be owing me that drink then.” “I know how you love to tell me, I told you so,” Taryn Bellin said with a sideways glance to her first mate. Like her, Ander’s hands were raised above his head. The third member of their group mimicked their pose but kept his mouth shut for the time being. Taryn was thankful for small mercies. “Doesn’t give me any pleasure,” Ander replied. “Well…not this time at least.” In his mid-thirties, Ander Herron was only a couple of years older than Taryn but it could easily have passed for ten. His face was bloated and red, his nose and cheeks were a mess of broken capillaries. Too much sun, she had heard him declare on more than one occasion. For someone who spent ninety five percent of his time in deep space, it was a weak explanation. “I don’t suppose there’s any way to settle this like reasonable people?” Taryn asked, turning her attention back to the man with the shotgun pointed directly at her chest. “Seems to me it’s already been settled,” he replied with a brown-toothed grin. Fat and rank with the smell of unwashed body odour, Captain Morris Hagen was not a man blessed with an abundance of redeeming qualities. “I meant to the satisfaction of both parties,” Taryn said. Among their peers Hagen was not a well liked, nor more importantly, a well respected man. He had a reputation as a shyster and a swindler and his crew was made up of bullies, thieves and layabouts. Taryn had been stumped as to how Hagen had somehow lucked into a job from a source like Lyman Hoddell. She had worried it meant trouble for her and her crew from the moment she had accepted the job. So far, Hagen was exceeding her wildest expectations. His ugly smile grew wider. “It’ll be good for you, Bellin. Might move you off that pedestal you look down on everyone from.” “That’s it, is it?” Taryn asked flatly. “You’re teaching me a lesson?” She took a breath, determined not to lose her cool. “We both stand to make out on this deal, why mess with it?” While she had no intention of getting screwed, gunplay was the last thing she wanted, particularly as Hagen had four men to her two. All but one had their weapons pointed at either her, or her two shipmates and none looked like they would have any qualms about shooting them down. “Way I see it, I take the credits that were coming my way and keep the shipment. Shift it on my own and earn myself two paydays. Easy decision all in all.” “And the part where you shaft me and Hoddell?” Taryn glanced down at the revolver holstered on her right hip. She was fast on the draw but wasn't so overconfident to believe she could outpace a shotgun blast. “Hoddell might be a big man on the Providence docks but he don’t have any reach outside of it.” Are you really that dense? Taryn thought to herself.. The fact that Hagen had suddenly found his balls was a surprise but his brains were lacking. Half of the Freebooter crews in the galaxy used Providence to recruit, refit and refuel. Hoddell’s operation might be based on Ares but his influence reached wherever the crews that used the Providence docks travelled. “As for the Zenith crew,” Hagen continued, “Well, the day I start fearing the likes of you and yours is the day I need to hang it up for good.” She bristled at the last remark and Hagen could see it had hit home. He laughed, enjoying himself now, “I mean what are you?” He asked with a sneer. Despite being of similar height to Taryn, Hagen still managed to look down his nose at her. “A hero from the war? Now a Captain of great re…re….” “Repute?” Ander offered. Hagen spat. “Aye, that’s it. You think you copy the attitude and show your scars and that makes you something in our world?” Before the war men had often told Taryn how beautiful she was. She still had the same lean, athletic figure, deep blue eyes and golden hair but now the only thing people seemed to notice was the long scar that ran from above her left eye, across her nose and down her right cheek. “I earned my scars fighting, Hagen. Not something you’d know much about.” Taryn could feel the familiar red mist descending. “Hell, why don’t I make it easy and turn my back now. Word goes that’s how most people who cross you get it.” A silence hung over their little valley. Taryn looked down the barrel of Hagen’s shotgun and wondered if she’d finally pushed her luck just a little too far. He laughed at her and shook his head, “Just some little girl playing at space cowboy.” “Better than some fuckdog flappin’ his gums.” Taryn’s second companion had evidently decided that it was time to break his silence and he had done so in typical Donovan Lafferty fashion. Taryn heard Ander suppress a bark of laughter and got the feeling that the diplomatic route was beginning to falter. “What did you say to me?” Hagen demanded as he turned his attention to Donovan. Taryn noted that Hagen, despite his many faults, was at least smart enough to keep his distance, even when armed with a shotgun. She had to give him some measure of credit for that. Donovan stood not far off six foot five and was an intimidating presence even when in good humour, which Taryn had to admit, was a rare occurrence. His arms and chest were thick with muscle and he put them to good use. He had been breaking heads for Taryn for the better part of two years and while she might not have fully trusted the man and likely never would, he had become a valuable asset to her crew, when he could be controlled. Taryn looked back over her shoulder and caught his gaze. Chips of flint in a scowling, dark-skinned face looked back at her. She gave a quick shake of her head and whatever retort Donovan had been conjuring stopped dead. “I thought you were smarter than this,” Taryn lied, turning back to Hagen. “You’re not thinking of the long game, just the quick profit. You screw Hoddell on this deal and you’ll be blacklisted on Providence for good.” That was a bluff. Breaking a job agreement was frowned upon in their line of work but there was no guarantee someone else would turn away Hagen and his crew just because they had once inconvenienced one of their rivals. Taryn knew it was a good possibility that someone could be paying him to do just that. “Hoddell ain’t the only man with sway on those docks and Providence ain’t the only port where a crew can make a living.” He’s not wrong, Taryn admitted to herself. Hoddell was no longer the lone big shot on the Providence Docks as he once had been. He would almost certainly send someone after Hagen but if he had no qualms about looking over his shoulder for the next few years, Hagen could make a living using a dozen other ports Freebooters and their ilk called home without setting foot on Ares. She again thought about the revolver at her hip and wondered if she and her crew had let Hagen get the jump on them too easily. The other Captain had his mind made up about his own course of action and no amount of talking would dissuade him. He hadn’t ordered her and her crew shot down yet but there was only so long she could defy him. The sun had begun to set in the valley where their meeting was taking place. An appropriate metaphor for how their talk was going. Both Taryn and Hagen had agreed on the location; Lenonov was a remote moon, far from any Coalition patrols and their meeting place was miles from the nearest settlement. It was a drop point Taryn had used before and was perfect for the exchange. The gulch had two points to allow both crews to enter and exit separately while the long grass and steep gradients either side of the valley afforded some natural concealment in the unlikely event of some local happening by on their meeting. Several hills rising over the gulch dotted the nearby landscape. She had noted how the nearest one would be a perfect position for a sniper. She ran her eye over the men of Hagen’s crew once more. The man closest to him was a bone-breaker, as tall as Donovan, with close cropped blonde hair and a muscular frame barely concealed by a t-shirt at least two sizes too small. A rat faced man in a tattered wool knit cap and wielding an assault rifle stood next to Mister Tee-Too-Tight. Ratface held his weapon casually, pointed away from her as if he expected no trouble. A youngster in a leather duster with long, greasy hair stood guard by Donovan while Herron was watched over by an older man. His hair and beard were grey, the left side of his face was a criss-cross of angry scars and his nose looked the sort to have been broken and never properly reset. His left arm was missing from the shoulder down, replaced by a stainless steel substitute. A company logo painted on the dark metal told Taryn it was a mechanical augmentation rather than a simple prosthesis. Originally designed for medical purposes, the last century had given rise to Augheads, a small subculture who willingly replaced fully functioning body parts with mechanical upgrades. The Aughead caught Taryn looking at him and favoured her with a wink. She tried to ignore the sudden rolling of her stomach. These men are here to rob us, at best. There’s going to be no negotiation here. Hagen seemed to take her lapse into silence as an admission of defeat. “ Enough stalling, Bellin. I’ll be taking that money now,” he said, motioning with his shotgun. Taryn looked past him to the two dull grey boxes stacked on the back of a four wheeled hauler. It should have been a simple matter. Check the goods, hand over the money and everyone could walk away happy and slightly richer. She had allowed Hagen the benefit of the doubt and been repaid in kind. “What do you think?” she asked, inclining her head to look at Ander and Donovan. “I think I’d tell him to go fuck himself,” Donovan replied without hesitation. “But then you’re not the one he’s pointing his shotgun at,” Ander added. “Don’t play the tough with me,” Hagen warned, wary of anyone encouraging some last ditch defiance. “You don’t think I’d shoot a woman?” Taryn scoffed. “Oh, I’m plenty sure you would.” His mouth took a hard edge as he raised his shotgun to his shoulder. “Last chance.” “Captain…” Ander urged. Her former sergeant liked to push his own luck to the point of recklessness but would always watch out for her. Taryn sighed, her shoulders sagging in defeat. When Hagen weighed up shooting another Freebooter crew against a nice payday, there was only ever going to be one path a man like him would choose. “Alright.” She reached slowly into the inside of her duster and pulled out the pouch of credits held there. It wasn’t a paltry amount; more than enough to keep a ship flying and a crew paid and fed for at least a couple of months. Taryn held the pouch in the palm of her hand as if weighing it. “I didn’t want this,” she said looking from the pouch to Hagen. “Yeah, well life’s full of disappointments, or so they say. You want to survive in this life of ours best get used to it.” “I guess so,” Taryn replied with a nod before lobbing the pouch in Hagen’s direction. It hit the ground at his feet. Hagen tutted his annoyance but ignored the gesture, seemingly content to grant her one last piece of insolence. She watched as he slowly bent down to scoop up the pouch. “Take him.” Hagen looked up as his hand reached the pouch. He met Taryn’s steely blue gaze as if only noticing it for the first time. His eyes widened in surprise as he realised what was happening but it was too late. The shouted curse died on his lips as the sound of a single gunshot reverberated in the valley. The back of Hagen’s head exploded in a shower of brain matter and fine red mist. Taryn reached for her revolver taking advantage of the momentary shock of Hagen’s crew as the body of their Captain fell limply to the ground. With one fluid motion she brought the gun from its holster, raised it and fired a bullet directly into the forehead Mister Tee-Too-Tight. The man stumbled for a step before collapsing into the dirt. She swore as Ratface brought his rifle to bear on her. She dived as the weapon fired and rolled as the bullets stitched the ground after her. A blast from Donovan’s shotgun took a bloody chunk out of the man’s side and flung him backwards. Too close Taryn, too close. She saw the fourth man in Hagen’s team, the youngster in the leather duster go down courtesy of her hidden marksman; the bullet taking him on the shoulder and spinning him to the ground with a pained shout. “Day’s been lost friend, maybe you should hand over your shooter.” Taryn jumped to her feet as Ander did his best to talk down Greybeard Winker. “To hell with you!” He spluttered, kneeling a few feet away and clutching at a bloody arm. At least he’ll have a good excuse to get it replaced. “Don’t…” Ander warned him as the man raised his gun. He was too slow, even with his aug. Ander’s bullet struck the man in the centre of his chest. He toppled over wordlessly. Her first mate shook his head. “Damn fool.” “Everyone ok?” Taryn asked as she picked herself up from the ground, brushing the dirt from her long red duster. “Dandy,” Ander muttered. “Better now that Captain Hagen stopped his gloatin’,” said Donovan. “Don’t think I coulda took to listenin’ much longer.” “How about you shooter?” “All good Captain,” came the static-tinged reply from the discrete comms unit tucked into her ear. “Get down here.” “Roger, on my way.” Taryn turned toward the sole surviving member of Hagen’s crew. He had propped himself up against a large rock, pressing his hand over the wound on his shoulder. She gestured to him with her revolver. He shook his head and raised a bloody hand in a gesture of surrender. “Donovan,” Taryn said as she holstered her gun. “See if you can find the key and get that hauler ready. Make sure the cargo is secure and get it onto the Zenith .” He nodded and walked to the nearest body, quickly rifling through the dead man’s pockets. Even if he didn’t find the key Taryn was sure he’d take the opportunity to relieve the dead man of any valuables. “No point putting our backs out,” Ander said, watching Donovan at his work. “Guns are heavy.” “Yeah,” Taryn agreed, running a hand through her hair. “You tried to talk him out of it. Man didn’t want to do business,” said Ander as he fished into the pocket of his faded military issue jacket. The sleeve bore the twin red daggers of the 103rd Expeditionary Division. His hand returned from the confines of the jacket holding a hipflask. He offered it and Taryn waved it away. He shrugged before taking a swig himself, “Rather it was you?” “No I do not.” “Then I don’t see the issue.” Taryn had been expecting Hagen to try something. She had every right to be suspicious, the man was a known thief, a backstabber and when it suited, a murderer. The Zenith had only been flying for a few years. Taryn and her crew were slowly building a reputation in Providence and in other places as a crew who would do business and could be relied upon. Even so, she wondered if Hagen would have been as willing to try something if he was up against a more seasoned crew, a more experienced Captain. Would you have pushed your luck then Captain Hagen? “Get on the line to the Zenith. Tell Sunny we need pick-up.” Taryn glanced over to where Hagen lay. Empty, staring eyes looked up at the early evening sky, seeing nothing. The look of utter surprise was still etched onto his face. “Suck on that you bastard,” she said softly. She turned at the sound of approaching footsteps as Raimo DeWitt jogged up to her. His worn rifle was cradled close to his chest. “Cappy,” he said with a smile. Raimo was in his late twenties but most people would have probably pegged him for a few years younger. He was of a similar height to the Captain but while Taryn was slim and athletic, Raimo was solid and stocky. He wore a few days worth of a trimmed beard that didn't quite hide the long scar that ran down his left jawline. His dark blonde hair was showing the first signs of receding at the front. A fact which he hated to be reminded of and was therefore, naturally, reminded of at every single opportunity. “Raimo. Good shooting.” “Cheers," he replied heartily. "Only managed to wing the second fella but it did the job.” “Speaking of which,” said Donovan as he came striding over, “What we doin’ with him?” The three of them looked over to where the man rested, propped up against a rock, hand still pressed against his bloody shoulder. “Fights done, Lunk. Won't be causing us any trouble,” Raimo said, his nonchalance coming across slightly too forced. Once the heat of a fight had died down Raimo was usually the forgive, forget and move on type. “Quick enough to pull a gun on us,” said Donovan, his blood still up. “And got a bullet in his shoulder for that trouble,” Raimo reminded him. “I’d say his lessons been learned." Raimo turned to look at the injured man, "Hey!" he called, "Has your lesson been learned?" The man paused as if to consider the question. "Um.....yes?" Raimo gave a thumbs-up. "Superb." “I don’t like it.” said Donovan as Ander joined them. “You don’t have to like it,” Taryn replied coolly. “We’re not pirates. We don’t kill wounded men.” She turned her gaze onto Donovan, fixing him with her steel blue eyes as she had with Hagen. More than a few men had wilted under that look and on this occasion, Donovan was no exception. The big man turned away, muttering a curse. “Doubt he’ll make it far though,” said Raimo. “Won’t last long with the amount of blood he’s losing either. Sad...." Taryn rolled her eyes. “Once we’re aboard I’ll send a line to his crew. Let them know what happened and that one of their own needs urgent pick-up. Good enough?” “Above and beyond, Cappy.” She punched him on the arm affectionately. And hard. “More than they’d do for us.” Ander noted as Raimo rubbed his arm. “Probably,” Taryn agreed with a nod. “But I’m in a good mood all of a sudden.” “Sounds like our pick-up,” said Raimo. Taryn heard it too. She turned to see the Zenith crest the peak of the hills to their West and watched as her ship came into view. She was a cumbersome-looking craft. Two thrusters sat on the end of a pair of short wings and at the head, a tiny bridge viewport was set into the front bulkhead. She was more duck than hawk but that was part of the reason Taryn had picked her in the first place. She bore her name along her long neck. She wouldn't win any beauty contests, but Taryn didn’t care. It was home. And it was hers. She smiled. “Let’s go get paid.”
  6. SteveTrevor

    Chapter 1

    Glad you like Stay tuned
  7. SteveTrevor

    Chapter 1

    It was a short trip from the wooden planks of the sidewalk to the rain-laced thoroughfare. The landing was relatively soft too, thanks to the mud. A small mercy, Nat thought, considering he had just lost the power to raise his hands in order to break his fall. In fact, he seemed to have lost power to all his faculties. As he considered just how deep a puddle needed to be for someone to drown in it, he was flipped over onto his back. A woman appeared above him with a length of rope and began to tie his hands. At least that’s what Nat assumed she was doing, he couldn’t raise his head enough to actually see. “You hit me!” he said. Or rather, what he meant to say. It came out more like, “Yoooohhhemmuhh!” The woman ignored him until her task was complete. “Relax,” she said. Her voice had a slight husk to it. “You got hit with this.” She held out a long, thin, cylindrical stick. With a press of her right thumb, two prongs at the end of the stick crackled with blue light. “Stun baton,” she explained, rather needlessly. “You’ll be back to normal soon.” Unable to move his head, Nat had little choice but to take in the woman hovering above him. She was handsome, perhaps a year of two older than Nat’s twenty nine years. Her chestnut brown hair was tied back into a messy bun and strands of loose hair framed a lean and tanned face. Her tone seemed relaxed when she spoke but dark green eyes watched him warily. “Whyyyooodoootht?” “Because you’re a dangerous man, Mister Othic.” “Awhic?” Nat did his best to sound surprised, a difficult task when it felt like his tongue was three sizes too big for his mouth. “My nmmmes Cnnredd -” “-Don’t.” She held up a hand to cut off any protests. “I don’t go around stunning random men for the hell of it, Othic. I know who you are.” She didn’t offer any more explanation as to who she was or why she had attacked him, although the list for the latter could be quite extensive. Her attention turned away from Nat to scan what he could only assume was by now, a rather healthy crowd of gawkers. Not much happened in Haverlind. This would be the talk of the town for weeks. Slowly, some sense began to return to Nat’s extremities. The woman remained crouched beside him, switching her gaze between where he lay and the crowd on the sidewalk. After a slow few minutes, the woman glanced to a large stainless steel watch on her left wrist. “Ok, you’ve had enough time.” With impressive strength, as Nat had no intention of helping her, she was able to haul him to his feet. As he took an unsteady step, a hand reached up to take him under the armpit. “Thanks,” he said as he took a test pull of the ropes binding his hands. Tight, but not impossible to work free of, if he had enough time. “Don’t get used to it. I’ve got horses stabled at-unnnnnggfh!” Nat's elbow caught the woman hard in the stomach. “Sorry!” he called out as she doubled over, unleashing a rather unladylike epithet in his direction as she sank to one knee, gasping for air. He made it three steps before his jelly legs gave out and he face planted into the muck for the second time in about five minutes. He had just enough time to pull himself up to his knees, shake the muck and water from his eyes and see the woman stride over toward him, her jaw set. “Shit.” Her boot caught him under the jaw, hard enough to rattle his teeth and send him crashing back into the mud. As Nat looked up to the sky, he scolded himself for being such a gentleman. He knew he should have cracked her in the jaw. The woman grabbed a fistful of his jacket and pulled him close. “I’ll give you that one for free.” She didn’t raise her voice but the anger was unmistakable and just about under control. “My fault for being so damn sloppy.” With her free hand she reached into her coat and produced a folded sheet of paper. “A warrant. I have legal authority to bring you in. That includes any force I deem appropriate. Don’t test me again.” A warrant. It seemed almost impossible to Nat. He had left his old life behind three years before and had not expected it to catch up anytime soon. He had never shared the notoriety or infamy of some of the men and women he had rode with and had managed to get out just before the gang violently broke apart. There was no bounty on him, yet someone the woman had a warrant. “Don’t worry, you’re not for the gallows,” she said, seeming to sense just where Nat’s line of thought was heading. My employer wants to talk to you. Just talk.” “Just talk?” Nat asked, unbelieving. The woman nodded. “Wants to talk and has the power to issue a warrant just for that purpose?” The woman nodded again. “What the fuck could I possibly have to talk about to someone like that?” “Best you let him answer that question." She grimaced as she took a breath, still feeling the effect of Nat's elbow. "Now, will you stand?” Nat exhaled slowly. “Aye.” It wasn’t like there was much of a choice. It seemed like the entire population of Haverlind was crowded into the main thoroughfare. Most seemed to be enjoying the show but Nat could pick out confusion on some of the faces as he was marched past. People who had known him as Conrad Healy, caravan guard and regular at the Three Trees Saloon, who had come to the town at the start of the year looking for work. Aside from the name and new occupation, Nat had changed little about himself. He still had the same dry humour, the same enjoyment of good whiskey and poker. He still kept himself in decent shape and while he could do little about the first signs of his short blonde hair thinning at the front of his head, his trimmed beard still didn’t hide the long scar that ran down his left jaw. The change of name had been a precaution that he was never certain he actually needed. If he had stood on top of the bar in the Three Trees and shouted to all present that he was in fact, Nat Othic, former outlaw, he doubted anyone would have reacted much. Or so he had thought, right up until the woman jabbed a stun baton into his back. “So, looks like you have the advantage,” Nat said, once they were clear of the main throng of their audience. “You know my name.” “Addison,” the woman replied, her eyes scanning each balcony and alleyway. “Addison Rayne.” “Alright, Addison,” Nat said. “I’d say it was a pleasure to meet your acquaintance but...you know.” He flexed his jaw as he held up his bound hands. The woman’s grunt was about as close to a laugh that Nat expected to get from her. As they walked to the stable at the far end of town, Nat took the time to study Addison from the corner of his eye. Her dark duster was good quality but speckled with dirt. Her hard leather boots were heavily scuffed and her pants, clinging tightly against a pair of long legs, were as dirty as the jacket. He couldn’t make out the model of the watch that peeked out from the left sleeve of her duster but it was clearly expensive. The quality of her clothing told Nat that she was reasonably well off, which meant that she was likely very good at her job. The dirt and worn-in boots told him she wasn’t afraid of roughing it and was likely more comfortable outdoors than he was. The pain in his jaw told him she was a hell bitch when crossed and that it would be advisable not to do so again. “You didn’t actually say where we going.” “You didn’t ask.” “I’m asking now.” “Rushport.” Rushport. Saviour, how Nat hated Rushport. Canton's state capital had been built on swampland a hundred years before. Haverlind was only thirty miles away but the differences were stark. Haverlind was quiet but it had character. The people were friendly but minded their own business. The town could boast two good saloons and one dive, a theatre, a smokehouse if you were inclined to puff your money away. a whorehouse if you were inclined to get the clap, and good fishing up at Hoskin’s lake. Rushport had people, pollution and nothing of worth. It was the smell that Nat always noticed. Thick smoke from the numerous industrial stacks mixed in with the fetid smell of the swamp and the wide, brown river that snaked slowly through the city. The heat was oppressive in the summer and the air dirty all year round. Much of the poorer population lived in cramped terrace housing in the inner city, close to their factories, or shacks at the edge of swampland while the elite lived behind walled mansions. But penniless fisherman, factory worker, politician or anyone in between, it didn’t matter, everyone in Rushport had the same stick up their ass. “I hate Rushport,” Nat offered. “Same.” Addison admitted. “But you go where the work is.” The stable owner had been waiting for them and he smiled as the pair approached. “You got your man then?” “I did,” Addison replied, flipping a gold coin which the man eagerly plucked out of the air. “Your horse is fed and watered. It’s a fine animal. Can’t say the same for the one you just bought, mind.” “Only needs to get us to Rushport.” “Reckon the saddle I put on her is worth more than the nag herself.” Addison nodded. Nat was quickly getting the impression she was not a stirring conversationalist. They waited for the man to lead the two horses from the stable. Addison’s was a beautiful creature, dark brown with dabbles of white on its flank and standing close to seventeen hands tall. He saw the ghost of a smile on her lips as she took the reins and leaned in to pat the animal. Nat’s horse was a more pathetic affair. Grey with a matted mane and sad, black eyes. It looked like she already had one foot in the knacker’s yard and would probably consider ending it all herself if her hoof could navigate the trigger of a pistol. Addison ignored Nat as he asked whether he was meant to make it to Rushport alive. Twilight was giving way to darkness by the time they trotted the horses out of town. The stable owner had been obliging enough to help Nat into his saddle. Addison had no intention of loosening his ropes and insisted that he lead the way. Her assertion that it was much easier to shoot him in the back if she needed to, was of little comfort. Not that Nat could have done much anyway. The first thing she had done after stunning him was to take the pistol and knife from his belt. She had left his spare ammunition but unless he somehow got her to choke on one of the bullets they would not be much use. He had been resigned to the fact he was going with Addison since his laughable escape attempt. She was clearly comfortable using force when required to and she had all the advantages. He could overpower her in a fair fight but Addison was never going to let herself get put in a situation where a fair fight could happen. Nat gave her credit for that, he himself was firmly of the opinion that a fair fight should be avoided at all costs. “Be morning or close enough to it by the time we reach Rushport,” Addison said, tapping the face of her watch. “I’d like to get there quicker but I don’t reckon your nag is up for any hard riding.” “I don’t think she’s up for much, ‘cept maybe the glue factory.” “Or scalteth food. We’ll be hitting the bayou dead on their feedin’ time.” “Thanks for that,” Nat said, suppressing a shudder. His years riding with the gang meant he was familiar with a lot of the critters who made their home on the new frontier but there was none that scared him as much as a scalteth. The creatures lived under the murky waters surrounding Rushport. Just hearing the distinctive click as the beasts called to each other was enough to give him nightmares for a week. When he had seen one up close, it did little to improve his disposition. Four rows of fangs in a gaping mouth. A jawbone that could unhinge and swallow a child whole. A creature from the deadlands thriving in what was supposed to be civilization. “Hope you’re a good shot with that,” Nat said, nodding to the rifle Addison had stored on her saddle. “Don’t worry, Othic. I’d never let them eat the horse.” “Funny.” Nat sighed, reflecting on how his night had taken such an unpleasant turn. “Alright, Addison Rayne. Let’s go meet your boss.”
  8. SteveTrevor

    Chapter 1

    Thanks Hoping I can meet expectations
  9. SteveTrevor

    Chapter 1

    More inspired by the Godless mini series (no spoilers) but I still love RDR.
  10. SteveTrevor

    Chapter 1

    Thanks Jeffrey. Glad I did enough to gain some interest
  11. SteveTrevor

    Mercy

    Myn Othic wakes up to find himself on a remote moon in the care of a local rancher. He has revenge in his heart and redemption on his mind.
  12. Thanks so much Unfortunately writers block has hit me hard
  13. Northern Ireland waiting on the boxing before starting to haul in any medals, as is tradition xD
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