Con of a Blade-Chapter 3

County Roads

“Honey? I’m home, and I brought a friend.” There was no response. The front hall of the Armstrong estate echoed with the sound of my voice. Despite our marriage several years ago, there had been no formal name change on her property. All things considered, I can’t say I blamed her for that. Claire was the blue blood, not I.

“Roy, is that you? I thought I heard someone at the door…” Said Lain my maid as she came down the stairs. “Lain, where’s Claire?” I asked. I guess she hadn’t thought I was coming back today. When I addressed her, she practically jumped. “Oh! I didn’t know we were expecting more guests.” She said taken aback by John. Lain was Claire’s maidservant, and a sort of de facto autocrat over the rest of the household staff. At Lain’s say-so, floors got washed, meals got cooked, and the whole operation ran as smoothly as the lives of the gentry should. I wonder if she ever regretted it; that this was what she had been chosen to do with her life. After all, she’d graduated from the guild only a few years behind me.

“You said ‘more guests’?” I asked with a slight edge to my voice. Lain nodded “It’s just a social call, although the way that man bustled in here, you’d have thought he was the king himself.” Lain said with a sigh.

“The king!” John said. Lain looked at him. It was an appraising look. The same sort of look you might give to small, impulsive dogs or over-excited children. It said ‘are you about to break something?’ and ‘if so, will I have to clean it up?’ “Lain, this my friend, John Alabaster.” I said.

“Very nice to meet you, Mr…Alabaster.” She greeted with a suspicious glare. “How do you do, miss?”  John said with a smile. Lain cocked an eyebrow at him. I could see her sizing him up, trying to decide what to think. “I do very well, thank you. Where did you say you knew Roy from again?” She said.

“He, uh, didn’t.” I tried to say when John interrupted me “The military. We were in the army together.” I face-palmed so hard at that moment.

Lain revealed a devilish smiled, crossing her arms “My, my, Roy. You must have lived a very busy life. Was this when you were fifteen, before we met? Or did you squeeze it in recently?” John had a scared look on his face. I grab Lain’s arm “Can you give us a minute, John?” I said as I guided her gently into a room. After I closed the door she got right up in my face “You never mentioned a John before.” She said. I nodded “You’re damn right I didn’t. Until about an hour ago, I’d never seen the man before.” She looked shocked “Then why is he–?” I interrupted her “Just play along with it for now, alright?” She folded her arms. “I don’t see why I should.” She stated. “Because I’m asking nicely.” I said with a smile, she sniffed.

“I was going to say, ‘what if he’s some sort of con-man, or a hardened killer looking for a place to lay low…’” She paused.

“…and then you realized how ironic saying that would be?” I smiled.

“Shut up. I don’t know him. I’m allowed to be skeptical. Hell, you don’t know him either. I can’t believe you’re not being more cautious.” Her face turned a slight red. Despite herself she could come off motherly.

“I have my reasons, okay?” I said. She sighed “Whatever you say, boss.” She didn’t have to roll her eyes when she said that. The words did it for her. “He’s still very strange. You have to admit that, at least.” She said eying me. “Well, he’s a spirit.” I said with a laugh, Lain looked shocked. She stood there, stunned, but quickly pulled herself together. “Well, then. Do you have any more supernatural house-guests you’d like to spring on me, or shall I get back to my job?” She motioned towards the door.

“Why don’t you take the day off?” I said with a smile and a hand on her shoulder. “If you say so…Look, before I go, you should know that Rolon’s the one visiting with Claire. I know you two don’t see eye-to-eye, and he’s always an ass to me.  If you feel like kicking him out, be my guest.” I thanked her, she smiled “I thought you’d appreciate the heads-up.” Lain then left.

John drifted over from where he had been standing unobtrusively. The portrait he had been studying—one of Claire’s ancestors, confined to eternal stodginess by some well-intentioned hack—went back to slouching in its frame. “What did you tell her?” John asked. I looked at him with annoyance “That you suck at lying. And that you used to be dead.” His brow frowned “Was that wise?” He asked. I reassured him “Basically, it’s easier if she knows. I don’t know if I could keep up the deception for long if you end up staying here for a few days. Plus, anyone who spends more than five minutes around you can tell that somethings not right.”

“I see…” He sighed, defeated, and put his head in his hands. “Are things always going to be like this?” He asked. “Like what?” I asked. John replied “The hiding?” I rolled my eyes “It’s not my fault you offended the laws of nature. You should’ve thought about that before you decided to cheat death.” John became silent. It came out harshly, but it was true all the same. No one had ever coddled me, and I wouldn’t do it for anyone else, either.

“…Don’t dwell on it. Come on.” I motioned for the door “We have a guest to make unwelcome.”

<<Chapter 2  Chapter 4>>

Clementine-Chapter 3

Wild Is the Wind

“What the Hell is going on Cap’n?” Zed asked running up to Vahn as she pounded on the hanger door to close. He’s red in faced, clothes disheveled.

“Is Moxie gone?” She asked moving past him stopping momentarily at the stairs waiting for an answer. “No she’s in my room getting ready for a session of fuckin,” he made an exaggerated sideways piston motion. Vahn made a disgusted noise at him. He rolled his eyes when all he got in response was a deadpan stare “Of course she’s gone I sent her away after you were yelling over the comm for us to leave.”

“Good, strap yourself down somewhere and prepare for a fight” Vahn yelled back to him.

She moved along with Rico to the back of the 1st level of the ship past the water and disposal rooms, past the elevator that didn’t work to the gunner room. Rico moved to the gunner seat which swayed stiffly from lack of use. In the corner was a ladder that connected to the helm of the ship. Vahn climbed it till she was as the helm wheezing. Muttering to herself “I need to work out more.”

Briskly she buckled into her chair and shoved her headset on. There was a gargled mess on the comm link between Rico and Vahn. It soon faded when Rico spoke up his robotic baritone broke through “What is your plan Vahn?” Rico questioned.

“Get as far away from him as possible and hope we made it to a Space Station that values me enough,” she paused having lost her train of thought “that don’t wanna see me dead.”

“That. That’s your plan,” Rico covered his face with his metal hand “might as well just let him capture you.” Van bit her tongue focusing herself on the sensors instead of her mouthy co-pilot. Her pursuer’s ship was catching up to them on the sensors she was able to see it was a Republic cruiser built for combat over speed the antithesis of her ship. Her ship was a stealth cruiser that served the purpose of out foxing larger ships and hiding away from sensors. Just her luck she was in open space with no place to hide.

He was soon on their starboard, she turned to see port side of his ship dangerously close to them. “Shoot” she commanded to Rico over the connection.

“He hasn’t attack us Vahn” Rico noted confused. His eyes shifted to the UI checking to confirm the position of the enemy.

“Okay, Rico. I get we haven’t gone over fighting protocol,” she growled as the red light that showed the opposing ship trying to make radio contact burned her eyes. She covered the light with her hand “but if I say shoot you shoot cuz our friend here isn’t gonna stay neutral, till you decide to do it!”

Pulling on the stick around to the right, Vahn brought her ship into a wide turn. Rico took a deep mental breath, he settled his awkward stiff hand on the stick and his thumb hovered over the firing button. The opposing ship came into the cross hairs on the computer HUD, Rico hit the button finally firing off the guns causing the opposing ship to sputter in surprise. ‘You really thought it was gonna be that easy arsehole,’ Vahn thought with a wide feral smile.

The opposing ship pulled back behind them ‘shit he’s aiming for the engines.’ Vahn sent the ship into a sharp turn from behind her she heard a loud splat of Mobi is sent hurling into a wall. Zed yelled from the engine room “Did nobody tell Mobi we were gonna get our asses chased though half the fuckin star system?!”

“Nope” said unanimously by Rico and Vahn.

The ship rattled like a tin-can, as a shot connected with the stern of the ship. Vahn sent the ship into a ninety-degree snap-roll and spun though the worst of the explosion. Getting herself above his ship allowing Rico a wide shot at the top of his ship.

He juked the ship to the starboard, then started a quick left turn, but Vahn is experienced enough in her own mind to not lose her position. Keeping the angle of attack in mind Rico was able to successfully stick the enemy ship 3 times before it pulled back for another attack. Vahn hit a switch and shifted shield power to the aft shields, a mistake she regrets in the heat of the moment. Her enemy anticipated her move and used targeting missiles for the abaft of her ship.

“He took out the weapons system. Rest. In. Peace. Glaive,” Zed yelled punctuation each word with anger “you’re fuckin killin me here Cap’n!” Vahn cursed herself for her stupidity ‘how could I let this happen’ she had been so careful all these years to never be found, but now she is trapped within her ship with absolutely no way out.

Her missing left arm started to burn again a painful reminder of where she ended up. She hunched over the controls willing the pain to dissipate as she uselessly rubbed at the metal arm. ‘He’s out there and he fuckin beat me, again’ she banged her head against the controls. Stopping with her face planted next to the communications switch that flashed over and over burning her eyes.

***

Rico left the gunner chair with enough haste that he let the damage to his shoulder worsen. He paused to see that his clothes are stained black from the shoulder to his waist looking as if coffee is dumped on him. A grimace pulls at his rubber face, a reminder that he was so much less than he was once.

Vahn was shaking holding onto the controls with an iron grip as Rico shook her madingly trying get her to listen to him. “Goddamit Vahn answer his hail!” Rico yelled and Zed could be heard in the distance echoing Rico’s plea. Vahn gave him a dark look of reserved anger before speaking to him finally “Your leaking oil all over the place,” she leaned over to the switch that would denote her surrender “go fix that now.” He pulled back from her.

She wish there was a third option she could take any but right at this moment it was. Have her ship destroyed and all her crew die or be taken in and all her crew live. She cursed finally deciding to listen to the only option she had left “Fine.” Rico relaxed finally stepping back from Vahn’s chair. She pressed a small red switch that let the other ship communicate with them.

“Surrender now RahVahn or I will be forced to cut your ship in two” the voice on the other side was flat, robotic, and emotionless. She gritted her teeth she knew he did not have the balls to kill her but if she did at least appear to comply things will not be disastrous for her crew. “I know you can hear me” The voice said even and flat but with a taunting cold edge to it that made her shake with anger.

Her fingers felt dead as she her toes lifeless and heavy, as she finally pressed the button. “I read you Straker, loud and fucking clear…” she hissed through clinched teeth. “There is a secure space station 30 minutes from here you will go there,” he said flatly “you and your crew will leave your ship unarmed.”

“…Whatever you say” her face rolled into disgusted wrinkles as she clicked her teeth keeping her voice tight. She let go of the hail button and let out a belated sigh as she looked over to Rico who is confused and scared. “We’ll be fine Rico” she smiled weakly trying to keep his confidence from hitting rock bottom.

A sad gurgle noise is heard from the kitchen of the ship it was of Mobi, who was still stuck to the wall because of his companion’s careless ness. “…we should probably get Mobi off the wall” Rico commented awkwardly. Zed sighed from the engine room as he unbuckled himself “I’ll get the spatula.”

***

The closes Space Station was Ironside, it’s built in the side of a small dead planet. It looked like a papier-mache ball that was kicked in by a giant metal ball and the force shattered sed ball leaving this strange mesh of rock, glass and metal. She had been here many years ago the people were hardworking and fun drinking buddies.

“Well this isn’t the worst thing that has happened to us,” Zed commented “remember that time we crashed into that worm-” Vahn cut Zed of mid-sentence.

“We agreed never and I mean never, bring that up again. I still have nightmares” she shivered at the unspoken memory. Rico looked at them concerned. Mobi gurgled a sad noise, Vahn looked back to shush Mobi, when a hand grabbed onto her. Vahn didn’t need to look back to see who it was the looks on the faces of her crew told her enough. Her body made a sickening crack as she’s slammed against the side of the space station. “I’m sorry for this, but it is for your own good.” He said. “Fuck you Straker” Vahn yelled kicking back at him. Her crew looked on in horror unsure what to do, not knowing what was going on. Rico was the first to run towards the man clipping his face with his fist breaking the visor he was wearing that hid his eyes. Straker paused to look at Rico his eerie blue eyes washed over Rico. He shoved Rico away from his person “stay back, or I will terminate you.”

Not far from where this was going on several other ship captains, and passengers were watching a strange cyborg shaking down a woman in front of her crew. “Where is security when you need it?” A tall alien commented to a human who was moving crates of supplies. “They’ll be here soon, but just to be safe let’s move out before someone starts shooting” the human said as he, and his companion briskly made their way to the screening room.

A group of men in security uniforms soon approached Vahn and Straker “What the hell is going on here?” The oldest and tallest of the group of four men asked guns in tow. They looked scruffy and 5 o’clock was on each of their faces along with large dark bags under their eyes.

“I am tasked with bringing her in for crimes I can’t disclose.” Straker said mechanically. The older man frowned and looked at Vahn “Is that so Vahn?”

She smiled “He’s full of shit, John.”

“Let her go scrap head or we’ll put a bullet in you” John said crossing his arms, as the men behind him readied there blasters.

Straker released her backing two-steps away hands raised he threw her a cold stare. Vahn laughed as she said, “What can I say Straker, Everybody knows me now.”

<<Chapter 2 Chapter 4>>

Con of a Blade-Chapter 2

The Soldiering Life

I awoke sometime later, my head spinning and my body a wet rock that refused to move. “Are you alright commander?” I heard a voice ask. I felt groggy and lethargic “What? Who are you?” I asked. I looked up at the strange man. There was a translucency to him that I tried and failed to chalk up to the light shining in my eyes. It was like he was only real in sporadic moments, and the parts of him that weren’t concrete and physical were just playing along. He looked sad and out of sorts as he talked to me “No. You look different. I should have expected you would be somebody else by now.”

“What the hell are you talking about? And how did you get here?” I said. I briefly looked about to see I was still in the forest now splayed in front of that damn tree.

“Why are you asking, when you know the answer is magic?” the ghost said in a matter-of-fact way.

“Yeah, fine. Magic. Get out of my face now, okay?” I said pushing him away. It wasn’t far-fetched. Most magic these days was carefully researched and licensed, mostly to prevent things like this from happening, but there were still plenty of unpleasant surprises left over from the days before regulation. In the older, wilder places of the world, it wasn’t unusual to find talking rocks, or colonies of winged snakes that spelled out complex mathematical formula with their bodies, or clouds that screamed like they were burning to death, thanks to centuries of haphazard spell-slinging. Even in the suburbs of Liberdam, you could still find small strangeness. Like men trapped in trees.

An unexpected wave of vertigo washed over me. Whatever had hit me when the containment spell on the tree unraveled was suddenly dead set on making the inside of my skull feel like a hangover wrapped in a bag of hammers. I cradled my head in my hands, trying to fight back the swelling pain.

The ghost commented examining himself “If I am correct, I seem to be some kind of spirit.”

I muttered annoyed “…big woop.”

The ghost replied “big…woop?”

I gritted my teeth. The spirit was not helping with my headache. “Yeah. I’ve seen ghosts before.” I said. They had been trying to kill me at the time, but that was mostly because I was also trying to break into their tomb and fence their stuff. That had been back when I was employed. “You can do all the usual, right?” I asked.

“I can phase through solid objects, and I have this feeling like I might be able to possess a person…” I cut him off “Enter me and I will kill you all over again.” I said dangerously pointing a finger at him. “O-okay….” he said shocked at my violent response.

I smiled as I continued to talk “And you’d better get used to living out here. They don’t like your kind much in the cities.” Despite their occasional harmlessness, ghosts were still listed in the Official Manual of Beasts. This meant they were fair game.

Out of necessity, the Republic of Rafhelt had kept certain provisions in its legal code that made it acceptable to kill any creature that had an entry in the Monster Manual. This tradition dated back to when we were still just a kingdom, scrabbling for territory with the monsters that dwelt in the wilderness. Over the years, certain entries had been added, removed, or clarified, but ghosts were still official. For anyone with the means and the desire to kill a spirit, no court in Rafhelt would convict them.

“What if I can pass for human? Watch.” He said. I gave him a doubtful look. The particles that made up his body seemed to draw closer together. Suddenly, he looked much more real. “It’s kind of like holding your breath, only you never run out of air.” He explained.

“Speaking of which, it’s not very convincing if you don’t breathe.” I pointed out. He looked sheepish. Moments later, his chest began to rise and fall with a steady rhythm. He looked at me for approval.

“Still creepy” I replied. He frowned saying “I’ll work on it.” He still looked ghastly pale emphasized by his long fair hair and blue eyes.

My headache had begun to subside, but at the same time an awkward silence bloomed between us. What the hell did you say in this kind of situation, anyway? I thought to myself.

“So, uh, you were stuck in a tree?” I asked.

“Yeah” he said looking away then back to me. “Um, how was it?” I asked hoping to fill the silence. The ghost looked off as he spoke “Dark. Dark, and you could feel everything growing around you. Have you ever listened to sap rushing by your feet and known that it must be springtime?” I shook my head and he continued “I have. It was the highlight of last year. And the year before that. And the year before that.”

“So, you’ve been in there a while.”

I hear him whisper beside me “Lifetimes.” I frowned asking “Why?” He laughed shaking his head “I’m not sure I really know anymore.” He sighed, looking at me as if I had all the answers. I wasn’t sure what to make of him.

On the one hand, the masked man had told me to break the seal on the tree. Maybe this spirit was supposed to be connected with my revenge. On the other, I had just jailbroken an undead creature out of an oak, and I knew literally nothing about him.

“What’s your name?” I asked. He replied simply with “John. John Alabaster.” That name sounded off to me so I asked “…is that your given name?” John gave me an impassive look “It’s the name I was given.” I sighed in frustration “Is that a yes or a no?” He turned his head away from me looking of in the distance through the forest ignoring my question completely. “And how shall I address you?” he asked.

“…I’m Roy. Roy Puliveivari. What was it you used to do before…you know?” I said trying to glean more information from this centuries old ghost. “I was a soldier.” I felt a little bit of hope come to life in my soul, like a fire tentatively catching on the first few twigs. “Who did you fight for?” I asked. He looked on edge “Everyone.” He said quietly with a sharp edge. Then I asked the most important question “You’ve killed, then?” I could read it in his eyes. He had. So had I, of course, but only non-humans. Anyone with an adventurer’s license could rack up as many goblin scalps and Wight claws and Mudboa tusks as they pleased, provided there was a spot in the manual for each creature. Killing a human was another matter. As was killing any of the other species we had come to grudgingly accept as citizens of the republic.

“How many?” I asked. He pulled away from me “More than I would like.” He said in an audible whisper. That settled it. The masked man had been helping me. A practiced murderer—especially one who could pass through closed doors—was the perfect means for retribution.

“So, what do you plan on doing now that you’re free?” I asked. “If you let me, I would like to travel with you again.” John asked. Again? I thought to myself. The stranger bowed his head respectfully. I wasn’t sure what he meant, so I took a wild guess. “Do I look like this commander of yours?” I questioned. He nodded slowly. I sighed. It would take him some time to adjust to everything else, but I was sure he would get over this pretty quickly. I was not a military man. Nothing in my stance, my behavior—even the way I carried myself—went as far as to suggest pressed uniforms and epaulets. I was a thieves guild alumni, and I looked it.

“Okay. If my wife asks how I know you, we’re old friends.” I said, John looked shocked. “You can pass as human, and you need somewhere to stay. I can put you up at my place. Don’t worry. If it’ll help your conscience, there’s a little matter you can help me with in return.” John stopped me “I don’t understand. Why are you trusting me?” he questioned me. I laughed “You don’t trust me?” I smiled, turning on the charm. I always got my way. John had that sheepish look again “It’s just, you shouldn’t…” he said. I patted him on the shoulder “Come now. You seem like a pretty stand-up guy.” I said reassuring him. “You don’t even know me. I’m hardly even wearing clothes.” He commented looking down at himself. I shrugged “We’ll stop by a store on the way home.” I continued ahead of him when I felt the whisper of John’s voice in my head it didn’t make sense what he said but it had to mean something, right? You never change, do you, Alexandria?

<<Chapter 1 Chapter 3>>

Con of a Blade-Chapter 1

Shadow Man

This story begins with an end.

So many times I play this scene over and over in my head. What could I have said to stop her? Was it my fault for not worrying enough? So many questions and I have no answer for any of them and it plagues me so and rips at my soul. Has so little time passed since then? I feel like a man stuck out of time looking back and forwards all at once. I see her standing there again, the sun shining brightly behind her as she grabbed her things in preparation for a small walk.

I remember asking as the memory plays on its own in my mind’s eye.

“You’re leaving?” I asked, pretending to have my attention occupied by the trophies that she insisted to have about the formally empty walls of her cabin.

The older woman standing before me smiled kindly at me, but that smile was tired and wearied “I have some business to take care of. I’ll be back before you know it, I promise.” She said with a cordial nod and an inference of a better future for the both of them. She was ready to leave and I was here mulling in worry and unrest.

She paused at my silence “You’re still worried, aren’t you? “She asked concerned.

“Why shouldn’t I be?” I retorted. “The attacks have been coming every day.”

Glen ran her hand over her right cheek, along the jagged scar that marred her pale, wrinkled skin “I’m only going into Liberdam.” She said with a cheery inflection “You travel that same route every night, or I hope you do, for Claire’s sake.”

“I’m a professional.” I said confidently, as I pivoted my knuckles on my hips. She patted me on the chest “And I’m a big girl.” She said dryly, “It’ll be fine.” I looked around the room forcing myself back into a corner out of her path. As she passed the window the morning light cascaded off her face, leaving an angelic glow following after her.

“Come back soon, okay?” I said pleadingly. “And come back safe, Glen.” She sighed, looking back at me “Roy, I will.” She smiled softly as she placed an object next to her bed. “I always do.” She gave a playful wink and a twitch of her Elven ears as she continued to pack her bags.

***

“…But she did not come back… A body covered in blood…a knife…in a bleeding, heart…” I was muttering like a madman sitting in the dark forest away from prying eyes and ears.

“Where….Are…You? If I had the choice, I would break my body…I would poison my blood…I would burn the land around me to ash. I would give anything to avenge you…anything” I was shaking clawing at my face.

“Really, now. Anything at all?” A maddeningly cheery voice announced. I looked to where the voice was coming from. “I couldn’t help but hear you crying out, mewling like a babe for his nurse. I do hope I’m not intruding on your little moment.” The masked man gestured with a disturbingly pleasant voice. “I came here to be alone.” I said, spitting venom. “We are never truly alone, little thief.” The masked man said.

“Who are you?” I asked finally caring enough to look at him critically. He was dressed in tight clothes that covered his entire body, leaving no trace of exposed skin, and over his face was hung a laughing yellow mask. The mask appeared to be abnormal never strictly sticking to a single static expression. He must have noticed me studying him, but his expression yet he did nothing to show that. “Always smile, little thief.” The masked man said. “Even when you’re planning the most horrible mischief.” He then chuckled, producing a hollow ticking sound like two blocks of wood being clapped together.

“You act as if you know me.” I said. “I do know you.” The masked man said happily. “I know you better than your bones and blood. I know what she meant to you, and I know the resentment coiled up inside you, like a serpent waiting to strike. I can give it a target.” The masked man spoke with no trace of an accent. Every word was perfectly inflected, as if it had never passed from a human throat. He continued, “Suffering is my stock and trade. In the wake of great tragedy, people always ask why. Why did I fall sick? Why couldn’t she love me? Why did they have to die?” The masked man paused. “I can tell you.” He then approached slowly and proudly, I could feel the smile under his mask, “You were hurt so that you could have the power to hurt others in turn.” He finished and it took me longer than I’d like to admit to come up with a retort.

“Did you practice that just for me?” I said with a smile. Not even a flicker of irritation was shown on this alien looking mask that seemed to twist and writhe with his every movement. I felt uneasy this poker face gave me no leeway to press his buttons or entice a reaction that told me anything about this monster in men’s clothes.

“I want to help you, Roy,” The masked man said, “but I am something of a businessman.” He emphasized the ‘something’ ever so slightly. “I need a few little letters on a contract in return for my assistance. Do that, and I promise nothing will stand in the way of your justice.”

All of this was too good to be true, I knew there was something more to this. “There’s a catch, though.” I stated. The masked man twiddled his fingers in glee “there’s always a catch.” He responded “You simply have to give me what you think this offer is worth.” There was a pause between us an awkward silence brought upon by my shock. “That’s it?” I was dumbfounded.

The masked man spoke while tapping his mask “Now, if you’d like to see the results first, I understand. I’ll just take a little something extra for my time.”

I couldn’t trust him, I knew that, and yet I didn’t care. Glen was dead. My entire world had collapsed around that one, simple fact. Glen is dead, and there was going to be blood.

“I don’t have anything on me.” I said. He seemed disappointed “Then don’t pay me until you’re satisfied.” He bowed slightly, “I promise I’ll hold you to your word.”

“Will you accept gold?” I asked, gold makes the world go round. The masked man tilted his head in manic consideration He muttered quietly to himself. “Seems a bit mundane to me, but I suppose it will do, how much gold?

“Ten thousand royals.” I replied.  The masked man muttered to himself, as if I weren’t there, trying to figure out how much gold that would equal. “Perfect!” The man cheered. I jumped at his reply. The mask looked back at me, caught in a fake eternal grin. “Is that it?” I asked. “There’s one more thing. For ceremony’s sake, I need your signature.” The masked man said with a bow. “In ink?” I asked suspiciously, blood contracts are not something I want to be a part of. “If that is your choice.” The masked man seemed to sigh sadly as he pulled out a piece of parchment from his sleeve and handed it to me. He then procured a quill from behind his mask and handed it off to me. I scribbled something that didn’t quite resemble my name on it and passed it back.

“Very Well,” the man said as he examined my scribble. He quickly rolled up the parchment and slid it back into his sleeve.  “Is that her knife?” he asked, pointing to the dagger in my belt.  “Do me a favor and drive it into that tree there.” He pointed at an ancient tree behind me. I was taken aback by his request, “What?” I asked, taken aback by his request. “Why?” He seemed annoyed at my question, but answered me anyway “To fulfill the bargain. I’ll be back for my payment when our deal is complete.”

“You’re leaving?” I looked back to see that he had vanished into thin air. My only reply was the emptiness of the forest clearing around me. I stood there for a long while, trying to decide if I had been tricked. In the end, I realized I didn’t particularly care. “If you’re just toying with me, I’ll be coming after you, too.” I thrust Glen’s knife into the weakest notch of the tree.

Beneath the bark, I felt something rupture. I yelled out “what the hell?!” There was a sudden blinding light, causing me to cover my eyes. When I was finally able to see I was met with the figure of a man. An inaudible sound flowed from his throat: a language I could not hope to comprehend. The words overwhelmed me, drowning me in noise. I fainted. The words overwhelmed me, drowning me in a strange noise causing my vision to fade as I fell to the floor.


 Chapter 2>>

Clementine-Chapter 2

Ph 2:20

The Alpha Space Station was a dump piled on top of another dump. A rotating junk heap in space that smelt as bad as it looked. As they pulled into dock their ship, she got from her chair, picking up her discarded jacket on the way out. “Rico head on down to the hanger to see what we have to drop off,” she asked with a smile. Rico nodded, heading to the right towards the hanger. She continued to her left to where the ship lounge was located. Zed was laying on his back with a dirty magazine in full display. He was splayed across the largest couch that hugged the furthest wall in the room so he could see the kitchen and the hall from the cockpit at all times.

She knocked against the wall with her metal fingers loud enough for him to hear her “Oi Zed, we’re here so pop on over to Moxies for me will you?” Zed grunted as he licked his thumb and flipped to the next page of his magazine.

“I’ll get off when you do, Capn” he said not breaking eye contact with his magazine, absentminded scratching one foot with the other.

“That’s all I ask,” she said wryly “just don’t wait till the last second we don’t wanna have to be worrying about pirates trying to rob us again.”

Zed grunted “don’t need to be tellin me twice.” Vahn looked annoyed by his refusal to take his own time with repair but refrained from nagging him again. She made her way to the hanger, the tiny elevator was broken again,

Vahn was holding an old plastic clip board that was front and back loaded with papers “Dancy will be expecting this package to be hand delivered,” she wrote down time, date, and place of delivery “because he’s so goddamn special.”

“You friends?” Rico asked as he picked up the large metal crate with zero effort. She nodded, pulling back her hair from her face with her normal hand. “A couple years now… don’t worry, I’ll make sure he leaves you alone” she gave Rico a playful wink.

As the two of them made their way off of the ship a large woman with tattoos on each arm and a large black towering hair style stopped in front of them. “Well, if it isn’t my favorite customer,” she said with a deep hardy voice of a comforting mother, she paused briefly to look at Rico “and a new crew member to your band nice to meet you, I’m Moxie.” Rico shifted the package briefly to shake her hand which was a powerful up and down motion that nearly sent Rico toppling over.

“Nice to see you too Moxie,” Vahn looked over her shoulder expecting someone to be their “did Zed call you already.” Moxie smiled showing her large white teeth framed by the lavender lips stick she always wore.

“Glaive Beam again?” She asked Vahn nodded with a ‘can you believe it’ look on her face “well, that’s what you get for having those so called military grade tech asshole installing your weaponry” Moxie smiled, she knew as well as every other pilot that flew a ship worth a damn that Moxie was the goddess of anything mechanical. Beneath that small portly body beats the heart of a real machine.

“I won’t make that mistake again…” Vahn said dejected her gaze fading out as she turned down the dock to the exit station “well me and Rico have to take care of a delivery, Zed and Mobi are inside.” Vahn pointed with her metal thumb over her left shoulder.

“There is one thing” Moxie said making Vahn stop in her tracks “some guy was asking about you earlier.”

“What guy?” Rico asked on edge with a latent hint of jealously that went unnoticed by Vahn but not Moxie.

“Sorry,” she ruffled her hair with a tiny hand “I was working on some machinery at the time so I didn’t see his face and he didn’t offer up a name.”

“What did he ask about?” Vahn asked interested in the stranger looking for her.

“Oh,” Moxie paused, bringing her tiny hand up to her head in a motion as if she was protecting the sun from her eyes as she looked over the landscape “when’s the last time you’d been to Alpha. If I had a way to contact you, but I told him you’re a regular, so you’d pop up sometime soon.” Vahn nodded a thank you while deep in thought. Chalking this person up to probably just another run of the mill rookie merchant looking for someone to deliver illegal merchandise for him.

Zed popped out from the ship with a wide grin on his face “hello Moxie you look just lovely” Vahn and Rico parted as Moxie pushed past them. “Oh Zed you flatter me” she laughed her hand covering her mouth. Vahn made a pinched face nudging Rico forward “Come on lets go.”

They made their way to the dock exit they stood amongst a vast amount of men and woman some human and other alien races alike. If took a long time for Vahn and Rico to reach their destination a small side room behind a popular weapons shop. As they moved to the hallway a thin waif of a man stood at an impasse from the door to the center of the room Vahn wanted to head to. He barley paid attention to her and Rico till she was upon him shoulders squared and a mean look on her face. “Trying to be an asshole Dancy or have you taken up a new hobby of hallway monitor?” She called over the man rolled his eyes at her forcing away a smile that was bubbling to the surface.

“You know I’m your asshole,” he called from behind his bodyguard as he motioned for him to move from Rico and Vahn’s path. He smiled tilting his head back to look at her and Rico. Dancy was a man that often aroused fear in those he called upon, except Vahn who knew him too well in and out of bed and considered it all male posturing. His gray eyes and smile dimmed slightly at the sight of Rico holds the box that was no doubt for him “so when did you pick up a robot?” Dancy took a step towards Rico as he looked over him with intense scrutiny, admiring the craftsman ship of his robotics.

“Cyborg” Rico corrected. Dancy clicked his tongue and he sucked in his breath “Shit man full body reconstruction,” Rico frowned “tough break.”

Vahn pushed Dancy back as she stepped in-between them “Dancy, I didn’t come here to talk about my new crew member” she said in a warning tone telling him to back off.

He nodded slumping his shoulders sadly. “Right, Right down to business as usual.” He gestured to the box motioning for Rico to place it in the center of the room. Dancy guards moved to break open the crate, they pulled out different mean looking weapons and several boxes of ammo. “Looks like everything is here” one of his men commented as everything was placed back.

Dancy smiled “As reliable as ever Vahn,” he pulled out a handheld typing in a few numbers “here is you pay just as promised, with a little extra throw in” he winked at her causing Rico to roll his eyes in disgust. Vahn smiled politely checking to make sure that he actually payed this time and he did so she was happy to leave “Thanks Dancy just message me if you need another delivery.” Dancy made a face as she turned to leave, stopping her with a loud cough.

“Before you go Vahn you should know that there was some shady looking guy asking around about you” Dancy said as he pulled up a hologram projector from his pocket. The man on the projection was ghostly pale, dressed in black and white with milky slicked-back hair.

Vahn frowned deeply with a disgusted look on her face, catching the attention of Dancy and Rico. “When was he here?” she asked. Dancy flicked his finger down, then up pulling up the time stamp. It told her that he was here less than an hour ago “Thanks Dancy, I’m getting the fuck out of here and so should you,” she started to move quickly to the door Rico trailing confused behind her. “Who is this Vahn?!” He yelled after her trailing behind.

“Bad fucking news for everyone,” she said with a slight head turn. Vahn pulled out her comm link calling the ship “it’s the Captain get the ship ready to go, we have to get out off of this station now” she closed the comm before Zed could respond.

“Vahn what is going on your freaking me out?!” Rico asked pleading his robotic voice quaking and jittering as he followed close to her right.

As the two of them were about to enter the ship a blaster went off forcing the two of them to stop in their tracks. Several other people drove down around them at the sound of the shot ricocheting off of a metal surface. Vahn looked to where the shot came from and Rico looked to where the shot it. The shot had nearly missed Rico’s head by a half an inch. Across from them was a man in white standing perfectly still, his eerie blue eyes like searchlights emphasized by the black sclera of his eyes

Rico grabbed for Vahn who stood motionless frozen is a quiet horror Rico’s voice couldn’t shatter. He pushed her head behind him as the stranger shot again. Hitting Rico in his shoulder he cringed as the metal from the bullet pierced his shoulder.

<<Chapter 1 Chapter 3>>

Clementine-Chapter 1

Note: Has been updated as of 11/28/16.

Juke Box Hero

Her fingers twisted and gripped at the metal grates that made of the floor of the ship. The sudden vacuum of space pulled at her leg, yanking her back and threatening to steal the air of the room. Her eyes met and locked with the emulsified android that watched as her grip began to slip. Her thoughts raced in her mind, wondering if this would be her last moments. As her grip loosened more she closed her eyes, her fingers letting go of the grate; the chase was finally over.

A small ship sits docked in a vast space station, it’s only marking the bold letters of it’s name emblazened on the side; Clementine. The captain sits in the cockpit humming a tune to herself, she is an older woman, tall and lanky, the only weight on her is that of age. She reclines back in an aged chair, letting out a loud sigh as a shiver courses through her body.
The captain adjusts herself, zipping up her jacket to fight off the cold. Her eyes wander to the side window of her cockpit, empty space stares back and she falls deep into thought. No matter how long she had been a captain few things would always be with her; One was her chair, which she had had since her first ship, some now derelict cargo junker. The second was a hatred of the cold, wintery grasp of space, a natural cold no amount of warmth could cause her to forget.

The ship is docked on a Space Station that lay as a dying shell, a freckle on the planet that would soon fade away. Presently it was a busy place she watched merchants, criminals and soldiers pass by her ship, none more interesting than next.

The captain looks away from the vacuum of space, instead taking comfort in the passing soldiers and merchants who are also visiting the space station. She felt her eyes grow heavy with a need for sleep when a voice deeper in her ship shouted out. “Captain,” the voice was loud and boisterous as the captain jumped slightly at the sudden noise.
“What is this time,” the captain shouted back, turning in her chair to look at the source of the voice. “What is it this time,” the small man mocked the captains response, his face covered in oil from the ship. “The blasted Glaive Beam’s out!” The captain sighed and fell back against her chair before pushing herself up and leaning against a console to talk with the mechanic.
“What about the Chain Vulcan,” she said with a heavy sigh. “Does that still work at least?” The small man’s eyes rolled as he let out a loud groan. “Of course it still works,” the man shouted. “What kind of mechanic do you take me for?”
“The best, Zed” The captain said, a smile crossing her lips. “The best.”

Zed’s ragged hands rubbed against his temples, muttering frustratedly. “Well as the best mechanic,” Zed said, sarcasm dripping from his words. “I can tell you without any doubt that the chuffing Vulcan will not replace the blasted Glaive Beam!”
The captain smiled at the now shouting Zed. “Calm down old man,” she said, knowing full well her name calling would only anger Zed more. “Once Rico gets back we’ll head out for repairs.” Zed grumbled to himself as he glared at his Captain. “Fine,” he finally said, spit flying from his mouth. “I’ll be in the engine room if you need me.”

Vahn allowed herself a loud sigh as she slumped against the console she was standing in front of. After her nerves had settled she pulled a small rectangular device out of her pocket and began thumbing through it. She slumped more when her eyes laid themselves upon her bank account. While not quite ‘in the red’ money was getting tighter than her flight suit on a bad day. The gurgle of her stomach pulled her from her inner thoughts and using what little energy she had she found her way to the kitchen.

As she approached the small alcove that functioned as the kitchen she saw a small blue glob of strange material sliding against the kitchen floor. It’s body twisted and churned as it opened cabinets and placed utensils on the countertop. It gurgled once it saw the captain approaching. “Lost your translator again,” Vahn asked, sitting at a bar stool, opposite the blob. The blob replied with a seemingly sad series of gargles. “That’s fine,” Vahn said with another sigh. “Just another bit of money Rico can spend on my behalf.”

The blob gurgled questionly at it’s captain. “Just the usual,” Vahn said, reaching into her hand for an electric cigarette. Loud gargles of anger escaped from the blob. “Lay off Mobius,” Vahn said, frustrated. “No amount of your rants is gonna get me to stop.” Mobius gurgled quietly as it went about the kitchen, preparing a meal for it’s captain.

With a sigh Vahn opened the thumb of her metallic arm, lighting her cigarette. She took a puff as she examined the arm that had replaced her old one, lost in some long forgotten event. She leaned back in her stool, her eyes wandering to the roof of the kitchen as Mobius toiled in the kitchen.

Several minutes passed as Vahn took quiet drags from her cigarette. As Mobius placed down a plate of food for her Vahn’s handheld began chirping, marking the return of the last of her crew. “Oi, Rico,” She called out, her voice echoing throughout the ship. “Everything go alright?” She put out her cigarette and shoveled down the tasteless fiber Mobius had prepared for her before getting up to meet Rico halfway down the hall.

The Spindly android did not appear happy to see her, his false rubber face emulating a frown. As Vahn caught up to him she smiled a devious smile noticing a small bag barely hidden by his robotic body. “I can’t believe you sent me down there alone,” Rico said, his voice crackling like some aged recording.
“You’ll thank me later,” Vahn said, patting her cyborg crew member on the shoulder. Rico sighed and walked past his captain. “Hopefully before I’m killed by raiders,” his modulated voice dripping sarcasm.

“That’s the spirit,” Vahn chuckled before grabbing the bag out of Rico’s grip, the cyborg turning in an attempt to snatch it back. She reached into the bag, holding Rico back with her foot. “What do we have here,” Vahn said, pulling a small package out of the bag an image of a mechanical suit drawn on it’s side. “Another ARMS figure,” Vahn said, frowning as she looked at the clear front packaging. “Wow, they’ve really improved the quality.” Vahn tossed the package to Rico who’s brown eyes had a familiar glow in them.

“I know right,” Rico said, a familiar beginning to an all too familiar conversation. “I’m just jealous that I never got to pilot one,” Vahn sighed, mimicking Rico quietly in his next words. “I always saw them back home on Exeos.”

“It’s not that impressive,” Vahn said walking past Rico. “Just another tool of war.” Rico went to place his new purchase in the captain and his cabin as Vahn headed for the bridge, planting herself in her chair and looking over the command console in front of her. “I can’t believe you,” Rico’s voice came from behind causing Vahn to turn in her chair. “You took Mobi’s translator again.”

Vahn cracked another devious smile at Rico. “You give him that Translator and you’ll function as a hood ornament for Clementine.” Rico shook his head, taking his spot on the console of the ship. “Hey captain,” Rico said, a blinking light flashing in his face. “Did we lose weapon systems?”

Vahn sighed. “We lost the Glaive Beam,” she said, annoyance clear in her tone. “We’ll get it fixed on the next stop, I’d like to get off this station as soon as possible.” Rico shrugged and began the normal checks, grabbing some black tape to cover the blinking light, making a mental note of the need for more tape.

After refueling and permission checks Clementine whirred to life. It’s engines quietly screaming as the the ship detatched from the station and headed out. Once the ship was on course Vahn leaned back in her chair her eyes focused on flying. Rico, however gawked at the open space, planets spattered throughout their visuals.

“Seeing planets from above always gets me thinking,” Rico said, his voice breaking the silence Vahn would prefer. “About what,” Vahn said.
“The planet humans came from,” Rico said, turning to face Vahn, who had slunk back into her chair, quietly drifting off. “It had to be perfect,” he continued, wonderment in his voice. “For us to have survived so long on it.” Vahn sighed. closing her eyes as she listened to Rico wax poetic.

“Who can say,” Vahn said, her voice perfectly mimicking her as she lazily dozed. “But like all good things it had to end.” She scoffed. “Hell things end faster when people think they never will.” A frown crossed her lips as she peeked open her eyes. “Though the Mors probably didn’t help much.”

Rico nodded, seeing the disdain in Vahn’s face. “I did see a few Mors while I was off ship.” Vahn’s frown turned to a scowl as she adjusted herself in her chair. “Then it’s good I didn’t come with,” she said, dread laced in her voice. “Wouldn’t want to be crossed off their kill list.” Rico frowned as the atmosphere turned grim and turned back to the console, finally letting the captain get her nap in.

Chapter 2>>