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HULL DAMAGE


Timothy J. Meyer


Smashwords Edition

Copyright 2012 Timothy J. Meyer


Thank you for downloading this free ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial purposes only, provided the book remains in its complete original form. Thank you for your support.


BAD SPACE TRILOGY


HULL DAMAGE

GALACTIC MENACE

UNCONSTANT LOVE


www.hulldamage2012.com


To Daniella,

the original First Mate,


"I am not what you'd call a civilised man! I have done with society entirely, for reasons I alone have the right of appreciating. I do not, therefore, obey its laws and I desire you never to allude to them before me again!"

Jules Verne, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea


Table of Contents


PART I: Crew

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

First Interlude

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Second Interlude

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10


PART II: Captain

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Third Interlude

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Fourth Interlude

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20


PART III: Crew

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Fifth Interlude

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Final Interlude

Chapter 27


Acknowledgments

About the Author

GALACTIC MENACE Preview


Chapter 1


Moira takes the next punch directly in the face. She unexpectedly buckles, as if all the moons had suddenly lent the greenskin’s sloppy closed-fisted cross the velocity of a comet, and she lurches backward, only the bar top’s slippery lip saving her from forfeiting her balance completely. She heaves a breath, eyesight sputtering in and out and her teeth expressing a hitherto unheard desire to pop out of her gums and escape. Her clock is nearly cleaned with all the veracity of a spaceship crashing on her head.

Between hazy blinks, she spies her opponent, a spunky humanoid with patchy malachite flesh and flared incisors. He bobs like a prepubescent imitation of a pugilist, utterly incapable of concealing that frivolous snigger.

Moira Quicksilver devotes at least three hours a day to rigorously rehearsing her Tebi-Gali stances, strikes, counterstrikes and combination incapacitations and she’d just been knocked practically to her flat ass by a hundred pound weakling with arms like wet Jowna noodles and a sneer like her Captain’s.

A pump of her elbows returns her to the balls of her feet as she attempts to dissect his stance, acrid pain of his paradoxical punch radiating in her skull. Under the biostrobe lights, he carries himself like a hologram signal, complete with deep blue aura. His swaggering stance is mockable at best: wavering spasmodically, fists tightly clenched and face fully exposed. She’d fenced fists with a dozen similar back-room brawlers, thugs educated in form and footwork by public access telewave simulations and delusions of grandeur.

Moira deftly ducks the original punch’s ugly stepsisters – another pair of stumbling, embarrassing crosses, the greenskin apparently enough emboldened by his single score on Moira’s cheek to waltz right into her counterstrike. His right cross blazing overhead, she weaves beneath and raises a crooked elbow, ramming it into his own exposed elbow joint with a tearing crack. The greenskin sprawls back, yowling, to the greasy floor, his arm suddenly an obtuse angle and his framing shifting from optimistic blue to cautionary green. A hasty heel stomp to his temple, a comical rebound off the plastolieum and he’s out cold or dead, Moira doesn’t care which.

Her jaw pulsing in electrified pain, she inspects her face with three prudent fingers, offering a silent prayer to all the moons that her brittle and much-abused jawbone wasn’t broken. Anglians, famed for prissiness, needlepoint and hollow bones, weren't terribly suited to the delicate art of being punched in the face, a fact always brought poignantly back to Moira whenever separated from her precious revolvers by a hundred feet of nightclub and a gun detector.

She prods the punch's impact zone with a thumb and bites back a curse.

Moira Quicksilver had been beaten, bruised and blackened by a menagerie of goons, even thrashed by a horny bull arlaxi on one instance and she had never known a punch to exude agony like this. Something, she reasons, is afoot.

Ninety seconds had upheaved the second floor of the Astrobounce Gentlemen’s Club into a riotous mess. The whole joint is on its feet, half embroiled in the brawl, half seeking cover or escape. The talent, meanwhile – two-dozen striprobats who represent half the bipeds of the Midworlds – weightlessly clamber in orbit about their poles behind the safety of the observation bubble as the fight rampages on around them.

Fitful bursts of the biostrobe lights alternate between plunging the club into pitch darkness or limning the healthy in indigo, the wounded in emerald and the unconscious in crimson. The house music, a listless disaster of seismic beats, is tempered with shattering bottles, the most ribald of the Captain’s cursing and the frantic dithering of the automated bartender. A ragtag cadre of aromas – cheap booze, fight sweat, imported tobacco, spilled blood and forty-five years of the galaxy’s dried semen – vanguard an assault on Moira Quicksilver’s nose as she re-calibrates her wits against the bar top.

She hadn’t had anything to eat, drink or snort since they’d strode into the ‘bounce like the corsair kings of old. She certainly didn’t feel drugged, though the atmospheric cocktail of odorous effluvia could possibly be masking an airborne agent of some kind, maybe even a paralytic. It was just as possible that the underlying rhythm of the house music, piped loud enough through the club’s subwoofers for Moira to feel the vibrations on the back of her neck, contained a subliminal frequency, specifically designed to wreak havoc on her senses. Both options seem highly unlikely and nearly impossible to prevent even if true.

All physical evidence suggests that she ought to be performing at peak efficiency, yet here she stands, clutching her bruised jaw and watching the crew brawl these mystery goons like a shell-shocked spectator. Three Mruka ruffians have stalked Odisseus back against the glass wall of the bubble, but they’re still clearly outmatched. Two-Bit’s on his knees across the room, throttling the life out of his proned Saurian, who returns the favor with snapping jaws and black spittle. Barely a grenade’s toss away, however, the Captain cheats by whatever means possible to ward off his three grotesque assailants – a Prul in a bowler hat, a Walkeen plastered in jailhouse ink and a Kezzerak sporting a nicotine halo.

This was what he paid her for, after all.

Four steps took her straight to the Kezzerak’s exposed back and she takes them as running strides, two on the grimy floor, one up a chair and the fourth a springing bound off a wobbly tabletop. One great leather boot stomps onto the goon’s chitinous left shoulder, the other hooking around its segmented neck. The mantis-man flounders in response to Moira suddenly riding shotgun on its plated back, spitting a shower of buzzing curses through its mandibles. Four spined forearms flail about in a frenzied attempt to dislodge Moira, who grabs her hoisted boot by the ankle and yanks hard upward, cracking the chitin. Temporarily blinded by the displaced nicotine halo spewing excess fumes in every which direction, she jerks her bootstrap once, twice, three times before the exoskeleton splits and the whole head cleaves off in a burble of blue goo.

Insectoid legs crumbling and twitching all around her, Moira Quicksilver falls to the puddle of innards in a tight crouch, just in time to miss the wooden chair swung wildly over her lowered head. The Walkeen, a hulking tripod of a thug, follows through with his two-handed swing, clobbering the nearby table and all its souls in a shower of wood, glass and alcohol.

Not quite seven feet of bruised magenta muscle, hoisted on three swollen calves and splattered with wisps of its history of incarceration, the Walkeen spits a guttural challenge between its tusks. In the strobe’s flicker, it’s a phantom silhouette, a child-gobbling nightmare made flesh and flash. The goon adjusts the hefted chair in its enormous mitts, preparing to continue the arc back as Moira kips up, extrapolates the distance between each leg and braces for impact. The chair returns and Moira, nearly bowled over in the process, snatches it stopped with a leg in each palm, titanic recoil absorbed by her half-tented Hukia stance.

She muscles back, wrenching the chair from his alarmed grasp and heaving it back over her shoulder with a clatter on the plastolieum.

He answers with a meteoric left, rifting the boozy air inches from Moira’s shoulder, who sidles left herself and delivers a double-barreled kick to the Walkeen’s forward kneecap. She’s rewarded with exactly no purchase from the monstrous knee, as if she had instead kicked a hull support beam. Pivoting two steps backward and out of range, Moira attempts to recalculate when the spitting, hacking cacophony of the upturned nightclub is interrupted by a squealing alarm.

“–damage to observation bubble outer shell. Inertial dampening unit activated at 15%. Warning–” chimes the passive-aggressive droidvox over the ‘bounce’s house comm while Moira instinctively feels the changes in both her own weight and the room’s pressure. She whips a glance to her right, towards the enormous observation bubble dominating the floor’s center to spot the comically spread-eagled form of a Mruka, impacted vehemently enough into the glass wall to crack and spiderweb it.

Broken bottles, torn napkins and loose teeth reluctantly wander off the floors and counters. The steady spill of mingled blood and booze tires of dripping off tables and meanders into open air. The patrons, Moira included, suddenly feel an indefinable weight lifted off their persons. The Walkeen lumbers forward, shambling stomps suddenly springing steps, as he curls a fist for reprisal.

Apparently, Moira observes, the Astrobounce is equipped with a gravitational counterbalance system as regards its central observation bubble. Following damage to the glass shell, the entire club would even out the levels of weightlessness, saving the strippers a nasty forty-foot free fall when the interior of the bubble depressurized, at the cost of lowering the gravity to the main bar floors.

She could exploit this; what a normal brawler would either attempt to ignore or possibly even be hindered by, Moira could manipulate. She didn’t have enough raw strength to even blemish the blubbery flesh of her attacker, but with a decrease in the club’s friction, it would be a simple matter of finding a way to launch herself with enough velocity in order to break his knee.

Reverse somersaults were tricky enough on a clear field, but on a floor besieged with glass, cadavers and injured furniture, they were practically impossible, even to one as practiced as Moira Quicksilver.

Inertia, on the other hand, could care less.

Double barrel-rolling backward, a scant inch above the cluttered ground, Moira exits the roll and lands in a vertical crouch against the bar. She braces her legs beneath her, preparing for a pounce at her approaching adversary, who currently clambers over a pulverized table in an effort to charge her.

The Walkeen clears the furniture, Moira catapults off the counter and the shrieking alarm changes pitch. Mid-flight, Moira twists her body and pulls her knees to her chin, flexing for a donkey kick straight to the thug’s own exposed knee. The Walkeen is caught nearly by surprise, with only a second to brace for impact and curl a fist, both combatants dimly aware of the automated message beaming over the club.

“–dampening unit increased to 35%. Warning: Conditions un–”

Moira unexpectedly accelerates in the increasingly lower gravity, rocketing through a cloud of corpses and chair legs, towards her gigantic foe. She’s attempting to recalculate the instant of her attack when the Walkeen, with the full force of an unleashed ballistic torpedo, uppercuts her in the stomach.

Instantly changing directions, she hurtles upward like a cartoon character until she makes vicious and unrepentant contact with the ceiling. Her stomach detonates in black, vomiting agony for a split second before the leftover momentum from the Walkeen’s blow bounces her straight back to the ground. Moira lands prone, stomach and spine screaming and her limbs practically jolted into paralysis, as she languidly drifts off the club floor and into the steamy air. She flounders feebly, attempting to quell the bloody rebellion of her panicked nervous system, as the Walkeen’s gargantuan shadow grows over her.

A few cursory gasps of nervous breath indicate that her fragile ribs remain dubiously unbroken. Her previously cobalt outline, courtesy of the biostrobe, turns coat and adopts a sickly olive hue. As her eyes wheel to focus the blurry hulk, outlined in strobe and preparing a finisher, Moira, with a titanic effort, reclaims the use of her unwilling appendages and manages to gain some distance on her pursuer with a few frenetic flailings of her legs.

Desperately attempting to recalculate, Moira backstrokes through the ocean of drifting alcohol droplets and fine grains of shattered glass, the Walkeen lumbering after her. As much as she can, she attempts to interpose floating pieces of furniture, corpses or whatever other aerial flotsam and jetsam she can between herself and the grimacing brute, only to have them swatted out of the way by great swings of his fists.

Scrambling through the confused tangle of hovering detritus only buys her time and sooner, rather than later, she’s cornered. Back to the liquor cabinet’s fourth shelf, jointly assailed by both the wailing of the automated bartender and the looming threat of her pursuer, Moira Quicksilver wraps her fingers around the neck of a racked bottle of gin, chambers her best poker face and extrapolates the heft needed to crack open the Walkeen’s skull with a single throw.

What she doesn’t extrapolate, however, is the effect of a breakneck collision between the Walkeen’s unprotected backside and a flying, flailing humanoid, seemingly launched from across the ‘bounce at an improbable speed. With a chain of flabbergasted cursing, the humanoid topples backward into the unsuspecting bruiser, scattering both of them to the floor. Midway through the forward fall, the Walkeen just manages to catch his bloated chin against the bar top and with a vile crack, his snarl wilts and his massive form sprawls on the ground. Moira blinks and lowers the bottle.

Bloom a fucking blighter on a whore’s ass cheek,” comes the last of the profanity in husky coughs as the humanoid assembles himself from the wreckage of the downed Walkeen. Moira rolls her eyes.

His favorite jacket, a mud-brown maltreated aviator’s duster of scuffed, stained and carbon-scorched leather, sports a fresh slash at the shoulder seam, uncovering a shirt twice as threadbare below. One of his hands, whose knuckles are gashed martyrs to his slipshod and unprincipled brawling philosophy, clasps his stomach as he wheezes, while the other impulsively shuffles through his waifish black mane. Despite the visible bruises, cuts and scrapes, despite his ninety-foot flight and its curt conclusion, despite the cascade of blood coursing from his smashed nose and dying his teeth scarlet, the Captain's smile wrecks his face.

What? No,” replies Moira disgustedly.

Nemo gestures towards the clasped bottle. “Pass me that, willya?”

She gives it a toss, he snatches its neck with his left and has it uncorked at his lips in the space of a blink. Moira floats from the cabinet shelf to the bar top and crouches down, surveying the panoramic ruination of the Astrobounce Gentlemen’s Club.

Two-Bit’s stranglehold on his attacker appears to have reached a hitch with the club’s partial weightlessness, suddenly allowing the Saurian the use of his previously pinned and considerably hefty tail. Tufts of multicolored fur wafting about their heads, the final Mruka squares off against the glowering, bloodstained Odisseus.

Who hit you?” she intones.

Nemo resurfaces to answer. “The Prul.”

Halfway across the room?”

Son of a bleeder knows how to close a fist,” he shrugs, hoisting the bottle. “I guess.”

Fucking anti-gravity.”

Fucking gun detectors.”

Moira probes about her abdomen with her fingertips, uncovering a remarkable extent of cruel and future bruising. She chokes on a curse.

Any sign of Xo’s man?” she offers.

Alcohol upraised, Nemo returns a noncommittal shake of the head. She sighs and rubs the bridge of her nose with a frustrated forefinger.

Promise me we’ll never do business here again.”

With his teeth a nauseating violet from the red of his blood and the blue of his booze, the Captain Nemo waxes a sporty, sidelong grin and sloshes the gin’s remnants.

Onwards and upwards.”

As if on cue, Moira spies a muzzle flash across the joint. With a piercing shriek, an orange blaster bolt streaks narrowly between them and instead shatters Nemo's lifted bottle, dispelling a cloud of glass shards and indolently drifting liquor into the air.

Moira instantly tenses and scoots back behind the bar top. “Your Prul?” she suggests from cover.

Nemo regards the bottle’s splintered neck as a slain comrade. “Oh, by all the moons of Jotor,” he breathes. “What’re the odds, even–”

He could have hit you.”

Nemo shrugs. “Would have been preferable.”

Another pair of iridescent orange bolts, both claiming victims among the racked brethren of Nemo's destroyed bottle pierce the fine mist of spilled indigo alcohol.

Orange muzzle flash. Makes it a Halisdro. Most likely a holdout. Probably bonded fibers,” Moira postulates.

Probably,” he replies offhandedly, tossing the severed head of the bottle aside. He twists, affixing her with a quarter-moon smirk. “Race ya?”

She scans the expanse of weightless carnage. Following a loose trajectory to her right, Moira could, with a lessened line of sight to her attacker, blaze a trail to the hunkered Prul’s position – a makeshift barricade constructed of an upturned table, complete with telltale bowler hat peeking just into view. The majority of the floating debris on all other routes towards the Prul’s improvised fortification was either too sparse or simply too small to serve as an adequate screen from laser fire. Only by hugging to the rightmost path, along the observation bubble, could she avoid being a vulnerable and obvious target to the full clip of ammunition the Prul would be able to unload before she reached him.

She regards Nemo with an indirect glance.

Left or right?”

Nemo squints the thirty yards to the garrisoned gunman, who squeezes off another embarrassment, flying fifteen feet wide. He shrugs.

Left.”

Deal. Ready?”

Just about.” Nemo snakes an arm behind the bar and fingers an idle decanter of frothy blue Gitterswitch, yanking it up to his grasp. He tosses back a gulp, cants his gaze to Moira and splinters into his most malignant grin.

Go.”

Moira watches him scurry off, immediately drawing fire from the Prul and current route equipped with little or no sufficient cover. To his credit, he’d at least learnt to crouch a little when facing uninterrupted enemy fire. When she was certain the Prul had focused his attention entirely on stopping the charge of the one-man idiot brigade, Moira slinks off, unnoticed, to the right.

Two strides and she’s airborne, sliding off the ground and sailing along the rim of the observation bubble. She scuttles the length of its glass face like a beetle, perpetually gyrating striprobats on her right, string of floating, dismembered corpses and furniture on her left. Between gaps in the debris, she catches brief glimpses of the jowly, behatted Prul, body pivoted away from her rush, shooting madly in the other direction and utterly unaware of her imminent threat.

The bolts only berate the oncoming Nemo, however. Liquor hiked to his lips, he scampers across the club floor, determinedly draining the bottle as laserfire darts miraculously by. Moira decides not to bother calculating the statistical improbability of Nemo’s accidental evasiveness as she approaches her destination.

She skates the remainder of the distance along the bubble’s convex, aligns and musters her legs beneath her as Nemo closes the gap from the left. The Prul, unnatural terror clouding his double-chinned face, rises and squeezes off the last two shots his sidearm will allow before the chamber clicks empty.

On cue, Moira pounces, pulling herself into a Snarling Jborra stance and swooping silently towards her oblivious foe. Nemo, bottle empty, hurls it oblique, catching the Prul on the right hand and clattering the empty pistol to the ground. In response, the Prul steps forward and clocks Nemo absolutely in the face with a closed fist, plowing him to the ground and haphazardly skipping him across the floor.

Moira descends, instantly flattening the Prul beneath her knee, landing in a hard squat atop him and finally dethroning that moronic hat. They briefly wrestle, the frantic Prul attempting to thrash her off while Moira grapples to grasp a hold on his chin. She yanks him wickedly, his neck shatters and his fluorescent emerald border flickers into a deep crimson. She exhales.

After confirming the kill, Moira shifts her weight to her other knee and reaches for the castoff piece. She'd been right – a Halisdro sidearm. A miniaturized bootleg of an MI model, it was small enough to conceal in a shin or wrist holster, carried a magazine of sixteen off brand vapor cartridges and appeared to be woven and cemented from reinforced, low-tensile shobo silk. Organic weaponry was the number one answer to metallic-based firearm sensors, such as those the ‘bounce employed. Even a holdout this small would have been useful, if Nemo’s bottle hadn’t cleaved the whole thing in two, leaving the barrel dangling from the chamber by a handful of wiring. She flings it dismissively and it breaks on impact.

Bloom. Me. The Fuck. Out.” Moira looks up and left to find, slumped like a child’s abandoned toy, her Captain, scraping himself off the club floor. Thrown clear by the Prul’s blasphemous blow and sporting a fashionable green tint from the biostrobe, he arduously labors to his feet, wheezing and spitting out blood. His face is bitter mush – bruised, bloodied, by all rights, broken. Even looking at him, Moira could feel her own battered head throb. “I think I lost a tooth back there.”

That’ll be expensive,” Moira deadpans.

Nemo throws on another of his quick shrugs. “Depends. I know a guy.” He uses both thumbs to ladle some of the blood from his eye sockets. “Antigravity can suck its mother’s cock.”

Moira scowls. She rises off the corpse and flips it with the edge of her boot. He's repulsive, even by Prulish standards. His gristly jowls are slack, spilling across his face and pooling on the plastolieum. His scalp only boasts a smattering of bristle, the same vibrissa that coats his bulky biceps and corrugated knuckles. His cloth is characterless – a sleeveless vest, an appropriately sized wrist holster and the same unexceptional shirt and breeches found on every transient spacer in Takioro Defederate Station. Her boot’s edge serves the same purpose in rolling him back, face plant to the floor.

Recognize him?” Nemo asks, having achieved relatively stable footing. Moira deepens her scowl and shakes her head. Nemo makes the voyage back to the body of his assailant, wincing with every other step, and stoops before him, grasping a few fingerfuls of barbed hairs and examining the face.

Any idea for a motive?” Moira inquires.

The usual ‘no good reason?’”

Sublime.”

Nemo unhands the Prul’s head and grimaces, glancing about the carcass of the nightclub. “Looks like the festivities are breaking up.”

Moira fires a peek over her shoulder. Order, however relative, did seem to be returning to the second floor of the Astrobounce Gentlemen’s Club. The pumping music had wound itself down, secondary and tertiary inertial compensators began to re-route and the majority of the brawl’s combatants were either fleeing the ensured justice of the house brutes, bleeding out or, in the case of the truly idiotic, panting and wiping their brows amid the floating jungle of collateral damage. Such was the case with both Odisseus and Two-Bit Switch, the former picking amber Mruka fur out from the cracks between his fangs, the latter hunched, checking the vitals of the asphyxiated Saurian.

I imagine Gozzer’ll be none too happy about this,” Moira muses.

His exhale explodes out of his lips as Nemo answers. “No, I imagine not.” He regards her incredulously, thumbing over his shoulder. “Did you decapitate that Kezzerak?”

She sniffs. “He was asking for it.”

He furrows his brow. “How do you figure?”

Damn mantis-men don’t wanna get dismembered in fistfights, they should grow some blooming bones.”

Nemo’s eyebrows polarize. “Fair enough.”

I assume we’ve no idea what happened to Xo’s representative?”

Nemo purses his lips. “Correct.”

Fuck.”

Seconded.”

With a string of electrified cracks, the biostrobe is usurped by successive blasts of garish industrial lighting, flooding the club floor in uncompromising illumination and heralding the approach of the incensed management. In a few seconds, the joint would be lousy with Gozzer and his hired heavies – a dissimilar handful of saw-toothed Triomman thugs with profoundly trigger-happy dispositions. As the last of the weightless furniture awkwardly alights on the ground, Moira wonders how Nemo planned on cajoling their way out of this one.

Sometimes, I wish we could just play nice with all the other criminals.”

Nemo musses up his face. “Whaddya mean? I'm nice.”

By all the moons, Nemo, if I find out you’re in back of this!” comes the heavily accented clarion call from across the nightclub. Nemo’s eyebrows bounce back into place.

That’ll be Gozzer. Wish me luck.” He stands, scoops up the stray bowler hat and spins it onto his head in a single motion, stalking off towards the sound of Gozzer’s voice.

Moira sighs. “You’re kidding me.”

He twists his torso to answer, continuing his stride uninterrupted. “What?” he teases. Moira rolls her eyes and shifts her attention elsewhere as he saunters off, Two-Bit and Odisseus falling in behind him at a motion.

Moira releases a yawn, which is accompanied by a blistering pain, characteristic of a cracked bone, on the left side of her jaw, precisely where the greenskin scored his lucky hit. She gives the point of contact a judicious massage with a thumb and reminds herself to obtain a few bottles of osteocaulk before they shoved off.

Out of the corner of her eye, Moira spots something – a meek point of red flash, emanating from beneath the pudgy hand of the dead Prul. She edges his wrist with her boot and reveals a handful of crumpled machinery, complete with tiny, cracked transponder, likely broken in his fall. She reaches to his other hand and inverts it, uncovering a similar transponder nestled in the palm, though it displays a steady green light, rather than a flashing red one.

Moira plucks up the device for closer inspection and watches the air four inches beyond it quaver and distort. She wheels it about for a moment, smirking in recognition.

It seems this Prul, along with the greenskin and probably the Walkeen she’d previously faced, had been equipped with manual shielding arrays, better known in these circles as “bombard knuckles.” When planted in a palm and properly activated, the transponder projected a fist-sized swath of buffer comparable to a shipborne bombard shield. Being struck in the face by an assailant wielding such a device was akin to being rammed by a starship, albeit considerably smaller and slower. The mystery of the greenskin’s disproportionately powerful punch suitably solved, Moira continues her search.

A hard heel kick to the corpse’s abdomen and it flops to its back again. She bends over the body and pads down its pockets. He was unarmed, save for the sundered silk sidearm, though the shoulder holster suggested he’d logged a pistol at the door – a medium chamber, short muzzle weapon, possibly an O9 or a V2. His clip was unimpressive, hosting a small hodgepodge of bills, which Moira discreetly palms, along with the one working bombard knuckle. His forward trouser pockets contained, along with a surprising number of empty chewing paste cartridges, a clearance card for Docking Port #2187 and an expired ident tag.

Cogden Moore,” the tag named him and granted him second-tier bounty hunting status under the Ring Penal Authority. Rifling through the vest, she found something folded and stashed in the rightmost breast pocket that Nemo would likely be very interested to see.

Look what I found,” Nemo calls from behind. Moira half-turns as he swaggers towards her, elbows cocked up and forefingers pinching a sliver-thin piece of tech.

You square everything with Gozzer?”

More or less. Two-Bit’s closing negotiations. Looks like he might be entitled to eight percent off our next job.”

Moira extends a hand. “You gotta stop offering percents – bigger jobs we take, more money we lose.” He passes her the card, emblazoned with the familiar Hong Xo insignia. “Business card?”

Holodeck. Looks like they left the offer after all,” he tilts his head and smirk sideways. “See? I done good.”

Moira glowers and tosses him the folded leaflet. “Right breast pocket. Cogden Moore. On contract from the RPA. Carrying a license and everything. My bet is,” she spares a consideration for the full splay of fallen thugs all about her, “he bought himself some untalented muscle for the takedown. Check their pockets, oughta find cash minted from Psabo and Yime, just like his.”

Nemo's smirk disappears as he busies himself with the unfolding and scrutiny of the flyer, only to evolve tenfold into a jubilant grin upon realization.

You’re serious?”

I’m serious.”

The odd elated snicker besieges his recitation. “Eighteen counts of murder in the first degree, three counts of piracy, one count of brigandage and one count of enthusiastic corruption of the galactic good. 78,000 Commercial. Dead or alive.” He tears his eyes off the posted notice, childlike wonder in his face. “So, he’s a–”

Yes.”

And we just–”

Yes. Mind you, this Moore is no Quuilar Noxix, but that’s a notice you can be proud of. Trust me.”

He motions emphatically at her with the half-crumpled handout. “You do understand, of course, this belongs on the chiller. It’s a necessity.”

That seems a little–”

He’s thrust the notice into the air, in a gesture of mastership and dominion over the inebriated wrecks, irritated administration and inner sanctum of his crew, exclaiming across the second floor of the Astrobounce Gentlemen’s Club, in the voice of a conquering warlord. “Attend me, galaxy. I, the nefarious Captain Nemo, have successfully vanquished the first bounty hunter you fucks could throw at me. Eat shit, long arm of the law!”

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Thank you for downloading this free ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial iconThis ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with

Thank you for downloading this free ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial iconThis ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with

Thank you for downloading this free ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial iconThis ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with

Thank you for downloading this free ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial iconThis ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with

Thank you for downloading this free ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial iconThis ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with

Thank you for downloading this free ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial iconThis book may be reproduced, copied, translated, and reprinted by anyone at any time

Thank you for downloading this free ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial iconThis book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This e-book may not be resold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with

Thank you for downloading this free ebook. You are welcome to share it with your friends. This book may be reproduced, copied and distributed for non-commercial iconThis book is copyright of James George Whitelaw and is available free of charge for you to download and read in an electronic format. This book may not be

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