Ladies and Gentlemen and Scoundrels of all ages, it is the weekend once more. That means, among other things, that I get to post another story! Let’s see what I’ve got down in the bin this time…
Jumpgates of Our Star first appeared on the TeamDystopia.com boards in 2007-2008. More to follow.
As always, this is my own work (the Sarge and Smoke are courtesy of Luke Newman) and the usual rules apply. Link, don’t copy. Do not claim as your own. Enjoy!
Yes. “Enjoy!” is one of the rules here.
Continued from Part Two…
“Who do you think you’re kidding, Smoke?” Hazard said. “You never were any good, even in the army, and now I’ve got you cold for murder and hijacking a government orbital station.” Hazard knew he was at a disadvantage with only one arm, and Smoke knew it too. He clenched his absent fist angrily. From the corner of his eye he saw movement under the desk, but did not let himself smile.
“So you got the drop on me, Haz-Mat. Really, I know it looks bad but it’s not what you think.”
“Prove it: this lady here says it is,” and Hazard kicked the woman’s body at his feet.
“She was already half-dead—I don’t know what else he has in his drawer, but he’d shot her and was firing at me when I got in here. I disarm a madman and this is the thanks I get?”
Hazard looked at his boss. The station manager was sweating and trembling, clenching and unclenching his hands on top of his desk. That he was a scoundrel, Hazard already knew, but he’d never seemed too dangerous. He looked even less deadly now with his scalp wound bleeding on his grey uniform coat. One of the nervous hands reached for the humidor at the corner of the cold metal desk. If Kirk had been in to see the boss yesterday, going for the cigar would mean the meeting was over. But it wasn’t yesterday. The station manager’s eyes flitted to Smoke’s ugly face, lost focus as though looking far away past his attacker’s head, back at Smoke…. A cruel smile played across the station-manager’s face and Hazard recognized the place where Smoke was standing. The humidor lid snapped open.
“Jackson GET DOWN!” Hazard shouted. Smoke was no slower hitting the deck than Hazard himself.
When the manager stopped twitching Hazard reached under the desk and pulled out his bionodigital right hand to reattach it. He picked up his Kruger and looked at the newest bloodstains on his clothes. Smoke Jackson was dusting himself off: he still held the parlor gun, but it wasn’t pointed at anyone now. The manager’s right arm, hand, and shoulder and the right side of his neck and right end of his desk were a mess of blood and hypodermic darts. The hand and arm were nailed down by the needles. They’d been fired through a poster of an Imperator Tyrannus, and should now have been buried in Smoke’s midsection. Any one dose would have been fatal.
Hazard appropriated the classified-documents folder that lay open on the desk and stuffed it into his shirt. From his pocket he pulled a phosphorus minigrenade he’d carried for years, and nodded Smoke out of the room. Taking the ID cards from the two bodies, he unscrewed the grenade’s safety cap, withdrew the plug, then tossed it into the middle of the room as he slammed the bulletproof yellow door behind him. Smoke was waiting on the landing.
CRACK! A brilliant light threw their shadows against the far wall of the engineering corridor and vanished. The office and its contents were gone.
“Let’s get back to the Beta Gate site, Jackson,” said Hazard. “There’s been too much death today already.”
* * * * *
They were holed up in the cantina with glasses of over-sweetened Sub-Nutritive Organic Tantalus, stirring them quietly along with some seventy-odd travelers to and from The City, most of them from, and for the first time in long uneventful lives. At the little round wet-bar in the middle of the room stood a skinny Non-Homo-Sapiens with six arms, antennae, and ragged teeth. The NHS was a surly fellow with acid wit but could keep a secret like a hanged pirate and had a nose for mixing drinks. In the corridor the startlingly sufficient members of Orbit Response Command from the Medical Orderlies’ Reserve Division, Orbital Regiment clop-clomped past in their boots and heavy gear to the emergency situation at Beta Gate. A squad was dispatched to the Station Manager’s office to answer the concussion alarm there—there was nothing left of the smoke alarm after Kirk Hazard’s flash-bang—but they still had a head-start on the EuTrans One station security officers. Smoke dialed into the station grid on his Corneo-cochlear Implanted Network Node Enabler, Remote (CINNER), and watched the cleanup at Beta Gate in realtime.
“They’re looking for you, Haz-Mat,” he told Kirk. “No really—the nurse you left in charge doesn’t know where you went and they’re checking every one of those corpses for biodigital RFI signatures.”
“Have they found the Manager’s office?”
“There’s someone there, I think,” Smoke swallowed a wad of the non-alcoholic Tantalus with a look that said he’d rather have motor-oil, and changed the channel. The implanted screen flickered behind his iris.
“They haven’t gotten in yet.”
“What the hell were you doing in there?” Hazard asked.
“I was meeting with the Manager, actually. Just as things were getting tense and he was fumbling for a cigar, the crazy lady walked in and he popped that little parlor gun out of nowhere and took her in the throat. I jumped him as he leveled on me—good ol’ Black One never forgets. Nicked him good for good measure and he settled down just before you sent the Reep in and opened fire.”
Hazard joined him in a laugh. “Hey, Smoke, who’s the Black One tactics king, anyway?”
“After Id Kid got picked up by Black Seven, I’d have to say you were. You could rout the enemy with your pants down, Haz-Mat! Id-Kid, you, Sarge, Mikey Valentyne … and I was way down that list, almost as bad at it as Bats Steel. I could always shoot and ain’t no shucks with technology, but the only tactics I know is how to buy and sell me some trouble—speaking of, you’d best be careful with those Official Docs you lifted from your dead boss’s desk: high-yield macro-gelignite on bleached algae mulch*. But you always did like explosives.”
Hazard whistled and drummed shave-and-a-haircut on the end of the table: the NHS strolled over to them, bowlegged knees swinging wide, two clawed hands in his apron pockets, two folded across his chest, and two hanging down with a stylus and the digital pad he took orders on.
<What’ll it be, chengtlemeng?> he said, his alien mouth mauling the consonants. His green eyes glowed as he flicked the ceiling with an antenna.
“Take this SNOT out of here and get us a G4-gin gimlet and—” Hazard looked questioningly at Smoke.
“An Exxon Valdez, extra-dry.”
“Got that, Fang?” Hazard said. Clawed hands wrapped around the Tantalus glasses and Fang grinned. If you could call it a grin.
“Geiger-Four Gin? Isn’t that the Akheela Juice, as they call it? Makes the ladies into she-wolves and the men start howling,” Smoke laughed. “So who is she, Kirk?”
“You didn’t see that nurse on the response team, Jackson,” Hazard said with a smile.
Fang brought the drinks: the gimlet was one part each G-4 gin and Rosalita’s Lime Juice, mixed perfectly, and the X-V was just right: the bottom half of the glass was hundred-proof whisky and extra-dry vermouth and the top half was fresh clean motor oil—literally—and all of it on the rocks. The Valdez Glass was made of blown glass with a built-in stem coming up the side from the bottom of the whisky so that the drinker could drink it first. Many drinkers, when they reached the oil, would blow the first mouthful into the nearest open flame to see it explode. Anyone who actually drank the motor oil was either an IAI or doing it for money. These were not mutually exclusive. Smoke sucked down the bottom half of his whisky at a go, and smiled.
“You like those X-Vs? Half-digital Smoke Jackson…” Hazard savored the gimlet. “You mentioned the Id Kid; what was his name? Jase something?”
Smoke shook his head. “Don’t mention it.”
Hazard chuckled at the memory of old times, hardly noticing that the cantina was now nearly empty. “He liked ‘Id Kid’,” Hazard recalled.
“Except he said it Eed-Keed to sound like his name. Eed—wasn’t it Ede—” and Smoke clapped a hand over Hazard’s mouth, almost upsetting the gimlet.
He’s here! Smoke mouthed urgently. His blond hair flopped forward as he poked Hazard’s jacket where he had stuffed the document folder. The scars of his face stood out red as they always did when he was excited.
Hazard’s eyes widened. He grabbed a napkin and a pen and pushed a note across the table.
Smoke wrote three words beneath it and passed it back.
ET-1 Station Security.
Someone in heavy boots came into the cantina.
* “bleached algae mulch” — a workable paper can be made from most any plant fiber. The “algae” is actually nearer to a terrestrial kelp. ~ the Editor.
Love it? Hate it? Tired of it already? Let me know in the Comments. And watch these pages for more stories and essays by J. J. Griffing.