Archive | February 2011

Under the Milky Way – part 7

Grappling for her weapon, she found herself outweighed and outclassed. Thick Neck wasn’t just big, he was well trained. She was a black belt in Krav Maga, but he obviously had training in more than one discipline. He blocked her attacks with ease, like he was swatting a fly. She raised her gun to fire, he took it away, turning it on her.

“I don’t think so, baby. You and me are gonna party while my friends take out your boy.”

Storm risked a glance at Luke. He fought valiantly, but he was outnumbered. She couldn’t do anything for him. Thick Neck would shoot them both before she went three feet.

She felt another tingle on her neck, but this one was different. Instead of a threat, it felt warm, calm, secure.

“Storm,” a gentle voice whispered in her ear. “It’s Gabrielle. Let me in.”

She opened her mind to Luke’s angel. Like a massive download, her mind was suddenly filled with visions of fighting styles she’d never seen before.

“Relax,” Gabrielle breathed. “I’ll take care of it.”

“What?” Thick Neck had advanced on her, undoing his belt.

Had she spoken? “I’ll take care of it,” she murmured, reaching for his pants.

Too excited to think rationally, Thick Neck groped for her as she undid his fly. Smiling, she let her hands drift down.

“Storm, a little help!” Luke was taking a beating.

Dodging and evading his attackers, he blocked one blow after another, but was starting to slow.

“I’m busy,” she said in a singsong voice.

“Play later,” he replied in the same tone.

“I’ll take care of it, Lukas,” she said with Gabrielle’s voice.

Exhaling seductively, she pulled Thick Neck toward her. Her knee pounded his groin. When he bent over in pain, it was waiting for his forehead. Stunned, he staggered, falling down. A well placed heel to his head insured he wouldn’t rise again. Her first attacker was coming around. A complicated series of blows sent him back to sleep.

In a shiny blue whirlwind, she flew into the bigger of Luke’s two opponents. Knocked off balance, he grabbed for his companion, making them both stumble. Storm kicked him hard in the midsection while Luke pounded the other with his fists.

They stood over their attackers, aware that others were watching. They moved neither to help nor hinder, waiting and evaluating. Breathing hard, Luke and Storm searched for weapons, placing them in a disposal shoot. Storm kept the best of the sidearms.

They proceeded toward the exit on the opposite side of a large, open area. Though Storm could see no one, she knew they were still being watched. The tingle of a telepathic scan warned her again, but this time her wall didn’t come down.

Fear gripped her and she stopped walking, clutching at Luke. Her body shook as she tried to fight the attacker.

“Gabrielle!” She gasped. “Help!”

The same warmth filled her with confidence. Turning, she spotted the telepath in the shadows. He was focused, transmitting, he didn’t notice that something had changed.

Storm’s mind filled with a ball of orange light. She pictured it traveling to her fingers. Her arms and hands prickled with energy. Putting up her hands like dual stop signs, she pushed.

The telepath staggered, gasping for breath. Storm pushed again and he fell, gagging and foaming at the mouth.

“Hurry,” she told Luke like nothing had happened. “We’re not safe here.”

“What? Huh?” He was too surprised to react.

Storm grabbed his arm, yanking him quickly across the room. They hit the doors leading to the corporate area. Security scans activated sending corporate solos flooding into the corridor, surrounding them.

“Storm Westlake,” she called. “Shine Clan. We’re under attack!”

The solos formed a meat wall behind her just as the doors burst open. More solos than she could count, faced the security team. They stopped, raising their hands in defeat.

“Who’s this?” The head of security asked Storm.

“Lukas Houston. He’s with me. He saved my life.”

“Mr. Houston, you’re welcome here as a guest, sir. I’m gonna have to ask for your weapons.”

Under the Milky Way – part 6

Storm’s seen Luke’s ship and met an amazing and unusual shipmate, Gabrielle. Luke assures her he can cut usual travel time in half. To prove it, he says he’ll fly her to the moon. Can he make good on his promise? Or is he like so many others, ready to let her down?

The same woman was sitting at the desk when they came back through. Her smile was frosty as they approached.

“That was fast, Luke. You usually take your time.”

“Just mind your own business,” Storm snapped. “What does he owe?”

“That’s unique,” the woman said, ignoring Storm. “She’s paying you? I thought it was the other way around.”

“Listen, honey,” Storm leaned over the desk. “I don’t have time for you to flirt with my man. Tell me what he owes and I’ll pay you. Otherwise, you’re going to experience one of my temper tantrums. They don’t call me Storm for nothing.”

Saying nothing, the woman called up the file, turning the screen so Storm could see the amount. It was considerable.

“Sweet deal you’ve got going, Luke. Since when do they pay you?”

“Since I’m the best thing in three sectors,” he answered with a wink.

Storm scanned her card, giving the woman her thumb print. “Come on, Lukas. Don’t keep me waiting.” She held out her hand.

He took it, nuzzling her neck seductively, taking full advantage of their little charade.

Storm was glad he was holding her so close. The touch of his lips on her neck made her feel like the gravity had gone out again. Stumbling, she leaned hard against him. He held her up, both hands around her waist.

“I’m not used to these shoes,” she mumbled. “And I drank too much.”

“Sure.” He smiled. “That would be it.”

They walked from the docking area heading to the corporate wing of the first ring of the station. It wasn’t a long walk if they went directly there. Unfortunately, the direct route took them through the worst part of Crystal Palace. In this wing, the dregs of society lurked ready to jump the unwary corporate who foolishly ventured in their territory.

Storm started to go around, but Luke tugged her hand.

“Don’t worry, baby. I’m with you. You’ll be safe enough.”

“I don’t usually go in there unless I’m armed. I sure as hell don’t wander down those corridors in an evening gown.”

“I’ll protect you,” he said, nibbling her neck.

“Yeah, well who’s going to protect me from you?”

She shrugged off his groping hands, hoping he wasn’t too sexed up to keep his promise of protecting her. The corridors were dank, dark and dusty. They were alone, for the moment, though Storm knew that wouldn’t last. Before they’d walked five minutes, she knew they were being followed.

Feeling Luke draw himself up and reach for his weapon, she knew he was aware of it too.

“Got an extra handgun?” She asked. “Knife, stunner, anything?”

He slipped her a compact pulse weapon. No one risked bullets on the space station, especially here where the walls were so thin. She checked it by feel, keeping her eyes on their surroundings. She hadn’t always been a corporate fixer, and knew her way around a handgun.

They walked a few more feet, suddenly finding themselves surrounded. How the men had moved in on them, Storm didn’t know and didn’t ask. These four men were no mere thugs, but well trained solos. Strange to find them in these surroundings.

The skin on Storm’s neck tingled. Someone was trying a telepathic scan. Her psy-block software automatically clicked on, driving him away. She knew he’d be back, ready for it. She wasn’t sure she could block a second attack.

“We don’t want no trouble, boys,” Luke said in a slow, Southern drawl.

Storm might have worried, but she saw his stance and balance subtly change.

“Just seeing the lady home for a little—you know….” He shrugged, grinning sheepishly.

“I don’t think so,” a thick necked thug to Storm’s right said with a nasty leer. “Someone’s gonna get something, but it sure ain’t gonna be you.”

Luke struck the man closest to him. He was tall, massive and singularly ugly. Storm kicked the weapon away from the man to her left, then turned to take on the one to her right. Wishing she had on different shoes, she concentrated on what she was doing.

Behind her, Luke took on two of the solos, leaving her two. The one she’d kicked scrambled for his weapon, but she shot him in the knee before he got that far. Kicking his gun far away, she faced the other. The thick necked one was rethinking his position.

“Some little bitty girl thinks she can take me?” He lunged at her before she got off another round.

Under the Milky Way – part 5

Lukas is trying to convince Storm that she needs to hire him to transport the equipment for the teleportation device her clan is installing. Since his ship looks like something cobbled together with bubble gum and duct tape, that’s going to be a hard sell.

A panel slid aside revealing a very sophisticated virtual keypad. Smiling up at her, he tapped a command on the keypad and a projection screen hummed. White light burst from it, flickering as a figure emerged.

“Besides, not every ship has this. Storm, I want you to meet my own, personal angel. Gabrielle, say hello to Storm.”

The figure of a woman stood before her on the console. Nearly four feet high, she was not quite opaque. The projection smiled politely. Her ears were pointed, her lithe body sporting a pair of graceful wings.

“Hello, Storm. I am Gabrielle. Are you a friend of Lukas’?”

“Business associate,” Storm smiled. “Pleased to meet you, Gabrielle.”

“What is a bizniz assoshut?” Gabrielle turned to Lukas with a puzzled frown.

“She means we just met and we aren’t quite friends yet. We’ll be working together.”

“Oh, I see. Pleased to meet you, Storm, bizniz assoshut.” She bowed.

“Gabrielle, how’s everything?” Luke asked her.

“All systems are operational, Lukas. The damages from our last run have been repaired. You have six messages from the harbor master. She warns you that if….”

“Yes, I’ve been given the message. Thank you.”

“Certainly. Is there anything else?”

“Not at the moment. Thank you.”

“You’re most welcome. Farewell, Storm.”

Stunned, Storm realized her mouth was hanging open. Luke rose languidly from his seat, walking over to her. He leaned toward her, lips a mere breath from hers as he gently pushed her lower jaw closed with his fingertips.

“That,” he said, still leaning toward her, “is the reason you’re gonna give the job to me.”

“I ….” Her mouth worked silently as she tried to put her thoughts together.

“Take your time.” He smiled, propping himself against the console across from her.

She pointed to the place where Gabrielle had been moments before. “You…. She—there was a woman.”

“Yes. Go on.” His smile was smug.

“She wasn’t human. She was—that is….”

“Alien. Yes, I know. She came with the ship.”

“That’s impossible! We don’t have that kind of technology. There are AI’s and projections, but nothing that sophisticated.”

“Humans don’t, no. But Gabrielle’s not human.”

“Then the ship?”

“It’s not human either. Why do you think we’ve added all this on her? Camouflage. If I look like a hunk of junk, people leave me alone. If everyone knew what I had, they’d all want a piece of the action.”

That statement was loaded with so many double entendres, it took Storm a moment to form a reply. This was business, not pleasure. Though Luke was smooth and talked a good game, she couldn’t base her decision on how well a man talked, how good looking he was, or the fact that he had an alien AI on board.

“I can’t give you a contract until I see how she performs. You say she’s fast, you have to prove it.”

“Very well. Give me a task. Hire me for any run you want. I guarantee we’ll do it faster than anyone else.”

“My cousin needs a load of building supplies brought up from home. I was going to have them teleported….”

“Give me something more challenging, huh? Any old scow can pick up building supplies. How about…? Gazing out the portal of the vessel, he saw the moon in the distance. “How about I make a moon run?”

“I don’t need anything from the moon.”

“Neither do I, but it would be a perfect test of our speed. How long does it take the average ship to make the moon run one way?”

“Seventeen hours and fifty-six minutes,” she replied. Everyone who’d been on Crystal Palace more than a week knew the answer to that.

“Correct. What if I told you I could be there and back again in that amount of time? Would I get the job then?”

“How do I know you wouldn’t just tell me you’d been and turn around halfway?”

“Because,” he leaned toward her. “You’re coming with me.”

“What?”

“I’ll need my docking fees paid,” he commented over his shoulder.

“I can’t go like this!” She indicated her evening dress and heels.

“Go change. Pay the docking fees and I’ll be ready to go as soon as you get back.”

“Oh, no. I’m not falling for that. If I pay your fees, you’ll be gone by the time I get back.”

“Fine. I’ll go with you. The crew can get her ready.” He sidled up to her. “Of course, I could tell them to be ready in the morning and we could spend some quality time at your place.” He slid in close, his body heat making her skin tingle.

“Or,” she shoved him roughly away. “We could go now and come back right away so I can make my decision.”

“Fine.” He shrugged, not caring that she’d just rejected him. “Come on. We’re burning moonlight.”

Under the Milky Way – part 4

Lukas Houston met her by the door to the banquet hall, hands in his pockets, looking smug. He placed his thumb on the electronic claim panel and the bodyguards at the door handed him his weapons. As he collected a variety of throwing knives, a short sword and a very lethal looking, gas propelled pellet gun, Storm smiled.

“I do like a man who can defend himself, Mr. Houston.”

“My friends call me Luke,” he flashed a winning smile.

“Well, Luke, what sets you apart from all those other, more established companies? Why should I put Shine Clan interests in your hands?”

“Because,” he touched the small of her back as the bodyguards opened the doors for them. “I have cojones the size of Texas. And because I have something those other fellas don’t.”

“Oh, really? You have more than ten thousand intergalactic ships at your disposal?”

He shook his head. “Nope. Only the one ship so far.”

“One ship? You’re talking to me about a multibillion dollar enterprise and offering one ship?”

“That’s right. Wait until you see her. If what I have to show you doesn’t convince you that I can deliver, I’ll leave Crystal Palace and never come back.”

“How do you propose to do that?”

“Come see my ship. Once you see her, you’ll understand.”

Storm agreed to accompany him to his ship. Had she not had quite so much to drink, she might not have agreed as quickly. However, something about him appealed to her. If Lukas Houston was anything other than what he claimed, she’d soon find out.

The areas they walked through grew gradually more seedy, run down and disreputable. They reached the docking area commonly known as the harbor. A tall, gray haired woman greeted them.

“Luke, the harbor master’s looking for you. She said you owe her rent for two months. If it’s not paid within the next forty-eight hours, I’ve got no choice but to put a station lock on your ship.”

“Thanks, Penny. That’s not the least bit embarrassing for you to tell me right now.”

“Oh, sorry, Luke. Is this your newest girlfriend?” She gave Storm a sneering appraisal.

“No, she’s a business associate.”

“Right,” she said, smirking as they walked past. “Why’s your business associate in an evening gown?”

“That’s my business,” Storm answered, annoyed by the woman’s attitude. “I came to see Mr. Houston’s ship.”

“Oh, that’s what they’re calling it these days?” She replied nastily.

Storm smiled sweetly. “Yes, though later it will be called, ‘I rocked his world and then some.’ Can we go now, sweetie?” She hooked arms with Luke, kissing his cheek.

“Sure, baby.” He patted her ass, snuggling next to her as they passed the angry woman.

Once they were out of sight, she let go of his arm. “Thanks for warning me there was a bitch patrol.”

“I didn’t know she’d be on duty. She’s usually off at night. Feel free to rock my world, though. I liked the sound of that.”

Storm tried to stay angry but couldn’t. Rolling her eyes, she nudged him with her elbow.

“Ex-girlfriend?” She nodded toward the harbor entrance.

“No, she’s a wanna be. I try to make it a habit not to get involved with women who have power over my ship. If I pissed her off, she’d lock my vessel. Ship ain’t worth much if it’s not moving.”

Luke led Storm down the corridor nearly to the end. Eventually, they came to his ship’s berth. He ushered her through an open airlock onto the oddest looking ship Storm had ever seen. The nose and tail fin were parts of an old American space shuttle. The wings were from two different space vehicles and each of the rooms looked like it had been salvaged, welded in place and cobbled together like a chaotic jigsaw puzzle.

Luke led her to the bridge which was as mixed and motley as the rest of the ship. Here, he flopped in a padded seat that had been taken from an old fishing boat. Placing a thumb on the scanner, he waited.

“I know she don’t look like much,” he swiveled the chair, taking in all points of the bridge. “But there’s no ship that’s faster.”

“There’s more to life than speed.” Storm smirked, leaning against a console since there were no other seats. “Sometimes slow and steady’s better.”

“True, but if you’ve got freight to move, then you need to be on time.”