Archive | March 2011

Fiddlestix – Part 1

A few months ago, I ran the story “Among the Shine Clan” about Hannah “Fiddlestix” Braun and her adventures in the Appalachian Mountains. There, she meets Deacon Scott, leader of the Shine Clan. (The Shine Clan also features in “Under the Milky Way”)

This story won and Honorary Mention in the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future. Set in the future, cybernetic body parts have become commonplace. Fiddlestix is an ex-soldier, turned solo (bodyguard) for hire. Between jobs at present, she’s waiting for work to find her. She’s more than a little surprised with what shows up.

Daytona Beach Metroplex
July 15, 2052

Fiddlestix sat with her back to the wall, in the corner of the dingy, ill lit room, watching the crowd surreptitiously. No one came to Low Blow Gonzalez’ Bar because it was a popular night spot. They came to find work, but more often found trouble.

Dressed in dusty biker leathers, she fit right into the sleazy, dirty atmosphere with ease, just as she intended. Keeping a low profile, she continued to scan the crowd.

Dim figures moved around the room. Some drifted in the vicinity of her seat, but a glare from her and they quickly walked away, slouching into their collars, hands shoved deep in pockets. Her battered weapon and formidable cyber arm convinced them to move on.

Paper fluttered on the bulletin board near the abruptly opened front door. A dozen hands dropped to an odd assortment of lethal weapons. None drew, waiting.

A trio of men walked in. The first was tall, muscular and singularly ugly. The second was short, squat and wore a black duster that dragged the ground. The third looked like a lower level corporate; medium height, weight and build. His hair was a nondescript shade of brown. His eyes were covered with dark glasses. His suit was dark brown with a beige shirt and rust colored tie.

Once it was established that the newcomers were not there to start something, the customers returned to their conversations. The corporate stood behind the other two men, while the big one moved forward, scanning the room slowly. His gaze traveled the perimeter of the room, coming slowly to Fiddlestix’ location. Another step toward her, and she had her weapon in her hand. She aimed at him under the table, casually tipping back in her chair to get a better shot.

As if on an unspoken signal, the three men approached her table, in a non-threatening manner. The bodyguards kept their hands well away from their weapons, moving in to flank the corp. He stopped by her table, asking permission to sit with a gesture of his hand. A sharp inclination of her spiked blonde head indicated he could.

He leaned across the table in a conspiratorial manner drawing unwanted attention. Fiddlestix pressed her thick soled boot against his chair, pushing it away from the table, tapping his testicles in the process. Getting the idea, he moved back.

“Is there somewhere more appropriate we can talk?”

She was formulating a snide, snappish reply when he reached up to remove his glasses. For the first time, she saw something of him that wasn’t dull brown. His eyes were an unnaturally vivid green. The expression in them was one of desperation. Her manner changed rapidly from sarcastic to curious.

“Sure.” she said softly.” Low’s got some private conference rooms downstairs.”

The tall, ugly one nodded slowly. The short one looked around quickly, assessing the room before Fiddlestix and the corporate rose from the table.

“Lead the way,” the short man said with a thick Hispanic accent.

Remaining wary, she strutted toward the stairs leading down to the private, secure conference rooms. They were the only aspect of Low Blow Gonzalez’ dive bar that was high tech and sophisticated, laced with a security system that made Fort Knox look like it was made from Tinker Toys.

The corporate took a seat in one of the broken down chairs, inviting Fiddlestix to sit. Knowing the instability of the furniture, she chose to stand instead.

” How can I be of assistance, Mr…?”

He had failed to introduce himself. Fiddlestix refused to deal with people whose names she did not know.

“Smith,” he replied with a furtive look at his bodyguards.”These two gentlemen are Blacksmith and Buzzard.”

“Your real name. I don’t deal with people who hide things from me. You want my help, be honest.”

“Donnan Varin,” he admitted quietly.

© 2011 Dellani Oakes

Under the Milky Way – part 10

Overcome by her excitement, Storm grabbed his neck, kissing him enthusiastically on the mouth. Instead of pushing her away, he pulled her close, enjoying the kiss to the fullest. Shocked by her own behavior, she would have pulled away, but found she didn’t want to. There was something magnetic about Lukas Houston and his cobbled together alien ship.

A delicate clearing of a female throat made them part. The bridge was empty except for them and Gabrielle. It was she who had cleared her throat.

“Lukas, we’ve arrived as you desired.” She smiled shyly, lowering herself once more into the console.

Storm, followed closely by Luke, went to the portal. As he had specified, they were on the dark side of the moon. Limned by the sun’s light, a golden glow surrounded its cold, pocked surface.

“Now you see,” he kissed her neck. “Why you’re going to give this job to me?”

“Mm,” she replied, relishing the touch of his lips on her skin. With a shiver, she brought herself back to the present. “Don’t, Luke,” she cautioned.

“Don’t what?” He nibbled her neck, lips traveling to her earlobe.

“Don’t do this. Don’t seduce me for the job.”

“I already have the job,” he mumbled, his tongue tracing the curve of her neck. “You gave it to me the minute we hit the maze run, you just didn’t realize it.”

“Then why this?” She stepped away from him, gesturing angrily. “Why all the kissing and nibbling? The seduction is wasted if you’re already working for me.”

“Is it?” He stepped toward her, looming over her. “Hasn’t a guy ever made love to you simply because you were beautiful?”

“No.” She stepped away. “A man always wants something. It’s never just ‘because’.”

“Storm, you’ve got a lot to learn about me,” he said with a sigh. “Gabrielle.”

“Yes, Luke?”

“Take us home.”

“As you command.”

The ride home was amazing as the trip over. Five minutes, or five hours later, Storm stepped off his ship, the electronic contract ratified and thumb printed by them both. Luke stayed behind on the ship and Storm went back to her room alone.

Sophie met her in the hall, smiling happily. “Hey, cuz! How was the ride?”

“It was good,” she mumbled. “He’s got the job.”

“Then why so down? I thought you’d be happy. It’s your first major deal since you got your promotion.”

“I know,” Storm sighed. “It’s just—I screwed up, Sophie. I let him get to me.”

“It’s okay, kid. Come have a drink. We’ll drown our sorrows.”

“Mr. Wonderful wasn’t so wonderful?”

“He let slip that he’s married with two kids back on Earth. After that, the magic was gone.”

“We’re a hell of a pair, huh?”

They headed to Sophie’s bar. It wasn’t open for business yet, but the two young women got out a bottle of peach and jalapeño moonshine, sipping cautiously. The liquid heat warmed their throats, exploding in a fireball of flavor when it hit their stomachs.

“Good stuff,” Storm gasped, eyes watering.

“Smooth,” Sophie agreed, tears running down her cheeks.

The door behind them slid open. Luke stood silhouetted in the doorway.

“Can I come in?”

Sophie nodded, beckoning him in. “I need to hit the head.”

Storm put the glass against her forehead, wiping a tear that wasn’t just from the alcohol. Luke picked up the bottle, asking silently if he could have some. Storm nodded, looking away, blinking hard against the tears.

“I’m sorry you misinterpreted my actions,” he said softly. “I thought maybe you and I could share something special. I guess I was wrong.”

“I guess so,” she mumbled, turning away.

Luke touched her cheek with his thumb, sliding his copy of the contract in front of her.

“Here.” He put her hand on it. “Take it back. Give the job to someone else.”

“What? Are you out of your mind? This contract could make you a millionaire.”

“Yes, it could. But it’s not worth it if you won’t talk to me again.”

“You’d give all that money up for me?”

“If it will convince you that I didn’t try to seduce you just for the job.”

“You did try to seduce me!”

“But not,” he emphasized with a tap on the bar. “For the job.”

Laughing, Storm shoved him, nearly knocking him off the stool. Righting himself, he took a sip of the moonshine. Gasping, his eyes began to water. Storm thumped him on the back, laughing at his discomfort.

“Thanks,” he wheezed. “Nice. Sympathy.”

“It’s an acquired taste. You’ll live.” She shoved his contract back at him. “Keep that,” she laid her hand on his shoulder. “You’re the best man for the job.”

“And for you?”

“I don’t know yet. I’ll have to take you for a trial run to be sure.”

“I won’t disappoint you, Storm. I promise.”

When his lips touched hers, she knew beyond a doubt that he was telling her the truth—again.

Under the Milky Way – part 9

“Great! Sooner we go, the sooner we can get back.”

“I have to let my cousin know I’m leaving. Otherwise she’ll have the authorities on your tail faster than you can spit.”

“Okay. Where is she?”

“She’s next door.”

He followed her to Sophie’s room, waiting impatiently as Storm spoke to her. She brought her up to date on the attempted assassination as well as her trip with Luke.

“I’ll be gone awhile, Soph. I’m following up a lead on that transport issue.”

“What if folks need to talk to you?”

“Take appointments. They want to deal, they can wait.”

“You got it, cuz. I wish I could go with you, but Mama would have my hide if I put a joyride ahead of her tavern. Besides, Mr. Wonderful is waiting. Y’all have fun!”

“Baby!” A man’s voice called from the bedroom. “You coming back to bed?”

“Coming! See you later, sugar.” She hugged her cousin and went back in her room.

The security officers escorted them back to Luke’s ship. Somewhat the worse for wear, he gave the orders for the ship to leave port.

The crew assembled on the bridge, all of them looking at Storm with curiosity. Busy taking the ship out of port, Lukas didn’t introduce her right away, so the intensity of the stares increased by the minute. Feeling the pressure of their scrutiny, Storm gazed out the portal ahead of her, watching as they left the space station behind.

When the station was out of view, Luke turned to the crew. “Hey, everyone. This is Storm. She’s going to be taking a ride with us to the moon and back. If all goes well, we’ll have a real job when we get back.”

Storm wasn’t expecting the explosion of sound that followed that statement. The five person crew yelled and cheered, thumping Storm on the back.

“Gabrielle,” Luke said quietly. “It’s time.”

“As you wish, Lukas,” came her disembodied answer. “Destination?”

“The dark side of the moon.”

“Of course,” she replied calmly.

“Oh, you might want to sit down,” he told Storm, pointing to his seat.

Taking a position behind her, he held a strap that was bolted to the wall. She noticed that all the crew members did the same thing, legs wide to steady themselves.

The ship paused. A shiver ran through it from prow to stern. It leaped forward as if it had been launched from a catapult. Storm lost her balance, sliding to her left. Lukas caught her, holding her to her seat as the ship sped up.

Stars flashed by, their light becoming silver streaks against the black of space. Soon, the light blended together, a white glow surrounding them. With a push, they hopped forward once more, gravity releasing long enough for their feet to leave the floor. Gradually, it reestablished itself, though Storm could tell it was less than normal. The view outside had changed subtly. The stars passed at the same furious rate, their color changed to pink and lavender.

“What’s happening?” Her voice sounded strange, hollow.

“Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore,” Luke quipped. “We’re in a maze run.”

“A what?”

“That’s what we call it. Gabrielle didn’t have a name for it.”

“I’m confused,” Storm shook her head, holding it as her equilibrium failed her.

One of the women took pity on her, bringing her a carbonated drink. “The ship makes a sort of tear in the fabric of space,” she explained. “Then it slides in, covering the distance much faster. The pathways are interconnected, so we called it a maze.”

“How much faster?”

The ship slowed, paused and leaped forward once more. The stars looked the same again, twinkling happily around the ship as they established an orbit around the moon.

“Oh, my God!” Storm walked to the portal in disbelief. “How long were we traveling?”

“Altogether?” Lukas looked at his watch. “Longer than you’d think. One thing about the maze run, time isn’t the same as it is in our reality.”

“It felt like five minutes.”

Lukas showed her his watch. Five hours had passed since they took off from the space station. Storm grabbed his wrist, incredulous.

“No way!”

“Way.” He laughed.

Under the Milky Way – part 8

Luke let himself be searched, giving up his weapons gladly. Storm explained what happened and a security team went in to flush out the hired killers.

“They were waiting for us,” Luke said as they walked to her quarters.

Storm nodded, unsure of her voice. They walked a little further until they came to her door.

“Here I am,” she pointed.

Luke followed her inside. For an apartment on the space station, it was spacious. She had a kitchen, living room and sleeping area with bath. She even had a porthole, not something that everyone could brag about.

“Nice view.”

Gazing out, he could see the moon. A different angle from his, to be sure, a first class view. He saw himself in stark contrast with her. She was well known in the corporate sector. His name was bandied about the dockside usually with laughter at his crazy ship.

Hunching his shoulders, he shoved his hands in his pockets, wondering what the hell he was doing. How did he expect to make anything of himself? Having tenacity didn’t matter for shit if you didn’t have money or connections.

“What did they want?” Storm asked. “And how did they know we’d even go that way?”

“I’m guessing they had two teams,” Luke said. “Either way, they’d have jumped us. We walked right into it.”

“Who ordered the hit? Did you make someone mad enough to kill you?” She walked to her closet, flinging the doors open. She walked in, grabbing pants and a sweater, changing while he watched without caring.

“Me? Those boys were after you, sweet cheeks.” She had a great ass, he thought as he watched her change.

“What? Me? Why? I’m nobody.”

“You and your uncle just pissed off a whole lotta people, baby. Folks like that don’t lie down and take it up the tailpipe. They’re gonna fight back. My guess is that they hired those boys based on the rumors that were flying around here prior to tonight’s show.

“Because of the teleporter? That’s insane. As if killing me could stop Uncle Ralph.”

“Maybe, that would’ve been the start. Thing like this could start an all out corporate war. You die, he retaliates, they return fire…. It’d get mighty nasty, mighty fast.”

Storm sat heavily on her bed, holding her head in her hands. “Oh, my God! Do you think they’ll still do it?”

Luke shrugged. “You might have been the only target, at least so far. Wax you, they’ve got a show of strength. Kill me, they smack your uncle in the face.”

“I’ve got to warn him,” she said quietly.

Whipping out her cellphone, she called Ralph’s base under the mountain in the heart of Shine Clan territory. He answered somewhat bleary eyed. Storm apologized, not realizing it was so late. Once she explained, he woke quickly and completely.

“You don’t worry about this, darlin’. You go on that run with your man. I’ll handle this.”

“He’s not my man, Uncle Ralph.”

The old man waved her words away. “You go on. I’ll send word when all’s done. Best tell Sophie on your way out.”

“I will, Uncle Ralph. Be careful.”

“I will, baby.”

Storm disconnected with a heavy sigh. Gathering a few more necessary items, including her weapons, she stood, facing Luke.

“I’m ready.”

Luke turned away from the view, seeing a very different woman from the one he’d brought here. She was wearing jeans and sweater with leather boots and a heavy leather coat that went to her ankles. Her white blonde hair was pulled up in a ponytail. The fancy earrings were gone, replaced by a pair of gold posts in the shape of dolphins. She had a sizable pellet gun strapped to her hip, a short sword on her belt and a variety of throwing knives. A small duffel bag hung from her left shoulder.