Stalker's Luck (Solitude Saga Book 1) (6 page)

BOOK: Stalker's Luck (Solitude Saga Book 1)
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The gunfire ceased for a moment.

“Did you get her?” Bones yelled.

A grunt from the big one. Dom edged to the end of the aisle and peeked out.

A gun barrel stared at her from across the chapel. It flashed and she threw herself out of cover as the air was filled with the screams of gunfire once more. She fired back, blind, as she ducked into an alcove. Bullets chewed splinters out of the wall inches from her head.

The gunfire stopped again. The big one grunted and swore. Dom ducked and swung her Marauder out of cover. The bald bruiser struggled to hide himself behind a row of chairs as he slammed a new magazine into his assault rifle.

Dom lined him up and squeezed the trigger without a thought. He fell with a gurgling scream.

“Fucking hell!” Bones screamed from across the room. For a moment she couldn’t make him out through the smoke. Then there was a wisp of movement and a flash of a pistol shot.

It scraped the air alongside her arm. She squeezed off an instinctive burst as she pulled back into cover. Her magazine ran dry. But not before she heard Bones cry out. She tossed the submachine gun, drew her heavy revolver, and strode quickly out of cover.

Bones leaned panting against a chair, sweat pouring down his forehead and trickling through the scars on his face. Blood coated his right thigh. He glared at her with gritted teeth and shakily raised his pistol.

Dom fired and two of Bones’ fingers disappeared. He dropped the pistol with a scream, toppling onto the floor in a pool of his own blood.

“Fuck you,” he spat.

Dom planted her boot on his wrist and pointed her sidearm at his last three fingers. A groan bubbled out of his throat.

The air was thick with the stink of blood and smoke. It was almost choking. The gunfight had only lasted a few seconds. But she felt as exhausted as if she’d spent three days hauling crates around the
Solitude
’s cargo hold.

“Roy Williams,” she said. Her voice sounded thick in her ears. “Where is he?”

He snarled up at her. “You’re bleeding, bitch.”

She touched her shoulder. Her fingers came away streaked with blood. Only a scratch. She shrugged. “So are you. Roy Williams. Tell me now.”

“How the fuck should I know where the bastard is? He used our help to bring us to this dying shithole and then he went underground. He went underground with my fucking money!”

“You’re lying. You know where he is. The preacher knew.”

He gave a hacking laugh. “He’s not a goddamn preacher. I told you that. He’s a convict, just like us. And he knew shit. Little piss pot.”

“He contacted the Feds. Told them he had information.”

“You think a fugitive would be stupid enough to call up the Feds and tell them to send a stalker—” Something flashed behind his eyes. His jaw went stiff. “The augment.” His head rolled back in a delirious smile. “The fucking augment. I’ll kill him. I’ll….”

He went still.

Dom growled and booted him in the head to make sure he was really out. He didn’t make a sound. What augment was he talking about? If Bollard hadn’t called the Feds, then who in the name of Man had?

The smoke was slowly clearing. Dom stepped away from Bones and found the other convicts. She checked them, but it was obvious they were all dead. None carried identification, nothing but a pack of smokes on the woman and a collection of knives on Bollard. She’d been careless to turn her back on him. She knew better than to trust someone who called himself a preacher.

Something creaked. Dom froze over Bollard’s body, tuning her ears to the sound. It had come from the back of the church, to the left of the pulpit. There was silence for a moment. Then another creak. Footsteps. Footsteps trying hard not to be heard. She scanned the wall. Her eyes fell on a thick white curtain in the far corner. Just to the right of it she could see a crack in the wall panelling. A door. There was a mechanical chattering sound. Someone jimmying the electronic lock.

She slipped across the room as silently as she could and pressed herself into the alcove where she’d taken cover during the firefight. As the lock gave a quiet beep, she picked up her empty submachine gun and tugged the curtain closed around her.

Hinges whispered. The door opening. A long pause. Then scuffling footsteps. Someone light, small, like a rat. Dom pressed her revolver tight against her hip and held her breath.

A voice like a badly tuned synth-harp drifted from across the room. “Bones, you’re not looking so good. How many of your fingers am I holding up? Huh? I can’t hear you. Don’t worry about it. You never could count, anyway. You always were a stupid cunt.”

Dom slowly pushed the edge of the curtain aside with her revolver barrel and peeked out. A tiny man stood over Bones’ unconscious body, peering down at him. He couldn’t have been much more than a metre tall. With a stubby arm he was gripping Bones’ face by the chin, shaking him back and forth. He had a head of silver hair, but he didn’t look like he was past his mid-twenties. One beady eye was missing, replaced by some kind of old-tech computer panel that she didn’t recognise. He wore a grey shirt that was much too big for him, the sleeves rolled up. A dozen wires dangled from his left forearm, each ending in a different coloured socket.

This had to be the augment Bones mentioned, Dom realised. But what in the name of Man was he doing?

The augment seemed to grow bored of playing with Bones’ slack face. He stood and scurried over to the body of the woman.

“And Daz,” he said. “Look at you, Daz. You were much too pretty for that place. Now I think you’d fit right in. Hey, remember that time you had Greg hold me down in my cell while you took your knife to my thighs? Ah, the fun we had together. I’m going to miss you, Daz, really I am. I just hope you’re up there somewhere looking down on me, listening to me right now. I hope you’re screaming. I hope you know I won.”

He patted what was left of her cheek and stepped away from her. He spread his lips in a grin. Metal teeth glinted from his sunken gums. With his remaining eye he scanned the church. Then his gaze came to rest on the alcove Dom was hiding in.

“Come on, stalker,” he called. “Do I look like I’m much of a threat? You’re not going to spend the whole day hiding there, are you?”

Dom pushed the curtain aside. She raised her revolver and aimed at the augment.

He put his hands in his pockets and grinned at her. “Jesus fucking Christ, you look even dumber than I imagined. Do you have a brain in there or is it just muscle all the way through?”

She took a step forward, silent.

“Speak up,” he said. “You can speak, can’t you?” He spoke louder and slower. “Speak? Words? Do you un-der-stand me?”

“If one more word comes out of your mouth that isn’t telling me who you are and what you’re doing here, sir, I’ll cut you down and leave you here with your friends.”

The augment raised his hands in triumph. “God in Heaven, the noble savage speaks!”

Dom fanned back the hammer of her revolver.

“Calm yourself, Tarzan,” he said. “They call me Knox. ‘They’ being this lot.” He gestured at the crumpled bodies of the convicts. “And I’m here for one reason. I’m going to help you find Roy Williams.”

She decocked her gun. “Keep talking.”

6

When Eddie first met Cassandra Diaz, she put a gun to his head and demanded his wallet.

It was six days after he’d abandoned his home station of Ophelia to escape his family’s shame. After his dear father was arrested for embezzling from the university he lectured at, Eddie had used the last of his family’s influence and liquid assets to procure himself a travel pass. He went to the spaceport and got on the first ship that would take him. It was headed for the asteroid mining colony of Fractured Jaw, so that was where he got off. It seemed a good a place as any to start a new life.

After spending half the day trying to convince a mine foreman that his pretty little delicate sixteen-year-old hands were capable of operating an electrodrill, he was on his way back to the shithole single-room apartment he’d rented. He’d taken a shortcut down a catwalk through a maintenance tunnel. Condensation dripped from the pipes overhead.

He never heard her approach, not until he felt the barrel pressed against his head and her soft whisper in his ear. “The wallet, rich boy. Quickly.”

He hadn’t yet developed the knack of dressing like the locals. Between his clothes and his clean skin and the lack of electricity burns on his arms, anyone on the colony could pick him as a rich off-worlder from a kilometre away. They thought that made him weak. But the rich of Ophelia enjoyed a great deal of leisure time. Time they could spend on other practical pursuits.

Pursuits that included knife fighting.

Eddie reached into his pocket and passed his wallet backwards over his shoulder. The woman snatched it from his hands. The gun left the back of his head. And Eddie spun, a knife slipping into his other hand from where he’d kept it up his sleeve.

He got barely a glimpse of her before he slashed. It wasn’t a slash meant to cut; it was directed at her gun hand to make her recoil. And recoil she did. He snarled and planted his feet and launched himself at her, getting inside her outstretched gun arm. She backed up into the wall of pipes behind her. Trapped. He pressed the blade against her throat while he pinned her gun arm against the pipes.

“Bad day,” he said to her. “I’m not in a good mood. Drop the gun.”

She let the gun fall. He was close enough that he could feel her breath against his lips. She was a few years older than him, maybe in her early twenties. Cute rather than beautiful. Upturned nose, close-cropped curls. Her hair was dyed a white blond, but he could see the deep red roots coming through. She sneered at him to cover her fear.

“Good,” he said. “The wallet as well. Drop it.”

She dropped it. “Are we done?”

Her voice had a surprisingly melodious quality. It didn’t match the harshness of her eyes.

“Now your wallet,” he said. “Hand it over.”

Her eyes widened. “I don’t have one.”

“Nice try.” He pressed the blade against her throat a little harder. “Want to answer again?”

“What does a rich boy want with my wallet?”

“No such thing as too much money.”

Her narrow lips quirked into a lopsided smirk. “How broke are you?”

“A little less broke now.”

“You’re pretty fast,” she said.

“So it would seem.”

“How old are you, boy?”

“Old enough, girl. I haven’t seen that wallet yet.”

“I have an alternative proposition.”

“Those are big words for a street rat. Are you sure you know what they mean?”

Her green eyes sparkled above her sneer. “You’re all alone here, aren’t you?”

He said nothing.

“This is a small colony,” she said. “I’d know if a whole family of rich snots moved in. The administrators keep tight control over anyone who might be a threat to their jobs.”

“Get to the point before I get bored and open your throat to shut you up.”

“Let me keep my money and maybe I can offer you the chance to make more money. Real money. And if you do good on that, maybe I can offer you something else. I run a crew here.”

“A gang, you mean.”

“If you want to call it that. There’s a bunch of gangs on Fractured Jaw. Most of them powerful, most of them leeching off the mining trade, the unions. And we leech off them. There’s only a dozen of us. All of us orphans or runaways. I can take you back with me. I can introduce you. If they like you, if you can prove yourself, maybe you can join us.”

He grinned. “You really think I’m stupid, don’t you? You think I’m going to walk into a room full of your friends and assume they won’t just stick me the instant I get through the door.”

“If we wanted you dead, you already would be. Marco’s had a gun trained on you since you asked me for my wallet.”

Eddie glanced to the side and saw a pair of eyes in the darkness. Below them was the gunmetal glint of a pistol.

“Shit,” Eddie said. He released the woman and tucked the knife back into his sleeve. She massaged her wrist where he’d been gripping her.

“Don’t forget your wallet,” she said, pointing with her eyes.

He hesitated, eyeing her and the gunman carefully, then slowly reached down and picked up the wallet. His gaze drifted to the fallen gun, but the woman picked it up before he could make a move for it.

“Nice gun for a street rat,” he said.

She examined it with disdain, shrugged, and tucked it into the back of her trousers. “It shoots.”

She turned and strolled away in the direction of the gunman. The shadowy figure’s eyes stared at Eddie. Eddie stared back.

The woman paused just before the shadow swallowed her. She turned her head. “Name’s Cassandra.”

“That’s swell.”

She smiled. A real smile this time.

“Are you coming?” she asked.

He said nothing.

Cassandra shrugged. “If you’ve got somewhere better to be…? Come on, Marco.”

Marco’s eyes disappeared. A moment later, Cassandra started walking again. She disappeared out of sight. But he could hear her footsteps in the corridor.

Eddie listened to them as they grew quieter. He licked his lips. He said, “Shit.”

And he followed her into the darkness.

BOOK: Stalker's Luck (Solitude Saga Book 1)
2.94Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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