This brief excerpt is from a second draft chapter of a space opera fanfic novel based on the Star Trader universe. If everything goes according to plan, I will be needing beta readers in about a month and a half, if anyone is interested. IF things go according to plan, which hardly never happens. Regardless, here is a little taste of the work in its current state.
The Angel of Death
Legal adviser and aid Simon Anders entered the Syndicate President’s office with an exasperated face. In fifteen minutes, the I9 fleet was going to retake an indie planet on the fringe of human-inhabited space.
It was just a test to see how well the human forces would do against the Xenos, but still; the waiting was cringe-worthy. In fifteen minutes, the humans would have a pretty good idea whether or not they should even try to put up a resistance, or just self-end.
“Sir,” he said, “we lost contact with the Fleet Admiral about nine minutes ago.”
Hagrid Ramsey chuckled and drew a puff of his cigar; the smell of dried spice-fertilized tobacco hung thickly about. Probably harvested from the planet which was now engulfed by the Xenos’ thousands flak and radiation cannons; his nonchalance seemed far out of place.
“No, you didn’t. The Fleet Admiral just wants some privacy. Don’t worry. I told him not to lay a hand on any other Syndicate-commissioned naval forces. They’ll still be protecting us when the Xenos come. But, the Xenos won’t come anywhere near us. Exactly why we’re letting the Fleet Admiral have his play date with them.”
“Seriously,” he said casually, “don’t sweat it.”
“I mean it. In fact, why don’t you take the rest of the day off. Hell, take the week off, for all I care. You probably need it.”
Simon nodded. “Yes, sir. Thank you, sir.” Simon bowed and turned. He couldn’t help but gaze at Haldor, one of the child-weapon bodyguards recently purchased by the Syndicate Board members, as he slumped against the glass wall by the door.
For what they paid for each one of them, they could have bought a whole moon.
The child waited. It wouldn’t move unless Ramsey gave the order. It was docile, at the moment. Lifeless. A robot without power. A body without a soul. Potential energy stored up for tremendous explosive power, tied with the bow of lethargy and perfect submission.
Haldor’s grim face didn’t try to look up at anything; it didn’t respond to any stimuli, not when Simon came in or when Simon left out the automatic sliding glass doors of the seventy-ninth floor of De Valtos Central’s main corporate office complex.
It was the saddest sight he had ever seen.
Ramsey was all “potential energy,” too, only his was in the form of an unhealthily extended waistline. He could have lost the weight, yes, but his was an important image that had to maintained for the continued success of the company.
Though he wasn’t particularly lazy, or so he liked to think, the thickness of one’s body was directly indicative of the success of the company. It was required for commercials in which he would he would appear and endorse De Valtos goods. People of the interplanetary communities liked to buy goods from jovially-large President in a business suite.
He was—after all—their beloved god.
The fire alarm went off.
Ramsey looked up disgustedly. “Oh, goddamn it. This is the third time this week.” He closed his briefcase data drive display and grabbed both it and his trim hat and shiny tan coat from the stand next to the door. Beyond, he could see the company workers all lining up outside of their offices. Fire drill rules applied to everyone. No one wanted to be in a conflagrant eighty-one story building for very long.
Haldor’s eyes grew wide and his body animated as if lightning had struck him back t life. He flung himself toward Ramsey. There was a bright flash of light; Ramsey was on his side, cursing, feeling the urge to vomit.
He couldn’t hear how loud he was cursing, though, because he couldn’t hear anything over the chiming bell choir in his ears. Bright sunlight beamed into his dazzled eyes as soon as dust particles cleared, and where solid roofing and walls once stood spectacularly was now vacant space.
He was swimming, or perhaps freefalling—at least in mind—and only the shadow of the boy standing in front of him could tell him otherwise.
The long black-haired, leather-jacketed slender Angel of Death appeared, scythe rifle in hand, cloth cloak on his back and hood covering the top half of his pale white, hardened facemask. His cacophony could be heard without any trouble; it was the first thing Ramsey could hear after the explosion’s shock dissipated from his ears.
The mechanical voice spoke through its throat box, slowly and meticulously. Just like the dossier. “Isn’t it about your time, President Ramsey?”
“Haldor!” cried the De Valtos President.
The child sprung to life again, not wasting any tidbit of motion on unproductive movement. He put himself halfway between Ramsey and the Angel.
His fists were up in a martial arts style—there were so many nowadays there was no telling which particular branch the child had studied. Nor did it matter. It didn’t even matter that the child wore super-conductive element gloves, a somewhat rare but quite dangerous weapon which imbued the metal knuckles with the searing, explosive heat of an arc flash with each connecting hit.
The Angel of Death laughed.
“You’ve got a child protecting you? Is this the best you can afford? Surely with a few more credit dollars, you could’ve bought me. Don’t you want the best? Or, are you just that cheap?”
The Angel of Death loathed cheap people—people with money but without the desire to circulate it back into the economy. That’s what his dossier said.
Ramsey wiped the blood from his nose and mouth, trying to focus. It was incredibly hard to focus and impossible to sit up. But he could hear the Death Angel’s words clearly; that mechanical voice was unmistakable and sowed indomitable fear into his fragile senses.
The child threw himself at Ramsey, who sent a front kick to the underside of his jaw, tossing him backwards as if he were a mere football.
“You’d make a good disciple, kid. What’s he paying you? Two, three hundred thousand credit dollars a year? I’ll pay you three times that amount. Actually, name your price. You can come with me and—”
Haldor thrust himself up. The child’s answer was a full-strength strike from a single element glove straight to the Death Angel’s gut. The Angel didn’t even try to dodge, though, because no element glove could hurt him. He took it straight on, without flinching. He was Death itself, after all. That’s what his dossier said.
And, it turned out to be true. The Angel of Death unconcernedly gazed down to the kid, squatted to his level and spoke softly as a father would to an infant son. “Please move.”
A spinning backhanded fist landed square across Death’s faceplate. It shattered, spider-web style, and resounded like porcelain cracking against a concrete floor, but it didn’t fall to pieces. It hung on like it had suddenly glued itself back together before gravity could throw weight upon it. Still attached to his face, however, it couldn’t hold back the deep grin on the Angel’s face. “You are quite the little ‘bugger.’ Haha. Yes. You’ll definitely come with me.”
The back end of the scythe rifle slammed into the side of the child’s head, thwarting his insubstantial block, sending him reeling backwards until his body stumbled prone on a pile of concrete, shattered glass and some indistinguishable furniture from the floor above.
This time, he didn’t get up. He didn’t even twitch.
“Business is the law of our world, Ramsey.” said the Angel of Death. “I’ll grant you this one concession. The boy for your life. This one time. I’ll break a contract for that.”
Ramsey winced at a throb in his neck. “You—you’ll break Shalun Law?”
“I don’t give any particular ‘shits’ about Shalun Law, but I do care about the code of honor between the Angels.”
“That’s who sent you?”
The Angel of Death shrugged. “Honestly, I have no idea. It was so long ago, I don’t even remember. I just happened to be in the neighborhood when I remembered that I had this one contract teetering on the cusp of annulment due to…time elapse. Actually, I have thirty-nine more seconds before it expires. Do you accept the terms of my contract?”
“Y-yes!” Immediately, a holographic window opened on top of Ramsey’s wrist device—without his permission. It was a notice that required his signature stating that the “child-weapon” was “transferred from being under the custody of Hagrid Ramsey to being under the custody of E. J., effective immediately and irrevocably.” He quickly signed his name.
When he looked up, both the child and the Angel of Death were gone.
“Molly. Come in, Molly. Are you there, Molly?”
“Who are you? How did you break my ICI encryption? I’m not even transmitting right now. I should be completely off the star grid.”
“You’re never off the star grid when you work for RUE.”
“I’m a little busy right now. What do you want?”
“Actually, it’s not what I want. It’s what you want.”
“And that is?”
“Perunite child weapon. Right here. With me.”
The connection was cut. A tiny encrypted file came through her ICI, which decoded and opened it almost immediately. Inside were coordinates to a particular cubic light second of deep space just four AU away.
There was no internal struggle before her decision. She immediately voided her current contract. She didn’t particularly like working on De Valtos planets, anyway. Too many skyscrapers; too much pavement; too many people. Too much honking of horns. And way too many bad street bands.
She called to Shivalta still resting in full-sensor cloak at geostationary orbit thousands of kilometers above the city. She programmed a touch-and-go operation which would sweep the ship down into legally protected De Valtos air space and allow her to make a quick evac. Her only requirement was that she would have to make it to the top of the Cadar High Rise Office Building before it got here.
Easy as spice.
Her talon gun could reach the vessel at distances up to one hundred twelve meters, and it could zip her up the building and into range of the Shivalta in next to no time. She’d be hoisted up and in the ship before she even left the troposphere.
Sure, it was dangerous—the local De Valtos police force was out in full today, patrolling the land roads and three layers of sky roads spread across the gargantuan smoggy city; according to a news report, there had been a string of attacks against the higher ups in De Valtos society.
Whatever; nothing new to her. They wouldn’t be able to react fast enough to thwart her. Any ship capable of catching her was already in orbit, but those in orbit were on high alert due to the Xenos invasion, so they would not likely respond to any threat of such an insignificant nature.
Besides, this method was a hell of a lot faster than waiting for the relentless permissions and procedures of surface docking. She didn’t have time for that. She was in the business, so she knew the nature of cloak work.She knew she had to get there as quickly as possible, or she might miss out.
He claimed to have a Perunite child weapon, whoever the hell this person was. How he had acquired it, she didn’t know, and she wasn’t sure if he was even telling the truth, but then again, you didn’t call Molly of RUE out on a bullshit run. Not without serious second thoughts.
There had been this one time where someone had called her on a bullshit run, although it was probably more her fault than anyone else’s. The “bullshit” was her secret birthday party–and the way to “invite” her had been to stage a false contract. She’d completely forgotten about her birthday, so when she entered the building, her gunblade was loaded with explosive acid rounds and her body was soaking in combat-enhancement chems. When she finally realized what was going on, the person responsible got it good: a face full of cake, a big hug and, afterward, a warning never to do it again.
But this was entirely different. Today was not her birthday.
One thing stood out to her, though. At the end of the encrypted coordinates was a free text code which read, “Angel of Death.” Angel of Death. Hmmm…