Author : Michael Georgilis
My hand scrambled over tiles studded with shattered glass until it found my gun, clenched, lifted, swung over the bartop, and pointed between the deepest blue eyes I’d ever hunted in the entire system. The gun cocked on reflex. Her eyes twinkled.
Her hand grasped a bottle of grog rather than her pistol, which rested between her thighs. Custom-modified Consortium Militia standard issue. Extended clip. Polonium pepper rounds, as the moaning sap over a table could tell you. A dozen other mods. The amount of violation fines collected from the gun alone could buy you a very nice apartment in the Venus Nimbus District.
Celine Maddox. Hijacking. Piracy. Smuggling. Destruction of property. Littering. Reckless endangerment. Murder. ‘Possession of an illegal firearm’ now, too. Took two strong hands to carry that file. Weren’t a prettier set of legs that walked out from the Belt and into the legends of spacers in station bars everywhere. Any clod from here to Europa has himself a tale. Trouble is, it’s always her pissing on the law. And it’s pissing the wrong people off.
She glanced those ocean blues up the barrel.
“Nice piece. Replacement for your last one?”
Those whites split her lips. A black lock loosed from behind her ear. “Sorry, hon.”
Someone called for a doctor. A bottle emptied onto the floor. Glass everywhere. Another job, it’d be too much collateral. But Celine.
Our last meeting started on a luxury cruise yacht heading for the Mars Consortium Center. It ended with the yacht in flames, she and I racing to escape pods before it crashed into the planet surface, and seeing her wink just before we blasted off on completely different trajectories. I’ve caught rapists, cultists, murderers…you see ’em all in this racket. But it don’t matter how many bounties you haul in; there’s only one way you catch the Ore Belt Buccaneer. The hard way.
She smirked. “Don’t keep me waiting.”
I took her firearm and told her to stand. We exited through the south airlock. Alcohol, smoke, and gunpowder hung in the air. She walked in front down the catwalk to the hangers, arms raised.
“Is he paying you well?”
“You might say that.”
The bounce in her step deflated.
“Really?” She glanced back, frowning.
Forget about an apartment in Nimbus—try owning a whole district. You didn’t do what Celine did without attracting that kind of attention. And you certainly didn’t get that kind of attention without your father heading one of the top corporations in the Consortium.
It started at forty thousand for the missing daughter of Akio Maddox, CEO of Maddox Engineering. You turn on almost any engine in the system, you have them to thank. The bounty was the highest in history. Had old vets coming out for another chance at glory. But nothing came up. Everyone figured she was dead. That is, until she sacked a ME Commercial Tanker and sent the video to every police outpost this side of the Belt.
The number’s been climbing ever since.
“Daddy must want to talk with his little girl,” I sneered.
When the side of her boot smashed into my face, I had just started in on the trigger. I ain’t a liar—I went down hard. In a haze I saw her pick up our guns. She smiled.
“Only seventeen million? Guess he doesn’t want me that bad.”
Before I blacked out, she snatched my keys and hopped into my ship. As the hatch closed, she looked back.
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