Author: Riley Meachem

“You know, this is the third damn time this week alone that cab’s broke down. I still ain’t seen you do shit about it,” Chalks Mabley leaned against the side of the cruiser, face dour. Then again, his face was almost always dour.

“What do you want me to do? Shoot the bastard for having a bad cruiser?” Jack Magnum had been restless for most of the ride. The warp speed drive broke down when he and the gang had been fleeing from the Jovian Capital. They’d managed to get the cruiser out of Jupiter’s atmosphere, but they’d been stuck in the cruiser for almost a week now, with only a very brief stop on Titan. Now, with the civilization surrogate not an hour away, they were holed up in some customs line meant to way-lay those entering and to help keep track of the population, for the not too distant day when the asteroid was annexed.

Fuck this job, thought Jack. Fuck this job.

It hadn’t been too damn trying, back in the day. He’d been a young man, with nothing to lose, and the glamour of being a corporate mercenary had dazzled him. For 20 years, it’d dazzled him. Or even when it hadn’t, it had entertained him. Then he’d had to go and grow some humanity.

He’d met a girl. Met her a couple of times, enough to ensure that, when he bumped into her on the streets of Jovia minor, she’d have a bright blue pregnancy test to show him. So he’d said he’d clean up his act. Told her he’d move to Beta and start a new life, set up a homestead for her, get married. Just after this one mission.

Of course this one mission just happened to get so royally fucked up.

The killing had been messy: witnesses and collateral by the dozens. He’d never slipped like that before. Never killed anyone who hadn’t been in blatant violation of corporate law. That’d probably been what had him so screwed up.

Corporate had severed all ties with him, and he’d been forced to make a call to his two remaining friends: Chalks, the paternal and anal retentive to a fault ex-partner, and his ex other sort of partner, suicide Sara. She’d get the name because of her proclivity for drinking herself into stupors, one of which she was slowly shaking off in the back seat at present.

They’d both taken his announcement of engagement and fatherhood pretty well. The typical half-hearted congratulations of people who are too polite to note just how out of your fucking depth you are.

“Fuckin’ motherfuckers,” hissed Sara from the back, and proceeded to hold the only pillow over her ears.

“You know, what the hell is a son of a bitch like this even fuckin doing out here? I mean, how the fuck does he think he’s gonna last if he can’t even get a cruiser properly prepared?” Chalks remarked, chewing idly on the lid of a pen he’d lost long ago.

“Probably doesn’t care. Needs the money. People have done dumber things,” noted Jack.

“Hmph” was all he got in response.

Sara was almost conscious now. Though, if Jack remembered her well, she’d attempt to remedy this very quickly. He’d seen her scrounge for bourbon before, and it was a horrifying sight to behold. Thankfully it would be a while until they were anywhere near bourbon, or any innocent civilians that could potentially get caught in the crossfire.

Shit, and now we’re back to that again…

“You ever look out at the stars, when you shoot past em?” Jack asked Chalks, casually hoping to avert another wallow in self pity.

“Yeah. Make me feel real fucking insignificant. That what you want to hear?” replied his companion.

“I missed our little talks, Chalks,” Jack sighed, and gazed forlornly out the window. He had some company scrip, a shit ton of it stashed away. But he wasn’t really sure any of it would be valid. Not in a place like Beta.

Sara seemed almost semi-sentient now. She pulled herself into a sitting position, and mumbled “Where the fuck are we?”

God only knows, thought Jack. God only knows.

The broken cruiser stopped, and turned around abruptly, exiting the queue. It buckled, giving a horrific screech, as it puttered off.

A wave of unease suddenly gripped Jack. He nudged Chalks.

“Hail them on the commlink,” he murmured.

“The fuck? Why?”

“Just do it. I want to make sure they’re ok,” Jack gave Chalks a look. “I’ll take two goddamn seconds.”

“Shit, Jesus,” muttered Chalks, but he did, pressing the hail button.

There was a ringing, then the crackling of static, as a voice came on the line. “Dah?”

“Hey, we were in line behind you. You guys ok?” Jack asked, casually. The pit of his stomach felt like t had been soaked in vinegar and baking soda.

“Cruiser no work. We go back to titan” said the accented voice.

Well, damn. “Alright. Sorry. Look, just, let us know if you need hel–”

Chalks turned to commlink off. “We ain’t helping them, Jack. Not when we’re almost fucking there.”

Jack gave him an evil look, and he just shrugged. “Hey, you want to spend another second in here?”

“I sure fucking don’t,” Sara hissed from the back. She’d reached for a bottle of something that you probably couldn’t drink. And was drinking it.

“No. I guess I don’t either,” said Jack. And he watched the only sane people on the planet float back towards Titan.