John M. Davis
Copyright 2015 Serenity Valley Publishing
Editing: Daniél Lecoq
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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Introduction: Our Life Now
Chapter 1: Change Of Perspective
Chapter 2: Warlord Down
Chapter 3: Boom
Chapter 4: A Ship So Fine
Chapter 5: Sacrifice
Chapter 6: Only The Beginning
Chapter 7: The Ballad
About the Author
Our Life Now
Our life has become one of fear and survival.
Upon the spread of a virus like none we’d seen before, humanity quickly found itself on the brink of extinction. The infected walked, but they had become something else. Something scientifically named, no doubt; though folks had simply come to know them as Zombies.
The infected didn’t run a man down for his brains. Even the thought of such a thing is ridiculous. They didn’t seem to be interested on feeding through the supply of human flesh, either, though it sometimes happened. The truth is, they just ran down the living and killed them. There was no rhyme or reason to it – they just did. Murdering folks had become a part of their DNA.
The Skyla System had once been a place of cultural experiences. Humanity had its thriving worlds that were completely urban and technologically advanced. We also had planets filled with farming communities and a more simple approach to life.
We had our share of problems, of course. Things like murder, black market trading, and, the most despicable of all, politics. Humanity also had no lack of war. There always seemed to be a push for power somewhere throughout the solar system. That had always been the case. But, as the plague set into its first full year, we began to realize how dire things were becoming. Reports of complete moons being overrun as the infection began spreading into the larger cities as well.
As rumors of an assembling fleet reached every corner of the Skyla System, it quickly became obvious that the only way to remain safe from the infected was to live in orbit. If our finest armies could think of nothing else – how could normal folks survive?
Some fled underground into bunkers which had been constructed during the Glimmerian Wars. Entire communities living beneath the surface and awaiting news of a cure. Others fled to the vast horizons of our seas. Living aboard barges until things began looking up. Those lucky enough to own a ship capable of extended living in orbit – did so. But that type of living came with a cost. Folks had to worry about getting their hands on the resources needed to live in space. It meant doing things that normally would be out of the question. Taking on jobs that no sane person would even consider doing.
These were different times now. The only true law was the law of survival. A man’s gun became the judge, jury, and, if you rubbed him the wrong way – the executioner. The only bad gun was the lack thereof.
Up until now, fans of the Gunship series have heard only one story. But with constant civil war, hundreds of charted planets and mankind doing what it could to survive a plague of the living dead, there are plenty more to tell.
This is one such story.
I’ve effectively named this story – The Ballad. Is it the ballad of our gun-slinging hero, Dalton James? Is it, perhaps, the ballad of a brand new character? Does the ballad signify us as a human race, evolving due to horrific circumstances?
As the reader, I’ll let you be the judge.
There’s a reason I’ve chosen nothing more than a silhouette for the cover. The hero of this story will depend on the viewpoint of the person reading. Because in the end, life is made of nothing but heroes. Only our ideals separate them.
Change Of Perspective
Garrett Winters was a man’s man.
In a time of so many young faces struggling to find their own survival, he’d made a living at it for several long years. A ship’s captain for nearly thirty years, Garrett had accomplished a great many things. Most of them illegal. While he had very little regard for the law, Garrett had always lived by his own code of ethics. Never harm a woman or child, never take from someone who truly needed it for survival and never kill a man unless he had it coming. A reaper-style pistol took care of the killing when needed. A wooden stock pistol which held two shots of black powder. Laughably similar to a pirate’s gun, though this pirate never missed his target. Years of experience to thank.
Just over the age of fifty years old, Garrett Winters had never been married. Perhaps never even been in love. There were plenty of women to be had for the right price – if only for a night or two. He was a man about business. A kind-hearted man with his true emotions hidden deep within the frame of a very tough captain. A thick black beard accented the bushy black hair atop his head. And Garrett generally wore boots, dark pants and some type of vest made from leather. His personal choice of style.
He’d started aboard another ship long ago. A youthful apprentice smuggler, or, as they were more commonly known, a ‘go fetcher’. Which amounted to a combination of errand-runner and laborer.
Garrett had worked his way up slowly. Earning the respect of those around him and finally scraping together enough money to buy his own ship. A Glimmerian model Gunship from the original wars that was so old and rusty that most crewmen refused to fly in it. And over the years he’d decided to add to its beauty, rather than drop a substantial amount of coin for a new ship. Rust could be scrubbed off with enough effort and ugly could be covered in paint. Garrett’s way of thinking. And the Gunship model with just too damned ideal for black market smuggling.
“Quiet night, huh?” April asked, approaching the captain and handing him a steel cup filled with piping hot coffee.
“It sure is.” Garrett replied.
April Anderson had been the latest addition to his crew. She was shit with a gun, for lack of better terms, but knew her way around a ship. Not a truly a mechanic, April’s gift was the ability to expand on what existed. She understood the work of blueprints and had been the brains behind Garrett adding to his beloved Gunship. Turning a rust-bucket into something of a poor man’s elegant and much more dependable. Plus, she wasn’t so hard on the eyes.
Garrett’s rule among crew was no romance. And it’s one that he strictly enforced. He understood that she had the body of a woman perfected. Curves in just the right places, which only added to her appeal. Blonde hair fell down to her shoulders, further brightening the aquatic blue of her eyes. But again, Garrett was about business. He understood that for all of her good looks – April was much better with designs and specifications when it came to building. In fact, Garrett’s own knuckles had come to meet plenty of drunkards who’d spoken to April in the wrong context. She was to be admired but protected.
Personally, Garrett had not felt the touch of a woman in quite some time. Maddening, to a degree, but something the captain had learned to deal with. And as good-looking as April was, she was a part of his team. That was the rule.
“I almost hate to leave.” April said, easing herself down beside the captain as they both looked across the landscape from nearly a thousand feet high.
The standard Gunship looked like a reinforced box with a single thick windshield and two exits. A large loading bay door at its rear and a very small escape hatch which rested on the Gunship’s top, only feet behind its windshield.
April had been the mental muscle behind the dome design which followed. After moving through the escape hatch, the crew could now sit on the Gunship’s flat-surfaced top as it glided smoothly across the heavens. They could coast at an altitude high enough to be considered flying, while still low enough to make use of a planet’s oxygen. Making for one hell of a beautiful spot.
A thin aluminum dome now attached and hovering several dozens of feet above them. It allowed the ship to act as a standard airship when they needed it to, and the dome could be pulled down to the Gunship’s top with the push of a button. Easily attaching and enabling the ship to once again take its form in preparation for deep space travel. Something nearly as unique as the ship’s name.
She’d went from a rusty ship of war that had long been discarded – becoming a ship of admiration and elegance. Even to the keenest of eyes. One part sky-galleon and one part deep-space worthy. The Ballad was a work of art. Just as unique as the crew within her frame.
“The Drifts are a thing of beauty.” Garrett said.
“Especially when stacked against the hustle and bustle of much larger planets. People have lost their appreciation for majestic sunsets.” April said.
“Indeed,” Garrett replied. “But it would seem that not everyone has lost an appreciation for them,” he added with a smile, turning his attention to the immaculate rays of red and orange, which cascaded over the tips of flat mountains around them. “In order to truly appreciate beauty, sometimes it’s necessary for us to go elsewhere for a while.”
“We going to get going or sit here and watch the fucking sun go down?” Marvin asked, popping his head through the escape hatch and questioning the two unsuspecting dreamers of life.
Marvin “Sticky” Bradshaw had earned his name well. He was perhaps the best pure thief in the solar system. So good, in fact, that he could steal a man’s belonging and then sell them back to the victim at a discount – without the victim even suspecting. But what a shame it was that manners could not have been stolen. Having thieved such a wonderful moment from the two dreamers.
“I mean, damn. We’re down here huddled up like refugees waiting on-”
“That’s enough, Marvin.” Garrett warned.
The mouthy crewman dared not add his two cents, though he did ramble a few choice words on his walk back down the ladder which led to the ship’s interior.
“You see what I mean?” April asked.
“Unfortunately I do,” Garrett admitted with a sly grin. “Most folks do not appreciate a poetic sunset like we do. That’s for sure. But I suppose we have kept them waiting long enough.”
“One day I’m going to own my own rig. And when I do, sunsets will be mandatory.” April stated.
“I know you will,” Garrett said with confidence. “After you.”
April began crawling through the escape hatch as she descended down the ladder to join her crew. Followed by her captain, who pressed a large button. Bringing the canopy down easily. Preparing to depart for other locations in the Skyla System – locations that should earn them a peck of money.
“Did you men come up with a location?” Garrett asked several minutes later. Having taken the time to ensure the hatch was sealed up tight.
“Yea,” Bones replied. “There’s a series of barges on Ranlin. They’re ran by a Benzan and rather nasty one at that. But the word is he pays well.”
Bones Griffin was another old-timer among smugglers. A close-shaven beard of silver didn’t take much attention away from the origin of his nickname. He looked like a vagrant of skin and bones. The man ate, there was no doubting it. In fact, Bones was universally known amongst the crew as a garbage disposal of sorts. Regularly turning a fat bird of meat into nothing but unmentionable scraps. But his appetite never seemed to translate into anything of a physical nature. He simply ate like a starved pig and remained bony enough to appear as though he was on the brink of death. And though he was scrawny – he was feisty.
Bones also happened to be Garrett’s first mate on the ship. A title he’d earned because of his experience of well over a decade. The more prominent smugglers knew him, for better or for worse. Unlike his captain, Bones would kill a man if it gained him a single gold piece. And he’d lose no sleep because of it. Often draping himself in a heavy coat of brown leather and white fur trimming, it was rumored he did so in order to appear bulkier. That or perhaps he used the coat to place the weight of rocks in his pockets in case of a wind storm?
“Hans?” Garrett asked.
“I’m with Bones on the fact that it will yield the highest payout. But I don’t like the idea of dealing with a Benzan. You know that. You know my history with their people. I’d lose no sleep if they all died this very moment.”
Hans Wilder was the soldier of their crew. Literally.
He’d been a soldier for the Legion his entire adult life. And as they began falling to the Colonials during the second civil war, Garrett took him onto the crew of The Ballad. Military expertise was always welcomed in a smuggler’s line of work. He’d long been used to Hans’ dislike for Colonials and their allies – the Benzans.
Just as most of the Legion’s former soldiers did, Hans often wore red. A reminder to everyone that he’d served in the finest military mankind had ever known. Even if the Legion’s reputation was one of brutality. It often helped the brown-haired soldier rub former Colonials the wrong way as well. Something he took pride in. To Hans, there was no better hobby than laying into a Colonial soldier and exchanging well-placed hooks.
“I’m well aware that you and Benzans don’t mix well,” Garrett said. “But if it’s the highest payout-”
“Then we’re doing it anyway?” Hans asked.
“Exactly,” Garrett said. “If you’d like, I can deal with them myself?”
“No. I’ll go along as I always do. I may not like the Colonial-loving bastards, but they certainly don’t intimidate me.” Hans said.
“Fuck, I’ll go.” Marvin added.
As he stood before the group, covered in grease, a very small dog rested near his feet. A lapdog who thought he was much larger, which fit Marvin’s personality perfectly. Barking loudly, the dog backed up his owner every step of the way. Even if neither of them had a strong bite.
“You tell ‘em, Cookie.” April said with a grin.
“No Marvin, you’re best suited here. I need the mechanic of this ship working to ensure the ship can leave in a hurry. Just in case. We always work with such a plan, you know that.” Garrett replied.
“OK. Just as long as everybody knows I’m ready to get to scrapping. Ain’t nobody scares me. I’m always ready to throw down.” Marvin said.
“Oh, we know,” Hans said to appease the mouthy mechanic. “Even if we’ve never actually seen you fight, we know you can. You remind us all of the time.” he added with sarcasm.
They’d all come to know Marvin’s personality. He was an average-build mechanic who’d likely lost every fight he’d ever been a part of. Yet, to hear him tell it, he could clear a bar full of Hunters out with only his bare fists. Anything you had done, he’d done better while less equipped. A mouthy ankle-biting dog named Cookie only added to Marvin’s legend of all talk and no action.
“Set our course for Ranlin.” Garrett said. “As bad as I hate to leave such beautiful skies.”
“Will do, captain.” Bones replied.
And with that exchange, the Gunship was ready for deep space flight. Preparing for a trip from the blissful string of planets known as The Drifts – only to depart for the wretched hive of thievery that the Benzan had no doubt built.
“You always seem quietest during deep space travel.” April said, seating herself near the captain on a large velvet couch of red, which overlooked the stars. Typical for the model of Gunship, though the red velvet was certainly optional. Each Gunship came standard with an observation deck.
It was that very thought which had led the captain into deep thought on many nights. And perhaps even madness. Garrett had dealt with mental instability for quite some time. Even if his own crew was oblivious to the fact. Still, remaining the better man within himself had become increasingly hard. Feeling as through two separate beings now existed inside of him.
“An appreciation for beauty,” Garrett replied. “Remember? Or have you joined our friend Marvin in thought?”
April laughed for a moment.
“Perhaps every Gunship’s captain has a similar appreciation?”
“Doubtful,” he replied. “I only know of a few still in operation. And their captains don’t seem like the lot appreciative of anything other than money. You’d be hard-pressed to convince me that another captain sits aboard a Gunship and thinks.”
“I suppose. Speaking of business, do you think this payout will be significant?” April asked.
“I do,” he replied. “Assuming we make it out in one piece.”
“It’ll be that much of a risk?” she asked.
“In my experience as a captain, there are generally three types of people you don’t do business with. Hunters, Benzans, or folks who appear to have an appreciation for all things beautiful – turning the conversation into one of money.” Garrett said with a grin as he turned to the young lady. Smiling warmly towards his favorite crew member.
“My appreciation is real,” April defended, while smiling wide. “I only ask because it would take a large amount of money to pull me from these beautiful skies without kicking and screaming.”
“I know that it is. Only joking. But the Benzans are a very complicated lot. In fact, the prime difference between the Benzans and Hunters is the fact that the Hunters don’t pretend to be charming or interested. They don’t cover up the fact that they’re murderers. Make no mistake, the Benzans are killers. They’ll cut a man down to save a single credit. But there is also honor among thieves. I’m counting on that honor to keep us alive.”
“And the fact that the Hunters are Vampires?” April asked with a slight hint of sarcasm hidden within her voice.
“Yes. There’s always that,” Garrett said with a chuckle. Running a single hand through the thick of his beard. “Still, I think it’s best if you remain on board during the dealing with myself and the Benzans. I’m not trying to insult you with that. I just want to keep you safe.”
“Understood,” April replied. “Their way is not one of compassion towards women?” she asked.
“Quite the contrary,” Garrett replied. “They favor women greatly. If the Benzans caught hold of your beauty, they’d likely gut the rest of us down and place you onto a pedestal of some sort. Like a princess.”
“Oh really?” April asked with a flutter of curiosity. “Not that I would like to see my crew gutted in the process. Totally not interested.”
“Glad to hear that.” the captain replied.
“Well sir, I’ll leave you to it.” April said, standing quickly and nodding her respect to the man in charge.
“Sleep well,” he replied. “And by the way,” he added, looking directly into April’s gorgeous eyes. “I hope you meant what you said earlier. If so, you’ll make one fine captain.”
“Thank you, sir.” April replied.
The entire exchange ate into the soul of Hans, who continued to watch from a distance. Each stitch of his soul having loved the young lady for quite some time now. Hans held no bitterness toward the captain because of his close relationship to April. He understood that it was only friendship. But he longed for the same type of friendship. The same type of trust.
For all of the fights and warriors he had faced in his lifetime, Hans found the forbidden love for a young woman who thought nothing of him in return to be the toughest opponent he’d ever known. Each time Hans passed April within the halls of their ship, only to be nodded at out of obligation; sharpened daggers seemed to carve into his very soul.
A feeling of disparity that was becoming increasingly hard to hide. Possibly leading to his downfall.
As the landing came on swiftly, so did a string of verbal unmentionables from the mouth of Marvin Bradshaw – nearly falling from his rack as the ship tilted. Normal for such a landing.
“What the fuck?” he yelled loudly as his feelings were amplified by a gremlin-faced lapdog named Cookie. Cursing and barking serenading the crew quarters, only making matters worse.
“Must be coming in to the location.” Hans replied.
“They couldn’t have told somebody ahead of time?” Marvin asked with resentment. “I thought I was going to die in a crash!”
“Either way. Strap on your boots and let’s get to it. There’s work to be done,” Hans ordered with a chirpy tone. “Even if yours involves hanging back while the real men do it.”
I’m about to do some fucking work up in here. Marvin thought with ill-placed sarcasm. Turning and lowering himself to the floor with a comforting tone. Softly rubbing a hand through Cookie’s thick hair.
“There, there, Cookie. We’re going to be just fine.”
“I never understood why you hang on to that scruffy looking mutt,” Hans said. “If you’re going to have a dog, make it a fierce and mighty one. I’ve had wet socks that outweighed that little ball of fur.”
His words struck a chord with Cookie, who bared its teeth with a growl. Certainly not afraid to bite.
“Careful now. Old Cookie could kill a man if he really wanted to.” Marvin replied, seeming to believe his own story.
“With what?” Hans asked with a laugh. “Kindness?”
“I hear you, smartass.” Marvin replied.
As Marvin packed his belt with potentially needed tools, things like wrenches and calibrating devices – Hans began stuffing weaponry into his own belt. An automatic side-arm, biter blade, which was very popular among former Legion soldiers because of its practical use and portability; and a second blade. Much smaller, Hans tucked it into the confines of his left boot. An insurance policy of sorts.
“Two blades?” Marvin asked.
“Always,” Hans replied. “I was once taken into captivity during the Glimmerian War, only to kill three of their soldiers and escape. All because-”
“Of the blade in your boot. Yea, yea, we’ve heard this story a hundred times over,” Marvin replied, cutting his friend off in the process. “And I always tell you that I would have been good enough in combat to never be caught in the first place. The smart men know that.”
“You weren’t there,” Hans snapped back. “You didn’t see the Colonial Stars filled with fresh troops descend onto us. We were tired and hungry, with little ammunition and no hope.”
“Nobody likes an excuse maker,” Marvin replied in taunting fashion. “Just make sure you don’t get into a bind when meeting with the Benzans. And if you do, rest assured that old Marvin Bradshaw will get you out of it.”
“I feel so much better knowing that,” Hans replied. “Have fun tinkering with the tools, grease monkey. You and that raggedy-ass dog of yours.”
With a huffing motion, Hans was out of the bunk he shared with Marvin. Glad to be so, even if it meant dealing with a group of gangsters that backed the Colonials. Making them the enemy to any former Legion soldier.
“Hans, you’re with me,” Garrett said. “And don’t go killing anyone unless I tell you to.” he added sternly.
“Understood.” Hans replied.
“Bones, you’re in charge until I get back. Business as usual. Make sure Marvin stays on any of the needed repairs and have April behind the controls. Just in case. The same as always.”
“Yes sir.” Bones replied.
“Sir, you do realize I’m not actually a pilot?” April asked.
“You’re not really anything,” Marvin said, immediately sensing several eyes burning into him. “Well she’s not.”
His comment had brought him very close to Hans’ bad side, though Marvin was none the wiser.
“That’s enough, Marvin. Just do as you’re asked.” Garrett replied.
“Ready?” the captain asked of his finest soldier.
“Always.” Hans replied.
He’d quietly hoped for anything from April. Don’t die. A good luck, perhaps? But as nothing fell from her lips, the soldier became aggravated. Choosing instead to focus on the meeting to come – burying his feelings for the young woman. If only temporarily. He’d be near April again soon enough.
Ranlin was eerily similar to every other small moon that rested on the edge of charted space. Desolate and plentiful when it came to unforgiving weather and lack of scenery. Essentially a filthy rock with pouring rains. The Benzans loved the atmosphere of such places, as it was very easy to remain out of sight. As a very large criminal organization, staying out of sight was the key to long-term success.
“Nothing but a shitting mess out there,” Marvin said slyly. “Glad I don’t have to carry my ass out in it.”
The look Hans gave him in return could have carved the toughest of meats. A mental backhand, though he remained silent.
“Just make sure you have the repairs done.” the captain replied.
“I know, I know,” Marvin said. “Give the life support system a once-over and work on shoring up the plating around the rear of the ship. I could do it in my sleep. Hell, Cookie could do it.”
“That’s because it’s the work of a fool.” Hans blasted.
“But a dry fool.” Marvin countered.
“We’ll return soon enough.” Garrett said, ending the exchange between the squabbling crewmen as he and Hans began their short but drenching march from the ship. Less than a quarter-mile from the Benzan’s stronghold.
“Just allow me to do the talking and this will go smoothly. Especially given your history.” Garrett said.
“Understood.” Hans replied.
Their relationship had not exactly been a rocky one. In fact, Hans had always delivered in only the finest of ways. That said, it was a business arrangement. Nothing more. Hans did an exceptional job and Garrett paid him coin for a job well done. Each knew very little of the other’s personal history, but understood the chain of command. A good soldier always did. And that was a fact that Garrett could appreciate. Hans was a damn good gun, too.
Their meeting with the Benzan warlord had taken nearly an hour to materialize. Although the stronghold was a small one, Aaron Legard seemed busy with other criminal affairs.
He was a rather short man in stature, which wasn’t uncommon with the Benzan race. Short black hair which raised a bit, snappy white teeth and a single hoop of silver hanging from one of his ears; Aaron had long been in a position of power among the crime syndicate.
“Let’s hear it.” wasting no time getting down to business as the two crewmen sat in front of him. Separated by a very fine table of polished wood. Uncluttered, the entire office gave the impression of power and authority. Crimson red against deep wood tones.
“We can provide weapons for you fight against the Hunters,” Garrett replied. “Good weapons.”
“Is that so?” Aaron asked. “What type of weapons?”
Lifting a very large crate of stainless metal onto the table, Garrett began snapping it open. Easing his fingers beneath each of four clasps. Slowly, he opened the case to reveal a very large mass of steel and wiring.
“An automated turret?”
“That’s right,” Garrett replied. “With enough of these, you could pin the Hunters back. And I have enough of these.”
“You have shit,” Aaron said very snappingly. “Without the authorization cards, these military weapons are useless. Nothing but a piece of metal to hinder us in our war against these fucking Vampires.”
Garrett laid a single card onto the table between them. A Glimmerian authorization card, which signified that he’d done a bit of homework as well.
Hans began assembling the gun, which took only a few moments. The attachment of three legs proved easily snappable and arming the weapon was a cinch with the card fitting perfectly. As it began to rotate with slow violence, Aaron smiled. Understanding the weapon was fully-operation.
“Exactly how many of these do you have in your possession?”
“”Three, at the moment. Demo models. How many I get from this moment forward depends on the depth of your wallet.” Garrett replied.
Even if the Benzans were ruthless, Garrett held his ground when it came to negotiations. He’d worked more than a few deals.
“I believe that we can do business, captain,” Aaron said with a grin, changing his attitude a bit and becoming slightly more relaxed. “Depending on the price. I’m rather tough to deal with.”
“Thirty thousand each. Cash.” Garrett replied.
“Rather steep, don’t you think?” Aaron bartered.
“These are brand new. Leftovers from the Glimmerian War. Not only are they unused, but they are untraceable as they are believed to be destroyed. Each gun would significantly cut down on your need for manpower against the Hunters. I believe that thirty thousand credits apiece is certainly a fair price.”
“I do not,” Aaron replied sternly. “Twenty five thousand seems fair in the mind of a man who’s known war his entire life.”
“Twenty seven.” Garrett countered.
He was also a man of war. And, more importantly, a man of business. Certainly not one to be taken advantage of.
“This is not a negotiation, captain.”
“I beg to differ,” Garrett replied. “I could easily sell my hardware to the Hunters for full asking price. We both know that.”
“I see,” Aaron said, reaching down for a very fine cigar. “And I must admit, you have some balls. Coming into my compound and threatening to weaponize the race that has killed so many of my people.”
“I am not threatening. I’m negotiating. I have no stake in this war,” Garrett said. “My only objective is to make enough to better my ship and its crew. I have hardware you need and you certainly have the money to purchase it. Let’s not kid ourselves. But should you turn down my offer I would be a fool not to sell it elsewhere. From a business standpoint I’m sure you can understand that?”
“Twenty seven thousand credits apiece will be the arrangement,” Aaron replied. “Cigar?” he asked, offering a fine smoke to the gentlemen.
“Thank you,” Garrett replied. “We can deal.”
“Transfer eighty one thousand credits to the captain’s ship immediately.” Garrett said, barking his order through a desk com.
“And I can expect the same quality from the two cases beneath this one?” Aaron asked, glancing to the two identical cases laying beneath the opened one.
“Absolutely. You’re welcome to inspect-”
“I don’t inspect prior to buying. If the product is there, I go about my way. If it isn’t, I send my people for your head. And you don’t want to know what they’re capable of doing.” Aaron warned strongly.
“Understood.” Garrett replied with a nod, puffing from the large cigar which now hung from his mouth.
“I will need one hundred more of these to begin with. Doable?” Aaron asked with a questioning look.
“We have nearly a thousand of them to pull from, so yes. It’s not a problem.” Garrett replied with a smile.
The arrangement had been simple enough. One of Glimmeria’s soldiers in charge of the outdated warehouse was to oversee the disposal of the weaponry. At least that had been the plan prior to the viral outbreak. Humanity would have used the weaponry against the growing horde, had anyone else known the weaponry still existed. Garrett had agreed to buy each of the weapons for ten thousand credits, fetching him a large return in the process.
“I don’t have to explain the consequences should I find out the Hunters are using the same weaponry?” Aaron asked.
“Rest assured, I’ve no desire to arm the Hunters. I hate their kind. In entering into an agreement, my weaponry would be exclusive to your cause.” Garrett replied with understanding.
“Odd,” Aaron said. “You travel with a former Legion soldier,” he added, turning his attention to Hans. “Is that not right?”
Hans’ red attire and look of discipline were definite traits.
“That’s right.” Hans said proudly.
“During the second war, if I’m not mistaken, the Legion and Hunters worked together in slaughtering innocent people? As well as many Benzans.” Aaron questioned. Though the answer was strictly a matter of vantage-point.
“You’re entitled to your opinion.” Hans replied.
“Am I not correct?” Aaron asked.
“There is but one difference between the Legion and Colonials. Honesty. We fight for everything we believe in, as do they. But we do not hide behind lies of compassion and bringing peace to the Skyla System as the Colonials do. And the Benzans are hardly among the ranks of the innocent.” Hans stated firmly.
“Careful,” Aaron cautioned. “The war is long over.”
“For those of us sworn to red, the war will never be over.”
“That’s enough, Hans.” Garrett warned.
“Heed your captain’s warning young man. You speak to a man who could carve the life from your entire family with a single flick of the hand.” Aaron furthered. Offering a stern reminder of his power.
A statement that Garrett understood would end badly.
“My apologies.” Hans backtracked.
“OK. Think nothing of it.” Aaron said. A statement of good faith.
“May I take you up on one of those cigars?” Hans asked.
Aaron nodded. As he reached for one of the jumbo-sized sticks of flavor, Hans grabbed his wrist. Pulling him face down into the table, while ensuring that he could not reach his com in search of help. Quickly grabbing a blade from beneath his belt, Hans plunged the cold steel into the back of Aaron’s necking. Instantly killing him in the process.
“Are you mad?” Garrett asked loudly.
Hans lit the cigar and placed it into Aaron’s mouth cooling lips now holding the cigar just barely. Spinning the warlord’s chair around, Aaron’s back now faced the door. Smoke rolling overhead.
“We need to go.” Hans said.
“What? You just killed a-”
“He had it coming. If we don’t go soon, they will discover that fact and kill the both of us. I’m trying to help you. We need to go.”
Garrett had become furious. He understood the backlash from crossing the Benzans in such a way, yet found himself with no other options.
Opening the door, Hans turned to the stationed guard.
“He doesn’t want to be disturbed.”
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The Glimmerian War is long over. But for Hans Wilder, the war will continue until his final breath. Harboring a terrible secret, Hans finds refuge aboard a doomed Gunship and its crew. Landing in Geartown under emergency circumstances, Hans and his Legion background will have a chance encounter with Dalton James, who has quickly become a hero to Gunship readers. Now, two men who fought beneath different flags will either unify for the purpose of survival, or fight until only one man remains.