John M. Davis
Editing: Daniél Lecoq
Copyright 2015 Serenity Valley Publishing
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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Chapter 1: How It Is
Chapter 2: Criminal Activity
Chapter 3: The Cross
Chapter 4: Man’s Best Friend
Chapter 5: To Be A Slave
About the Author
How It Is
A lot has changed since I watched my best friend get committed to the hard clay of the ground. Dalton wrote as he paused for a moment. Thinking of everything that had led him up to this very moment.
It’s been nearly five years and I won’t lie about it. I still miss Adam a lot. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish I could take his place. Adam Michaels was always the better man. While he was off trying to do the right thing, I was sitting back and sucking down whiskey like my life depended on it. Sure, he was a bit of a romantic panty-snatcher, but everyone has their faults. Beneath all of that, Adam was a good man. And fuck if I don’t miss him each and every time I light up a cigar or lay waste to a shot of decent whiskey. Hell, even when I slap this brown coat to my back, it feels like he’s looking down on me with a smile.
I wish he could see it. The Skyla System beginning to balance out. The last of the infected died off nearly a year ago. Turns out, we didn’t need a cure after all. We just starved the son of a bitches out and let them fall to their own fates. I guess even the snapping dead need muscles and tendons to move, and without eating on something – they just withered away. Fuck ‘em, I never had an abundance of love for the undead.
I wish Adam could see Colonials and Legion getting along. It’s one hell of a sight. Both sides spent over a decade trying to kill each other off and then realized there were far worse things out there. Hunters. Vampires. You know, the clan of sick bastards that killed off pretty much everything and everyone that’s ever mattered to me.
That’s why I took it upon myself to become a bounty hunter. Yea, I know, the thoughts of me wearing a slick badge of silver is the last thing anyone ever saw coming. But the newly formed Freedom Republic is paying top dollar for anyone who brings Hunters in – dead or alive. I finally get to kill Vampires legal-like, and get paid to do it. If they offered free booze this would be the dream job, but I’m not complaining.
We’ve got the Hunters down to just a few hundred and as mighty as the bastards once were, we got ‘em on the run. They still have friends on the underground scene, but we’ll get ‘em. Every last one of the pale white sons of bitches will reap what they’ve sown.
Of course, my woman isn’t crazy about the idea of tracking Hunters down. Cambria says they’re dangerous. Well no shit. They’ve killed tens of thousands of people over the span of their miserable existence. Apparently she’s forgotten how dangerous I am with a weighted revolver in my shooting hand.
I wish you were here, Adam. It’s a brand new ride. This world of ours is changing. Not many people seem to remember the wars of yesterday. Men like us are aging like fine wine, I suppose. But things are getting more advanced by the day. Lots of space stations have started popping up and, as you might expect, the poor are still being thrown off to the side worlds and forgotten about. Hell, come to think of it, there’s a lot that hasn’t changed. I’d be fun to have you here at my side raising hell with me.
But I know that somewhere you’re looking down and rooting me on. Don’t worry, my friend. Old man James is going to get enough for the both of us. One blood-sucking outlaw at a time. Until then, save a spot for me.
As Dalton rested his writing hand for a moment, it quickly became his drinking hand once more. Helping him to knock back a crisp shot of apple brew. Anyone that knew Dalton James well, knew he was indeed a drinking man. Not an alcoholic, and he’d be the first to tell you. Just a man with a liking for the sauce. Well, the not so tropical sauce.
“Fucking fruity-ass shit.” he grumbled. Though he took as second shot from his only supply of booze.
It had been bought straight from the source in the mountainous terrain of Tavarious. A small planet that was vastly considered one of the largest wineries in the Skyla System. Dalton had never been much for wine, or, in this case, a stout fruit-based alcohol; but Tavarious had been the closest thing to their location. So he made do.
A lot of his life had been spent making due. Yea, he’d grown tired of it a time or two. But living the hard life had made him just as tough.
He’d never considered himself to be a raging party animal, like so many around him accused him of. More of a social drinker – Dalton was definitely social. A lot. But there were certainly times when alcohol was mandatory.
Each time a friend passed away, alcohol became his good friend. If a flick of the wrist led to a card game in one of the system’s countless saloons – mandatory. And when it came to being on a ship that was about to land, Dalton was sure to drink a few. He’d always hated the feel of a ship coming in from orbit. The drop of his stomach as the craft in question began beating onto the wind sheer and awkward climates of each individual planet.
He hated landings. Down to the very last detail – Dalton hated them.
There’s something special about a ship when it lands. No matter the size, a ship’s landing sound is very authentic. Hoses pushing air at different velocities and brushing it out from beneath the ship’s frame as its landing gear rocks a bit. Finally digging into the soil of whatever planet is next on the agenda.
“We’re down.” Alyssa said with a bit of relief.
Her voice crackled throughout the less than stellar speakers which lined the walls of the tiny ship. Her beautiful voice being cheapened with static.
Alyssa had been with the crew for nearly as long as Adam had been gone. In fact, he’d specifically asked Dalton to look after the young woman – which he had. She’d become a decent pilot and a steady enough gun hand to make a difference. Earning her keep with both talents, though flying the ship was her primary duty.
Her hair shimmered of white – typical of young women from the Drifts. Their area of the Skyla System was a large one, though very stringently inhabited. It was a primitive string of planets which rested on the edge of charted space. The men of the Drifts preferred the wooden handle of a shotgun and the magnificence of a horse beneath them, while the women were known for brightly-colored hair and their outlandish clothing.
Dalton himself was proudly born and raised on the small planet of Racha. Known for their rowdiness, Rachans generally looked the part. Unkempt beard hairs hanging from their faces with a whiskey bottle in one hand and a gun resting comfortably in the other. They were known for living fast and hard – Dalton was no exception. He, like other Rachans, prided himself with being born as far away from the Drifts as possible. But he, like other men, could appreciate a damn good looking woman. And the Drifts sure could produce ‘em.
His fellow crew member and long-time lover, Cambria, who had grown up in the Drifts too, was equally as beautiful. Cambria had curves in every place they should have been – while perfectly toned throughout the rest of her body. She’d gotten Dalton into quite a few heated staring contests and even a scrum or two. She was the kind of woman who walked into a room and commanded attention with her looks. Something Dalton loved about her, and hated at the same time.
Alyssa was just as beautiful and had been a slave girl of the Hunters, making her issues with the Vampires personal. Slaving had long been the Hunters’ way, and they were brutal enough in combat to threaten away just about anyone who’d be willing to call them out on the fact that slave-trading was immoral. The average man was scared shit-less by the site of Hunters and would gladly walk the other way if it meant saving his own skin.
Adam Michaels was the exception to that way of thinking. A long stint in the military had taught him that much. After he’d met Alyssa, Adam had went out of his way to save her from such a life. In part, because he was a sucker for beautiful women at first glance, though most of it had to do with his hatred for the Hunters in general.
Either way, Alyssa had quickly built up a mountain of respect for the man who’d once led the Gunship’s crew. Now her loyalty and respect had shifted to Dalton James. He was a bit scruffier and harder to please, but beneath the surface of alcohol stench and curse words was a man of only the truest of values. Dalton did for those who couldn’t do for themselves. And he had no problem hitting someone in the mouth in order to better a situation. Alyssa found herself drawn to his alpha-male attitude.
After a couple of minutes, the crew entrance unbolted to allow their exit. Nothing more than a hatch, really, which rested directly below the large windshield of the pilot’s area and worked similarly to the hatch of a submarine.
“You bringing the mutt?” Titus asked.
He was a rather large man – both height and weight. But he certainly was in shape. Long arms hanging to his side with massive muscles clinging beneath onion-thin skin. While a slam gun rested inside of a back-mounted holster.
A fancy term for ass-kicking shotgun, really, the slam gun could knock holes in the thickest of steel and held twelve shots in a spinning chamber which orbited the gun once the safety was off. Titus wore clothes of solid blue, signifying his allegiance to the Freedom Republic. While a large badge dangled from a military-style necklace.
“Josie isn’t a mutt,” Bob replied. “She’s a wolf. You know that.”
Noticeably, Bob was shorter. Even so, he was also in peak shape for a man who’d spent time with the Legion during the Glimmerian Wars. And while Titus had a head shaven so fine that it shined like the ass of a newborn baby, Bob was not so up to speed on grooming. Choosing to borderline caveman.
“Walks like one and damn sure smells like one,” Titus answered. “I’d say old Josie is as much mutt as I’ve ever seen.”
“You may say it, but you won’t say it in front of Josie. At least not twice.” Bob replied with a wily grin.
A moment later, Josie appeared from the hatch. She was as much wolf as could possibly be true to the word. A thick mixture of gray and white fur covered a very muscular body which stood tall enough to reach Titus’ waist. Her chilling blue eyes were warning enough, though Josie would never harm anyone on the Gunship’s crew. They generally treated her far too well for that. Pork loins and tender chicken thrown to her by the pile.
As Dalton emerged from the hatch, the crew fell silent. They’d never seen their captain so – pretty. Even if he was cursing the small hatch door.
“Dear,” Cambria said. “You look different.”
As she stood in amazement, Cambria’s beautiful brown hair fell below her shoulders a bit – highlighted with blue. She was, by all accounts, the most beautiful woman the crew members had ever seen. Perfectly-shaped curves in all the right places, while narrow enough the rest of the way around; Cambria was, simply put – beautiful.
“I shaved,” Dalton said. “Don’t make a big deal of it.”
“Don’t make a big deal?” Cambria asked. “You are probably the most handsome sight I’ve ever seen,” she added as she walked to her lover. “Look at these chiseled cheeks and this brilliant smile.”
“This is the opposite of not making a big deal.” he said.
“But look at you.”
“She’s right, boss,” Roscoe said as he was the last to exit the small ship. “You just went from scruffy to sexy.”
“All right, knock it off,” Dalton strongly advised. “I just figured it was time for a change. A man of the law needs to look fitting.”
“Fair enough,” Cambria said with a grin. “But if our friends weren’t here, I’d jump your bones. And even now I’m in the gray area on that.”
“Titus, you’re with me,” Dalton said as he tried his best to ignore the suggestive comment of his beautiful woman. “Wolfman, you stay here and keep watch.”
“Wolfman? I don’t want to be called Wolfman, my name is Bob.”
“Yea, we’ll the name Bob don’t exactly strike fear into the hearts of criminals, now does it? You’ve got a wolf and a beard that puts you in the same family of species that Josie is from. You’re Wolfman until I say otherwise.”
“But you just had a beard? Until like five minutes ago?” Wolfman contested.
“Well hell, son. Go shave yours off. Then we’ll call you copycat.” Dalton said with a laugh as giggling erupted throughout the group.
“That’s fine, I’ll take Wolfman over the likes of names half of you could easily earn.” Wolfman replied.
“Like what?” Roscoe asked.
Roscoe Jenkins was as scraggly looking as they came. Thin frame, short and a patchy beard that seemed to stunt in growth just as he did. With a red ball cap resting snugly to his head, grease stains across its bill gave way to the fact that we was a mechanic. And only a decent mechanic on his best day.
“How about can’t shoot worth a damn or hygiene gone wrong?” Wolfman asked, mocking the scrawny mechanic.
“I’ll knock the fuck out of you!” Roscoe warned with a clinched fist.
“Settle down, the both of you,” Dalton demanded. “I’ll need you both getting along in the event that Titus and myself get hemmed up on this one.”
“You said you knew this guy?” Titus questioned.
“Oh, I do.” Dalton replied.
“He’s trying to say that he knows Walter Jones, just not on the best of terms. Right honey?” Cambria asked.
Glancing to his snitch of a wife, Dalton motioned to the crew’s biggest physique with hands of impatience.
“Let’s get going.”
“Dalton James, sir.” a man said.
He was dressed in solid gray with a jacket pinned together by several shiny gold buttons. Hair of salty black falling from his scalp.
“No. You must be mistaken,” Walter replied as his voice grew louder. “Because the only Dalton James I know would be a fool to come back into my corner of the universe. Na, even he’s not that damn stupid.”
“The one and only.” Dalton said, easing himself into Walter’s private office with Titus following right behind.
“Now tell me this ain’t happening. A man who threatened to kill me the last time I saw him did not just step back into my office. MY OFFICE!” Walter yelled.
“I didn’t threaten to kill you, I threatened to have my sniper do it.” Dalton said, though he did so in very casual fashion.
“You tried to kill him?” Titus asked. Sensing he’d been very ill-informed of the mission now in front of them.
Slamming his hand to the desk which separated them, Walter Jones stood to his feet. Cutting eyes at Titus.
“He used a pair of pliers to jerk gold teeth from my top gun’s mouth!”
“You owed me money!” Dalton responded harshly. “Now if we’re going to bring up the past, bring it all up. You screwed Adam and me on perfectly good deal that YOU agreed to. I came to collect my money, your guy got into my face I did a little dentistry work. Now isn’t that how it went down?”
“Where is Adam, anyway?” Walter said with arrogance.
“He ain’t with us any longer.” Dalton replied.
“You finally kicked that sorry ass piece of shit off of the crew, eh?”
“No,” Dalton said. “He died about five years ago doing what he did best. Trying to save people he shouldn’t have been trying to save.”
Dalton’s confession cut through the mood of the room like a razor-sharp knife through elegant steak. Bringing Walter down a notch in the process.
“And tell me why I shouldn’t kill you, Dalton? Give me one good reason?” Walter asked with a serious tone.
“I’ll give you five-thousand.” he replied, slamming a sack of gold credits onto the table separating them.
As ruthless and corrupt as Walter Jones’ reputation was, there was one thing that could get him to immediately toe the line of righteousness. Money.
“Walk with me.”
His men held Titus at gunpoint as Dalton and Walter began walking from the office. Soon finding themselves beneath the stars of open air – a whipping cold wind swaying all around them on the small planet of Myriad.
“Sorry to hear about Adam.” Walter admitted.
“He went down swinging, but he went down. I guess he knew the risks going in. We all do.” Dalton replied.
“So tell me. Why would a man that I owe money to, show up and hand me five-thousand credits?” Walter asked point blank.
“Because I need some information and I know you keep your ears to the ground.” Dalton said.
“Of course I do,” Walter said. “What kind of information?”
“We’re tracking Hunters.”
“Nope. No you’re not,” Walter said with finality. “I can’t help you.”
“It’s just us out here. You and me. There’s a Hunter somewhere on this rock, at least that’s what the bounty sheet says. Now I need to know where?”
“Let me tell you something, Dalton James. If you want to end up like your good friend Adam Michaels – keep digging. Otherwise, pack up that crew of yours and go away while you still can. You got that?”
“Hey. I got a job to do,” Dalton said as Walter began walking away. “Hey!”
“Look,” Walter said. “Because I already owe you money and I’ve got no problem telling you I plan on keeping this five-thousand too, I’m going to give you a little bit of information. Even if it ain’t what you’re digging around for.”
“I’m listening.” Dalton said.
“The Hunters are stronger than they ever have been.”
“Really?” Dalton asked. “Because the ones we already have locked up are looking pretty damn weak these days. And we got plenty.”
“The Hunters aren’t down and out like this new government thinks. The Vampires are reloading, my friend. There’s a coming war like you ain’t never seen. You can stop hunting them whenever you’d like, because it won’t be long until they’re hunting you.”
“I don’t buy it. There’s at least one of them here on Myriad, maybe more. And I intend to bring ‘em in.”
“You don’t get it, Dalton. The Hunters, they’re like ghosts now.” Walter said with a slight nod.
“Yea? Well I suppose we’ll see how the ghosts deal with the revolver on my hip once I track ‘em down.”
“I’ve already given you more than I should.” Walter said.
“It’s just us, old man.”
“The Hunters hear everything,” Walter warned. “They hear the private conversations. They hear it all. Everything.”
“Good,” Dalton said. “Then they can hear me say that I’m coming for their asses, and I’m bringing a decade of revenge with me.”
As Dalton began to walk away, Walter became the longtime friend he’d always been underneath the corrupt business dealings.
“Dalton. You can’t come back here. I won’t be able to guarantee your safety if you do, old friend.”
“Yea?” Dalton asked. “Well I guess we’ve both chosen our sides in this war to come. Don’t worry, when it’s all over and the Hunters are wiped out – I’ll come by to visit.”
“Yea. Sure you will.” Walter said with a grin.
Even though, deep down, he knew Dalton James had the balls to do it.
“We’re off,” Alyssa remarked as the tiny ship began to pull away from the moon’s orbit like a rock flinging from a slingshot. “I’m setting course, just need to know where we’re headed next, captain?”
Dalton heard the words, but didn’t want to answer the question. Holding it in as long as he possibly could.
“Captain?” Alyssa asked once more.
“Glimmeria,” Dalton said with a snappy tone. “Fucking Glimmeria.”
Alyssa didn’t quite understand his reservation, wasting no time in plucking numbers into the ship’s navigational unit. Glimmeria was very well known. Most of the system’s largest planets were. A prime location for just about anyone.
But not Dalton James. He’s been a part of two major wars, both of which took place on the dusty Glimmerian sands which reminded him of true hell. Countless battles and assaults, all of them nearly claiming his life. He’d watched friends fall by the plenty on the planet he’d sworn never to return to – many times over.
“Relax,” Cambria said as she eased herself onto a steel bench beside her husband. “A lot has changed since the last war.”
“Maybe,” Dalton replied. “But we don’t change as people. There will still be a great many things we need to avoid on Glimmeria. If it’s up to me, we land, I let the fine folks of the Freedom Republic know about a possible Hunter army building, and then we get the hell back off of that rock.
“We also need to resupply and refuel. The ship will need some maintenance and-” Cambria began.
“Don’t,” he warned. “Don’t even.”
“And YES, Alyssa and I would like to do a bit of shopping while we’re there.” she replied firmly.
“Cambria, every single time you two go shopping – violence of some type follows. Every time.”
“You can go with us if you’d like.” she said.
“I don’t want to go shopping,” Dalton quickly replied. “Hell, I don’t even want to go to Glimmeria. But I have to tell them what I know. They need to hear about it, even if Walter Jones is bluffing.”
“Do you think he is?” Cambria asked.
“No,” Dalton said. “I’ve known that robust cock-sucker for a mighty long time. He’s a lot of things, but he ain’t a coward. He was scared, Cambria. The Vampires are up to something big and the Freedom Republic needs to know.”
“It’ll be fine, dear. This will be the time that you arrive to Glimmeria and see that things have finally changed. I hear they’ve did a fantastic job of rebuilding.”
“Titus go with you.” Dalton said.
“I don’t need a chaperone, Dalton.” Cambria replied.
“I have to give this news in person. So you can wait on the ship until I’m done, at which time I will go with you. Or you can let Titus go with you and look after you. I’ll leave that up to you.” Dalton said.
“He’ll just be tagging-”
“It’s non-negotiable, dear. Glimmeria is filled with bad-intentioned folks. They can change the paint on the buildings and put in a couple of parks, I don’t care about that. All I care about is keeping you safe. Either I’m going to do it and you’re going to wait, or I’m sending Titus. He’s the only one I trust enough to-”
“Fine,” Cambria said with defeat. “When we land, you tell that bumbling giant to be ready. I’m not waiting on him, got it?”
“Deal.” Dalton said.
Cambria began walking off as she huffed and puffed a bit. Not excited about Dalton’s protective treatment.
“If it makes you feel any better, I would have sent Titus along with any woman aboard this ship. It’s not personal,” Dalton said with a grin. “OK?”
“We ARE the only women aboard this ship…you ape!”
Man tries to do the right thing and gets called names? Dalton thought. Admiring the beauty of his wife as she walked away.
Their ship was much smaller than it should have been. Dalton and the long-standing members of his crew had seen better days financially. They’d flown in much larger ship, and, in Dalton’s case, commanded fleets of much larger.
But coexisting in a smaller ship had the advantage of personal expression.
“Man,” Titus said. “Get your damn feet off of me.”
“And where do you suggest I stick ‘em?” Roscoe replied.
The unbathed man had a point. The room would have been cramped for a single occupant. Instead, it served as the quarters for two. One of which was gigantic in size, and at the moment, attitude.
“I can break them off at the kneecaps and show you exactly where to stick them!” Titus fumed.
Roscoe used the pause in conversation to ease his legs back onto his hammock, which dangled directly above Titus’.
“It’s ridiculous. Six people and a dog aboard a ship that should be carrying two.” Titus stated with a snappy tone.
“I wouldn’t say Josie is to be counted.” Roscoe replied.
“I would,” Titus said. “Damn dog eats more than I do and takes up just as much room when she’s sleeping. Josie counts.”
“Well then, Josie needs to get a cut of pay. Just like the rest.”
“We’ll see how well that goes over with the captain.” Titus said.
“Yea.” Roscoe said with a laugh.
“Never been to Glimmeria,” Titus confessed. “Always heard stories of it being this large planet filled with pretty much everything. And now I finally get to go and have a grand total of four credits in my pocket.”
“I’d be scared to drink whatever you could get for four credits,” Roscoe replied. “And the thoughts of a woman’s bed that priced so low – it’s not pretty.”
“I don’t pay for sex. It’s one of my rules. And if I did, I sure wouldn’t pay for someone charging four credits.”
“Aye,” Roscoe said. “But unlike you, I’ve been to Glimmeria. I’ve also been on ships much smaller than this for months at a time. A few trips like that will have you running into the arms of four-credit whores.”
“They exist?” Titus asked.
“Oh yes. And trust me,” Roscoe replied. “It’s all the same when the lights go out, as long as you can get past the smell.”
“Lovely,” Titus said. “Just lovely.”
A small engine room, a pilot’s area, a large bunk shared by Dalton and Cambria, a smaller bunk shared by Roscoe and Titus, a small bunk for Wolfman and his best friend, Josie, and a small bunk for Alyssa. Throw in a small showering area with a piss pot, a tiny eating corner and a decent-sized room which served as their community area, and you had the layout of the laughably small ship.
Dalton had won the rig in a poker game, in all honesty, after leaving a much nicer ship behind for an old friend of his.
“How do you think Hans is doing?” Cambria asked.
Laying a photo of his good friend down onto the bedside table, Dalton nodded with a sense of hopefulness.
“I imagine Hans and his woman are making it just fine.”
“Everyone else seems to hate this ship. But you and I both know that if it weren’t for Hans Wilder, we wouldn’t even be here right now.”
“I know,” Dalton said. “Still. I wonder if things would be better right now if I would have just kept his ship.”
Dalton had used it in an escape from Geartown. Agreeing to leave the ship in excellent condition for Hans to recover later – which he did. A fact that stung as Dalton often thought of the fact that Hans’ ship was a hundred times better than the heap of shit he now rested his head in at night.
“You did the right thing,” Cambria said. “Don’t let it bother you.”
“Maybe so. But that doesn’t stop me from considering grabbing a good ship and running with it.” Dalton said.
“You’re on the right side of the law now, dear,” Cambria said. “We all are. And I would love to keep it that way.”
“I had no idea that men of the law struggled like this.”
“It’s only money, dear.”
“No, it’s the principle. I’ve given my life to military service and even been sworn in as the fleet’s commander. And now, all I have to show for it is a shitty boat in the middle of the black. We’re flying the equivalent of a two-man fishing boat and we should be flying a yacht.”
“Well, actually it’s a two-person boat, not a two-man boat. Women like to fish, too.” Cambria said with a smile.
“Either way, gather the crew in the community area. I need to speak on this and they need to listen and weigh in.” Dalton said.
“But it’s the middle of the night?” she questioned.
“We’re in outer-space. It’s always dark. You can tell ‘em I said so.” he said with a grin. A smile that Cambria hadn’t seen in quite some time. Even if it now rested upon a smoothly-shaven face.
“Here’s the deal,” Dalton said as the crew sat on steel benches several minutes later. “I’m tired of the struggle.”
Though a lack of sleep was partially to blame, each of the crew looked onto their captain with curiosity.
“The law man inside of me wants to nail every last Hunter to the wall and let them die off slowly. It’d serve the Vampires right, considering the damage they’ve caused over the years. But the lifetime of smuggling inside of me thinks that we deserve better than this raggedy-ass ship and the bread we’re eating.”
“OK. I’m awake.” Titus said with boldness.
“I aim to get involved in a little criminal activity while I’m on Glimmeria. It likely means turning my badge in. So I wanted to hear from each of you before we land.”
“Hell yes,” Titus quickly said. “There’s no money in law enforcement.”
“I’m OK with it as long as there’s a good chance we’ll get away with it.” Roscoe added with a nod of approval.
“Wolfman?” Dalton asked.
“I’m in. I’ve got your back.”
“Alyssa?” Dalton asked. “You’re as much a part of this crew as-”
“No,” she replied with hesitation. “I don’t want to see the Hunters go on without paying for what they’ve done. I saw it firsthand. I lived through it. They are slavers and murderers. There isn’t money in what we’re doing now, but we’re making the lives of a lot of people easier. That’s good enough for me.”
“Everybody else out,” Dalton said. “You too, Cambria.”
She didn’t like it. Being ordered out of the room by the man she loved was painful, while also aggravating. But she understood the struggle inside of him – even if they had yet to talk about it privately.
Waiting for the rest of the crew to clear out, Dalton stared through a very small window which sat adjacent to the large table of steel which had been used for so many community dinners among the crew.
“You remind me so much of Adam that it hurts,” Dalton said with honesty. “He had a way of over-thinking, which you often do, and he also had a way of putting other folks above himself. Just like you’re trying to do right now, and I hear you. The Hunters have taken everything from me. They’ve done a lot of wrong to a lot of folks, and I’m not about to let them off of the hook. But this crew also deserves better. You and Cambria – you both deserve to sleep in luxury at night. Not like a couple of damn refugees. It hurts me to see you two living on such limited means. You deserve better.”
“I’ve seen things most haven’t,” Alyssa admitted as tears began to fall from the outermost corners of her eyes. “They used to go in and pull anyone from a village that could be useful to them. Anyone that could perform manual labor or be sold for profit. Then they would just kill the rest. Like the folks being killed were a burden to them. I once saw a Hunter commander complaining of the cost of ammunition to a man he was about to murder.”
“Alyssa, we aren’t going to stop hunting them down. You have my word,” Dalton promised. “But I’m tired of being handicapped while doing it. The law has too many rules. If I’m going to catch the worst of them, I need to think like a criminal. I swear to you, we won’t take from those who need it. That’s not what kind of man I am.”
“I know that.” Alyssa confessed.
“Now you know I love my wife,” Dalton said. “But when it comes to being a part of this crew, I think the highest of you. I really do. Adam saw something in you and he was right to see it. I see it too. You’re a good person and you got out of one hell of a situation. But if you say no, then it’s no. I’ll honor whatever you decide.”
“I just want the Hunters to stand trial for what they’ve done. And I’d like to do it without anyone innocent getting hurt or taken from. Especially you. You’re too good of a captain for that.” Alyssa said.
“The Hunters will stand trial, I can promise you that. In a court of law or by the barrel of this here revolver. Either way, they will get what’s coming to them. So you head back to your bunk and say goodbye. The next night’s sleep you get will be fitting of a princess.”
Alyssa smiled to the veteran captain. Trusting her with every fiber of her being.
After she left to join the others, Dalton thought long and hard about his next move. There was a time when he and he alone answered for his actions. But that was no longer the case. Dalton was responsible for a handful of lives now, and it made him consider everything. Especially Alyssa’s plea.
There was something about her that drew his interest. It wasn’t her exterior beauty, though it was certainly not in short supply. There was an innocence there. For everything she’d been through, Alyssa trusted folks – perhaps a bit too much. There was a good nature inside of her that time and struggle had yet to erode. And that was something that Dalton James couldn’t turn a blind eye to, no matter how hard he tried.
The man felt a burning need to care for the young woman. He understood the type of evil that was possible in men, and she wasn’t strong enough to survive it. He was. And it was his job to protect her from the types of men who were capable of horrific things.
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With the Vampires on the brink of extinction, Dalton James and his crew now join humanity in hunting down the few that remain. With a brown coat across his back and his trusted revolver by his side, Dalton is about to discover that the Vampires aren't even close to being extinct. Instead, they've been prepping for a war, and all hell is about to break loose.