Hunting Star Fucker

“Bounty hunters, we don’t need their scum,” I heard one of the Imperial Commanders mutter to a subordinate, from my vantage point above the control trench. Scum? I gave a thought to dropping down to his level and asking for a clarification on the insult, but I was out-gunned in the way a flashlight is against a black hole and opted for discretion. The other bounty hunters and I were the most dangerous trackers in the galaxy, and we had raced to the Imperial Star Destroyer for a once-in-a-lifetime job. I didn’t want to screw it up before I even started.

I was a million parsecs and a million years from home. Yeah, I guess the story of how I travelled in time and space is a good one, but that’s not the one I’m gonna tell you today. Remind me some other time?

I had adapted to life on the edge of the universe and made a nice career for myself as a hunter, specifically one that hunts people for money. I use the term with a sarcastic tone, because the pricks I pursue are often almost as bad as the ones that pay me. Speaking of people, I wasn’t alone. My hunting buddy was a little brown furry beast who, in the right costume, could pass for a child’s stuffed toy. He is from a tiny forested moon planet populated by thousands of the primitive critters whose only use in the universe is target practice. That, and maybe stitched together a nice throw rug. T’raxx was an exception;  a cruel creature with no love of the Empire, he has a skill at urban and wilderness tracking that makes him very valuable. He’s my partner and my best friend.

We stood alongside the other bounty hunters awaiting orders aboard the Imperial Star Destroyer, but it wasn’t a team effort by any stretch of the imagination; we all sought the reward offered by the Empire. It was every man for himself- not to say that the others were human, or even males. Some, like EYE GEE 88, weren’t even living creatures. I still owe him for poaching a job from me on Tapper 12, a few months ago. He looked at me with red eyes and a smug expression that pissed me off. How does a robot look smug? I don’t know, I just knew he was gloating. I bet he’d make a nice coat rack.

T’raxx nudged me and I realized the boss had been speaking and I missed the pep talk. I tuned in as he was warning a particularly-effective rival against disintegrations. I chuckled to myself. What the green-helmeted dummy didn’t know was that when he beat me to the last target, I simply sniped him from a distance with a Lucarian disruptor rifle. I was distracted again, almost instantly, as I admired the intimidating fashion choice of the my employer. I made a decision to get myself a cape as soon as possible. Black. Definitely black.

T’raxx snickered with glee, his eyes wide and crazy with anticipation of the hunt. I, on the other hand, was more interested in the two-hundred thousand galactic credits being offered for the prey, some farm boy from a dust planet full of sand farmers that I never heard of. T’raxx asked me the same question I was thinking. I replied, “I don’t know what the kid did to cheese off the Empire, buddy. And I don’t care. Sounds like easy money.”

Once the boss in the cape was finished talking, we scrambled for our ship. The bay doors of the battle-scarred, refitted Tribellian ferry opened and the access stairs lowered. At the top of the stairs waited the former sex droid, now translator and communication specialist, 6D9 4U2. The droid was old, but very useful. I dashed up the stairs and barked orders at the purple cylindrical robot. “Start searching communication chatter in the area. We’re looking for a kid named Sky Fucker.” T’razz gave a correction that sounded more like a dog trying to bark “I love you” than actual words and I corrected myself, “Right. What he said. Walker not Fucker.”

As we prepared for take-off, our other robot, a red painted, humanoid, piloting-assistant ‘bot entered the cockpit. “Sirs, I have some bad news. I’m afraid damage from our last firefight has left us without the ability to attain lightspeed.”

I didn’t believe him for a second. “Sit down and prepare for launch, JK. And no more comedy,” I said as I sat down. JK-PO was very useful, especially when preparing mathematical coordinates, even if his attempts at humor often made me think of turning him into an expensive coffee maker.

What we didn’t know at the time is we were being followed. EYE GEE 88, rather than do his (Its? I always think of the piece-of-shit robot as a guy) own work, he had dropped a tracking device onto the floor that T’razz had stepped on. As if racing against a half dozen of the best bounty hunters in the universe wasn’t enough, we were being followed by the most dangerous robot ever created. And he still owed me money.

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Pain of Love Part Three- III

ImageThe boy moved with skill and ease through the maze of streets and buildings that surrounded Ashemark. He felt different after a meal, a bath, and now a purpose. The one-eyed northerner had sent him out to find a woman named Summer. The way he described her, one might think she was the most beautiful woman the gThe boy moved with skill and ease through the maze of streets and buildings that surrounded Ashemark. He felt different after a meal, a bath, and now a purpose. The one-eyed northerner had sent him out to find a woman named Summer. The way he described her, one might think she was the most beautiful woman the gods had ever sent to Westeros. The boy wondered what she could possibly see in the weathered and scarred ruffian that had employed the seven-year old boy. He ran his fingers through his shampooed black hair and considered Grayne. I like him. Haven’t had a decent bite to eat since I came out of me mum’s belly, he thought. Ugly as the winter is cold, but he done all-right by me.

  He didn’t know the name of his master, but old ‘one-eye’ (as he called him, in his head) had given him an area of the city to look for her. He had been told to ask questions, but to keep a low profile. He knew a few back alleys where he could find other street people to ask about the beautiful Summer. His wife? If she was as beautiful as he heard, she wouldn’t be too hard to find.

  If she was so beautiful, why would he leave her?

  It was deep into the afternoon, the sun was setting and the street-child grew hungry. He was able to purchase a half-loaf of bread and some fruit juice with which to wash it down. His clean clothes, and combed and washed hair had made it more difficult to get the information he needed from the dirtier types in the city, but he never would have been allowed to buy bread looking the way he had yesterday.

  The sun was setting as he reached the end of his quest; a small flower shop set right against the castle wall. The boy was naturally uneasy this close to the garrison and the Lord and all them royal mucky mucks.

  He made his way in the front door. The smell of flowers were a chorus of smells to his nose, causing the boy to sneeze as soon as he entered. He heard light footsteps, and suddenly the woman his new master had described was before him. The boy looked up at her and instantly knew it was the Summer he sought. Everything was as he described, from her curly red hair to her plump red lips. He was dizzy, perhaps from the intoxicating flowers, from the long walk or from her beauty. He was unsure why, but his head certainly reeled. He struggled with a response to her genuine warm smile and her question of, “How can I help you, little man?”

His mouth hung open as he struggled with the words. He knew he had succeeded at finding Summer and was already planning on what to say to his one-eyed northern master. He knew the man would be happy and that made the boy happy. He tried to say something, but the beautiful Summer kept smiling and that just made him dizzier. “Can I help you?”, she asked, but not to him.

The smell of roses and chrysanthemums vanished, replaced by leather, steel and body odor. The boy hid behind a large vase filled with flowers that was as tall as he was and risked a glance at the three armed and armored men that entered the humble shop. Their armor was patchwork leather poorly sewn together, and their blades were not castle-forged steel, but they were obviously dangerous, especially to the unarmed woman. Two of the men strode into the shop and secured the back door as the third stood menacingly. The boy moved to the opposite side of the giant pot, preventing him from seeing Summer, but making it harder to be seen by the men. His heart raced and he felt bile rising in his stomach. I have to protect her. For One-Eye’s sake.

“Nice shop you have here, Summer.” the boy heard the third man say.

“I am here by the grace of his lordship,” she said threatening them with her powerful patron. “There are many guards in the area who will be here in a flash, if I scream.”

“Then I will have to silence you,” the boy heard the man’s reply, and then a struggle. When he heard her muffled scream, he leapt out from behind the massive vase and rushed up Summer’s side. He latched on to the man around his waist and bit down on one of his arms that was struggling to keep Summer from screaming. The man cried out despite himself and thrashed outward against the boy, flinging him with a crash of glass and steel into a display of vases and flowers.

Free of the melee with the man, Summer began to scream. Her shriek threatened to alert the entire Westerlands, until the ruffian silenced her with a punch to her gut that brutally forced the air out of her lungs. As she was bent over from the punch, the ruffian followed with a two-fisted haymaker to the back of her neck. The boy heard a sickening crunch and then the sound of her collapsing to the floor like wet meat.

Bloody but still alive, the boy struggled to his feet, preparing to battle the three hooligans and save his master’s woman. With a shout, he lunged at Summer’s abuser, but the boy was scooped up from behind by one of the thug’s partners, before he could soundly thrash him. He was held in the air, kicking and screaming in an attempt free himself and save the woman.

The boy stopped thrashing when the man who downed Summer grabbed him by his clean black hair and holding his head still, promptly slit his throat.

Pain of Love Part Three-II

 A foggy day threatened rain as Grayne entered the small city surrounding Ashemark castle. Sellers shouted loudly hawking wares from vulnerable carts, desperately trying to make sales before the weather worsened. The weary northerner bought some cooked beef conveniently placed on a stick. He needed to find a place to stay with the few coins he had remaining. An able-bodied man, especially one with the heartiness of Grayne, was able to make coins as needed, taking unpleasant jobs. He had mucked stables, unloaded ships, and picked cotton so frequently that he had forgotten any details of the labor. He had learned long ago, in the care of the torturer Farzan, to shut his mind to any unpleasantness.

 He finished the meat and threw the stick into an alley that was already covered in trash. An urchin, no more than seven years old rushed out of the alley and began to accost him, touching him, complimenting him, and asking for money.

 Grayne threatened a back-hand and the child closed his eyes and cowered. Opening a single eyelid to see if Grayne was going to beat him, he instead became alarmed. “Ser, hide your blade.”

 The northerner eyed him with suspicion and the child, with renewed urgency and wild desperate eyes said, “Ser, weapons are not allowed so close to the castle! You must hide it, or expect to spend a night in the jail.” The boy pointed at Grayne’s sheathed blade.

 Thinking on it, he didn’t remember seeing a single weapon upon entering the crowded city. He cursed himself for being so dense as looked around for something with which to hide the blade for the idea of a night in any cell filled him with unease. Seemingly sensing the man’s thoughts, the urchin told him that he might know where there was a bedroll that he could use to hide the blade.

 “What would you ask for such an item?”

 “I ask only that I be your squire, ser knight. I would carry your bedroll,” he said with a deliberate wink, “and show you around the city.”

 “I don’t need a vassal, boy. I could simply pay you for your information and assistance,” said Grayne looking around and moving into the more concealed location of the trash-strewn alley.

 “My terms are non-negotiable, ser.” said the boy, clearly sensing Grayne was a foolish foreigner and ripe for the plucking. “I could use the money, but I would also enjoy sleeping indoors for bit. How long will you be in town, ser?”

 He ignored the question and said, “Agreed, fetch the bedroll, boy and we will talk further.”

 The child jumped excitedly into the air before turning on his heels and rushing deeper into the alley.

 Grayne scrunched his face and looked into the sky upon feeling a few drops of rain.

 The boy returned promptly holding a dirty, but dry, thick green blanket. It was obvious to the man that this was the boys home. Grayne took the scabbard off his belt and wrapped it in the child’s bedroll, completely concealing the weapon, albeit suspiciously. He handed the rolled-up sword to the boy and the child held it awkwardly in his outstretched arms. He knelt before the boy and his single grey eye locked with the boy’s own brown eyes. That child’s dirt-caked face was flushed of color from fear of the menacing man. The boy could not look away as the threatening northerner said with frigid sincerity, “If you betray me, I will kill you.”

Pain of Love- Part Three

Suddenly, it came into view. A gigantic castle which was the seat of Marbrand power jut out above the small city below. The Ashemark, as it was called, was the solid stone centerpiece of a bustling city that surrounded the keep. As the city’s radius ended, the landmarks changed from businesses and houses, and became farms and hovels. Grayne had barely reached the perimeter of farmlands and could barely make out the stronghold in the distance. A feeling of uneasiness came over him, after months of travel, he had reached his destination.

The northern warrior who had survived so much took a moment to steady himself. He took a deep breath and as his eyes surveyed familiar landmarks his mind drifted back in time to the reason he had returned, to the reason he had been able to survive the horrific ordeals of the past five years.

 

By the Crone. the Maiden, the Stranger, the Smith, the Warrior. The Mother and the Father, I take you on this day and for all my days.” Grayne and Summer looked into each other’s eyes and recited the vows of marriage in the secret grove outside town, but under the blanket of stars and the watchful eyes of the new gods.

The priest performed the blessing, and quickly and quietly left the young couple alone in the forest. A warm breeze rustled the leaves of the trees. Grayne took his young bride in his arms and kissed her full lips passionately. His large hands pushed back her auburn hair and he gazed with adoration into her grass-green eyes. His strong arms encircled her and he felt like he should never let her go. He held her for many long moments and she was relaxed in his powerful protective embrace.

“Let’s run away. Let’s leave this place and never come back,” he said as he stared at her with aggressive sincerity. “We will be safe. We have nothing here.”

For a moment Summer smiled, but then that smile turned to a frown. “We can’t! I know you, Grayne. You aren’t a deserter. I don’t give a damn about this war or House Marbrand, and I know you don’t either! But, your word is important to you.”

Grayne’s steel grey eyes were like battering rams as they crashed through Summer’s resolve. She shook her head and turned away. Grayne jumped in front of her and demanded, Let’s go! We will be a dozen leagues from here before they know we’re gone!”

Summer kissed his lips and said, “You’re not afraid of anything.”

“I’m afraid of losing you, he said as he kissed her plump red lips again.

“You won’t. I will be here when you get back. I promise,” a tear rolled down her cheek.

“What if I don’t come back?” he said, knowing the uncertain nature of war, though he had never been in a real battle.

“You will. I know you will.”

“I don’t want to go.”

“I don’t want you to go, either. Just promise me you will come back to me.”

“I promise,” he said resolutely. 

And their lips met with frantic passion. A desperate urgency to their desire overcame them as their love became a pure primal force. There in the forest beneath the stars and the old gods and new, they became husband and wife.