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Posts Tagged ‘Space Opera’

After all their efforts they finally swung around the searing ball of atomic fire at the centre of our solar system and the great purple bruise that was Dyzan came into sight. A giant world, the lost triplet to Jupiter and Saturn, swarming with moons and asteroids, each a world in its own right and crowning them all, the imperial worldlet of Rex, now ravaged by civil war since the fall of the Emperor.

Ace’s nostrils flared as the planet came into view. This was the last place he really wanted to be, since the war had come to these moons and him along with them. It was a horrible, grim time for planet Earth, under attack from this distant world and then fighting back, only to find the place in chaos. The whole thing was a mystery that nobody had yet unravelled – why had they been attacked in the first place? Was it just the nature of Dyzan’s people to conquer? Whatever the case, it wasn’t save here now. The Dyzan princes of the scattered moons were at war, squabbling over the corpse of the once-mighty empire while the rest of the solar system fell into ruin, directionless and ungoverned.

It wasn’t safe here.

He flicked the switch to his radio, calling back to the hold where the trio were hiding since the run-in with Rosie. “We’re almost there.” his voice crackled over the tannoy. “Where – exactly – are we going?”

There was no reply, but not much later the Professor joined him in the cramped cockpit. “There.” His rough fingertip pressed against the glass of the screen.” We’re going to Rex.”

Ace rolled his eyes, hard, just his luck to be taking them to the worst spot of them all in this whole benighted zone. He grasped the controls and took them in, swooping towards the moon of Rex over the lurid and turbulent atmosphere of Dyzan itself. Soon Rex swam large in the screen, a battle-scarred world of gold and ash, the imperial city – or what remained of it – visible even at this distance, a massive structure on a scale previously unimaginable to the human mind.

Ace’s radar pinged, warningly and he turned to the little green screen, three blips, incoming. Maybe they’d leave them alone, maybe they wouldn’t. He set his jaw and flipped on the broadcast radio. “This is Man’s Ruin to incoming vessels. We are on a mission of… exploration and mean no harm. Please divert your course.”

This hiss from Dyzan’s magnetosphere almost drowned out any reply but he managed to tune it to hear their crackling missive: “Repeat… Avians – scree! – claim this sector. You are intruding. This is Matloch of the Vulcan’s Claw, turn around or be destroyed!”

Ace turned questioning to the Professor whose thick brow was now set in determination. “We’re paying you well, punch on through man.”

Ace nodded and his own brow furrowed. “Strap yourself down.” He muttered and turned Man’s Ruin towards the oncoming vessels.

This close to Rex’s atmosphere the atomic turbines couldn’t blast full speed, they’d burn up like meteors in the wisps of atmosphere but, at this terrific speed, the flaps and rudder on the ship could get a little bite and that gave Ace the edge. He swooped in lower, biting deeper into Rex’s atmosphere, the ship glowing at the nose as it picked up heat. Distantly he could see the silvery cigar shapes of the Avian vessels with their distinctive back-swept wings barely visible. He flipped up the catch on his control stick and the battle-joy came over him. This was what he was good at.

He thumbed the stud as he roared up out of the atmosphere in a corona of burning plasma, the atmosphere clinging to the ship like a shroud. The vickers opened up with ravening beams of atomic fire, lancing out across the void towards the ‘V’ formation of the Avian rocket ships. Classic formation, the bird-brains never learned. Great scars opened up along the side of one of the vessels and its wing melted away like butter in a hot pan. Venting atmosphere and the distant, doll-like bodies of Avian soldiers it began its death-spin down towards the planet.

The remaining vessels peeled away, one going high, one going low. The higher vessel swept up, then down, barrelling towards Ace’s ship in a hawk’s dive, blazing away with its own cannons, hot ions slapping into the plasma shroud and impacting the crackling lightning shield, but they weren’t going to get through, not in time.

Ace pushed the thruster control forward and headed for the ship dead on. At this speed there were no earthly reflexes that could avoid a collision and both vessels blazed away with their energy beams, gun against gun, field against field in a battle of competing technology that would result in the death of one, or the other.

The Avian’s vessels had been kept weak by the Emperor, not wanting to risk an uprising that could not be crushed by the Imperial fleet and Ace was hoping they hadn’t been retrofitted. His luck held. There was an explosion as the Avian lightning field collapsed and as it did the coruscating beams from the Vickers blew it into a cloud of vapour. Ace’s own field was dangerously low though now and as he dove back towards the planet his lightning field began to register hits from the one remaining ship.

“Hold tight!” Ace shouted, holding on for dear life as he pushed Man’s Ruin to its absolute limit, every bolt and plate rattling as he dove towards the planet’s surface, down towards the rocky outcroppings of the Plain of Misery and it’s ashen wastes. The Avian ship dived after him, following in his wake, but it’s beams couldn’t penetrate the corona of hot gas that plumed behind Man’s Ruin, her hull vapourising from the heat and the ship baking like an oven.

At the last possible moment Ace pulled up, the planet spinning sickeningly beneath him and the controls cutting the air as we drove Man’s Ruin into a desperate set of jinking manoeuvres through the rocky outcroppings of the surface. The Avian was hot on his tail, explosions of melting rock going off like firecrackers beneath them as the Avian ship stuck to them like glue, intent upon their tail and that, that was what Ace was counting on.

Man’s Ruin turned, desperately, and swept towards a rocky arch, sliding through by the barest of margins at dangerous speed. So intent on the hunt were the Avians that they followed, but the great, swept back wings of their ship would not fit where the sleek, penial design of the Spite could more easily go. There was a terrific crash behind them and the Avian ship’s wreckage blasted out of the collapsing arch like the pellets of a shotgun blast. They were safe, for now.

The Professor clapped Ace on the shoulder. “Well done that man, well done! Bang himself couldn’t have done better.” Ace didn’t doubt that and wasn’t about to argue with the man.

“Where to then Professor?” The reward they’d promised him would be half gone just fixing Man’s Ruin, he wanted this job done, now.

The Professor leant of the scope and read out coordinates, it wasn’t far. Man’s Ruin, scarred and battle worn, swept through the smoking skies and landed on her struts, the grey sand sinking beneath her weight as, pinging and crackling, the vessel began to cool.

They descended, Ace first, onto the grim surface of this ruined world. Ace’s hand was on his Eliminator, ready to draw at the first sign of trouble. The trio seemed, oddly, almost at home here. Gail was even smiling as she looked out across the wastes. Bang looked pantherish and confident, in stark contrast to his bullish overcompensation at other times. Even the Professor stood straight backed and confident, all too at home in this alien landscape.

They walked, perhaps ten score yards over the rough terrain until they found a great scar in the surface of the planet, melted rock and sand turned to glass, fragments of wreckage. A rocket ship had smashed down here and as they followed the scar to its end Ace began to feel more and more uneasy.

At the very end were the skeletal remnants of a rocket ship, oddly primitive in design, unlike any other vessel Ace had ever seen but to the trio, it seemed familiar.

“You SEE!” Roared the Quartus triumphantly. “It’s still here! Proof! Evidence that we were here first! That we discovered them! That our story, OUR story is true!” He scrambled a camera from his backpack and began to take shots as Bang clambered over the wreckage and hauled out a metal plate, inscribed, in English.

Ace’s mind reeled and he literally swayed at this news, dizzy with all its implications. He didn’t have enough time to organise his thoughts however, a rock tumbled behind him and he swung around hard, Eliminator at the ready.

“HOLD!” Roared the sneering voice of the man in the silver mask, a plasma pistol grasped in his gauntlet. “I mean you no harm Captain Slamm. I wish to talk a moment and, if you still wish to kill me, we can have it out after that.”

“Kill him!” Roared Bang, tensed to jump, but there was no way he could reach Siltar without being cut down. Ace kept his hand tight on the Eliminator and nodded to Siltar, accepting his proposal with a taciturn gesture.

“Predictable bloody Earthlings.” Muttered Siltar, stepping with distaste down the slope of the scar, as though the ground were not worthy to sully his feet. “This trio came here in the thirties, by your primitive measure. Barely had they been here a day when they began to foment revolt against the Emperor. This brainless lump even turned the eye of the Emperor’s daughter.” He gestured to Bang and, judging by the way Gail reacted, that was a sore point.

“Go on.” Ace growled roughly, without taking his eyes off Siltar, though he could sense the unease of the trio at what was being said.

“It’s because of them that the Emperor launched his war against your Earth, thinking them the vanguard of some invasion, some rebellion. Your armies beat us, but not because of your might, but rather because of what these bumbling fools accomplished against all odds here. The Empire is ruined, but at least we were beaten – so people think – in honest contest of arms. If this… crank…” Siltar pointed with the barrel of his gun at Quartus “…has his way that legend, for both our peoples, will be shattered.”

“Is this true?” Ace and Siltar shared a nod of understanding and he allowed his attention to drift to Quartus.

“Yes!” Proclaimed the man of science. “I invented space travel for our people! I discovered this place! Bang freed her people and Gail infiltrated the palace! We liberated the solar system from Dyzan’s rule!”

Ace lowered his gun and holstered it. “Millions of people died and all because you couldn’t stay out of it. All because you had to interfere. They didn’t care about Earth until you made them care.” He turned and began to trudge back towards Man’s Ruin.

Gail darted after him, recoiling as Siltar blasted a rock to atoms beside her, calling out to him. “Ace! Please! No! People have to hear the truth!”

“No, they don’t need to hear it’s our fault.” He kept on trudging.

“We had a deal! What about your reward? What about me? I’ve seen you looking at me, you’re twice the man Bang ever was!”

“Hey!” the sportsman bristled at the slight, clenching his fists.

“You can stick the reward where the sun don’t shine love.” Ace growled, without turning around. Grinding the ashen soil of Rex beneath his boots as plasma flared, three times, behind him.

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Hanging by his wrists from magnetic cuffs, deep in the bowels of Rosie’s scrapship Ace had plenty of time to think about everything that had lead up to this point. He glowered across the rusty cell at the three misfortunes that had stepped into his life and tried to work out where he’d gone wrong. Had it been taking off at such a haring rate? Had it been being willing to take these jokers to Dyzan at all? Perhaps his mistake had been shattering the arrogant German’s teeth, after all, that had attracted their attention. Going further back perhaps his mistake had been marrying Rosie in the first place, the witch knew how to bear a grudge that was certain, just his bad luck to run into her here.

They had been dragged in by the magna-beam, spiralling in to the iron moon despite all their best attempts to break free. The ship had rattled and sang as though hit by hammers, disintegrating its stores of lead in the futile struggle to escape but it was no use. The scrapship had more mass, more power and Rosie’s smarts behind its rays and beams. They had been dragged into its rusting bulk and the power had gone out. Rosie must have rigged up that power suppressor she had always been banging on about. Girl was a genius, for all that she was a bitch.

Once they were down the robots had come trundling on their wheels, raising their laser-torches threateningly and – not wanting to see harm done to Man’s Ruin and with his Eliminator refusing to work – Ace had no choice but to go along with them, stripped of his weapons and dignity and forced to elbow Bang in the gut to stop him doing something stupid. Now here they were, all hanging alongside each other and making the old adage about hanging together or separately all too accurate. Now if Gail would just shut up they could wait until Rosie calmed down and came to talk to them. She always talked in the end, despite how little good it ever did, they just had to wait a while down here until her temper abated, perhaps a year at the most.

“Just what, the hell, did you do to this woman?” Spat Gail, dangling – rather fetchingly Ace thought, in her manacles. It was hard to stay too annoyed at a broad who seemed to be doing her level best to burst out of her jacket, though his appreciative stares only seemed to drive her to further fits of apoplexy. “Let me guess, you couldn’t stay away from other women, right?”

“More like she couldn’t stay away from machines.” Ace grudgingly answered her, for a fleeting moment Gail almost looked sympathetic, that wouldn’t do. “Also she got fat.” That did the trick.

“For God’s sake, the pair of you, we need to find a way out of this. Stop bickering with this thug darling!” Bang strained manfully against his bonds, muscles bunching, sweat breaking out on his body. Ace couldn’t help but notice a wistful and far off attraction in Gail’s eyes when she looked at Bang in such a state, as if that was the man he fell in love with.

“Aha!” Professor Quartus hadn’t been paying the blindest bit of attention to the rest of them and spoke, as if nobody was there. “I could easily reverse the polarity on these cuffs and undo them… if only I had a piece of wire.”

Ace took that in and his gaze returned to Gail’s fetching bosoms. A switch clicked in his head and he pulled hard on his own chains, dragging them through the bulkhead bit by bit, making Bang’s efforts look pathetic. He strained and pulled and yanked inch by inch, staggering forward, one foot in front of the other until with one last, massive effort he grabbed Gail’s blouse and pulled.

Fabric rent and tore, Gail screamed deafeningly and there was a triple pistol-crack of snapping elastic and the magna-cuffs yanked Ace back across the cell, slamming him into the wall with Gail’s brassiere in his mitts as she twisted and turned, trying to cover herself.

“You bastard!” Screamed Bang, his face as red as a Martian’s buttocks. He went on to swear more and more, but Ace wasn’t paying attention. He bit and tore and twisted at the bra, looking for all the world like some kind of pervert but, just as Bang was running out of breath Ace, triumphantly, raised the extracted underwiring aloft.

“This do you Prof?”

The Professor clapped his bound hands together with childish glee. “That should be more than adequate!”

Ace held the wire between his boots and suspended himself from his cuffs, grunting in pain, passing the wire across to the Professor. A little fiddling and one by one they were all free, rubbing their wrists. Gail turned into the corner and tied her torn blouse under her bosoms, a sidelong look at Bang, wondering why he wasn’t protecting her honour perhaps but the truth was, the success of the escape had taken the wind out of his sales.

Ace shouldered to the door, rusting junk like the rest the ship, it gave way pretty quickly before his efforts. “Prof, can you do the wire-trick to the magna-beam as well?”

“I don’t see why not, provided we can get back to the bay. Yes, that should be simple enough, provided the matrix is of a reasonably standard configuration. High school physics really.” He grinned his superior grin and rubbed his rounded temples. “If you can get us past the robots of course.”

Ace tore piping from the walls and tossed one section to Bang, who caught it out of the air. “Can you smash a robot Bang?” The sportsman nodded and the pair of them took to the corridor, charging bullishly ahead of the Professor and Gail.

The door to the hangar cranked open, bit by bit, smoke billowed through, followed by Ace and Bang, covered with oil, bent cogs and scrap rolling ahead of them. They slouched into the hangar with battered pipes in hand, bloodied, torn, piles of scrapped ‘bots behind them, fizzing and hissing, crackling and flashing with shorting power.

Ace groaned and rolled his eyes. There was one obstacle left, Rosie.

She was still an impressive woman. Amazonian in her physique, albeit a bit broader in the beam than she had been when they’d married – he’d told the truth about that. Her red hair was tied back with a polka-dotted handkerchief and she wore heavy gloves, a black-stained pair of dungarees and heavy steel-toed boots. Ace’s Eliminator was in her fist, aimed squarely at them and her eyes – set in a face where freckles and oil competed to dominate. “Hello Ace, I think that’s far enough.”

A screen flickered into life behind her, a great looming presence appearing in it, black hooded and cloaked, his face hidden behind a silver mask. Only one person ever wore a mask like that, ever, the second in command of the dead Dyzan Emperor, Commander Siltar, a man whose immobile face was etched into the nightmares of so many soldiers. “Well done Miss Stone. I trust they’ll give you no more trouble now.”

Rosie swept the eliminator back and forth across the group, covering them. “It will take a while for the robots to come up from B deck, but I’ll have them back in a cell soon enough. You’d better keep your side of the bargain though.”

“I will tell you where the imperial fleet graveyard is once the problem is dealt with.” The man with the silver face steepled his fingers before him. “By ‘dealt with’ I mean kill them. Now.”

Rosie faltered, the Eliminator swayed a fraction. “Kill them? Ace too?”

“Yes.” Siltar sighed, he was used to being obeyed instantly by lackeys. Things had gone to pot since the fall of the Empire.

“You don’t want to kill me.” Ace said, palms raised, his eyes like a hawk, trained upon the wavering barrel of the Eliminator. “You still have feelings for me… don’t you Rosie. We can make it work again, I know we can.” Step by step he paced closer, edging to striking distance.

“What?” Rosie looked at him like he’d just turned into a green hippo, eyes wide, lip curled in a sneer, her hands going to her hips like the always did when she got in a strop with him. “If I kill you, how the hell am I supposed to gloat and torture you for everything you did to me?”

Ace sprang, as much to shut her up as to escape. His ham-hock fist smashed her full in the face, crunching her nose under his knuckles and sending her sprawling to the deck with a face full of blood. The Eliminator span into the air as it fell from her grasp and Ace snatched it in his fist, blasting Siltar’s screen into a thousand shards of burning glass.

“Professor?”

“Already way ahead of you.” Smirked the professor, worrying away at the innards of a bulkhead with the bent piece of bra-wire. There was a subtle change in the hum around them as something switched over.

“Bu doke by dobe!” Rosie gargled, spitting blood and bits of teeth.

The gantry slid down from Man’s ruin and they began to board quickly, running up the steps with a clatter of feet on metal. Ace turned at the top, levelling the Eliminator at Rosie as she struggled to sit up.

“I should vape you where you sit.” He muttered, grimacing as he stared at her bloodied face. “But I’m not that much of a bastard.”

The hatch swung shut and as Rosie crawled away on her hands and knees to get away, Man’s Ruin blasted away on a column of atomic fire, sweeping away from the iron moon and out once more into the big black.

Back at the controls Ace brooded, brow furrowed, grinding his teeth in agitation. The others had the sense to stay out of his way, but not Gail. She’d found his old engineer’s coveralls and changed into them, since he’d torn her blouse. She leaned against the cabin door and fixed Ace’s reflection in the glass with a curious look. “Just what the hell did you do to that woman besides marry her?”

Ace twisted in his seat and sucked his teeth, his fists clenched the arms of his seat as he looked up into her eyes and for once, told a woman the truth. “I got her pregnant.”

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Ace slumped over the chipped formica of the counter and gripped another full glass of scotch in his scarred and meaty fist. He was a great bull of a man, swaying slightly in his drunken haze and running his hand through the thick beard and tangled locks of a man who’d spent a long time in space. His battered flight jacket had a faded RAF roundel on the back and his denim was worn thin from wear and stained with oil. Low on his hip hung an Eliminator pistol in a worn-smooth holster, but nobody in The Proxima Bar seemed to pay it any heed.

A gloved hand smacked down on Ace’s shoulder, starting him, making him spill a little of his scotch over the filthy bar.

“Mein Herr, you are Englisher, yes? I recognise zer badge on your jacket. Royal Marines, ya?”

Ace grunted and started licking the spilled whisky from his fingertips, giving the German a sidelong glance. The German, and his two friends behind him, grinning and muttering to each other. That was all the response he gave them, not a single word otherwise.

“Kriegsmarine.” The German said, pointing to himself and his friends. “Picked up your mess on Gelida, ja? When you broke and ran?”

Ace tossed back the scotch and span the squeaking stool around, setting his jaw, grinding his teeth until his jaw muscles bunched, staring deep into the German’s eyes with an unwavering stare. The big blonde man wilted slightly under Ace’s drunken glare, but couldn’t back down in front of his friends.

“Run and hide. Like little girls. While we fight and die, like men.”

Ace sized him up, ignoring his words and his fruity accent as the German regained some of his courage, puffing out his chest like a strutting cockatoo. Huffing and puffing as his friends laughed behind him her jabbered away like it meant anything. Ace ground his teeth harder and then with the power and speed of a tiger, he pounced, lashing out with the glass in his hand and ramming the base of it into the German’s big mouth.

Teeth crunched, glass shattered. The barman studiously ignored it all, turning away and intently polishing his glass. The man choked on blood, and shards and fell back, clutching his ruined mouth with both of his hands. His friends were stunned, standing there with their mouths open as the stream of invective has cut off in an instant.

Ace wasn’t above kicking a man while he was down and slipping from the stool, reared back his steel-toed boot and drove it with uncaring force deep into the bleeding man’s crotch. His eyes bulged near out of their sockets – at least he was distracted from the ruin of his mouth. He toppled with glacial slowness, sideways onto the ground as Ace jabbed a finger at the other two Kriegsmarine.

“Want some you crumbs?” Ace finally spoke, his voice like someone gargling gravel.

One of the Germans turned and ran, his tail between his legs, the other one grabbed a bottle and smashed it against the side of the table. Ace sighed and clenched his fist but before the two could join battle a burly, blond haired man smashed a stool over the top of the German’s head and he went down like a puppet with its strings cut.

“Could of handled him.” Muttered Ace, turning back to his drink.

The blond muscled up to Ace and offered his hand. “Damn Mister, but you can fight. Put ‘er there. I’m Bang Donnybrook. These are my friends, Gail and Professor Quartus.”

Ace didn’t take his hand, but he turned his head and gave all three of them the once over with his steely eyes.

The blond was a big, broad man but too clean shaven and picture-perfect to be a veteran, though he had a couple of scars here and there and clearly thought of himself as a capable man. He was grinning his perfect white teeth, hand still thrust out, trying not to look insulted that Ace hadn’t shook it, but he was.

The Professor was a mischievous imp of a man with strong Semitic features and a wicked, mirthful intelligence behind his eyes. A slide rule was tucked into the pocket of his patch-elbowed jacket and he managed to exude, all at once, the confident intellect of a genius and the louche arrogance of a hop-head. “Given your skills…” He said, smiling at Ace’s snubbing of his blond friend “…we have a proposition for you. If you might be interested.”

Ace considered, licking the taste of the scotch from his teeth as he turned his eyes on the last member of the trio. She was a raven-haired beauty with a great rack, hidden away though it was in a severe professional woman’s dress. Maybe a reporter or something? Nice gams too, skirt hugging them like a glove. She shifted a little uncomfortably under his eyes and it was clear by the wrinkle of her nose that his raggedy looks and brutal nature disgusted her.

“Say your piece.” Ace rumbled, setting his haunches back on the worn barstool and signalling the barkeep for another glass.

“We’ll need you sober.” The woman, Gail, sniffed, tugging her purse tighter to her body.

“If he says yes.” The professor remarked with a snort of laughter.

“Let’s hear it, once I say yes I’ll be sober on your time.” Ace grabbed the glass and held it, waiting to hear what they had to say.

“We need a pilot.” Said Bang, the blond giant.

“So hop a passenger ship. You don’t need me.”

“We’re going to Dyzan.” The professor said, leaning forward in an arch, conspiratorial whisper.

“In the post-war chaos and with the civil war going on there?” Ace stared at the trio like they were retarded. “Why the hell would you want to go there?”

“That’s our business.” Said Bang, trying to reassert his leadership and dominance over the Professor, who was clearly his intellectual superior. “We’ll pay you well.”

Gail opened her purse and stepped forward, showing its contents to Ace. Gold glittered inside, and more, the unmistakable lustre of Gelidan sapphires and the golden gleam of a Dyzan slave harness. Perhaps not a King’s random, but at least a Prince’s ransom, more than enough to risk the war-torn planet Dyzan, Earth’s hidden twin behind the sun, the exotic and deadly world that had invaded the Earth and brought an end to the war, until they were overthrown. The last thing Ace wanted to do was go back there, he’d killed enough of the Dyzanian people to last him a lifetime. Then again… money and even though Bang and Gail wore matching rings she wouldn’t be the first married woman he’d seduced away from her husband – if he managed it.

Ace stroked his stubbled chin and downed his glass. “I’ll do it. My ship’s in the dock. We can leave whenever you want.”

They were in a hurry and grabbed their bags, all but hustling Ace out of the bar and then letting him take the lead, barrelling down the crowded street in a drunken swagger and shoving people out of his way, swearing like a sailor as a jetpack swooshed little too close overhead.

Even drunk Ace could tell they were on edge and that put him on edge. He could tell they were being followed as they made their way to the off-shore private spaceport. It was a rusting hole, but Ace couldn’t land at Manhatten Spaceport any more. Not after that ‘incident’ with the customs patrol.

Paranoid as years of war and betrayal had made him, it didn’t take Ace long to spot the men who were following them. Trenchcoats and hats, they couldn’t look any more suspicious if they were trying to. Ace took a roundabout route and turning a corner, wheeled around. “Hide.” He grunted to the trio and turned back, peering his head around the corner.

The three men were walking abreast with grim intent. Ace wasn’t the type to take any chances and drew his eliminator, thumbing the safety. The sleek and deadly blaster hummed in his hand and he stepped out into the alley, levelling it at the man in the centre.

There was a whip-crack of annihilated air particles as he depressed the firing stud. The ravening beam lanced out and struck the man full in the chest, burning a glowing hole the size of a football through his chest and melting the bricks behind him.

To their credit the others didn’t scream, didn’t run, they drew their own weapons and sprang to the sides of the alley, their hats falling from their heads, revealing the polished domes and horseshoe moustaches typical of imperial warriors from Dyzan, some remnant of the Emperor’s guard intent on revenge perhaps. Their golden fist-guns cracked and sparked, invisible bolts of energy striking the wall behind Ace and exploding the brickwork into red-glowing fragments.

Ace calmly stood as the bolts struck around him, dialling the Eliminator’s emitter to maximum apeture and levelling it down the alleyway, thumbing the firing stud for a second time. There was no snap-crack this time, the dispersed energy was nowhere near as powerful. He kept the stud down as the air shimmered under the power of the beam. Scraps of paper burst into flame, paint peeled. The men from Dyzan screamed as their clothing smouldered and caught, lighting them up as human torches. Ace calmly paced towards them, narrowing the apeture as they screamed and rolled on the ground, playing it over them like a hose until they melted like candles thrust into a hearth. Finally the last, bubbling scream came to a halt and he took his finger off the stud.

Almost immediately he sprang to a ready stance again, a whirl of black robes ducking back around the corner out of sight, an enemy he had missed. A skilful one. All the more reason to get away and all too good an indicator that there was much more to this than the trio had told him. Wasn’t that just his luck?

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I thought you might enjoy this art for a fiction project, made for me by Rowena Aitken.

The short story it goes with can currently be found HERE but will soon be found on this blog, along with the rest of my fiction writing posts.

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