The Starhawk Chronicles: Chapter One

The Starhawk Chronicles: Chapter One

A Story by Joseph J. Madden
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First chapter of my novel, The Starhawk Chronicles, available as a paperback and e-book from Amazon.com

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The Starhawk Chronicles: Chapter One

by

Joseph J. Madden

Obudon City Spaceport, Planet Ryca

Just once, why can’t these dirtbags try hiding on a nice, resort planet? Jesse Forster thought as he made his way through the milling crowds, mindful of the traffic as he crossed a busy thoroughfare. They always pick the most miserable places to go to ground. Information better be right this time. I want off this planet.

At least there was no rain. That much he was grateful for. Ryca in its rainy season was even worse of a slophole than it was now. The streets were muddy; the sidewalk was muddy, making navigation treacherous as his boots made wet, sluck-ing sounds with each step.

He stopped before a dingy, windowless, two-story adobe building with a single carved wooden sign hanging above the door that read: The Wandering Nomad, Libations & Intoxicants for All Species.

On the surface, there was nothing at all special about the Wandering Nomad. For the most part, it seemed no different from any other low-scale establishment in any city on any planet in the galaxy. Tonight, however, this particular watering hole was special.

His prey was here.

He paused as he stepped through the old-style wooden saloon doors, making a long survey of the crowd inhabiting the interior. A pair of spaceport punks, looking not much younger than he was, glowered when he ventured too near. He returned the look, flipping the folds of his duster back to reveal the twin Colt 77 laser pistols he wore on each hip, and the two toughs decided they had better things to discuss.  Paying them no more mind, he continued scanning the establishment. His quarry was not hard to find.

Seated at a table in an alcove near the back, shielded by a pale haze of blue smoke from his smoldering cigar, the man was trying desperately to look inconspicuous. The tailored purple suit he wore around his wide girth clashed with the attire of the establishment’s regulars�"mostly starship captains and their crews, smugglers, vice peddlers, and the assorted trash who filtered through this part of town at all hours. Jesse shook his head. Might just as well be sitting under a neon sign.

Watching the man for a few seconds longer, Jesse then turned his attention to some of the other patrons as he worked his way toward the bar. Gravelly har-harring laughter drew his attention to a table at the rail of the upper balcony, where an older man with a mop of silver-white hair carried on an animated conversation with one of the prettier waitresses. The man glanced down and briefly met Jesse’s gaze, nodded, then resumed his conversation with the woman’s breasts.

Reaching the bar, he ordered an ale from the amphibian bartender. Turning, he rested his elbows on the bar behind him and continued to survey the other patrons.

A gleeful roar erupted from one of the gaming tables in the back. A goat-faced Rycan thrust a clenched three-fingered fist in the air in a sign of victory as the dealer piled multiple stacks of gaming chips before him. In one corner, a tarnished DJ droid was letting loose with a decades old funk-tune that no one seemed to be listening to anyway.

Despite the datedness of the music, he found himself humming along until he caught sight of two beings seated near the stage. The taller of the two, a Vor’na’cik, was covered with green, armored scales. His face ended in a piggish snout and his large pointed ears had tufts of fine grey hair at the ends. Its companion was half the Vor’na’cik’s height, covered in mottled brown and white fur, with large, expressive eyes. Its short round ears twitched nervously every few seconds. Like the man on the upper balcony, the Warwick met Jesse’s gaze and nodded before turning back to his companion.

There was a tap on his shoulder, and Jesse turned just enough to accept his drink from the bartender. Taking a swig, he dropped some credits on the bar and proceeded toward his quarry’s table.

The object of Jesse’s attention was staring into his glass, trying his best to keep from drawing attention to himself. A plate of fatty, half-eaten grommet ribs was pushed off to one side. He tried hard not to notice Jesse’s approach, obviously hoping that his visitor would go away if ignored long enough. Jesse shrugged off his jacket, tossed it on the table, and slid into the opposite seat. The man regarded him with eyes bloodshot with fatigue and stress.

“You’re Forster, the bounty hunter. Captain Kid,” the man said, brushing the long white hair of his mohawk away from small, beady eyes set deep in a face thick with jowls.

“And you are Aril Krebs, vice-president of Pulsar Industries, maker of some of the finest holo-vid entertainment systems in the galaxy. Now you’re wanted for the murder of your boss, Jason Farrees, President of Pulsar Industries.” Jesse took another drink as he raised one leg, nonchalantly resting one boot on the tabletop.

“I had hoped you had maybe mistaken me for someone else,” Krebs pulled a grommet rib from the plate, placing the whole thing, bone and all, in his mouth. After a moment of rolling it around on his tongue, he spat the bone back out on the table, cleaned of all meat. He wiped away a spot of grease from one corner of his mouth with a fat finger. “I’m surprised it took you this long to find me.”

“Surprised me, too,” Jesse ran his free hand through his unkempt blond hair before returning it lightly to the hilt of the pistol at his hip. “Considering you didn’t do a very good job of covering your tracks.”

Krebs’s eyes went vacant as he stared into his glass, his voice trembling as he spoke. “I didn’t mean to kill him, you know. I just took leave of my senses. Didn’t realize what I was doing until it was all over.”

Jesse nodded. “I believe you. I saw the security vid. What I believe, however, doesn’t really matter. I’m still bringing you in.”

Krebs kept his silence for a long moment, still staring at the amber liquid in his glass, shaking his head. When he looked up, his rodent eyes had taken on a hopeful gleam. “What are they paying you? I can double whatever they offer! I’ll triple it!”

Yeah, I was waiting for that. Jesse sighed in disgust. Any sympathy he may have held for the man dissipated like the smoke from his cigar. “Don’t make me shoot you under the table. I hate when someone offers me a bribe. If I had a credit for every time someone’s pulled that one, I wouldn’t still be doing this for a living.”

He leaned forward over the table so quickly that Krebs jerked back in his seat in surprise.  His voice was a harsh rasp when he spoke again. “You killed a man. I don’t care about your reasons or whether it was justified or not. You killed him, you ran, and now it’s my job to bring you in to stand trial.”

They regarded each other in tense silence for several seconds, before Jesse settled back in his seat, his tone conversational once more. “Besides, money was a secondary concern in this case. I owe the Farrees family a favor. This just turns out to be a convenient way to pay them back.”

Krebs’s shoulders sagged, giving him the look that he was deflating. Sighing, he gave Jesse a half-hearted smile. “I had to try.”

With a speed that caught Jesse off-guard, Krebs upended the table and bolted for the back exit. Jesse, one leg still propped on the table, went over backwards, his head hitting the ground hard. The plate of grommet ribs crashed to the floor inches from him, meat and juices spattering in all directions.

Jesse staggered to his feet, shaking his head as he drew his twin pistols, swearing in multiple languages. An animal shriek caught his attention. The Warwick seated near the stage had leapt onto the bar. Launching into the air, he landed hard on Krebs’s back, the two crashing to the floor, upending tables in the process.

Jesse fought his way through the ranks of spectators, the Vor’na’cik doing the same. The older man from the balcony leapt over the railing and down, scattering the patrons seated at the table he landed on.

A yelp of pain issued from the Warwick. Jesse saw Krebs get to his feet, a razor-thin dagger dripping blood in his hand. He shoved through the crowd and continued for the rear door.

Jesse, the older man, and the Vor’na’cik all reached their companion at the same time. Looking down at his injured companion, the older man turned his attention to the fugitive. “He’s mine!” he growled, already starting to push through the crowd.

Jesse grabbed his arm before he could get far. “Don’t bother.”

The muffled sound of laserfire rang out, and Krebs came crashing back through the door, landing unconscious atop a gaming table. The Rycan gambler assailed the inert fugitive with a plethora of obscenities for scattering his winnings across the floor.

A saucer-shaped droid measuring a half-meter across hovered through the shattered doorframe on a repulsor field. Its body had a brushed chrome surface, marred by a single scorch mark that ran nearly dead center across the top of its plating. Numerous appendages tipped with instruments were folded against its underside. Yellow photoreceptors peered out from between twin stun guns trained on the unconscious Krebs.

“Good work, Sneaker!” Jesse called. He turned his attention back to his smaller companion, who was just now struggling to sit up. “You okay, little brother?”

Podo Forster nodded as he sat up, clutching an arm as blood stained the white patches of his fur a sickly pink. “It’s not bad. He just nicked me. What ticks me off  is, it wasn’t his knife. He pulled it out of my boot while we were struggling.”

Jesse smiled, tapping the buttons on the comm-band on his wrist. “Starhawk, this is Forster.”

A millisecond of static, then a female voice issued from the speaker. “Tirannis here, Cap’n.”

“Kym, you and Bokschh get the med-bay ready. Podo’s been hurt.” Hearing her worried gasp, he added, “Don’t worry. He’ll live. Morogo’s bringing him in.”

“Good,” The relief in the woman’s voice was palpable. “What about our objective?”

“All taken care of. K’Tran and I will be along as soon as we collect the bounty. Forster out.”

Jesse patted Podo on the shoulder and, with the Vor’na’cik’s aid, helped him to his feet. Once certain he was steady enough to walk, Morogo began guiding him to the doorway.

As the crowd of spectators began to disperse, K’Tran Pasker walked over to Krebs and placed a pair of manacles on his wrists. Though only in his early fifties, his shaggy white hair and leathery skin gave the impression that he was quite a bit older. His gray eyes still held a youthful gleam, and his body was lean and muscular.

Jesse turned to the bartender, and caught the who’s-going-to-pay-for-this look on its face. Before actually voicing his concern, Jesse dropped a pile of credits in his hand.

Turning from the barman, Jesse tossed some more credits to the game dealer and more yet to the Rycan, who was still cursing Krebs. The Rycan looked down at the credits, promptly ending his verbal assault. Looking at Jesse, its face twisted into its species equivalent of a grin. It saluted him with the upthrust fist gesture.

Jesse returned the salute and turned away. He found it almost comical how K’Tran was struggling to lift Krebs over one shoulder. “He’s a heavy b*****d.” Gasping, the older man strained with the effort. “I think I’m getting too old for this.”

“You could always retire again. Try your hand at something else.”

“Sure.” He brushed white strands of hair away from his face. “Maybe I’ll apply for vice-president of Pulsar Industries. I heard the position’s open.”

Jesse laughed and returned to the alcove where Krebs had been seated, scooping up his jacket from where it had fallen on the floor. Spatterings of grommet sauce were evident on the item and he sighed. Just had the damn thing cleaned.

He shared a glance with his companion, noticing that the little droid hovered at the older man’s shoulder, refusing to take its eyes or weapons off Krebs.

“Sneaker,” Jesse called, trying to gain the droids notice. When no response was forthcoming, Jesse rapped the top of its dome just hard enough to gain its attention. Photoreceptors swiveled to focus on Jesse, weapons staying trained on Krebs as K’Tran carried him out of the building. “It’s all over, Sneaker. Stand down. We got the bad guy.”

Sneaker burbled a response; guns retracting beneath its dome. Smiling, Jesse pointed in the direction K’Tran had taken. “Lead the way."


The Starhawk Chronicles, the adventures of bounty hunter Jesse Forster and the crew of the Starhawk, now on sale as an e-book and paperback from Amazon.

 

 

My blog, Getting My Geek On, can be read here:

 

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© 2014 Joseph J. Madden


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Added on May 4, 2014
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Tags: space, science fiction, space opera, aliens, battles, star wars, star trek, buck rgers, action, adventure, battlestar galactica, babylon 5, firefly

Author

Joseph J. Madden
Joseph J. Madden

Sheboygan, WI



About
Born and raised in NY, I now live in WI with my wife and three daughters. A long time fan of science fiction and fantasy, these are my genres of choice to read and write in. My first novel, The .. more..

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