not decide if her daily jaunt to the space port and the surrounding repair
shops were due to the Marauder's needs or to get away. With Ellie
recovering she found herself trapped with Korbyn. She could barely handle
him in small doses.
She watched her
steps in the gray slushy snow that covered the pitiful excuse for a
street. Rachel knew the passages by heart… and the smells. Although the
creatures that inhabited this half-frozen hellhole were from a number of
worlds their personal hygiene never seemed to be considered a priority.
the street corner, stepping over a man lying in the small doorway. He was
either sleeping or dead. It did not matter. She paused, looking at the
shoeless man. Dead! She sighed
deeply. This place had changed her. She new better than to dwell on that
thought. It could, if allowed, loosen her grip on reality. She quickened
the pace, as if that would permit her to escape such musings.
As she turned
the final corner to the space port she slammed into him. The collision
knocked her down into the cold wet slush. She quickly recovered, pulling
her pulse gun from her overcoat.
Her eyes did not leave his. The man leaned forward as if to help her up. She pointed the pulse gun at him. He coolly stepped back, raising his hands. Rachel got to one knee. She felt her heart pound in her chest. She had run-ins before with the locals but she always had Ellie and her Neanderthal to bail her out.
“Back off pal!”
She spat, standing.
dressed in an unusually clean black uniform and cloak, continued to step
back his hands in the air. “You should be more careful, miss.”
He studied her
closely. “What are…?”
She could see
him struggle to ask a question that Rachel had heard more then once here
on Acheron. His voice was strange, rather soft with an accent she had
never heard before with or without translator microbes.
answered quickly, trying not to sound nervous. “Now why don’t you go on
your way… and leave me alone!”
For the first
time she noticed that he was not Sebacean. His eyes were as green as
grass, a stark contrast to the shades of gray that populated this dismal
world. She found herself drawn to the stranger's eyes. He had no pupils.
If she didn’t know better, her racing heart seemed to slow. It was almost
as if time itself was slowing. Rachel could not take her eyes off the
forward, moving with incredible speed. He pulled her gun from her hand and
tossing it into the slush behind them. Rachel moved sluggishly. Her
reaction by comparison seemed to be minutes too late.
fuck!” Her words slightly slurred. She stumbled back, her head clearing as
He moved up
next to her as she fell to the ground. Her legs felt numb. “Relax. It will
pass. I wont hurt you. I thought you were a Peacekeeper.”
His soft calm
voice did nothing to sooth the instinctual need to escape. She continued
to move. Her strength returned with every step. She pushed off the
perimeter wall of the space port. And continued back in the direction she
moved in front of her blocking her way. “I am sorry. Give it a moment and
it will pass.” This time he did not look at her, his eyes trained at the
ground between them.
in the direction of the space port. With any luck she could make it to the
entrance. Elle always warned her to stay in the crowd. Don’t be alone. Well, as always,
it sounded stupid. Until now.
“What do you…” Her voice died at the sound of marching boots. She turned slowly and saw them. Four Peacekeepers appeared in the entrance of the space port.
In unison they started moving away from the port. They did not run. They moved with purpose but not in a way to raise attention. They turned the corner. The stranger surveyed the narrow street for an escape rout. Rachel slipped past him.
quickly and quietly. Past the dead man, she ducked into a doorway. The
stranger continued past her down the long street. She knew there was no
cover there and something in her called out him. “Hey! Back here!”
stumbled past the corpse sprawled out on the street. Rachel pounded twice
on the door then spoke three words in Tavlecein poorly. The rusted old
door opened. The sounds of quiet conversation and the smell of Reslac and
cooking meat met them. Rachel walked in cautiously, the stranger at her
behind the closed door listening for the Peacekeepers' footfalls as they
continued past. Rachel had seen such things before. “A retrieval squad.
They have one target and that’s all they are interested in."
She turned back to face the stranger. He had pulled the hood up on his cloak and now looked like a movie extra from the last episode of Star Wars.
are looking for you? Well, it was nice.” Rachel said sarcastically as she
passed him and entered the bar proper.
inside stopped briefly to see if they were friend or foe. Rachel nodded to
the eyeless Tavlek bouncer whose only job was to allow only those the Boss
found worthy to pass. The stranger trailed behind, following her deeper
into the pub. “They are not looking for me… specifically. I, however, am
looking for survivors.”
She stopped and
turned, realizing he right behind her. “Look, pal, leave me out of this or
I will go out there and call them back this way.”
regretted it when she saw the expression of dread that came to his face.
She suddenly felt sorry for him. “Survivor? Well, sorry, hon, you are
asking the wrong person. Hell if you are here, you have survived
towards the stranger. He looked at her puzzled. She crossed her arms and
started over. “Survivors of what?”
surprised by her question. He raised his hands palms up towards her and
spoke softly “Casival.”
She looked at
his hands and then back to his haunting eyes. “I am sorry. I don’t know
anything about a Casival. Look you really are asking the wrong person. I
have only been here a month… errr four weekens so I don’t know anyone by
He smiled sadly
and turned to survey the small crowd. “You must be cold. Let me buy you a
drink.” He signaled her to a small booth near the central open
narrowed suspiciously. “Why?”
smiled widened. “Because you saved me from those Peacekeepers. Nothing
at the hooded stranger for a long time. She trusted no one. It was what
she knew would keep her alive. But this man who fit in less then she did
on this hell hole of a world seemed to need her. There was no other way to
explain it. She tilted her head and pulled back her overcoat to show him
she still had a second pulse gun.
“OK. One!” She sat at the far end of the table from him. Resting her hand on her gun.
The server approached them, but the stranger did not look up from under his cloak. He gestured to Rachel who looked at the weathered old man. “Reslac. Hot!”
She smiled at
the stranger. “Make that two and make them full tankards. Don’t skimp or I
will have to talk to the Boss.” She relished the small power given to her
by Sellus March, a local thug she had saved with the help of her trusty
AutoDoc the first week they had arrived here.
The old man
quickly returned with the steaming metal cylinders. As he placed them on
the rotting table the old man caught a glimpse of the stranger's eyes. He
recoiled clutching both his hands to his chest. He scampered off
reaction alarmed Rachel. She studied him as she waited for the Reslac to
cool. He merely looked down at the steam coming from the dark fluid. “I
would say that he didn't like you… Why?”
smiled sadly, still not looking up from his drink. “Children's tales about
my people.” He sighed. “Ignorance is the greatest gift the Peacekeepers
have given the universe.”
Rachel sat back
slightly as she inhaled the strong burnt aroma of Reslack. It was one of
the few things here that reminded her of earth. Although most of the other
races here got incredibly high from the stuff, Rachel would only be kept
up at night. Asher could not believe the amount she could drink and not
Rachel tried to
figure out what it was about Reslac that was different from coffee back
home. Hell, Starbuck’s could have taken over the galaxy if it was here.
She smiled at her companion who kept his view down toward his cylinder.
Rachel watched him sitting there. He seemed content to just stare into his
cylinder. “What's your name?”
The stranger's thoughts seemed to have been elsewhere. “What?” He finally looked up at her. His green eyes seemed iridescent in the darkness of his hood. “I am sorry I as…”
His mind caught
up to her question. “Starric Gorran Reht” He smiled sadly at her. “And
not stop looking at his impossibly green eyes. It wasn’t until he trained
them back on the drink in front of him that she could speak. She did not
know why, but she chose to use her dreaded middle name. She had hated that
name even though it was her mother's and she would have had it removed if
she had had the time. “Rachel Bertha Northway”
his head slightly. “Well, Bertha, it is nice to meet you.
She found it
strange he would call her by her middle name. “Rachel, no one calls me by
my middle name.”
“Yes, sorry, old habits. I was never much of an off-worlder. Call me
Gorran” He touched his glass but yet didn’t drink from it. “Rachel, have
you seen any others who look like me?” He raised one hand to the side of
his face gesturing to his eyes. “In any of your travels?” There was an
edgy excitement to his voice as he asked the question.
"No, I mean I
really haven’t been around very…"
“I didn’t think
so.” He smiled politely but Rachel could see that he was disappointed.
Beep of a communicator interrupted. Gorran pulled what looked like a
golden stick from his cloak. The muffled voice of a woman was all Rachel
could tell. “It’s a little late Petra… Yes I avoided them… With the help
of a new friend." He glanced back up at Rachel.
isn’t the kind of place they would hide.” His voice became softer. “Too
many Sebaceans. I will head back shortly Tell Helrec to plot a course to
the next system.”
“While we are
out here we will not stop looking. There must be others!” His voice became
louder then he had expected. “Gorran out!” He pressed the center of the
little stick and placed it in his cloak again.
looking for these survivors?” She moved slightly closer to Gorran.
“Survivors of what?”
don’t know what I am do you. “ Gorran chuckled sarcastically.
her arms and looked coolly at Gorran. Ellie and Korbyn always treated her
like that. It was one of the few pleasure of having Ellie back on Earth,
letting her be the fish out of water. “Like I said, I am new to these
slightly closer keeping his voice down. “I am a Vladic.”
“And I am a
Republican. I am sure that means as much to you as Vladic means to me.
What is it? A religion, race, political belief , a sexual
lit up with a smile that almost shocked Rachel. “You are most unusual,
Rachel” He laughed quietly. “I have never met anyone like you.” Gorran's
brief smile faded. He receded beneath hood of his cloak. “Two years ago my
race was nearly exterminated by the Peacekeepers. A few of us survived and
I am here looking for others.”
down at her almost empty tankard. “Gorran I am sorry?” She was surprised
by her sadness. “How? Why?”
He smiled again
but this time it was masked in bitterness. “That’s a long story and I have
to go.” Gorran stood from the table he raised his palms up and bowed
slightly.” Thank you Rachel Bertha Northway may the gods point you to good
her head as she asked the question “For what?” She stood trying to look
into his haunting eyes.
He edged past
her. “For caring…”
“Just a minute.
You can't just leave like this…” Rachel realized she was scolding him like
she did with Ellie. “What if I meet others like you? Do have a meeting
place? A message?”
He stopped and
turned slowly back to her. He stepped closer and bent down to whisper into
“You can give
them this.” He pulled what looked like a coin from his pocket. He brought
it close to her face. His fingers traced across the image stamped on the
disk. “Tell them to follow the tears of the Blood stone. We are
at the image. It occurred to her the image must be some form of map or a
about to ask another question when he looked into his face. His eyes
seemed different. Pupils. She saw small black pupils. The room grew dark.
She felt the slow pounding of her heart.
Rachel woke to
the sound of the server banging on the table in front of her. “That will
be eight Solaris.” The old man scowled. “And if you have one of them
in-ere again I am gonna tell the Boss. We need not those things
Her head was
swimming as she tried to focus on the server. “What… What
Whatever! The Live Feeders!” He pointed towards the two cylinders in front
of her. “Now pay me for the drinks!”
“Ya, ya, ok.”
Rachel looked around the Pub. Gorran was gone. She smiled. “Sure.. He was going to buy me a drink.”
She placed her hand in her pocket and retrieved some bars of cash. Among
them was the disk that Gorran left. Clutching it tightly in her hand, she
paid the server and left the pub, checking the streets before she headed
back to her shit hole of a residence.
checked on Ellie. Although she still slept most of the day and night she
was much stronger. Rachel moved next to the common room where lunkhead was
cleaning a pulse riffle. She sat on the rickety stool across from him. He
paid no attention to her being there. He continued his meticulous
Rachel sat back crossing her arms. “You ever hear of Casival?”
He stopped mid
stroke in the polishing of the dismantled weapon. He looked at her for a
long time then went back to work. “Yes. Why?”
not knowing if she really wanted to know what Korbyn knew. “Tell
He looked back
at her. Korbyn was no fool and knew something was going on. “It’s a world
on the edge of Hynerian space. The Hynerian Empire acquisitioned it and
hired the Peacekeepers to extract the population.”
Rachel had to clear her throat. “ You mean exterminate?”
at Rachel “Doc, you know that the Peacekeepers do some things really
well.” He looked back at his gun. “I think you would be hard pressed to
find one now.” He put his gun down fetching some instrument from the
floor. “Just as well…”
Rachel was not
surprised by Korbyn's response. "Why?"
“They are live
feeders. You know… blood suckers!”
was surprised by the statement. “What do you mean blood suckers?”
at her. "Vladics they only drink blood! Or maybe the correct statement is
that they used to drink blood.“ His smiled disappeared. “Doc, did
you see one? Where? Tell me?” He demanded. There was an excitement in his
voice. “Do know the bounty on one?”
Rachel got up and started to walk away. “ I just heard some guys talking
at Sellus March’s place… that’s all.” She knew it was time to derail the
conversation. “So did you get the gravimetric drive coils for the marauder
yet or did you loose them again in a game of Deggi?”
His silence was
all she needed for an answer.
Rachel walked to the grimy window at the rear of the small dwelling. She looked up at the gray sky where a glimpse of a few stars could be seen. She held the little disk in her pocket and wondered about Gorran. A smile came to her face.
“Just my luck,
running into the only vampire in the galaxy!” She turned the disk over and
over again in her pocket. I hope we
meet again, Gorran.