Chuck Wendig has a Flash Fiction contest all about the Space Operas. So I decided to cap off the Dark Half Trilogy with this little number. Enjoy!
*Psst! Here’s Part Two!*
“Mine is a righteous wrath,” the giant Jovian said. His dark red skin was pulled taught over ropy muscles, bound like steel cables over his body. “And the bodies of my fallen brethren will be avenged.”
“I don’t care how righteous you think you are. In the end, the result is the same,” the warlord said.
The Jovian grinned and swung wildly at him. The warlord dodged expertly, leaving a gaping wound on the Jovian’s arm. The Jovian swung again, getting closer this time, but the warlord stayed out of reach, his void swords whipping back and forth and leaving a web of crisscrossing cuts on the Jovian’s skin. Emilio watched nervously. They had fought and killed many today but while Emilio stuck mostly to his guns, the warlord had been hacking away with various void swords, torch knives and vibro-shuriken. He could tell that even with his enhanced Barsumi physiology, the warlord was tiring. Emilio readied his plasma rod and lightning pistol when he noticed a shadow from above. He rolled out of the way of a hail of spike fire. On the ceiling an Amtri assassin cackled gleefully.
“Earthman run?” the assassin asked. Emilio replied with a barrage of his own, cratering the ceiling where the assassin clung. The atomized ceiling smoke cleared and Emilio saw he had missed his mark. The Amtri’s forked tongue flicked in and out, tasting the burning steel flavored air. “Earthman fun!”
“In all the system, I run into an Amtri here? What, was Venus too humid for ya?” Emilio shouted.
“Amtria just fine! Juve Juve moon too cold. Much warmer down here. Molten core flows up through pipes, warms Limyt. Warms Amtri!” the assassin replied, still cackling. Emilio shot at him some more. Then he felt a cold, sharp pain in his side. He turned in time to see a Mercurial leap away, holding a knife slick and red with his blood.
“The Earthman needs more eyes in his head. Wouldn’t you agree?” the insectile Mercurial asked, blinking five sets of his own.
“Mercury and Venus working together. What a sight,” Emilio said, holding his side.
“Mercura and Amtria good friends now!” the assassin croaked.
“Quite. Our peoples set aside our differences long ago,” the Mercurial said.
“Eh, I don’t follow cosmopolitics,” Emilio said before shooting at them both. Unfortunately, while shooting guns akimbo looked cool, it tanked one’s accuracy. The Amtri and the Mercurial ran circles around him.
Meanwhile, the warlord wasn’t faring any better. The Jovian had little left in the way of skin on his arms and legs thanks to the warlord’s assault, but he only seemed to be getting faster.
“What’s wrong, son of Mars? You’re looking tired,” the Jovian said.
“I am a warlord of Barsum!” the warlord shouted, throwing an electrified dagger at the giant’s head. The Jovian snapped backward, clutching his face. “No Martian am I.”
“They’re touchy about that,” Emilio added, before the Mercurial ganked him in the back, just inches from his spine. If it hadn’t been for his intelligent bioplastic armor, he would have bled out by now. No amount of healing innerwear could save a severed spine, though. He had to end this now but the situation was quickly getting out of hand.
A heated spike glanced off of Emilio’s shoulder. He looked up and shot his plasma rod, but the Amtri had already scurried away. The Mercurial ran in, stabbed Emilio in the ribs and ran out. Through the fog of pain, Emilio noticed a pattern. He shot again at the Amtri, the Amtri returned fire and the Mercurial made its move, slicing right above his stomach.
“You guys are good. I can’t figure out your strategy at all,” Emilio said, shooting at the Amtri.
“Earthmen so stupid!” the Amtri cackled, returning fire.
“Quite,” the Mercurial said before charging in.
At the last possible moment, Emilio pivoted, catching the Mercurial off balance, and capturing its arm. Emilio shoved his lightning gun into the Mercurial’s thorax and blew a hole through it. Then he overcharged his plasma rod and shot at the Amtri above. The Amtri wasn’t expecting a fully charged round and disappeared in a ball of superheated plasma. Emilio turned back to check on his partner. The Jovian and the warlord appeared to be staring each other down. Then the Jovian fell, split in two pieces.
“I’ll never get over how cool that mono-molecular blade of yours is,” Emilio said.
“It’s no surprise. Barsumi craftsmanship is revered across the system,” said the warlord. They approached the Neptunian’s throne. When they got halfway there, a lithe Tartaran woman met them. Her body was vaguely human, but the rigors of life in the icy core of Pluto had changed her kind.
“We want a word with your boss,” Emilio said. The Tartaran woman tilted her head one way, then the other. “What? Don’t speak Terrestrial?” he asked. Her eyes flashed.
“Kill each other,” the Tartaran woman said, though she had no mouth to speak.
Emilio and the warlord fell on each other, howling and clawing at each other’s faces like savage animals. The warlord pinned Emilio to the floor pummeling him with a flurry of punches. Emilio knocked the warlord over and grabbed his plasma rod, shoving it in his face. The warlord pushed the rod away just as Emilio fired. He twisted the plasma rod out of Emilio’s grasp and pressed it into his face, searing the Earthman’s cheek with the rod’s still burning tip.
Screaming, Emilio aimed and fired his lightning pistol at close range. The warlord dodged just in time. He grabbed Emilio’s wrist, aiming the pistol back at him. Emilio dropped the pistol, catching it with his other hand and fired again, blowing a chunk of the warlord’s protective silk tunic out of existence. The warlord turned and threw Emilio over his shoulder. Emilio landed, rolled and went to fire again, only to see that the charge in the pistol was nearly empty.
The warlord charged, sword parallel to the ground. He was a blur of motion and Emilio had barely enough time to summon the Tunneler into his hand. The warlord’s void blade disintegrated against the Tunneler’s drill bit. He drew an ecto-kukri from his back and swung wide, catching the bioplastic armor piece on Emilio’s arm. Emilio twisted before the warlord could push the kukri all the way in and sever his bicep. He lunged forward, stabbing the Tunneler at his foe. The warlord dodged left, then right, then kicked the Earthman away. He drew a pair of chain scythes, revving them up as Emilio got to his feet. Emilio tried pulling the ecto-kukri out of his armor, but it was stuck tight. The warlord ran at his foe, swinging his chain scythes until they sounded like a furious swarm of Saturnian Saw Bees.
Emilio jabbed the Tunneler at the warlord again and again, but the warlord was too fast. His chain scythes slowly cut away at Emilio’s bioplastic armor, piece by piece, until there was barely anything left to protect his chest and arms. The warlord lunged, catching Emilio’s shoulder. Pulling back, the scythes cut through to the collar bone, rending skin and muscle. Emilio clutched his wound, gasping for breath, but the air was thick with heat and the byproducts of industry. The warlord lunged again, but Emilio was ready. His hand went down from his shoulder to the ecto-kukri stuck in his armor plate and grabbing the handle, pulled it out of the bioplastic and through the warlord’s hand in one fluid motion. The warlord dropped the chain scythe. There was no visible wound, but the ecto-kukri had severed the neuro-spiritual connections in his hand, rendering it useless. Emilio went for another swing, but the warlord was quicker, catching Emilio’s wrist with his other chain scythe and slicing clean through the ligaments.
The two friends paused, bleeding, panting heavily, shaking from exhaustion and pain. Nerissa the Neptunian gangster clapped, amused by the display. Her advisors did the same, though they weren’t quite as delighted by the carnage.
“Bravo,” Nerissa said. “I loved the show. I wish I could keep you around for a long time and watch you tear each other to pieces, but I have business back on Neptune. Wrap it up.”
Nerissa nodded to the Tartaran woman who nodded back. She turned to the bloody pair. “Earthman, Barsumi, end it n-”
Her head exploded in a flash of red particles. Her body toppled like a tree. The stunned onlookers gaze darted to Emilio who was holding a still smoking sub-lancer. He pulled a blinking device out his ear.
“Piece of crap. I want my money back,” Emilio spat.
“I’m sorry, friend,” the warlord said. “I was too weak. I…”
“It’s fine. It’s part of the gig,” Emilio said. They brushed themselves off and slowly limped toward Nerissa.
“Get them,” Nerissa said. Two Venusian body guards came forward. Emilio threw a sticky grenade that caught them and glued them together.
“His name was Mitchell Wana,” Emilio began.
“Stop them now!” Nerissa commanded. A Jormun lieutenant answered the call. The warlord answered him with a vibro-shuriken to the primary heart cluster. Nerissa was now alone.
“He was a treasurer at Undersea Province, Europa in charge of auditing prospecting dues for various mining corps, but he didn’t want to play your game. So you took care of him,” Emilio continued.
“Enough! I have dealings all over the system. I don’t remember the name of every fungal heap I have killed,” Nerissa said.
“You stole a light from this universe. Mitch was doing a lot of good for the people of Europa,” said Emilio.
“It’s a popsicle where nobody lives. I hardly think your boyfriend deserves a medal,” said Nerissa.
“He wasn’t my boyfriend,” Emilio said, fighting back tears. Nerissa noticed the ring.
“Oh. It was that kind of union. So it’s revenge then,” Nerissa said.
“Revenge is too good for you. I was thinking more complete and total oblivion,” said Emilio.
“Let me list all the downsides first,” said Nerissa. “See that big humming machine jutting from the ceiling? That is the central conduit of this facility. It pumps heat and power to all of Limyt and beyond. This is the only thing keeping the Dark Half even remotely lit. If I die, all of it goes dark. And I mean pitch black. Like the inky depths of space. If you don’t get lost and die from starvation or blood loss, the hundreds of men I’ve called in for reinforcements will make sure you do. All of them equipped to fight in total darkness by the way. If you somehow manage to get past them, then you’ll have to deal with an entire city of low lives and miscreants looking to collect the bounty I’ve just placed on your heads. All in the dark. All by yourselves. Or you can just leave. Walk away and we’ll pretend today was just another day. Think hard about your choice.”
“Like you’d seriously let us leave after all this,” Emilio balked.
“You got guts. And balls. I respect your grit. I don’t give very many people a chance like this. That doesn’t mean I won’t come after you tomorrow, but today we’ll live and let live,” said Nerissa. Emilio took out an antique revolver and flicked open the cylinder. “A bit subdued after all the instruments of death you wielded against me.”
Emilio placed a black bullet into the cylinder and shut it.
“This is an anti-matter round. When it hits your body, the matter/anti-matter reaction will explode with an energy equivalent to your mass times the speed of light squared. The round casing will then expand to contain the energy and redirect it to a neighboring universe. Everything that you are down to the atoms will cease to be. Not dead. Not gone. Non-existent. When they look for your energy record in the background radiation of the universe they won’t find it.”
“Don’t you know who I am? I didn’t live my whole damn life scraping meals from the gutter vents, pulling myself up to the top of the most vicious criminal gang on Neptune just to have some scorned lover boy try to…”
“Lights out, sister.”
Emilio pulled the trigger and Nerissa blinked away. No sound, no light. She was there and then she was not.
“I hope she was worth all this death and pain,” the warlord said.
“Who?” Emilio asked bitterly.
A klaxon blared as the lights shut off across the Dark Half. Limyt plunged into total darkness. Their spacecraft waited on the other side of hundreds of gangsters and thousands of pissed off low lives looking to make a quick buck. Emilio and the warlord were more than ready for them.