A cold chill hung over the room, a pall of dread that creeped into every man’s soul. Anticipation wormed its way in, as it always did, especially when life was on the line. The gun pressed to his head must have felt like the touch of the reaper himself. The antiquated looking Doomsinger pistol was a prize, but it lived up to its name. It had already claimed a few people this day and now it was his turn.
A shot rang out.
The other player slumped down into his chair as Captain Nikolas Brighton sat back and smirked a little. He looked across the table at the other player who remained and the corpses of those who didn’t. Three dead, 20,000 credits in the pot and no one watching him but the man across the table. He stood up, dusted himself and walked over to the dead man to grab the pistol off the ground.
“I do so love these old things, love the look, love the feel. Flintlock’s outdone themselves with the Doomsingers.” He said lovingly, as he flicked out the 8 shot wheel of the revolver. He pulled the singular brass casing out of the cylinder and placed it in his pocket. Spent brass was always good for something. He palmed a fresh round and placed it in one of the chambers.
“So? What’ll it be? Heads or tails?” As he began to spin the cylinder rapidly about.
“Funny man.” His opponent replied in a thick Slavic accent. “You go first.”
“Of course.” He replied with a sly grin. His one eye began to glow slightly as he traced the path of the bullet around the spinning cylinder. Eventually it fell into the first slot and he sighed ever so slightly. He drew it up to the level of his head, pointed at the ceiling, and far away from himself, all the while smiling at the big man. Slowly, deliberately, he placed it against his temple. As he began to pull the trigger, muttering a gentle incantation, he was interrupted by a loud knock on the door.
His finger almost seized in panic, but he held fast and lowered the pistol down.
“Interruptions, Yerevin?” He said, somberly “I hope you don’t do this to all of your friends.”
“Boss! Boss! Is urgent!” Came a thick heavily accented voice. “Someone break safe.”
“What?” Came the confused and angry response from Yerevin. “Who would dare?!”
He started to charge over to the door, as it slowly dawned on him. He turned to face Nikolas, a look of rage contorting his face. Nikolas smiled in return; the single bullet still readied.
“Shall we play a game, Yerevin?” He asked, levelling the revolver at him. “What are the odds that the bullet is in the chamber right now?”
“You dirty, thieving, gypsy.”
“Now, now.” He replied chidingly as he stepped a little left around the table to a small bag, his pistol still trained on Yerevin. “Be nice to the gypsies, they’re good people, wouldn’t want me lumped in with them.”
He started shoveling handfuls of credits from the pot into the backpack. His handsome blue eyes flashed, carrying a smile all the way up, as he looked at the insensate rage on the mob boss’s face.
“We have intruders! Kill them!” The rotund mob boss yelled through the doorway.
“Now that wasn’t very nice.” He said irritably and placed a shot dead between the mob boss’s eyes. It rang out loud in the otherwise quiet backroom of the casino and led to a renewed round of knocking from the guard outside. Quickly, he holstered the pistol and began scooping credits into his backpack.
The drumbeat on the door quickened until he could start to hear it splinter. He scooped whatever remained into the bag and drew his other pistol, throwing the bag over his shoulder. A few spilled across the floor as he levelled the pistol on the door.
Through the door burst one of the biggest Crog he’d ever seen. It was only as tall as he was, but that’s still huge for one of the little bastards, and it was built like it used a hubcap for a dinner plate and the rest of the car for a light snack. Had had some replacements too, so this was a losing fight. His toadlike features all but strained against his dull green skin, highlighting the underlying augmentations, black whipcords of synthetic muscle that showed vaguely through the translucent skin.
“Well little guy? What do you say we each go our separate ways and no harm done?” He asked, hopefully. The Crog looked around, stepped over the corpse of his dead boss, and smiled a toothy grin.
“Welp, that’s too bad, always need to know where to hire some muscle.” Nikolas said, before putting a bullet centre of mass in the Crog. The bullet impacted, exactly where he’d shot it, and burned through the shirt the Crog was wearing, it just stopped and embedded itself in his chest.
“Oh.” He said, as the Crog looked at the wound, looked back at him and continued to smile in its own creepy way of smiling.
“Eyes and Ears, Bastards and Bombshells!” he heard from the door. He managed to shut his eyes quick enough, but he couldn’t clap his hands over his ears fast enough. The crack of thunder was so loud it shattered the windows around him. He’d shut his eyes but could feel the rain of tinted glass that rained down on him. That or she missed, which he was really hoping she hadn’t. Even despite closing his eyes, he could see the blinding light through his eyelids, it just didn’t sear his retinas like it usually did. After a moment, when he was somehow still alive, he carefully opened his eyes.
In front of him lay the big lightning rod of a Crog, with a gaping black chunk of molten flesh on his back, lying face down. He seriously hoped the fucker was dead, but you never knew with implants these days. Nikolas continued to try and wipe stars out of his eyes as he looked up at the figure who’d saved his bacon.
Asma Albrecht, his very overzealous gunner, looked both supremely out of her element and completely in it at once. She wore a beautiful cobalt blue party dress that, barring a few scorched in holes, looked brand new. It was held up by a golden torc around her neck and accentuated all of her features. She had, of course, insisted on a slit in the leg, though she hadn’t specified as to why when Sitara had gone to buy the thing. Now he’d kinda got it figured. She stood, well braced into the big lightning gun that she was holding in her left hand. It crackled like a living beast and spat out a small gout of steam before arcing off a nearby metal stool. How she handled that thing, let alone in 3” stiletto heels, was nothing short of miraculous. The recoil was almost negligible, but the sheer weight of it wasn’t. Also, how the hell had she got the damn thing into the casino; he’d told her to leave it on the ship. She was definitely breathing heavily, and a light sheen had formed on her umber skin, so maybe she’d ran back for it, but that was unlikely.
As he began paying attention again, he realized she’d started mouthing something, but Nikolas couldn’t hear anything over the infernal ringing in his ears. She pulled off the specially tinted glasses from her face and started walking into the room.
He pointed at his ears and she nodded, then looked at him expectantly. He looked back at her confused, then afterwards shrugged. She glared at him.
“What?!” He proclaimed loudly. She sighed, dropped the lightning gun onto the table and stepped close to him. She grabbed the breast of the out of place suit jacket he wore and began rummaging inside for the interior pocket.
“Hey whoa, buy a guy a drink first!” He exclaimed. She sighed exasperatedly, grabbing a pair of glasses and almost shoving them on his face. He put them on to the flinging of hands of Asma.
“Finally the moron fucking puts on the glasses with the speech to text function!” He read, as she continued to yell at him. “It’s not like I bought them for you the last time you got your ear drums blown!”
“Woah, Calm Down, I forgot about them, sorry!” He continued to yell.
“And speak softer, I don’t need a broken eardrum too.” She grabbed her gun and gestured at the door. “Let’s go, Vicky’s got the stuff and I need to get out of these stupid heels.”
“Cool, if everything goes well, we’ve got a decent pay day ahead of us.” He lugged the sack of credits over his shoulder as she grabbed a suspicious looking briefcase.
The duo strode through the casino, now a riot of fleeing people and mob enforcers trying to find out what the hell was going on. Those enforcers that saw the duo very quickly pretended they didn’t and turned to shepherding the crowds out of the currently flaming casino. Apparently, Asma had been at it elsewhere in the casino because there were more things on fire than not. They moved against the crowd, toward the back door. From there, quickly through the kitchen and into the back alley where Sitara waited in a black four door sedan. The bag of cash, briefcase and the lightning gun very quickly went into the back, and the others into passenger area.
“How’d it go?” Sitara asked. She was a deep green colour today, her bright purple hair slicked back and shorter than normal. Her face was worried, but otherwise stoic. The slight forehead ridges that she kept glistened slightly, and her jaw jutted out a little as she caught sight of the duo. She wasn’t dressed fancy, at least not for her standards, and chose to wear a bright red robe that stood out against her skin tone. It was all covering, something Nikolas had never figured out why she did. She even wore simple black driving gloves to cover her hands.
“Lot of noise, the boss is dead, and we’ll see about the item when Vic gets back.” Nikolas muttered, or he tried to. It still came out several notches louder than it had to.
“Also, his eardrums are burst and my dress is ruined.” Asma bitched.
“You never wear dresses, why do you care? We bought it for the job.” Nikolas replied, still too loud.
“OK, enough of that.” Sitara grumbled, putting a hand to Nik’s head and mending his ears with a small expenditure of magic. “Better?”
“Yeah, no, we good, OW.”
“To answer your question… Dumbass. Sometimes a girl just wants to wear whatever the fuck she wants.”
“Where are you going to put that thing? You sleep in the workshop, that thing’s going to be a grease rag inside a week.”
“I’ll find somewhere, after you get it mended.”
“Why do I gotta do that?”
“Because I lightninged it after saving your ass.”
“Yeah and burst my eardrums in the process!”
“Still got fried because of you.”
Before he could argue any more, the back door burst open and Victor crashed out of it holding a mid-sized black bag. He leapt the trunk, sliding over it like something out of an old vid and threw himself into the last remaining seat.
“Drive!” He said, with some urgency, and very little breath. Sitara slammed the gas pedal and we took off through the narrow backstreets of Vladi-Myarov.
Sitting up and taking a deep breath, he seemed to visibly relax for a moment. He slipped a tanned hand through black hair to form a messy mop that he somehow still managed to attract people with. His rose coloured shirt was half unbuttoned with his tie sticking out of one pocket. The grey suit jacket that had matched his pants was no longer on his person, so it would probably be in an evidence lockup before too long.
“Well now, that could have gone better.”
“Did you get it?”
“Yeah, yeah, one ancient gold statue of some creepy ass psychic in the bag. I did my job, what did you do?”
“Won a game of Asabarian Widowmaker.”
“You did what?” Victor exclaimed.
“Found this idiot cheating and about to get killed by the boss of the place.”
“What! C’mon man, I was three fingers deep into the guard’s pants when the fucking alarm went off.”
“I don’t want to know what you mean by that.” Asma replied, sticking her tongue out in disgust.
“Seriously, two minutes later and I’d have gotten in and out without having to run so much.”
“Look, don’t know what that was about but it wasn’t me this time.” He replied, “Big dude came in saying that someone had broken the safe, figured he’d seen you or something like that.”
“Wasn’t me, not yet anyway.”
“Who the fuck botched the job then?” The duo looked over at Asma, now smiling sheepishly. They both looked at her with surprise, not that she was better than this, this was pretty par for the course, but she knew how important the job was. Sitara rolled her eyes.
“What? It was right there.” She exclaimed.
“That’s why you had the lightning gun already.”
“It was 30,000 Platinum! I just had to wreck one itty bitty safe and everything was fine, then some asshole walked in.”
“The boss’s of course, who the hell else has 30,000 platinum kicking around.”
“This was a quarter million job that I didn’t need to get shot at for, and you wrecked it for 30k?” Victor replied, aghast.
“In and out quiet, that was the idea. NO noise, no nonsense, no fuss! Then get off this rock with some legitimate cargo.”
“30 pays for a fuck of a lot of upgrades.”
“Don’t even start with that, cause I know where that 30k is going. I don’t care about whatever crazy ass experiment you have in mind now!”
“Ladies! Job’s done, money’s got and I don’t have to pay any more medical bills, now do I?” The captain asked, expectantly. He glared at the arguing duo, “Let’s just get back to Zakhar, get paid and get some fucking new cargo.”
He sagged into the seat of the car as they sped through the night. The neon lights of the city cascaded down on them, but never quite touching them. They just flashed overhead as red and blue light air speeders shot over their heads the other way. The casino was going to be a hive of people in short order.