Tales from Omega Station: Betrayal

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Tales from Omega Station: Betrayal Page 2

by Morgyn Chadwick


  That wretched woman doesn't deserve to live, Hur'esha said to Esric, one mind to another. Esric held onto the 'stone' tightly in his pocket, since he could only communicate like this with Hur'esha while touching the alien's solid, physical form.

  "I'm not her biggest fan either, old friend. But it's not my place to decide what that treacherous woman does or doesn't 'deserve.' Besides, we need her. The crew of this ship is loyal to her, in case you've forgotten, and though I know you'd love nothing more than to asphyxiate every last one of Xerana's people, I can't pilot a starship by myself."

  Esric stood on the Valinorsa's bridge, watching the crew with a critical eye. The Valinorsa was his ship to command, at least for now.

  He looked at the ship's navigation tech, Julgun. "Status?"

  The man gave him a sour look. "The systems are ready, Captain." He said the last word like it tasted of shattered glass.

  Xerana was strapped into the captain's chair, but her ankles and wrists were secured with stasis cuffs. Tiny rings of glowing blue made Xerana's arms and ankles hover, immobile in the air. She had been stripped of her captain's uniform too. Esric felt that a little humility might be good for her.

  "You really think this will work?" she asked, her voice laced with fear.

  Esric paced the length of the bridge, his eyes straying to readouts he barely understood. Without Hur'esha's greater knowledge in this area, Esric would've been running things hopelessly blind.

  "Xerana, trust me." He chuckled at the irony of his request and tensed as the ship made its jump. The Valinorsa jumped back to its original vicinity orbiting Omega Station. Sure enough, within a minute there were three sleek patrol ships demanding immediate identification and explanation.

  "This is Esric Kol, the new Captain of the Valinorsa," Esric announced through the communications link. "I have an official bounty for one Andrius Crowe, Consolidated Guard enforcer on the Demetriuk." He referred to the Consolidated Guard official who had been all too willing to blow him out of an airlock with no questions asked, for a crime he hadn't committed.

  "I am serving notice to you that under Treatise One-Five-Six-Four-Two, section H, subsection b(3) of the Intergalactic Code on Bounties, I have taken Andrius Crowe into my custody. He is wanted for crimes on Triton IV which I am not authorized to discuss, but I assure you I have all of the paperwork necessary." Forged paperwork, Hur'esha reminded him. Shut up and let me concentrate!

  Esric and the rest of the ship's crew stood by as tense seconds ticked by like the dooming beats of a drum. Esric waited, and waited…and was sure that they were all going to be blown into tiny bits of space junk by the over-eager Consolidated Guard patrols ships when the blessed words came through over the link:

  "Understood, Captain Kol. Before we board your ship to verify your credentials, do you care to explain why your ship abruptly lost contact with the Demetriuk and jumped out of system without warning?"

  Esric's tongue felt as dry as cloth, and his heartbeat jolted. "I had concerns that officially submitting my bounty request through the proper channels would give my target time to escape. I couldn't risk it. I have acted in good faith, though. None of the marines in the boarding party have been harmed." Unless you counted being knocked out by Hur'esha's gaseous attack before being forcibly restrained. Esric didn't see the need to mention that.

  "Very well, Captain. Please park your ship as instructed and we will begin boarding procedures."

  Esric sighed with relief, and saw similar reactions among all the crew on the bridge. Only Xerana remained as tense as ever. Esric awaited the boarders, and soon enough they came sweeping through the ship like a hurricane, marines bristling with weaponry and expecting the worst. Their Sergeant had a perpendicular scar interrupted only by his right eye, an eye which Esric noticed wasn't real.

  "Sergeant Davos. Captain Kol I presume?"

  Esric nodded. This was the part where everything could easily fall apart. Esric was relying on Xerana's fear of Hur'esha to keep her mouth shut, and he was reasonably sure that Xerana's loyal crew would follow her orders. If she called out at this point for help, revealing him for the imposter he was, the resulting chaos would be the least of Esric's problems.

  It would have been nice if I could've just tied her up and left her to rot in her quarters, Esric thought. But Esric hadn't been willing to let the woman out of his sight after all that had happened.

  "You're welcome to inspect my paperwork, Sergeant." He handed Davos a tiny, thumb-shaped device. Squeezing it, Davos examined the holo-image which popped into richly color-coded view. Esric's official bounty hunter ID#, classifications, and bounty mission parameters were spelled out unambiguously. The shimmering portrait of Andrius Crowe glared at the Sergeant from the document's uppermost left corner.

  After nearly a full minute, it was all Esric could do just to keep his breathing normal. His heartbeat punished his chest like lava wanting to burst from a volcano's mouth.

  "It looks like all things are in order," the Sergeant admitted at last. He turned, giving the ship's crew a suspicious once-over. "May I see Mr. Crowe?"

  Esric shook his head apologetically. "Forgive me, Sergeant, but you know that under Treatise One-Five-Six-Four-Two, section A of the…"

  The Sergeant put up a hand. "You don't have to recite that crap to me, Captain. I get it. No harm in asking, is there?" he replied in a way that told Esric that the Sergeant knew the limitations of his authority and was hoping to supersede it anyway. "But your bounty doesn't extend to those other marines. Now where are they?"

  Something crackled over the Sergeant's link with his marine boarders. "Sir, we've found them. Magruder, Starlin, Greaves, and Chasek. All accounted for. Tied up but otherwise unhurt." The Sergeant nodded, satisfied at last.

  "Forgive me, Sergeant. I couldn't be sure that they wouldn't help Andrius escape," Esric said.

  The Sergeant sighed. "Listen, Captain…it's been a damn long shift, and I'm looking forward to returning to Starview Lounge for some R and R. Save your excuses for someone who cares."

  Two hours later the fake captain and his not-so-beloved ship had survived several bureaucratic hurdles to finally reach their appointed docking location outside of Berenji Dome. The Jeylani Dome would've been preferred, since that was Esric's final destination, but the newest Dome on Omega Station hadn't yet finished constructing their own port facility.

  The sounds of Valinorsa easing into position as the hydraulics engaged was like joyful music to Esric's ears. Welcome to Omega Station, Esric.

  He felt Hur'esha's thoughts. You do realize that this rock is rumored to be quite the hellhole underneath.

  "Wouldn't have it any other way, old friend, as long as you're at my side. You know me. I'm all about the journey. To hell with the destination." With an inward smile, Esric ordered all of the other crew off the bridge.

  The silence on the bridge reigned like an oppressive force, strengthened by the tension sparking from Xerana's prone form. She was still strapped into the Captain's chair, bound and helpless. Esric strode thoughtfully around to the bridge's starboard side and turned to face her. Her face had paled, and her normally vivid-green eyes were dulled by resignation.

  "Just get it over with," she sighed. He saw a shudder pass through the woman's chest as she tilted her head forward and closed her eyes.

  Esric placed a finger under her chin, tilting her head up and forcing her to meet his stare. She had a strongly chiseled face, feminine and yet with hard angles that made her anything but the stereotype of feminine looks. She was beautiful…and deadly. Don't forget that, he reminded himself. But he was also sure that what he was about to do wasn't something which had been compromised by his emotions. It just felt right.

  "Get it over with? What do you mean, Xerana?" The midnight-haired woman looked at him as if she thought he was stupid.

  "You know damn well, Esric. Get it over with. End me."

  "And why would I do that?" he continued, his ha
nd gently clasped at the nape of her neck, forcing her to look more deeply into his eyes.

  "I tried to have you killed," she said, her nostrils flaring and eyes widening as she realized the complete lack of malice or hatred in Esric's eyes.

  Esric nodded. "Is that all?"

  "And I know about your hidden pet alien, and what it can do," she added.

  Esric chuckled, his hand tenderly cupping her cheek. "Yes, but here's the thing. I know why you really tried to kill me, Xerana. Even in the few weeks I've been trapped on your ship, I've been able to learn a few secrets about you too. Like how your brother was killed by a bounty hunter, what was it, three years ago?"

  Xerana shuddered, and her expression grew bitter. "What of it?" she hissed.

  The wily bounty hunter smiled. "I know greed motivates you, Xerana. It motivates all of us, at one time or another. But greed isn't a very powerful motivator for the average person compared to revenge. Am I right?"

  The lady captain shook her head, an angry tear streaking down her cheek. "What does it matter why I seduced you and tried to have you killed? Either way, I betrayed you. Just finish it."

  But Esric shook his head. "Xerana, you've lived a bleak existence and been backstabbed by your fair share of so-called allies. As a smuggler, your survival between the sparsely populated outer worlds has always been tenuous. You saw an opportunity when I told you about the huge price on my bounty's head. You also thought you knew what I was, a seeker of fortune traveling the edge of the universe, looking to nab a criminal and not caring what collateral damage I inflicted along the way, just like what happened to your brother. But what if I'm not that person?"

  The young captain looked at Esric as if he'd gone completely mad. "What are you saying, Esric? Look, stop toying with me! Just kill me, already! You blew Andrius Crowe out of the damn backup airlock before we jumped back to Omega Station. You killed him for his part in what happened. I'm ready to accept the consequences of what I did. Just please, all I ask is that you spare my crew."

  The bounty hunter froze and thoughtfully scratched at the growing stubble on his chin.

  "You're not listening to me, Xerana." How could he make her understand? "I blew Andrius out of the airlock because he had no reason to hate me, and yet he was willing to abuse his power, knowing that it resulted in an innocent man's death. He was indifferent." Esric kneeled at the foot of the captain's chair, his hands gently resting on Xerana's thighs as he looked intently at her, unsure why he was so desperate for her to understand.

  "You tried to kill me, yes…but mainly because of your personal feelings about what I was, and because of the pain that another bounty hunter caused you in the past. You were following your own misinformed sense of good, awful as it was."

  The bounty hunter began to rise, leaned forward with surprising abruptness, and placed a gentle kiss against Xerana's startled lips. The kiss deepened for a second, Esric's hand stroking the nape of her neck before sliding off of her shoulder as he drew back. Too soon the moment was gone.

  "Whether you deserve to die or not, that's not my place to decide. I'm not the stereotype of the evil bounty hunter you've conjured in your mind, Xerana. But I know better than to appeal to your good nature, so listen carefully. You owe me free passage to any star system I wish. You will wait here, docked on Omega Station, until I've finished my business here and apprehended my criminal with minimal loss of life."

  Xerana was still recovering from what Esric had just said, but she licked her lips finally and managed to meet his hard stare. "And what…what's to stop me from just fleeing with my ship and crew?"

  "The knowledge that if you do that I'll be your enemy for good, Xerana. You can still have me as a friend, and as a real ally. One who won't stab you in the back. It's up to you to decide whether or not you're willing to pay your debt to make that happen."

  So saying, Esric turned and stalked away, but not before Hur'esha demanded to be released. Taking the ordinary-looking stone from his pocket and tossing it into the air, Esric sighed as he watched the alien burn and change form. Like a royal mantle of wind, Hur'esha's gaseous body swooped over Xerana's face, tickling her nose as the woman cried out with fear.

  "Hur'esha doesn't think you deserve a second chance," Esric called over his shoulder. "I hope, for your sake, that you prove her wrong."

  Esric slung his equipment over his shoulders. As always, the bounty hunter packed light. He walked past the cold stares of many a crew member in the ship's corridors before finding his way to the main unloading bay. There he saw the winking lights and bustle of Omega Station's residents along the dock. He descended, and a pleasant gust of air refreshed his face as he marched down the unloading ramp. "Stop it, Hur'esha. You know I hate that."

  The gaseous alien would have laughed if she could have. Instead she settled for tickling the back of her partner's neck and wondering what adventures this Omega Station might offer.

  The End



  The Human Insurgency

  The Princess Who Wouldn't Die

  Crysalis: Beginnings

  Souls of Fate

  Tales from Omega Station: Abduction

  Acclaim for the novels and stories of J. Kirsch:

  "Excellent, powerful, vivid writing! [Scifi and Fantasy] just doesn't get any better than this!"

  -K.G. McAbee, distinguished Honorable Mention author for Writers of the Future


  "Good writing. Good characters."

  -Barnes&Noble Nook Book, User Reviews



  -Barnes&Noble Nook Book, User Reviews


  "Loved the characters."

  -Barnes&Noble Nook Book, User Reviews

  Author's Note:

  Thank you for reading my story. Please take a moment to rate it and share your thoughts or give it a thumbs up! It's rewarding to hear from readers. This story would not have been possible without the encouragement of my loving wife, family and friends.

  Please feel free to visit J. Kirsch's science fiction/fantasy blog, Starfarers and Knights, for updates on my latest projects and general fantasy/science fiction discussion.

  What is Omega Station?

  Omega Station, aka the Rock. A barren, airless asteroid on the outermost edge of the galaxy, home of the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor. Dotted with commercial, military and residential domes, the outer surface is the place to live for those who can afford it or are lucky enough to work there.

  But the vast majority of the Rock's residents don't live in the surface domes; instead, they have tunneled downwards, moving ever further towards its fiery heart. The upper levels are safe, comfortable, secure—or as secure as anyone can be on Omega Station. The lower levels, now; they are home to the detritus of a double dozen races and species, all living in uneasy juxtaposition, fighting, loving, eating—and being eaten.

  The Rock's location in space, the last real port before exiting the galaxy, has made it a valuable commodity to many governments and private corporations, as has the addictive drug straz, which grows only in its recycling vats. Control has been taken and given in a hundred bloody battles over the years, but those who live in the lower levels—and further down, in the Depths—are often barely aware of whoever claims to be in charge.

  No one, really, rules the Rock, whatever they may claim, however many weapons and warriors they throw against it.

  For the Rock is eternal…and it has many stories...

  About the Author of Betrayal:

  J. Kirsch lives in the Carolinas with a lovely spouse and a noticeably cute canine. J. has always enjoyed story-telling, perhaps thanks to the two librarians who raised J. on a steady diet of imagination. When not helping others do research, J. can usually be found at the local Barnes & Noble typing up a storm. J.'s adventures into writing and publishing began after completing the NanoWriMo challenge for novel writing. J. enjoys writing in al
l genres of fiction, but science fiction and fantasy (often with a healthy dose of romance) will always be J.'s first loves.


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