Razer Edge: A Roak: Galactic Bounty Hunter Novel, страница 1
–A Roak: Galactic Bounty Hunter Novel–
Copyright 2017 by Jake Bible
“Yeah. That’s a pretty Eight Million Godsdamn big hole, Sha,” Roak said as he stared at the crater that had been the location of a vault filled with over thirty million chits.
Chits, not credits. Hard currency that was accepted everywhere in the galaxy, whether it was Galactic Fleet controlled territory or Skrang Alliance territory. Not that territories mattered much since the War was long over, but Roak liked to know who he was buying off when he hopped into a new star system.
No buying off anyone without chits, though.
Only rubble and scorched earth were left. Scorched earth for several meters around the crater and beyond. The edge of the jungle that surrounded the crater, and covered nearly every square meter of ground on planet Ligston, was blackened and dried out from the fire and heat.
“Surprised the whole planet didn’t burn when this blew,” Roak stated as he adjusted his rebreather.
Ligston was a jungle planet with an atmosphere that was nearly pure oxygen. A spark and the air would ignite. No blasters, no ships allowed to land, no electrical equipment outside of a sealed, contained environment. An explosion the size of what had created the crater should have lit that part of the planet up like a firecracker.
Instead, there was a minimum of damage.
“Tells me we’re dealing with pros,” Roak said. “They had measures in place to control the spread. They blew the vault and put out the fire fast. That’s expensive tech.”
The man, a Skrang, next to Roak only nodded. His yellow lizard eyes were locked onto the crater. He was the one put in charge of making sure the chits were safe. Skrang weren’t the easiest to read, but a blind nuft could have seen the disgust and rage on the man’s face.
Because of the need to not blow up, Sha Tog, a battle-hardened weapons dealer, who was missing the lower half of his body, was not locked into his usual rollerball that allowed him ease of movement. A rollerball that was held together by aftermarket parts. If he went outside with that thing, all it would take was a short circuit and the lizard man would be one crispy critter. Along with anything within thirty meters of the spark.
So, instead of his rollerball, the Skrang exile, because that warrior race despised cripples and weakness of any kind, was sitting in a small grav sled, his taloned fingers drumming a slow rhythm on the dashboard, those yellow lizard eyes refusing to stray from the crater.
“I’ll deal with this,” he hissed at Roak.
Roak turned and stepped to the side of the grav sled.
“Yeah, you Eight Million Godsdamn will,” Roak said. No rancor or animosity. Only a professional coolness to Roak’s voice. “Every last chit.”
“They’ll have spent some by now,” Sha said.
“Whatever they spend comes out of your end,” Roak replied. “Not mine. Not Ally’s. Your end, Sha.”
Sha winced. Roak leaned in so his nose was almost touching Sha’s nostril slits.
“Sha? You have told Ally about this, right? Please tell me you told her about this.”
“You want me to lie?” Sha snapped. “Because I can tell you you’re a pretty little girl, too, if ya want. Whatever you want to hear, Roak.”
“Eight Million Gods…” Roak sighed and took several steps back from the grav sled. He looked up into the cloudy sky that was thick and heavy with rain ready to burst down on them at any second. “Fine. I’ll tell her. Shit. Shit, shit, shit.”
“She’s not going to be happy,” Sha said. “I thought it best you break the news because she won’t try to kill you when you do it. Me? She’d gut this old Skrang without blinking. Use one of her Tcherian toe talons to slice me from stem to stern.”
“You don’t have a stern, you old cripple,” Roak said.
But again, no rancor. Only resignation to do the job at hand. Which was telling his sometime lover that the chits she had been banking on when she finally wanted to leave Ligston were gone.
“What’s your plan?” Sha asked.
“Get her as drunk as possible and tell her while we sit in that rejuvenation tub she has,” Roak said. “She’ll still get a few punches in, but the tub will heal me up fast.”
“No, I mean about the chits,” Sha said.
“What? You just said you were going to deal with it,” Roak said. That time, there was plenty of rancor.
“I’ll find out who did the job, but look at me, Roak. I ain’t going anywhere soon. I’ll deal with it by getting names. You’ll have to be the one that goes out and gets the chits back. You’re an Eight Million Godsdamn bounty hunter. It’s what you do.”
“I hunt people down and make chits, Sha. I don’t hunt chits down. I don’t hunt stuff.”
“You always get paid. Someone took your payment. You telling me you won’t hunt down these chits?”
Roak grumbled and kicked a couple blackened roots by his boots. He adjusted the rebreather and sighed.
“Get me the names and I’ll get us the chits back. But my fee comes out of your end too.”
“Your fee?” Sha exclaimed then chuckled. “Right. Yeah. Gotta be a job with you, don’t it? Sure, Roak. Your fee comes out of my end. Not like I was ever going to be able to spend my split of the chits in my lifetime.”
“You haven’t found a hot little number that likes rollerball Skrang sexy time here on Ligston?”
“Asshole,” Sha said then smacked the dashboard of the grav sled. “Get your sorry ass in here and let’s go. I do still have a business to run.”
“And names to track down.”
“Yeah, that too.”
“Yeah. That too.”
Roak climbed into the grav sled and Sha turned them around to head back to town, leaving the crater far behind as they wound through the dense jungle to the main road.
The tavern’s airlock whooshed shut and Roak was glad to be able to yank off the rebreather and take a non-sweaty gulp of air. It was stale air that smelled of processors and beer and liquor, not to mention the sweat of a dozen men and women that were scattered about the tavern, but it was better than the Eight Million Godsdamn rebreather.
“Z. Pour me a triple. Best whiskey you have,” Roak said as he walked up to the long bar and took a seat.
Z, a Groshnel, one of the invertebrate races that had eight leg-arms and a body that needed a constant gulping of air to stay solid and full, glared at Roak for a second then poured the man his drink and walked off to chat with a customer at the opposite end of the bar.
Roak didn’t care about the cold shoulder. Z had never liked him and Roak didn’t lose any sleep over it. Z was only protecting his employer. Roak got that. If Roak was the protective type, he’d want to protect Ally too. But Roak was a live and let live, every man and woman for themselves, kind of guy.
Not that Ally needed protection.
“You don’t write, you don’t call, you don’t send me dirty holos of that scarred body of yours. But you do suddenly show up in my tavern and sit down to have a drink before letting me know you’re here.”
Roak spun about on the bar stool and grinned at the beautiful woman that stood before him. Ally was a full-blooded Tcherian, a reptile race that were chameleon like, able to change their skin to match their environment completely. She used her body to its advantage, disarming men and women by using the curves that she had in all the right places.
Roak was intimately familiar with each and every curve.
“You knew I was down on the planet,” Roak said. “I kn
“Could be,” Ally replied. “If I did get a message, it was several hours ago. Where you been this whole time? You have something more important to do on Ligston than to come see me?”
He tapped the bar. Z ignored him. Roak raised an eyebrow and Ally sighed.
“Z. Give the asshole another drink,” she said.
“Might want to give me the bottle,” Roak said as he stood up from the bar. “Possibly two.”
“Is that so?” Ally asked. “I do have a business to run, Roak. I can’t take the night off just because you’ve decided to grace me with your presence.”
“You might change your mind when I tell you some bad news,” Roak said.
Ally’s shoulders slumped. “No…”
Her entire face scrunched up as emotions waged a war inside her. Roak watched the battle happen. He let it happen. Silence was the best course of action when faced with a highly skilled Tcherian. Sha had been right; those talons on a Tcherian’s feet were not something to take lightly. Even with his light armor that he always wore, those talons could do some damage.
“Four bottles,” Ally said to Z. “Have them brought up to us. And if anyone asks, I’m not here. I’m out the rest of the night.”
Z looked from Ally to Roak then back to Ally. He didn’t move to get the bottles.
“Z,” Ally growled.
The Groshnel nodded and went back to serving the patrons at the bar.
“Come on,” Ally said, holding out a hand. “I have food upstairs. We can eat and drink then hop in the tub while you tell me what I don’t want to hear.”
“Works for me,” Roak said as he took her hand and got up off the bar stool.
As soon as his boots touched the floor, she yanked him to her and pressed her face to his.
“Business first,” she said with a deadly whisper. “I’m going to have to believe you had nothing to do with this before we get to the pleasure part.”
“I’ll be very convincing,” Roak replied, giving her a quick kiss before yanking his head back. Her jaws snapped closed only a millimeter from tearing his lower lip off.
Ally smirked. “Miss me?”
“I think so,” he replied.
“For you, that’s gushing love,” Ally said. “Come on.”
They made it to the stairs when the airlock whooshed once more and a voice called out, “Ally. Where you going?”
The tavern went quiet. Not totally quiet, but enough for Roak to realize that something was up. He turned to look at the person that had just come in through the airlock and quickly noted the lawman symbol on the guy’s chest.
Human. Handsome. Close to Roak’s age or maybe younger. The lawman grinned across the tavern at Ally. The grin slipped slightly as his eyes took in Roak.
“Who’s your friend?” the lawman asked.
“Shit,” Ally muttered. “This should be fun.”
She let go of Roak’s hand, which he noted, but didn’t comment on, and walked towards the lawman.
“Abel. Thought you were with the magistrate all week,” Ally said. She stopped halfway across the tavern and placed her hands on her hips. “He already done passing sentences and getting the hangings all sorted out?”
“No hangings this month,” Abel said. “Lucky bastards got off with some hard labor. The magistrate didn’t feel killing them was what justice called for.”
Abel walked up to Ally and glanced past her shoulder at Roak again.
“No, seriously, who’s your friend? I heard someone new had come into town and was I hoping to introduce myself. Help make sure he’s aware of how things run around here.”
“He’s very aware of how things run around here, Abel,” Ally said. “You wouldn’t have your job without him being intimately aware of how things run.”
“That so?” He started to move around Ally, but she put a hand on his chest. “Only want to talk, Ally. No trouble.”
“Why would there be any trouble?” Roak asked as he walked over to an empty table in the corner. The couple of patrons that were seated at the nearest table got up and moved. Fast. Roak sat down and snapped his fingers. “Z? Might need one of those bottles down here. Thanks.”
Ally turned and glared at Roak. “Don’t snap your fingers at my bartender.”
“This a drinking introduction?” Abel asked, adjusting the stun baton on his belt. No firearms on Ligston, but plenty of stun batons. “Well, I better have a seat and get comfortable.”
Ally blocked his way for a second then moved aside so the lawman could join Roak at the table. She joined them both as soon as Abel sat down. Z was right behind with a bottle of whiskey, three glasses, and a scornful look on his face.
“We’ll be fine, Z,” Ally said quietly. “But maybe mention to those still here that closing time has come early.”
Z nodded his invertebrate head and left to clear out the tavern.
“So, you must be Roak,” Able said as he offered his hand across the table. “Abel Pitch. I’m the new lawman around here. I guess I should say thank you. If you hadn’t taken care of that corrupt Mott, then I wouldn’t have gotten this plum of a job.”
Abel waited, but Roak didn’t take the hand. The new lawman snorted and let it fall onto the table. The man’s eyes went from Roak to Ally and back to Roak’s.
“You two an item?” Abel asked as he took the bottle and poured the three of them some very full drinks. “Sure looked like it when I walked in. Didn’t know Ally had a sweetie.”
“No reason for you to know,” Ally said. “That’s what nonexclusive means, Abel.”
“Nonexclusive,” Abel said as he took a sip of whiskey then stared into the amber liquid in the glass. “Is that what that means? You get to whore around with whatever lands on this shit stain of a—”
Roak slid a very long knife from his belt and casually set it on the table next to his glass that he hadn’t touched yet.
“Are you pulling a weapon on a lawman, Roak?” Abel asked, taking another sip. “That’s not very smart.”
“I’m showing you the only weapon I have on me,” Roak said and slid the knife across the table. “Didn’t want there to be any misunderstanding or mistakes made when I beat the holy shit out of you.”
“Yeah, that’s not going to happen,” Ally said. “If anyone does the shit beating, it’s me. I don’t need this macho crap from either of you. So knock it off.”
“But, Ally, Roak here was going to fight for your honor,” Abel said, sipping more. “Gonna prove he’s the one.”
“How’d he get this job?” Roak asked, turning his attention to Ally.
“He’s the magistrate’s nephew,” Ally said, her words heavy with all that implied.
“Right.” Roak laughed and downed his whiskey in one gulp then set the glass down and slid it over to Abel. “Another, nephew.”
“No,” Ally snapped, pointing a taloned finger at Roak. “Do not start something.” She turned the talon on Abel. “Same with you.”
The talon flicked from Abel to her chest and back to Abel, over and over.
“This? Not a thing. We had fun. But you act like you have a claim and the fun is over. Drink that down and get out, Abel. Don’t come back unless it’s a drink you want or you’re here on business. You blew it.”
“You blew it,” Roak said.
Ally’s hand snapped out and her talon came within a centimeter of Roak’s throat. He held up his hands and leaned back in his chair.
“Speaking of blowing it,” Abel said, his eyes on Roak. “I actually am here on business. Seems something was buried about five kilometers outside town. That something is no longer there. You know what’s in its place? A hole. A scorched hole. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you, Roak?”
“I do,” Roak admitted.
Ally’s eyes closed. Abel smiled.
“Oh. Maybe both of you know something about it,” Abel s
“It was,” Roak said. “And it’s being handled.”
“Yes, it is. By me. Right now,” Abel said.
“No need for you to get involved,” Roak replied. “Has a report been placed with your office? No, it hasn’t. All you have is a hole in the ground and a hard on for a tavern owner.”
Abel tensed. Ally stood up.
“I’ll let you two handle this alone. Try not to piss on the furniture. I’m going upstairs. Join me when you can, Roak. We obviously have a lot to talk about.”
She left and walked to the stairs. Z handed her two bottles of whiskey as she passed by.
Roak and Abel watched her walk up the stairs, cross the landing, and disappear into her room.
“I could stare at that ass for eternity,” Abel said.
“All the Hells,” Roak muttered. “What do you want, Abel?”
“Oh, we aren’t on a first name basis, Roak,” Abel replied. “You can call me Lawman Pitch.”
Roak didn’t reply.
“The reason your empty hole involves me is because that situation could have gotten out of control and burned half this planet,” Abel said, pouring more drinks for both of them. “We’re an out of the way planet, off the GF’s radar for the most part. Which is how it should be. But when pros come down on the planet and start blowing things up to get to whatever they were after, well, that ends up on the GF’s radar. That ends up on my radar because, for reasons of my own, I’d rather the GF never set foot on this planet.”
“You’re taking up where Mott left off,” Roak stated. “You sure that’s how you want to play this? Didn’t work out so well for Mott.”
“Mott was short sighted,” Abel said and his eyes went to the landing and Ally’s door. “He played the wrong game. I’m here for the long game. I’m young, Roak, not some grizzled old criminal that conned his way into a lawman’s job. I have plans for Ligston. I have lots of plans. All of which include keeping the Galactic Fleet away from this planet. I’m sure, with the circles you run in, that you understand what I mean.”