Amanda Spikol brings us a prequel to “A Few Sunsets Too Many”. In this story we learn a bit more about the Candriodale. — ed, N.E. Lilly

Siker instantly jumped the gap between dreaming and wakefulness, leaping from the small metal bunk and putting her fist through the porthole’s glass. At least, her mind heard the pane shatter, but she awoke fully to find her knuckles pressed against the polymer crystal and stars floating by just as they had when she’d laid down hours before. The light panel sensed her movement and activated, filling the small room with harsh, artificial light. It was 00:23 and the beginning of a new day.

Finally, she let her hand drop to her side, barely considering the bright tingle of pain where a little bone was broken; it was just a hairline fracture and would heal within a few days, so she didn’t bother to think about it again. Siker blinked at the stars and then turned away, pulling off her shirt and stepping into the small hygiene chamber attached to her room. Following years of tradition, she avoided eye contact with her reflection and instead gingerly lowered her face into the full basin of cool water built into the mirror wall. It felt so good that she held the position for as long as she could before coming up gasping. What was it they said about old habits?

Gravity shifted slightly as she undressed and the ship corrected for it before Siker even had a chance to brace herself. Against her mood, she smiled. Nerris had a great piece of work on his hands though she doubted that he’d ever realize it. A small cruiser like Jhalai’s Blessing went for a lot these days, especially one equipped with element synthesizers and an AI environmental system. Too bad she had to fly under the radar and hire his ship instead of just taking her own. Still, her client had paid well to ensure that the hit tasted dust and she’d do what she could to make that all the easier.

After a quick wash from the basin, she felt a bit better, almost human, and stepped back into the room. Her own nudity was nothing special to her, and skin was just another set of clothing, another uniform holding her inside. Sometimes she minded the scars, but only because they itched or burned from time to time. Other days, she’d sit and contemplate them, trying to remember where, when, and how she got each one.

“Ma’am?”

“A wise captain never abuses the com channel,” she replied.

The speaker clicked, as if Nerris was trying to think of something to say to that.

“Is there something wrong, Captain Fenn?”

“Uh, no, ma’am.” He still insisted on calling her ma’am; it was cute in a naïve sort of way.

“Then...”

“Oh!” and the speaker crackled, “it’s nothing, I just wanted to tell you that I reconfigured the synth panel in the galley.”

She shook her head, smiling. “Thank you, captain. I’ll consider myself warned.”

Nerris Fenn wasn’t very old, barely a man, but he fancied himself a smuggler and was so eager to impress her that she almost felt bad for him. He was human too, which counted for a lot with her, although she wouldn’t have just given up on a cheap, convenient fare if the pilot hadn’t been human. Besides, this job was special and it was only half business.

She dressed quickly as she always did; you never knew when something was going to happen so it was best to have the britches on as soon as possible. Right now, she was going for a ‘mining-planet lowlife’ look to blend in. Still, after she slipped the heavy jacket on, Siker attached the blaster holster to her belt at the hip but put the plasma pistols behind her back, hidden by the jacket. Not everyone carried two custom pieces and the less who saw them, the better.

Nerris was cleaning the wall when Siker reached the galley and he looked up sheepishly. “Well, the element synthesizer is back on track. Now I’m working on getting it to synthesize on the plate like it’s supposed to.”

“Here, let me show you something,” and she rose, walked over to the panel and entered in a long combination, “it took me a while to get it just right.”

After the low glow of element synthesis died down, Siker reached in and detached the plate, loaded with a mound of eggs and other small bits, covered in a dark sauce. With the barest hint of ceremony, she presented it to Nerris, who took it and sat at the small table.

“This smells great! What is it?”

She opened her mouth to reply but instead said nothing. The good, hearty scent overwhelmed her and suddenly all she could see was brightness of a sunny morning, hazy around the edges like a dream, with a full plate in front of her. Someone near was humming and the air was fresh, full of promise. Warmth exploded in her chest and for a moment, Siker was truly afraid her heart had burst.

“Ma’am?”

Nerris was standing next to her now, a hand on her arm, and she blinked slowly as her vision cleared. It had never been so strong before.

“It’s...it’s something I used to eat all the time,” Siker replied after taking a few breaths, “something someone used to make for me a long, long time ago.”

“What kind of gravy’s this?” he asked as he sat down again, pulling a fork out of the table’s ledge.

“Just a slop mix, with a whole bunch of spices. It used to be considered a specialty,” she said.

As he tucked in, Siker drifted over to the galley’s window. The stars went by as if it was them moving and not the ship; the first illusion of space she’d ever encountered and by far, her favorite. Stars. They were so close now, as if she could reach through the polymer crystal and run her hands through them. One flared and caught her eye, and as she watched it, Siker realized that it was growing larger. No, not larger, closer.

“Down!”

He looked up in time to see her dive to the floor, and so when the blast hit, it threw Nerris back against the synthesizer. The Jhalai’s Blessing flipped twice before emergency equilibrium kicked in and it righted. Braced in the crease between the floor and wall, Siker waited for gravity to restore itself before jumping up and pulling Nerris with her towards the cockpit.

Alarms blared as the power fluctuated uncertainly and acrid smoke from burnt wires threatened to choke her. Heartbeat switching over to a thick, rhythmic rush in her head, she felt everything, every part of her body, slow and synchronize.

Battlecalm; it had been so very long since she’d felt it.

Ignoring everything but the sensor display, Siker shoved Nerris towards his console, trusting he’d recover his wits and take the controls. Indicators flashed and panels flew through readouts but she didn’t have time to worry about diagnostics or repairs. Her hands ran over the touch-pad and she leaned in close, triangulating distance and pinpointing trajectories.

“Come on, I know you’re out there,” Siker muttered as the screen changed to a magnetic-trace view.

The ship tilted suddenly and Nerris rocked back, one hand on the flight controls and the other crawling madly over his panel.

“Incoming! Coming up fast at 7 o’clock!” she shouted.

“On it!”

This time they only rolled once before regaining control and only half the alarms went off. Siker clenched her teeth, a feeling of naked vulnerability trying to drill through her calm and force her into panic. Because Nerris hadn’t done anything about it, she cut power to the living quarters and rerouted it to the outer array, bringing the force field up and online. The cockpit darkened to auxiliary lighting.

“Hey!”

Siker shook her head, cutting him off. “I’m running the sensors directly into your nav system. Whoever the bastards are, they’re behind us and coming up quick at mark-4.”

The ship dipped and turned, narrowly missing the shot that flew past them. Shaking his head and throwing bits of egg everywhere, Nerris brought them back on course, punching up the speed.

“Bring your weapons online and I’ll synch them up,” Siker said, searching her side of the cockpit and coming up short.

Grunting as he tried to keep up with the sensors, Nerris didn’t look over. “This was a trader’s ship. She’s got four sonic torpedoes but I never got around to having a weapons system put in.”

They pitched and rose again while she fought not to put her fist through the console or his face. “You’re not a very good smuggler if you’re flying a castrated ship!” she growled, “what were you going to do when something like this happened, cry and hope they let you go?”

He reddened and slouched but didn’t respond. Ignoring him, Siker bypassed the security lock and brought the torpedoes under her control. She had a visual on their attacker and swore in three different languages when they loomed on her screen. Not only was it a Rhenon light battle cruiser firing in defiance of Galactic Standard Rule, but it was one that she recognized by the crest under its iden-tag. The House of Bhal’terak; belligerent descendants of Resek Bhal’terak, the Butcher of Mansastroth.

“Lock on and fire, tubes 1 through 4,” she said to herself, unable to look away from the larger, fast gaining ship.

There was a soft jerk as all four tubes emptied and Nerris sped up again, pushing the Jhalai’s Blessing to the limit. Even though she knew what would happen, Siker watched the torpedoes race towards the ship and detonate at their force field. Sonic explosions tossed them, but the Rhenon regained their heading in less than a minute and fired a full range of plasma shot. It seemed they’d decided that they meant business.

“Can’t we go any faster?”

“Not without breaking apart,” Nerris snapped back.

Suddenly a shot hit true and flipped them end-over-end. Smoke filled the cockpit and several panels shorted out in a torrent of sparks. Listing to 45 degrees, the ship shuddered and all the systems went dead. Hot wires and shrapnel covered her and Siker jumped up, vaulting over the center console, eyes tearing. Nerris was slumped over his controls and she pulled him back onto the floor, a hand over her mouth to keep out some of the chemical smoke.

Loosing her blaster in its holster, Siker drew to a crouch and held it, ready. Though he was still unconscious, she knew Nerris was alive and hopefully not badly injured. Medic work had never come easy to her; there’d always been someone there to take care of that and she closed her eyes, shaking her head to dispel the memory and divert thoughts of what waited for her once she reached the damned planet.

She wasn’t surprised when the Rhenon ship’s salvage arm grabbed the dead Jhalai’s Blessing and shoved it roughly into a docking port. Thicker now, the harsh fumes burned her nose and throat, her lungs on fire. Siker ducked down and tried to find a pocket of good air but it was already almost gone. Someone was walking on the roof of the ship towards the main hatch and as sweat ran down her face, she pulled her blaster and followed them with the barrel. The steps stopped at the main hatch and for a moment all was silent and still.

Now Siker held her breath, blaster aimed and ready. That old fear crept back into her and it sapped some of the nervous energy from her arms. It was the same thing she’d felt the first time she’d held a weapon like this as just a green soldier still speaking her native language and nauseous from the drugs, crouched in a dirty hole on the frontier lines. She’d never forgotten the paralyzing idea that the enemy would come and her gun wouldn’t fire or that she’d freeze and they’d be upon her, shooting, stabbing, and killing.

The hatch opened and someone jumped down, crumpling to the floor from a blaster shot to gut. He might live, she knew, but if his House was so complacent as to provide the bare minimum body armor for its guards, she really couldn’t be blamed if he didn’t.

“Report!” someone above shouted in old Rhenon.

Now it was harder to breathe without coughing and grateful for the stale docking bay air seeping in, Siker shoved Nerris safely under the console and took cover behind his chair. After several minutes hoping the rest would decide to come take a look, she ventured to stand. Something small and metal suddenly hit the floor and before she had time to duck down again, a brilliant flash and shockwave blew her back against the ruined panels.

Darkness rushed her.

Concussive flash grenade,” Siker mumbled, trying to push herself off the console, but only flailing, as she was now suddenly lying prone.

“You’re awake,” Nerris said from somewhere to her right, “I thought you were going to die.”

Clenching both fists, she opened her eyes, wave of agony from even the dim light above more than she thought it’d be. Siker almost screamed but stuffed a fist in her mouth and moaned instead, her whole body throbbing with the pain of concussive shock. Tears streamed down her face as she writhed, thinking each second that she couldn’t stand it a second longer. It was worse than the last time, lying screaming on the scorched dirt of some planet she couldn’t even pronounce and burning for a war she despised.

After several minutes, the pain dulled to the point where she could sit up on the bunk. Nerris, who’d been sitting on the floor of the small, dirty cell, put a hand on her knee.

“Are you alright?”

Siker nodded, jaw clenched too tight for her to answer.

“They were hauling you up when I came to, and they brought us here,” he said, gaze returning to the thick metal bars of the fourth wall.

It was almost an hour before the effects of concussive shock passed and she was able to speak again, and then to stand and walk. Nerris finally leaned back against the wall, running his hands through his short black hair.

“My ship’s little more than scrap now.”

Siker stretched as she paced, trying to work the ache out of her body. “It’s a blow but you’ll find a new one eventually.”

“I’ll never have that many credits,” Nerris insisted.

“Have once, so again,” she told him, “you had enough to buy it in the first place, after all.”

He laughed and shook his head. “I won her in a game of dice. I’ll never be so lucky again. Here, I had it all, a ship of my own, and I lost her by straying into Rhenon territory.”

Siker raised an eyebrow and walked back over to him, sitting on the bunk. “We’re nowhere near their territory. They just attacked us out of spite.”

“No, you’re wrong. They said they’re taking back their ancestral empire from the Rule, that we’re too far out for anyone to think of sending the fleet,” he replied.

“You speak old Rhenon?”

Nodding, he stood. “I was a House slave, it was my first language. See?” and Nerris rolled up his right sleeve, showing the slave mark on his upper arm.

“Bred slave stock, property of House Vorl, freed upon manhood for valorous service,” Siker read out loud, “what did you do?”

“I…”

Two guards turned the corner just then, wearing light pistols and each carrying a stun stick. Siker sneered at them. There were other species far more alien than the Rhenon, so different from humans in both philosophy and physiology that they were a mystery to her. Still, the Rhenon, humanoid save for their rough ochre skin, pure white eyes, and stubby horns on the males, was the species she hated outright. They were the ones who conquered humanity so many centuries ago.

“Congratulations, you’ve just violated of the free commerce mandates of Galactic Standard Rule. You fired on and destroyed our ship. Under the Articles of Rule, you’d better have us out right now, and recompense for our hardship,” Siker said in old Rhenon.

The guards looked at each other and laughed, and one stepped closer to the bars. “So, you speak our language? It’s so nice to find pets that know tricks. Are you housebroken?”

Nerris angrily charged the bars. “You can’t call us slaves! You see this? I was freed! I’m no slave!”

Nonplussed, the guard stuck out his stun stick and zapped him on the arm he proudly displayed. Nerris cried out and jumped back, shaking. The Rhenon both smirked and Siker found her fists clenched again, wanting to see each buried in a smug face. The other guard hit a button on the wall, unlocking the bars, and he pulled two pairs of restraints off his belt.

“Listen, boy,” the other said to Nerris, “you’re going to walk out here and behave yourself or you’ll get the stick again. You don’t want that, do you?”

Paling, he shook his head and walked out, but Siker grinned. They were dealing with the two of them separately, getting him out of the way before going after her, rather than rushing them and trusting in their weapons. It was a cautious move but it also revealed to her that they were a touch afraid. She wondered if they’d gotten a look at her slave mark; hopefully they had. Military slave marks on humans were a certain kind of unsettling.

With Nerris restrained, hands bound behind his back, the guard came into the cell for her while the other kept his blaster trained at her head.

“Easy now,” he said, “you’ll only make it worse for yourself if you struggle.”

Lips curling into a snarl, Siker backed up until she hit the wall, considering her options. What she really wanted to do was put a few bullet holes in his cheap armor, but she was unarmed, even if she was determined not to go quietly.

He edged closer and her eyes flicked back and forth between the two Rhenon. Options surfaced unbidden and she licked her lips, trying to will them silent. There was a lot she could have been able to do if Nerris wasn’t a factor, and even then, it would have been risky. She could take the one on and disable him before he could draw a weapon but the other would shoot her dead the instant she moved. One thing could save them, one thing that she couldn’t do no matter how much she wanted it. Acid rose in her throat and stayed, burning with a sick ache.

Siker was powerless.

Heart leaden, she turned her back to him and dropped to her knees, hands behind her back ready to be bound. It wasn’t supposed to be this way ever again. The bastards took everything and she fought so hard to take it all back; she wasn’t meant to kneel before them now, she was free. Head bowed, Siker concentrated on the metal grate floor and wished her hair was long enough to hide her face. Two tears slipped down her cheeks and she closed her eyes in shame.

“Yeah, that’s more like it,” the guard said, gloating.

He put a heavy hand on her neck and forced her chin against her chest, sliding the restraints on. Siker jerked as the electrodes pierced her wrists. Bleeders: energy-draining cuffs.

“You’re almost a savage,” the superior said, “I can’t have a savage running around and breaking things. If you were better trained like this one here, you wouldn’t get the bleeders.”

Struggling to resist dizzying weakness, Siker stood. Behind her, the guard gripped the bleeders and turned them up as high as they’d go. It took all her will not to lose consciousness and fall limply to the floor. Breathing in slowly, she focused on slowing her heart, just like she’d learned all those years ago. Now appearances would count and the Rhenon had to believe that she was neutralized. She could stand bleeders, she’d done it before.

“Drag her if she can’t walk,” the guard with the blaster ordered.

He did, because walking was more than Siker could handle. Even keeping her eyes open was difficult and nausea inducing, but it was better to just wait and pray. Doubtless a god like Diem could look down and attend to the prayers of a forgotten sinner.

“Where are you taking us?” she heard Nerris ask, defiance starting to creep back into his voice.

He yelped immediately and there was a slight smell of ionization. “You’re going to explain to the captain what you were doing in our territory.”

“I keep telling you, we were in neutral space!”

The guard stopped and let go and Siker remained standing, head down. Something smelled like fragrant wood and paper and when she managed to open her eyes halfway, she saw they stood in quarters made to be a study of sorts. A fat Rhenon sat behind the desk, his bulk straining a military uniform that had certainly never seen real combat. Her plasma pistols lay in front of him by a jeweler’s glass and it looked as though he was appraising their value.

“In fact, boy, you’ve cut through part of the ancestral territory of the almighty Rhenon Empire,” he said, turning up the arc lamp on his desk and peering at them, “and for this, your freedom is revoked.”

Nerris choked but recovered himself. “There is no more Rhenon Empire, the Rule dissolved it almost a century ago! I’m free now, you can’t do this!”

The Rhenon leaned back in his chair and rested his hands behind his head. It was then Siker realized he was Unger Bhal’terek. There was talk around the central worlds about his raids and the pilgrim ships his House fleet destroyed. Diplomats sent to the Rhenon embassy came back rebuffed and assured that claims of his crimes were greatly exaggerated. The Rule Council’s patience was starting to wear thin.

“Perhaps, but it’s time the Rule understood they are truly powerless in the face of the might of my people. Our empire will be reestablished and how fortunate for you that you’ll be privileged to serve it,” Unger replied.

“Please, sir, we thought we were in neutral space,” Nerris insisted, “we’re part of a caravan. Please, take my ship for salvage as payment, but please, don’t...” but he wasn’t able to finish.

Unger laughed. “Come now, you’re obviously trade rustlers or smugglers. According to your mark, you’re bred stock. Don’t you miss your glorious service to your House? There’s a roof over your head and you never having to worry where your next meal’s going to come from. Your friend though, she’s got some nerve.”

“Nerve?”

Through the haze filling her vision, Siker looked over at him. Hopefully, the older slaves of his House had thought to teach him slavecode. She twitched her face quickly, hoping that if Unger or the guards saw it, they’d only think she was about to fall into a seizure from the bleeders. If there was truly anyone to hear her prayers, Nerris would have at least been taught the sign for ‘act when I act.’

“Oh, yes. How like a bitch to put on airs and counterfeit her slave mark, playing at military service. Maybe she thought it’d attract a mate. At any rate,” but he was cut off.

Moving as fast as she could, Siker turned and lunged backwards for the desk, throwing her back onto the arc lamp. The electricity was jarring and made all her muscles spasm but it shorted the bleeders and they opened as she fell and rolled to the side of the desk.

Having gotten the message, Nerris pinned one of the guards against the wall. The other had his stun stick out and was on her quicker than she’d thought he could move. Now she grinned and spun her leg around in a sweep that brought him down. Grabbing his stick, she flipped the safety off and held it to ribs while he flailed in a desperate attempt to free his blaster. He was out cold in less than three heartbeats.

Nerris almost hit her as she leapt up and made for the guard who’d thrown him backwards. She stunned him into unconsciousness as well and grabbed his blaster, whirling around. Unger was standing, looking at them with curious amusement, and had drawn his sidearm as well.

“I always appreciate a show, but the fun’s done now. If you move, I’ll shoot him,” he said.

Siker swallowed, feeling a certain cold clarity coming from having the bleeders off. It was time and everything was right. All the pieces fell into place.

“Nerris, this man is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of innocent people and intends to kill me and return you to slavery,” she said, “ask me to kill him.”

Snorting, Unger smirked, and flicked his blaster to the maximum setting.

Nerris blinked, frozen in the act of standing by the aim of the ugly Rhenon blaster. “Please kill him...?”

She nodded, never looking away from the Rhenon’s blank white eyes. “What will you give me if I kill him?”

“Uh, I don’t know. You can have the credit stick in my back pocket?”

Relief flooded her. “Done.”

Renewing her grip on the blaster, Siker stepped forward. Unger sniffed flippantly and turned his blaster on her. “One more step and I’ll kill you.”

“No, you won’t. I am the Candriodale, the Silent Gun, and you will not fire.” Her whole self vibrated with the words, her low, thick voice sitting heavily over the room like a sudden dread.

“Unger Bhal’terek, for your crimes against Galactic Standard Rule and your murder of untold hundreds, Nerris Fenn, freedman human, has paid for your death. Do you worship Diem, the robot saints, or one of the gods of the Xaxiferian Heresy?”

Sputtering, Unger’s right shoulder twitched, the only visible sign that his brain tried to rebel against his sudden paralysis. She knew he wouldn’t be able to move; she never questioned it and the certainty was enough to risk the farm on. Walking forward, she laid the blaster down on his desk and picked up her pistols. They felt so good in her hands and she leveled one right between his eyes.

“I...I worship Tiln, the Blind General,” he wheezed, face falling as he realized what was going to happen.

“Pray to him now,” Siker said simply, squeezing the trigger and blowing his head apart with one heavy plasma bullet.

The corpse hit the floor and Nerris stumbled forward, able to move again. Wordlessly, Siker deactivated his restraints and handed him a blaster before running out into the corridor.

“Where...?”

“I don’t know, but a cruiser this size has small transports on both sides. We just need to find one,” she shouted back to him.

Running blindly down the corridor, she scanned the sigils over doors, looking for one word. A Rhenon woman and child came around the corner and she almost shot them before realizing they weren’t guards and pulling back at the last second. She and Nerris ran past them but a minute later, when alarms sounded she half-wished she’d taken the time to lock them in a spare room or something equally clever.

Siker spotted the hatch as a squad of guards came running towards them and started firing. Shooting back for cover, she slammed into the gray door and punched the emergency release, pulling Nerris in after her. A blast door came down over the false door and as they curled up against the wall, the transport disengaged from the ship and rocketed off. As soon as it stopped shaking, Siker jumped up and went to work on the panel.

“What are you doing?” Nerris asked, sitting up.

She looked through the porthole, as the cruiser grew smaller. “I’m hacking the propulsion system and disabling the tracker. These things are programmed to seek out large sources of gravity once you get far enough away from the main ship, so we’ll let it set the course. I just want to get as far away from them as possible, those dog-drilling, sons-of-whores.”

He looked up at her. “My master never abused me, you know, he was a good man. He freed me.”

She nodded as she rerouted some of the power to the engines. “You never got to telling me why.”

“It was for valor, from what happened the first time I saw you.”

Siker stopped and sat down across from him. “But we met on COM-AD-65. That was only a few months ago.”

Shaking his head, Nerris looked her in the eyes and she noticed how deep and brown his were. “I didn’t realize it until you killed that Rhenon. When I was still in short pants, my master brought his posse to COM-AD-9 to meet with someone. I was allowed to go as my master’s son’s servant and I was so dang proud. The young master and I were playing a game while the adults talked and suddenly we couldn’t move. I couldn’t see through the crowd, but I heard someone asking someone else what god they worshiped.”

“COM-AD-9. I remember that station.”

“There was a shot and then everyone was screaming and running. The young master fell down and I protected him so he wouldn’t be trampled. Later, when the master’s guards found us, they told us a famous, dreadful assassin came and killed his business associate. When the master heard I’d saved his son, he promised to free me when I became a man,” Nerris finished.

“It was Pelderol Sovs, a blackmailer, and a Rule Councilmember paid for his death,” she whispered, seeing the scene unfold as if it were happening again.

Nerris reached out and put a hand on her knee. “When you hired me, you said you were just a trader trying catch up with your caravan. Now, I’ve seen how you fight and what you can do. Please, tell me who you really are.”

In that moment, Siker knew that though her cover was blown, he had the right to at least know what he asked.

“I don’t remember what my born name was. Siker is a nickname and it’s short for syncr-danat.”

Syncr-danat? Twenty-seven?”

She nodded, not breaking his gaze. “I was number twenty-seven of my clutch. The Rhenon came to Earth in the middle of the day and we couldn’t fight them off. Our planet fell. They killed a lot of us and took the rest to the slave ships where they processed us. The ones that made it that far, we were divided into clutches and further into the unit trifecta. Three of us, a soldier, a medic, and a tech, and we fought their wars for them.”

“But Earth…that was hundreds of years ago, it isn’t possible that you...” he started.

Siker only shrugged. “After the last war, my trifecta was freed for bravery and we made our way in our new lives,” she continued, “The other two betrayed me and I ended up on my own. I was a slave soldier, a killing machine, and that’s when I became the Candriodale.”

“Siker, I’m so sorry,” Nerris said.

Pulling up her jacket, she shrugged. “It’s all so much water in the pasture now, can’t be helped. My success and survival depends on my anonymity, can you keep it?”

Nerris nodded solemnly. “You saved my life. I won’t say a damn word, even under torture.”

“Don’t make promises you can’t keep.”

“No, I’m serious,” he said, meeting her eyes again, “once we get to a planet or station, I’m gone and you won’t have to worry about me messing up your mission.”

“Thank you,” Siker replied, honestly meaning it.

They were quiet then, as the little transport sped on through the stars. Siker closed her eyes and leaned back against the wall, seeing a little dirty planet in her mind. Another hit waited there, someone grown bloated on cruelty and who’d cost a certain Rule member dearly for his death. Someone else waited there too; two someone else’s, and a pit formed in her stomach every time the thought came to fore.

Amanda Spikol works in the telecom industry and is also a bookseller. When she’s not doing those things, she's a writer from Upper Darby, PA where she lives with two diva cats. Her work has been featured on apocalypsefiction.com and in LifeStyle Montgomery County and LifeStyle Philadelphia Magazines.

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