The drink swirled along with the star speckled galaxy just outside with window. Her gaze slipped to the whirlpool of stars and she watched them as they burst. It reminded her of the first festival she had experienced since being here. It had long vials of drinks, feathered hats, and poppers. The poppers were bottles filled with shredded paper that exploded when you pulled a string at the end. It was one of the older Earth traditions that she enjoyed. Five more stars burst into shimmering color as the neared the center swirl. She sipped her drink. Its dark liquid caressed her throat.
This was much needed in her mind. In the last few months, she had been hired to kill the four brothers of the Guilak Tribe, who lived in the swampy forests of the planet Thamiel. Then, an entire gang of ratmen near the Falc Nebulae, and then she had to find a shaggy Scrogulth for a boy on Mars. His parents had been most appalled that she had not found the collar of the beast. It had been a ball of gnashing teeth until the boy was in his sights again. It was only yesterday when she had found herself in the scarlet pits of the planet. She had battled a young Craterworm of over forty feet long, while the Scrogulth chewed on the thick leather of her boots. They could withstand the breath of a fire drake of old, but not the teeth from a boy’s pet. She eyed the toe of her dark leathery boots with a heavy sigh and wiggled her toe once to see the split in its seam. Her people would have been displeased with her for being so careless, but that was another time and had no influence on her now.
The musk from the smoke filled air shifted in the bar as a pair of tall men entered through the rusted metal doorway. They were dressed in the casual metallic suits that filled the bar in one form or fashion. One suit was fastened with rings to encumber the tree truck sized arms of the first man. His hair was a flame-red revealing him to be a native from Jupiter. She recognized his distinct features: a broad, flat nose, and gleaming canines. The other man was just as large with arms of solid steel, literally steel, as he was apparently from a planet in the Quadrant Galaxy. His eyes blazed like smoldering coals as he glanced over the room. The dozen or so other patrons kept their gazes downward on their drinks. Their focus was so intense, she half expected the drinks to perform some sort of trick. The men lumbered through the entryway of aged chrome and down a few steps to the open room. Opposite of the doorway was a wall of thick glass, allowing all guests to view the swirling nebulas in the distance. The small crusted tables that numbered throughout the room could sit up to four people and were bolted to the floor. Chairs were scattered about in clusters and almost all filled with guests. Other than a hooded figure at a corner table, the patrons were of human descent or something close to it. Large bubbles of water flowed through tubes that were positioned in a grid throughout the bar. The newcomers made their way through the grid and to the glossy sheen of the bar, their eyes scanning the flock as they passed them.
She downed her drink and set the empty glass on the far edge of the table near the wall. Her eyes flicked to see a pair of exothermic pistols at their hips, which were a common use for bounty hunters and gleamed in the few lights. She too carried one at her side, but hardly had need of it. Not that the gun was not good for getting the job done, more it was not her preference. She sighed, then leaned back closing her eyes.
“Hey there, cutie” one of them called in a voice like loose gravel. The two men laugh, slamming small dents into the bar with their fists as they chortled.
A metallic clanging voice rang out next and she guessed it was the steel guy. “How ‘bout you come with us ‘n have yourself a nice drink? Maybe, we might even let ya see our ship. We could even warm it up for ya since you look so…cold without your suit.” The two broke into obnoxious fits of laughter again. The barkeep, a lizard humanoid, growled at each dent, but continued to dry out clear mugs with a worn cloth.
She knew they were calling to her. She just didn’t care. One outer stellar barbarian was no different than the next. This sort of thing had happened to her before, quite a few times now. Yet, despite her starlight hair or the deep violet of her eyes, it was always the lack of space suit that got her into trouble. Not all businesses required or recommended patrons wear spacesuits. Nonetheless, when one is a bounty hunter for a solar system it is not wise to trust all the structures to be completely secured. If she were to be near the glass towers of Arithga, or even the caverns of the Viagma Volta, then perhaps she would not look so out of place. More to the point, one mess up or even one wrong docking ship and it could send all its compatriots on a silent journey through the stars.
The lumbering footsteps rattled the table as they drew near; they were not going to be content with just letting her sit in silence. One of her angular pointed ears twitched with annoyance. Breath that resembled a sweltering summer day blew back her braids and sent goose bumps down her pale skin.
“She smells so nice, Tarmak. I bet playing with her will be so much…fun,” the metallic voice whispered.
“I don’t know, Shalsh. It seems like she is trying to ignore us. That’s not very nice,” he took a sip of his beer that the bartender had reluctantly handed over, “maybe she should be punished.”
“She has a name, you know,” the starlight haired woman remarked, her eyes still closed, “I am Solis of the Eight Rising. It is a name passed down through many generations and one that is earned. Though I doubt you have to capacity to remember it no matter how many times I remind you. Perhaps a nameplate—”
An asteroid sized fist slammed down on the edge of the table causing the cup to swivel where it sat. “We ain’t here to play games, girly,” began Shalsh with his voice now resembling the sound of grinding gears. “You can play nice and share a drink with us first…”
“Or,” offered Tarmak, “we can just drag you back to ship and, guess what, no one in this damn bar would even glance our way when we took you. We are well known in these parts, so you had better show us the respect we deserve.” His eyes blazed as he spat the final words.
Solis half-opened one eye at gave the pair a over glance. Tarmak let out a gruff laugh, “Look at that, Shalsh. The little blonde is ready to give us some respect. What do you think? Maybe, she should pay us gratitude on her knees first.” His hand moved towards her shoulder.
Her eyes blazed with the brightness of a sun. In that instance, she twisted her body away from them, landing between them and her metal chair. She slammed the metal chair into the torso of the hothead with one kick. The steel man reached for her with a gleaming arm, not caring about the state of his companion. She leapt up onto her table, dodging his grapple and with a rounded sidekick struck him on the temple. Shalsh’s head whipped to the side and he stumbled from the blow, but it did little else against him. Her foot throbbed from the contact as Shalsh’s body was actually made of metal instead of just appearing that way. Tarmak recovered from the hit with the chair and looked unharmed much to her reluctance. A pulsing heat radiated from his body and he now resembled a fiery demon more than some hothead in the bar. His eyes burned white-hot and his breath steamed as he roared in challenge.
Tarmak lunged with his blazing gaze locked on her slender form. Luckily, the bulky space suits of the men inhibited full range motion and movement. She sailed passed Tarmak onto the still stumbling Shalsh and leapt to stand on a nearby identical metal table behind the men. Her leather boots made a bare whisper of a noise as she landed.
Both men whirled with wild eyes. Tarmak’s neck pulsed with thick veins from his fury. The men obviously had never been challenged before and it was most amusing for Solis to witness.
“Come on now,” she cooed, “This is about as fun as the games I played as a child. Don’t tell me you are giving up now,” the corner of her mouth quirked into a smirk.
The hothead bellowed more steam and grabbed for her in the same instant as Shalsh. Solis flipped backwards onto a table, leaving the foremost table to topple from the force of the rushing pair. A soft chuckle escaped her lips, which only infuriated them further. The steel man threw the table aside as though it was feathers and not solid metal. It crashed into the gathered group of patrons that had not fled.
Solis glanced at the group, realizing she needed to hurry up the fight unless she wanted anyone to get hurt. Tarmak lunged for her again, only to miss yet another time, as she trotted up his arm to leap from his back, but Shalsh was ready for this. He barreled into Tarmak causing him to lose his balance, and more importantly, cause Solis to tumble to the ground. She landed in a crouch and was a second to slow as Tarmak’s fist slammed into her pale cheek. Solis hit the floor with loud thump, jarring her thoughts and blanketing her eyes with fuzzy stars. Her head swam as she struggled to get up.
A hand twisted through her hair, wrenching her up to her knees. Solis sucked in a gasp while grabbing for the meaty arm that held her captive. “Look at this Shalsh. Seems like I’ve caught me a live one.” The men let out predatory laughs. “Not so nimble now are you? You made a big mistake messing with us, girly, and now… it’s gonna to cost you.”
Solis blinked several times clearing her vision and trying to focus. Tarmak held her now and Shalsh knelt down in front of her. His mouth was spread in a large arrogant grin as he looked her up and down. His eyes traced the intricate gold designs that covered her armor of majestic leaf patterns. It was more like a piece of art that body armor to the casual observer.
“That’s some weird armor she’s got there, all leafy and like. I’m not sure where she’s from,” Shalsh remarked.
“Probably not from around here,” Tarmak said, “maybe she’s an escaped slave or something.”
“I doubt it, but that does give me an idea about where we should take her.” The two men eyed one another and let out a low chuckle.
Tarmak used his free hand to lift Shalsh from his kneeing position, “She might pass for an exotic. That would give us enough money for the next six months at least!”
The steel man laughed in triumphed and clapped his companion on the shoulder. Solis squirmed trying to wrench her hair free, but the massive hand stayed locked in her braids. Shalsh kicked her side sending a spark of jolting pain shooting up her body with a small pop from her side. She forced down a scream from the writhing pain. He had just broken one of her ribs. Solis ground her teeth in frustration at being treated like a disobedient dog. Her head throbbed with each painful breath.
“Let’s take our prize before she tries anything funny,” the steel man suggested.
Tarmak eyed Solis and raised her off the ground a few inches and forced her to her feet. She cried out and gasped from the pain now radiating throughout her body. “I think we still have some time, “remarked the fiery-haired man,” but you are right. Time is money.”
The men turned their gaze to the scaly humanoid behind the bar. His green-eyed gaze was now fixed on the pair of men with an unreadable stare. Tarmak smirked a wide grin, “Hey! Where did she keep her space suit? Did she leave it with you or something?”
The reptilian man huffed a small breath and folded his arms. “She came in like that. No suit.”
Tarmak locked eyes on the man. His smirk soured into a scowl. “Maybe, I didn’t make myself clear…she’s leaving, so where the hell is her suit?! She is no good to us dead.”
The barkeep pressed his thin lips into a line, “Like I said, she came in like that. I don’t know where her suit is or what it looks like.” His black tipped fingers drummed on his arm as he kept them folded.
Shalsh stepped forward, “Listen up. If you are trying to help her or something by hiding her suit, you are ‘bout to find yourself in deep waters. Tell us where her suit is now!” The steel man clenched his fists a few times for emphasis.
The barkeep reached for his worn cloth and began wiping down the bar top. “I told you, I don’t have it. And I am not a lizard…I am a member of the Zenith race from the newest terra-form planet near Saturn. I think you gentlemen have heard of it?”
Solis eyed him with hands still clung around her captors wrist. She had indeed heard of the new planet. It was now just over one hundred years old and had bred a wide variety of species. It was like another planet that used to be near Mars, but was considered far more deadly. The inhabitants had been born with poison-lined jaws that could kill in mere seconds. The species was to also be intelligent and expert trackers on their homeland. She had known that there was something unusual about the owner of this bar. Yet, but this was rare even by her standards as few of the Zenith’s ever left their home world.
Tarmak and Shalsh both eyed one another. They recognized what the Zenith was implying: if he had wanted to get in their way, he would have done so sooner and he would have beat them.
Tarmak eyed the man again breaking the awkward silence, “Fine, just don’t go trying anything funny on us.”
Solis ground her teeth as they led her towards the entryway. They stopped at the door and exchanged looks.
“Go get the ship and bring it close to the bay doors,” Tarmak ordered. “You should be able to get it within a few yards of the place without breaking anything. She’ll last the few yards if she’s smart enough to hold her breath.” He shook her once as he spoke enticing a glare from her.
Shalsh stepped through the doors into a glassy room and tapped a small red button at the neckline of his suit. At once, metallic rims popped up in along the back of his head and framed around his face. A clear lens slid down in front of his face, protecting him from the outside elements and acting as the final touch to the helmet.
The gleaming doors slid shut behind him and it was in that instant that Solis chose to act. With a graceful sweep of her foot, Tarmak buckled and fell backward. His hand still remained locked in her hair as he fell forcing her to flow with his tumble. Tarmak landed on the small set of stairs with a woof of air and released his grip just enough for her to wiggle free. She spun and landed a kick in the middle of his torso and denting his suit. He gasped still trying to regain his breath from the fall. His arms reached around, trying to both grab her and help him to his feet. Solis stood with another kick ready, but Tarmak was expecting another attack and rolled away from her. His eyes blazed illuminated the skin around his eyes in a fierce light.
She moved in pursuit of him and landed a few stomps that missed him by less than an inch. Tarmak rolled into a table set and grabbed one of the silvery chairs. He whirled it like a club causing her to dodge and slow her advancement on him. He moved, rising to one knee and held the chair poised to strike again. Solis eyed the chair with a narrow stare.
“That could be considered a weapon, sir,” remarked a reptilian voice from behind the bar.
Tarmak froze and dropped the chair. All knew, as it was posted outside every bar, that any use of weapons within a public bar was taken as a serious matter. It was a fatal punishment for any caught wielding a weapon inside a public establishment. Also, any who did not assist in the containment of the person in question would also be help accountable. She knew of this law too, which was the only reason she had refrained from pulling one of her twin blades on her back.
The Zenith went back to cleaning up the bar and the tension left the room. Solis turned back to Tarmak a moment too late. His fist met her cheek in a full contact punch that sent her staggering to the ground in a dazed heap.
“You better be worth more than your trouble, blondie. Or you’re are going to find your life very…exhausting,” Tarmak spat in frustration and walked over to the form on the floor.
Solis blinked at the stars in her eyes and moved in a languid motion to try to get up off the dark metal floor. Tarmak did not hesitate and kicked her in the ribs, sending her to sprawl on her back. She gasped for air; the pain of her body was almost over whelming. She felt as though his boot had been tipped with a spearhead that had just been rammed into her lungs. She choked out a cough and tried to blink away her blurred vision.
“At the very least,” Tarmak continued with a smirk, “it will be fun to break you.” He laughed low and it sent a shiver down her spine.
He picked her up with one arm and slung him over his shoulder. She tried to struggle, to fight back, to move, but she felt as though massive weights hung from her limbs. Any effort to try and move them only made the stars sparkle brighter across her vision. Vaguely, she could hear a slight rumble outside and could feel Tarmak walking towards the door. Her body relaxed, as she knew struggling at this point could be fatal where they were headed. The swish of the doors that left only a deafening silence in its wake.
The clink of Tarmak’s helmet was the only warning he gave before rushing out into the dead of space. The rush of air sounded as they passed through the outer set of doors. Solis did her best to bury her face from the stabbing cold. Seconds ticked by like years and the emptiness pulled at her body like thousands of tiny crabs to drag her to the depths of the ocean. A sudden darkness enveloped them and a loud metallic clang echoed from behind them.
Nothing could be heard before the familiar hum of lights began to sound around them. Solis shivered and tried to move again, however Tarmak felt her shift and proceed to drop her on the ground. As the ships gravity field had activated, it felt like a sack of rocks had dropped on her already throbbing body. She coughed out a gasp and curled up into herself protectively.
“Cuff her and take her gear, Shalsh. We need to get moving.”
Solis remained curled and could feel the pulse of his footsteps as he waked away. New footsteps soon replaced them and stopped just short of her. Followed by a hand that wrenched her up to near eye level and placed a biting steel around her wrists. She dropped again, but was expecting it this time and able to roll awkwardly with the fall. She gasped and lay still on the cold metal flooring.
“You must have gave Tarmak a thrashin’ for him to be in such a foul mood,” the steel man remarked with a grin in his words. “That was stupid, cause now, your trip just got a whole lot worse.”
She could feel him remove her blades and pat down her armor for any surprises. He was not a gentleman about it, she noted with distain. He rose again and headed in the way Tarmak had left.
“Try anything else stupid, blondie, and we’ll sell you in pieces.” Shalsh let out a piercing roll of laughter that ended with the slamming ring of a heavy metallic door.
Solis lay in silence for a few moments as the weight of the situation came to rest on her shoulders. The hum of lights was no more as she sat in near total darkness, except for the few windows that shown the faint light from the sun. She rolled onto her back blinking a few times. The soft light shown a cargo room with a few metal crates strapped in overhead and along the far wall. A large bay door was set at the rear of the large room. It was about twenty feet tall, which was adequate size for most independent cargo vessels. She eyed the single door in the room, which was a solid sheet of steel with a circular window that darkened on the other side.
Her violet eyes wondered around the room again and finally, she sighed. Solis closed her eyes and let out a small chuckle. It soon rose to a full roar of laughter and she had to wipe the tears from her eyes.
After a few more minutes of teary giggles, she sat up and rested her cuffed hands on her knees. She was near the wall fortunately and leaned against it with an odd grin on her face. Her eyes closed as she recapped all that had happened. She had only wanted a day off, a day to relax and just have a drink, but instead…
Her eyes flicked open, up to the window above her, and she stared out at the blazing sun in the far distance. Engines thrummed to life on either side of the cargo room and a gentle shift signaled the lift off of the ship. Solis could feel the slight shifts in gravity as the ship set its course.
Since they walked through the doors of the bar, till leaving the Triton moon, Tarmak and his buddy had been nothing, but a thorn in her side. Nonetheless, this had been the easiest round up that she had ever experienced as a bounty hunter. Solis laughed again. They had almost placed themselves on a silver platter for her and all she had to do was play to their expectations. Her eyes drifted to the cuffs as she whispered a few soft words. The air tingled with something unknown to the era; it was something only in tales and long forgotten. The cuffs bounced on the floor with a clink.
Solis rubbed her wrists as a flood of memories tried to force their way through her mind. They threatened to invade her sanity. But, these memories were of many years ago and she had enough time to learn to control them by now. A flicker of blades, a blood-spattered face with a frozen gaze, and a copper key were the only trickles that escaped her mind. They were enough to make her cringe, but not enough to hinder her further.
Solis glanced out the window again, basking in cosmic rays of the universe. All she had to do now was wait for them to bring her to one of the black market slave planets and arrest them for dealing in slave trading. However, she could already charge them with kidnapping, depending on the local officials. But slave trading was a much more lucrative reward from the authorities since this was an ongoing and tedious problem.
She stroked her multi-braided hair and moved to sit on one of the metal crates. It had a twin resting behind it, which was just long enough for her to stretch out and relax. Solis knew she needed to apprehend them, but there was time to wait and besides…this was her day off.