Part Four – Bite The Hand


Kolt sat up in his hospital bed, staring blankly at the sheets draped over his lower body. {A} He had been here three days; that was three days too long. He wanted to go home. He wanted to sleep in his own bed, eat his own food, masturbate to his own pornography instead of just his thoughts about the cute nurses he saw. Was all that too much to ask? At least today he was having a visitor: Good old Theo, who was currently entering the room.

“Took you long enough.” Kolt sighed as Theo, his hair slicked into a new hairstyle like usual and adorned in a pinstripe suit, turned and shut the door behind him. The Marbelian waltzed across the semi-empty room, twiddling his thumbs.

“You’ve been demoted.” Theo sighed. “I didn’t expect this to happen.”

“WHAT!?!?!” Kolt shouted from the bed, eyes wide. “Why???” He thought to himself, first I wake up here with a tube down my penis, and now i’m told THIS… could this day get any worse? (It could.)

“For escalating the situation, apparently.” Theo answered as he pulled a nearby plastic chair next to Kolt’s hospital bed, sitting on it and crossing his legs, “And not finishing the job. Suspiciously, I wasn’t reprimanded, even though it WAS my job, not yours. I guess the suits up top think that shooting your client in the chest with a shotgun for causing death and destruction is a BAD thing.” Kolt, however, was too smashing his pillow into his face and groaning as he suffocated himself to listen. Theo sighed again, running a manicured hand through his blue afro. He himself was secretly furious; why was KOLT getting reprimanded? Something didn’t feel right, but, he decided to focus on the important matters at hand. “Also, I was given a report of the extent of your injuries. It’s… well, I have it here, so see for yourself.” He reached into his suit’s small pocket, where a handkerchief usually was stuffed, and pulled out an intricately folded piece of paper, tossing it towards Kolt. It floated gracefully down, and landed at the base of his legs, which were numb from extreme amounts of painkillers, and, uncovering a single eye, Kolt grabbed it with his remaining hand and started to unfold it.

“Massive chest lacerations, organs visible, twenty-five pellets pulled from chest cavity, 1/3rd blood in body lost, huh, is that a new record?” Kolt was impressed.

“You’re a strong person, Kolt… plus you’re an Aldearian, which means by default, you’re an extremely strong person. In all honesty, your injuries would’ve take a while to kill you anyways, your kind is known to suffer catastrophic injuries and just shrug them off, you know, a little like humans now that I think about it. Also medical technology helped too I guess. Anyways, you lost a lot of blood on the way here, but thankfully, due to your AB minus blood type, they replaced it quickly.” Kolt looked down at his wrapped up forearm, weakly lifting it up. Dried blood had changed the end of the white bandages into a light red, and two IVs stuck out of creases in the bandages. Kolt remembered the blood and pain, along with him clutching his arm as he gritted his teeth while being dragged out of the ward, hopped up on pain medicines Theo stole. Those were fond memories. “But, I do have one good thing to tell you.”

“Which is?”

“The GSS are going to pay for a prosthetic hand and wrist for you, as thanks, and Winter says ‘hello’.” Kolt smirked when Theo mentioned Winter. He used to not give a damn about what she thought or felt. Now, he realized that he was wrong to do that, at least partially. She DID hug him and express gratitude for accidentally rescuing her sister. “… along with ‘you owe me, shitbag’.”

Kolt shrugged, “Eh, I deserve to be called a shitbag at least once this week.” He glanced down at the two bumps protruding through the blanket, remarking “What about Velent? Is she dead?”

“Nooo clue,” Theo drawled, “I was last told she was in surgery, and, if she has survived, she’s not going to have much lungs left to breathe in; blood was flowing from her mouth when I dragged you out of that hallway.” Kolt was thankful that whole ordeal was over; if Velent survived, he hoped that she had some long-lasting pain for the rest of her horrible life. He felt his lost hand twitch. And twitch again. Noticing his confusion, Theo stood up. “What’s wrong?”

“My hand, my left one. I can feel it twitching. Is this what having a phantom limb feels like?”

“I guess so.” Theo glanced up at a clock in the corner of the room. “Damn, I guess I better get going. The nurses should be coming soon to change your bandages. I guess I better get going.” But when Theo turned towards the door, he felt Kolt’s heavy gaze on his back, and knew immediately without looking that he was pouting, or at least attempting to with his small lower lip. “I guess I could try to convince them to let me do it, I mean I DO have a license. I’ll be right back, Kolt.”

“I’m actually glaring at you because you repeated the same string of words twice.” Theo, confused, looked back at Kolt, and then squinted. Wait shit he actually did. Theo grimaced, before leaving.

When Theo returned, Kolt was still staring at his wrapped stump in a daze. His ass hurt. He wanted to go home. Theo had donned a pair of sterile gloves, and in one hand held a roll of gauze, in the other a high-grade spray bottle constructed almost completely of sheet metal, a smaller nozzle was installed in front of the main one. “What’s the flamethrower for?” Kolt asked, squinting at it suspiciously.

“Calm yourself, it’s a cauterizer. I was told that if it’s still bleeding, I need to cauterize it.” Well that’s totally not completely unnecessary; Kolt had a feeling that this hospital, which was located on the nearby planet by the way as the medbay on Cerberus was still a mess, wasn’t full of very skilled professionals. But, without complaint, Kolt let Theo unwrap his wrist, placing the gauze next to him on the hospital bed, but Theo almost dropped the cauterizer in surprise when he saw the dismembered wrist; it looked as if an entire disk of scar tissue had formed, and, comparing it with Kolt’s other hand, looked to be a new wrist.

“Regeneration?” Theo gasped as Kolt prodded the new section of his arm with a pencil he acquired from the bedside nightstand. “This isn’t possible!”

“I can feel bone!” Kolt added enthusiastically, before suddenly pushing his stump against Theo’s chest. “Look, it’s like i’m punching through your ribcage!” Kolt flailed his ghost hand in Theo’s ribcage, and Theo sighed before softly pushing away his stump, but the edge of his mouth was raised very slightly in a smirk.

“That doesn’t sound like it would be pleasant for me.” He remembered the hole in Velent’s labcoat, below her heart. He looked back at the stump, and cocked his head to the side. Was the myth real? That Aldearians had healing factors?

Theo was still stuck in thought when Kolt wheezed and pulled his arm away, grabbing at a spot on his upper arm. He was still staring at the now-empty air in front of him when he finally noticed that Kolt was clutching his left arm and making very un-sexy noises.

“Kolt!” Theo exclaimed, and he grabbed him and pulled what remained of Kolt’s arm out in front of both of them across his pillow.

“G-Goddamnit!” Kolt grunted before pointing at his upper arm, and Theo looked down at the spot he was pointing to.

“You mean where Velent injected you? Why… the hell does it look like that?” It had apparently calcified, which only confused Theo more. The worst part, is that the area around it seemed to have turned to a milky white color, and when Theo squinted, he noticed that his skin seemed to have risen up, like a big white fiberglass wart on top of Kolt’s skin, but strangely enough, it was slightly transparent!

Theo ran out of the room, his hollering from in the hall able to be heard by Kolt, and a crescendo of footsteps followed afterwards, rushing to the door. A small horde of doctors entered, quickly surrounding Kolt and unhooking him from the array of instruments that surrounded him, but one stood back. A rabbit nurse stared blankly at the commotion in front of him as Kolt was pulled out his bed and rushed out of the room back to the emergency operating theater, before pulling out a notepad from his pocket and scribbling something down. Theo, still flabbergasted, stood in the room with his hands at his sides mouth agape as he stared blankly at the doorway. The rabbit doctor huffed, before turning and leaving. Theo squinted at their back. Nothing about this felt right. Nothing at all.

Kolt left that hospital the next day with a sour taste in his mouth and a newer stump that eliminated right below his elbow, leaving him with a tiny limb he could waggle in rage whenever he was pissed (which was most of the time). He demonstrated this by waggling it at the hospital staff who waved him off after Theo pushed him out on the wheelchair, Kolt mouthing, ‘FUCK YOUUUUUUUU’. He made his invisible hand flip them off. 

After Kolt was escorted to a ship in the hangar and was buckled into the copilot’s seat, he stared out the cockpit at the busy people around them, clambering into their own ships of varying sizes, thinking of better times and wishing that he could fall asleep at night. His phantom limb twitched as he groaned in anguish, leaning into his seat. He just wanted to go home, but, he had no home.

But as the ship lifted off from the deck, Kolt felt something press into his side, in one of the pockets of his pants. When he reached in, he pulled out a small lighter, the one with the hood glyph on it.

The metal reflected onto his amber eyes brilliantly.

There ain’t no rest for the wicked.

Two Months Later

December, 2075

Cerberus station slowly rotated in the void, the usual buzz of ships around it beginning to lessen as the day neared its end. Most people had returned home, most of the ships just being supply shipments and other imports, and lights were beginning to dim across the station.

In the upper levels of the residential district was the station’s main security station; a small set of rooms, comprised of a receptionist’s office, a holding cell, three singular cells, a meeting room, an armory, and of course, the offices for the officers themselves.

Hillary Winter sat in her office, completely drunk, face-down on her desk and a mess like usual {A}. When Kolt and Theo came to the station, she was barely able to hide how much of a mess she was due to her sister’s disappearance, but, now that Gene returned and promptly went home… she still was a mess. Eleven years in the Marshals took a toll on a person unlike any other. She had the nicety of not having a very action-packed career but, it still tired her. She pulled her head off her desk and put a hand on her head, groaning.

She had fallen asleep. Again. Flicking off the small television that sat on her desk, the droning of the news anchors probably having been what knocked her out, she glared at her reflection in the black screen, the bags under her eyes forcing them open with their weight. Her hair, normally well-combed, was ruffled and wild, and the collar of her jacket was wrinkled and stained with alcohol. Downing another few ounces and wiping her mouth with her wrist, she pulled her PDA off the desk, flipping through the contacts. The alcohol was just taking effect as she tapped at the most recent contact on the list, and began to type out a poorly-worded message:

WINTER: hey u there
WINTER: kolt
WINTER: kooolt
SAUDWELL: Hello Winter. It’s two A.M in the morning, what do you want.
WINTER: thank u
SAUDWELL: For what
WINTER: for bringing my lil sis home
SAUDWELL: You know, this is the 82nd time you’ve thanked me
SAUDWELL: I think I get it
WINTER: just shtt up and come over
SAUDWELL: How did you know I came to Cerberus? Did Theo tell you?
WINTER: yess now come ovver

Winter was starting to slide off her desk face-first, barely awake when the door to her office was opened an hour later. “Oh, for fucks sake,” Kolt sighed as he walked up to Winter’s desk, and she blinked a tired eye at him, drooling onto her desk. “Come on, snap out of it, Winter.” He patted her on the head, and she snorted.

“Wuh? Ohh, heyyy Kolt, *hic*,” She slurred as she slowly lifted her head from the table a few inches, “Y-You came overrrr.”

“Well I judged by how shitty your writing was you were drunk, and it looks like i’m correct. Do you need me to get you an IV drip of caffeine?”


“I’m right here, Winter.” He walked around the desk, crouching down next to Winter. She was going to have the worst hangover of all time in a few hours, and Kolt was going to laugh very, very hard at her when she started to vomit everywhere. “You should seriously go to bed.”

“Kooolt,” She groaned again, her head slowly sinking, “Thank youuuu.” With shaking arms, she pushed herself off the table, and Kolt stood next to her, making sure she wouldn’t fall over. He sighed as she shakily made it to her feet, and she turned to look at him with with a droopy frown, before suddenly lurching forward, startling Kolt as she face-planted in his chest. “I lerv you.” She mumbled into his shirt.

“No, you don’t. Besides, I don’t swing that way. Well, mostly. Come on, let’s find your house, err, apartment, or whatever they call ‘em here. Home living space where someone lives. That works.” He held her up with one arm as he picked up her PDA, thumbing through the information on it, and finding a keypad code to an apartment in a nearby miniature housing complex. Dragging Winter out the door as she moaned appraisal into his chest, he escorted her through the abandoned streets of the residential sector of Cerberus Station. Not long later they had already made it to her ‘apartment complex’, which was nothing more then a row of doors in a simulated alley. “I didn’t expect to be doing this tonight…” Kolt groaned as he punched in the password onto the keypad that was integrated into the doorknob, pushing open the door with his shoulder. He expected her to be sentient, not a drooling, drunken mess; he was on Cerberus to thank her personally for his new robotic arm, which he used to hold onto Winter’s arm strewn around his neck and onto his shoulder. It was a prototype, but it worked

Winter’s apartment wasn’t as bad as Kolt thought, minus the gigantic amount of papers strewn across the floor, ranging from hastily written notes, shopping lists, recipes, receipts, police reports, and more. Blinds covered a fake window, made up of an opaque pane of glass, the back of it covered in lights that changed color to simulate sunrise, sunset, and the sun being sunny in general. “I’m guessing this is your bedroom.” Kolt asked as his new hand hovered over the doorknob to another room. Winter mumbled a reply, but soon started to quietly snore. That changed very quickly.

As the fox started to now extremely loudly snore into Kolt’s shoulder (girl, get some breathing strips), he pulled off her jacket stripped off her holster, placing it on the bedside desk, and as he started to gently lay her on the bed, still fully-clothed, a shiver ran down his spine, and a voice began to pipe up in the back of his head: his own.

‘Look at her, asleep, helpless. Do it, touch her Kolt, she said she loved you, didn’t she? Then love her.’

Go fuck yourself, Kolt internally screamed as he fought his urges. I mean, it IS a free lay, why should I turn it do-damnit, stop! Stop stop stop stop! Fuck! Kolt thought of beating his own face in, causing his eyes to crack and skull to cave in, but his hands got a mind of their own. He cupped her breasts through her black tanktop. “Sizable.” He heard himself say, and he bit his tongue to stop him from saying anything else. What the fuck was he doing? Was he even doing this? It sure didn’t feel like it, but he was still in control of his body, yet, he couldn’t STOP! The saddest thing was: this wasn’t the first time that he’s acted like this. He’s done it before, but, he hadn’t allowed it to get THIS far before!

His new metallic hand glistened in the dim light, ironically a gift from Winter and he felt himself start to smile as he caressed her cheek with the back of his other hand. Shit on a shingle, I’m not doing this!

He punched himself in the face.

Winter awoke the next morning, fully-clothed and sweating due to the fact that the AC hadn’t been turned on and she had been lying under five pounds of soft linens. Tossing and turning under the sheets of her bed, she wished that her entire drunk episode was a dream. The last thing she remembered was Kolt holding her as she rambled about loving him, something she definitely didn’t agree on; Kolt was, ehh, Kolt, and he was also gay as hell. They both were. Relatively. I think. I mean you just can’t be straight in space but still.

Rubbing her eyes, Winter pushed open the door to the main room of her apartment. Kolt was unconscious on the couch, the hood of his uniform was bent down a little and both hands on his chest. His new prosthetic glistened in the faux light beaming through the curtains that covered the source.

“Kolt?” Winter called out, “Kolt, are you alright?”

Snorting, Kolt woke up. “Huh, wuh? Oh, hey Winter,” He yawned, shifting his legs around before turning and stretching them out on the coffee table that sat in front of the couch. “I brought you home last night. You got drunk and texted me.”

“Thanks for that, god, my head is pounding.” She noticed that Kolt’s head looked a little… bruised in the middle? She shook her own head and leaned against the doorframe, placing a hand on her own head. Springing onto his feet, Kolt helped the fox walk over to a large leather armchair, and Winter slumped into it, giving a tired sigh. Even after sleeping the majority of the morning away, she still looked exhausted, with large bags under her eyes and drooping eyelids. Every few moments, she would catch herself dozing off before shaking her head and grimacing. “What time is it?” She asked, squinting from the light coming from the curtains.

“Quarter past eight in the morning.”

“And when did you get me?”

“About two. In the morning.”

“Shit,” She mumbled, “Sorry for being such a bother, Kolt.”

Kolt shook his head. “Hey, no harm done. I’m still surprised that Theo told you about me being here.”

“Yeah, that little guy kept me in the loop.” The ‘little guy’ part made Kolt chuckle.

“Heh, don’t let him hear you say that. He’s very concious about his height problem.” He sat across from Winter, in the loveseat opposite to her armchair. “Anyways, thank you for acquiring this arm for me, and i’ll guess I’ll be leaving then.” Just as soon as he had sat in the miniature couch he was already standing up, and he walked toward the door to her apartment.

“If you were going to leave why did you even sit down in the first place, heh.” Winter chuckled. “However, if you walk out of that door, I won’t be able to give you your gift.” The alien stopped mere few feet from the door.

“Gift? For what? Wait, don’t tell me.” In a falsetto voice, he chimed, “FOR SAVING MY SISTER!”

“Well I can just keep it for myself if you want, shitheel.”

“I’m just fucking with you, heh. I like gifts.” Kolt followed Winter back into her bedroom, and helped her pull out a large wooden trunk from under her bed. As Winter started to fiddle with the code lock on it, Kolt’s eyes began to wander. Naturally, they first settled on Winter’s prime tush and neck-breaking thighs, something he felt only slightly guilty about, but then they drifted to the bedside counter. On it sat a framed photograph, and Kolt squinted at it. As Winter struggled with the lock due to her hangover, Kolt stood up and lifted the photograph off the table, illuminating it in the light beaming from the curtains. {A}

In the photograph a young fox with a dark blue set of curly hair, obviously Winter, stood next to a shorter brown-skinned female human, who had much curlier and puffier black hair. Her face was rotund, as was her body, but she was still relatively slender guessing by how loosely her jacket was, just very stout. They both wore the familiar olive green flight jackets of the Marshals, the universal peacekeeper force in this stretch of the galaxy, and the name ‘WINTER’ was pinned above both of their left breasts on their jackets. Winter was wrapping her arm around the shorter woman, whom she towered over by a foot at least. Winter, after finally unlocking the trunk, turned to Kolt, and noticed he was now standing and staring at the photograph in his hands.

“Me and my wife, well, ex-wife, from better times.”

“You were both marshals?” Kolt asked. Ex-wife?

Winter nodded. “We both still are. I haven’t seen her in half a year. They sent her two systems over, guard duty, just like me. That photo is from three years ago, when we were both assigned to a patrol on Earth.” She didn’t want to talk about the photo anymore. As she popped open the top of the trunk, the two simultaneously shielded their eyes from the glinting metal inside, and Winter moved it out of the sunlight. The glinting object was a very weathered Sig P220 with a matte silver slide, and judging by the lack of side magazine release, one of the first models. It probably was over one-hundred years of age, and actually, if it was an original model, it’d BE exactly one-hundred years old. Sadly, that’d be the only way it would be legal in GSS-controlled space for civilians, as long as the design started production pre-1975; that made them antiques. P226s and P228s, the modern versions of the P220, were illegal to anyone who didn’t have a special license. The rest of the objects in the trunk were mainly papers and small cigar boxes. “Friend of mine had a bunch of cigar cases, collected cigars, dumped them all on me when he realized he was just collecting them to be reminded of his chain-smoking ex.” Pushing the pistol out of the way, she lifted a leather cigar case out of the bottom of the trunk, the leather dyed black in a shade not unlike Kolt’s skin. {A}

“Nice gun.” He commented.

“Oh, thanks. It’s an old spec Sig, they took them out of service a few years ago, yet some people still like them. Now they’re giving us Falcon 2’s, which isn’t a bad pistol in the slightest; I just liked the Sig better overall.” The Falcon 2 was a locally (GSS-space) produced clone of the oddly-venerable Colt Double Eagle. The easiest way to identify the two apart is that the Falcon 2 had stainless sights milled into the slide and no decocker, while the Double Eagle has fixed black sights with white dots and a small metal decocker above the mag release. {A} “Anywaaaaays,” She whistled as she forced the cigar case into Kolt’s hands moments after he placed down the photograph, “I thought this would fit you.”

“If you mean ‘looks like I tanned some of my skin and made it into a case’ by fits me, you’re very correct… did you tan some of my skin and make it into this case?”

Winter bit her lower lip. “Uhhhhhhh, well, you DID just have an unused upper arm laying around.”

Kolt just stared at her.

Winter began to internally sweat.

Kolt then wheezed and doubled over.

Winter started to stiffly chuckle. What the fuck was even happening, she thought.

They both laughed for a bit, and Kolt helped her close the trunk and shove it back under the bed. After they shoved it in, Kolt noticed that Winter seemed to be in a really good mood, like as if her hangover dispersed through general companionship or something. That’s cool I guess, he thought as they walked out of her bedroom. That picture haunted him though; ex-wife. A human. Ex-wife. Wife. Winter was more interesting than he thought.

For the next hour, the two chatted in Winter’s kitchen as Kolt cooked both of them breakfast using, well, whatever he could find. As Winter waited for Kolt to finish pouring the pancake batter, she asked, “Remind me WHY you’re doing this?”

“Well, for one you’ve got a horrible hangover, two, I’m nice, and three, I want to. Also I haven’t cooked in a while.” As he poured three perfectly shaped disks of pancake mix, he wiped his sweating forehead with his glove, using it as if it was a handkerchief. He then went on to cracking the lab-grown eggs. No liquid chicken babies were harmed in the making of this omelette.

“Hey, a little birdy told m-”

“Theo is not a bird.” Kolt corrected Winter.

“Well he could be if he wanted, but fine. A little blue, angry, cyclopean manchild told me that you were trying to retire. Aren’t you like twenty-five?”

Kolt sighed. “Seven years of service as a gun-for-hire isn’t exactly easy on the mind,” He raised his newly-acquired prosthetic, “And body. Also getting demoted in the Privateers essentially brands you as a failure and I am very mad about that.”

“Touché… How’s that new arm working for you?”

Kolt, after cracking the eggs, placed their shells on the wooden counter, and spoke over his shoulder. “It’s stiff, the constant low whirring is loud and annoying, I have to pull it off every few days to dump the congealed blood massing in my veins from it, and every time I do so I lose around ten percent of the blood in my body and feel like shit the rest of the week, and if I jerk off with it there’s a chance I’ll crush my little willy, so it sucks eggs, pun intended.” He stuffed an egg into his mouth in order to make his point

Winter huffed. “Well at least you HAVE a left arm. It took a hell of a lot of convincing to have the original donors supply an entire forearm instead of a hand. Also that’s disgusting, stop.”

Kolt spat the egg into the sink, before asking with a raised eyebrow, “Who exactly did you get this from? Sure, it may be uncomfortable, but it’s not overly blocky and primitive like all the others I’ve seen; it’s aerodynamic, and in the white. Oh and I was joking when I chastised it, at least partially; I like it a lot.”

“I have a few friends, well, acquaintances, in the science section of the GSS. I pulled a few strings. Okay, a LOT of strings.”

“So it’s a prototype. I’m still thankful for it, I really am.” As the eggs sizzled in the pan, Kolt flipped over the pancakes with his spatula. “I’m thankful.” He repeated.


Kolt had been more than simply demoted. When he checked his personal file on the Privateer’s database, ALL of his awards and recommendations were gone; everything was scrubbed. Seven years. SEVEN YEARS. SEVEN YEARS. As Kolt scrolled through the list on his PDA, his blood continued to boil hotter and hotter.

He resigned from the Privateers at twelve in the morning the next day. Theo tried to stop him, but Kolt just ignored his pleas (and also shoved him down a small flight of stairs when he tried to grab his arm while telling him he was an idiot). However, even though he did give them his inventory, he didn’t give them his outfit, and his coil suit was still at home. He chewed on a cigarette as the tram sped out of Home, into the gigantic orb next to it. He was curious of what laid inside, having only seen the small beach that he met Theo on a few weeks before after returning from Centim. Apparently, a large equipment factory was situated in the middle of the orb, producing various different pieces of metal in various sizes and shapes; a mass milling operation, with a small subsection also dedicated to clothing manufacture. He found a job application from the factory that said a, quote, ‘mercenary that doesn’t suck filtered shit’, is required for guard duty. A good start for his new freelance career, Kolt thought.

As soon as he stepped out into the faux sunlight, the doors behind him closed, and he heard the muffled grinding of gears as the tram zoomed away. He took a glance at the area surrounding him; it reeked of nice, quiet days in a false countryside, and the small island in the distance muttered to Kolt about the possibility of a job that was less stressful and strenuous, albeit much more menial.

The landmass held inside the orb wasn’t very large, and was also quite cramped. It was a small island, with a large lake smack in the middle of it, and on this lake there was a gigantic factory, sitting on an even tinier island. This, was the factory, located next to Home Station. The entire building looked like an orange-ish red eyesore, but Kolt really couldn’t see much detail from this distance. It stood out.

It was also where clones were first mass-produced people say, born in tubes probably, growing so quickly that after only a few days they had the biological composition of a human male approximately twenty years of age, even though most weren’t even a year old. Well, it was until they took all that stuff out and replaced it with more machinery, rumors say; now it’s just a glorified machining factory. Surrounding that lake was a bunch of idyllic hillsides, covered with tiny cabins, and Kolt wondered what their purposes were. When he gave his resignation form to the desk clerk for the Privateers, they muttered something about the ‘nearby dome’, and ‘houses’. Why a mercenary group needs a desk clerk, who knows.

Home Station was attached to this ‘land orb’, and was the current ‘forward operating base’ for the Privateers. It’s the largest producer of Privateer-licensed clone accessories, with most jobs on the station having to do with keeping machinery working and the station in tip-top shape. And by accessories, I don’t mean frilly bows; those cost extra. They held the monopoly on clone gear production here ever since they took over and assimilated the small clothing company that originally made the outfits, whose name has been lost to time. I think it started with “Adi.” That place was hectic, to say the least. But this, this was idyllic. The picturesque landscape creeped out Kolt, as he was used to either barren wastelands or the cramped internals of ships and stations, not rolling hills and treeless fields dotted with small cottages. But it was calm, and protected. He liked it.

It took Kolt a good hour to walk across the island, up and down hills. The lake, in comparison to the rest of the island, was gigantic, holding over half the water inside the suspended sphere and a good two miles across. In the middle, smoke seeped out of smokestacks (who would’ve guessed) held on an amalgamation of buildings, square-like and painted brown, an ugly outlier of the environment around it. At the edge of the water, moored onto the land, was a wooden rowboat, made to look antique yet obviously made of modernized wood, cut from trees that had been reinforced genetically and physically in laboratories. He gave it a small push and hopped onto it before as it started to drift towards the middle of the lake. Grasping both of the oars, Kolt began to swim the boat towards the island, his right arm getting tired almost instantly as his prosthetic pumped its hydraulics. He wasn’t used to the quiet.

The factory was a nice opposite to the area outside of it, buzzing with life, loud with the sounds of heavy machinery flexing their own mechanical muscles. Along with Home being the main hub for clone gear production, this factory supplied a lot of small metal parts for various appliances across the universe, and was also used to manufacture materials for the Privateers, mainly guns and ammo. Series 400s, obsolete models of clones, were working levers and pressing buttons in the main hall when Kolt pushed open a pair of double doors, wearing grey coveralls and long fire and cut-resistant gloves that reached up to their elbows as their sole protective gear, the signature Privateer hoods sewn on and flipped up over their heads. Theo wore the same uniform minus the hood, as it was usually equipped by less combat-oriented Privateers. The clones looked like any others, but weren’t your average clones. Series 400s were the first mass-produced line, but featured the heavy drawback of having low IQs, compounded by the required lobotomies for ‘serving the public’ leading to their inability to learn how to speak but fierce, animalistic loyalty to whoever had control of the devices stuffed into their brains. They were nicknamed Menials, due to the fact that most of them were reassigned to factory and borderline slave work across the galaxy.

As lines of Menials operated large machinery around him, Kolt explored the facility, walking up multiple sets of stairs and across many catwalks. He entered a small office suspended above one of the many halls of the factory, and immediately picked up the stench of cigarette smoke and heavy body odor. A clone sat in front of a desk with his boots, feet still attached, on top of it, wearing a white dress shirt, something clones shouldn’t be wearing normally. Large gray bags hung under his eyes, and wrinkles were obviously visible on his forehead, a sign of nonstop stress. “Gah, what now?” The clone groaned hoarsely, adjusting his feet on the desk, “I’m guessing you’re here for work? Doesn’t surprise me, a lot of privvies come here after quitting.”

“Privvies?” Kolt asked, slightly offended.

“Privateers. I could smell the gunpowder residue on you from a mile away.” The clone groaned as they pulled their boots from the table and got up, staring down at the working Menials below.

“I’m guessing you want the job,” The clone sighed, “Why else would you be here? As the ad said, guard duty, nothin’ special.”

“Guard duty? Guarding what exactly?”

The clone sighed again. “We’re running out of materials here. The last ship sent out to one of our outposts went silent, should’ve been back two days ago, probably got attacked on the way. We’ve got one more ship left, and we need someone to go with. Considering the fact that you’ve obviously recently left your job as a soldier-for-hire, you’ve still got some talent, undoubtedly more than everyone else fit for the job.”

“I’ll do it then.”

The clone scoffed, “Well, that was quick.” He looked over at a nearby doorway, shouting, “Higgins! Get the ship ready, we got a guard!

“You don’t need to yell!” Someone yelled from another room.

The clone looked back at Kolt. “What’s your name?”

“Kolt Saudwell.”

“Well, Kolt, let’s get you on that ship.”

A male rat wearing overalls and with not one but TWO cigarettes stuffed into its mouth, the previously referenced Higgins, showed Kolt around in a small tour of the facilities living quarters as the ship was being readied, the living quarters being a room full of bunk beds, dozens of them in long rows. “This is where most of the others sleep, and by others,” He pulled the cigarettes out of his mouth and wheezed, blasting Kolt’s face with halitosis and smoke, “I mean, HAKH HAKH HAKH, clones.” He replaced the cigarettes in his mouth. “I, fer example, sleep anywhere BUT here. Thankfully, clones don’t snore; they don’t even have nostrils.” His own nostrils flared as he chattered on, but Kolt ignored him as he looked around the room. Some of the lights above the beds were burnt out, or even missing completely. The beds were unsurprisingly perfectly made though.

“…anyways, you should probably head to the docking bays on Cerberus, the pilot is most likely already buckling in.”

“You mean I’m already going?”

“Well yeah, we’ve got barely any non-clone workers with half a brain, but the ones who do are pretty dang good.”

Kolt took another good look at the room, sighing, “At least someone is quick today.”


“I have a really bad feeling about this,” Kolt whispered into the headset as he floated over to the unmoving ship. “A really, REALLY bad feeling.” He reached towards the hull as he got close, grabbing onto a ridge in the metal with the fat fingers of his space suit. Reaching up, he began to slowly climb the exterior of the small vessel, grabbing onto whatever edges and corners he could reach. He got to an airlock, pulling himself onto the small catwalk outside of it and turning the lever that activated the airlock’s cycling procedure, and checked the oxygen levels of his olive drab suit on his arm-mounted display. 79% remaining, which still gave him a few hours, but he’d be getting into an atmosphere again so it didn’t really matter. Air silently hissed through the sealed airlock as it vented, and the heavy metal doors slid apart. Kolt floated in, hit the big red button that started the cycling procedure with his palm, and grabbed onto the pair of metal bars on the ceiling as gravity began to come back into play, dropping to the floor with a ‘clunk’. He worked off the space suit, an old surplus SSC-02 model from the 2030s, detaching the bubble-like helmet and placing it on the floor of the ship before beginning to unzip and pull apart the heavy suit. Halfway to the planet, the shuttle had spotted the one sent earlier just floating in space, and had stopped to check it out. Kolt had donned a spacesuit and floated over, and now it was just him, alone, on a seemingly-abandoned space ship.

The air inside the ship tasted awful as his body re-adjusted to the pull of the gravity well, and the doors in front of him hummed as they slid open. The atmosphere of the ship was NOT what was expected; red lights flickered uselessly, signaling a power failure, and Kolt’s eardrums couldn’t pick up any sound at all, just silence. Shit on a shingle, he thought, I really hope this ship ain’t another Event Horizon. Watching that old movie made Kolt not want to get on another ship for a week; Theo had to drag him from his room and throw him down the connecting tunnel at Home. Thankfully, there wasn’t skin flakes coating every surface, but there was quite a bit of dust, common on older ships due to them being made of relatively ‘dirty’ materials and equipped with weaker air scrubbers, but still disgusting nonetheless. With every step, the metal floor panels creaked ominously, something they wouldn’t be doing normally.

“Hey!” Someone suddenly yelled in the darkness, “Who’s there?”

“I’m Kolt, I came onto the ship through the airlock,” He yelled back, pointing to the tiny hatch on the wall behind him, as if showing the darkness itself where he came in from. “Who are you? More importantly, where are you?”

“I don’t know man, I can’t see shit! And my eyes, oh man, my eyes, they sting!”

Kolt recognized the shrillness of the voice; a clone, a sentient one too. “Alright, stay where you are,” Kolt cocked his head to the side and raised a hand to the headset, depressing the button on the side, “Ok, there’s someone in here, possibly hurt, definitely a clone. Does that ship have a medical room, anything?”

“Uh, yeah,” The voice of the pilot crackled into Kolt’s right eardrum, “Yeah, we do. I’m gonna try to dock with the shuttle.”

“Alright, but keep the airlock locked.” After letting go of the button on the headset, Kolt announced, “Ok, keep talking, I’m gonna try to find you.”

“Alright man, alright!” The voice sobbed, and Kolt began to feel around in the darkness, taking weary steps forward. He could walk into a wall, or someone, or someTHING, but at this point he had no other choice. He had left his PDA on the other shuttle, which has an integrated flashlight on it. The emergency lights were pretty much tiny LED’s that were stuck onto the low-hanging ceiling, and they didn’t illuminate anything, but did make a line on the ceiling, showing that there was indeed a hallway in front of him. “Are, are you close?” The voice asked again, louder.

“Almost, it sounds like you’re just around the corner.”

“A-Alright. My flashlight’s not working, I keep turning it on and off, but I can’t see the light! Oh god, my eyes!”

“Calm down!” Kolt ordered, as he felt the corner of the hallway, rounding it. At the end, a light blinded him, and he raised his arm to his face. “That you?”

“Huh? Y-Yeah!” Someone asked, hidden behind the blinding light, “I, I can’t see you, though. My flashlight, it’s broken!” Said flashlight then clattered to the ground.

“I don’t think it’s the flashlight that’s broken, pal.” Kolt sighed as he walked up to the clone, picking up the flashlight at it’s feet. Using the flashlight, he swiped the beam of light across the clone’s face. Two empty holes replace the eye’s of the clone, a mixture of tears and blood dripping out. {A}

“I can’t see!” The clone screamed.

“Well, you’ve got no eyes.”


“Your eyes are missing. Calm down, it’s minor, you can get them replaced (they can do that, right). There’s another shuttle docked to this one, I’ll lead you to it.” He grabbed the clone’s hand, and it shuddered, “It’s alright, I’m a good guy. Well that’s arguable but still.” He comforted the clone, who was still shaking like a chihuahua.

“We’re docked.” The pilot’s voice whistled from the headset, and Kolt felt himself ease up just a little.

After guiding the eyeless clone into the ship, wiping up his eye sockets and shoving some cotton balls inside them, Kolt dragged the pieces of his spacesuit back onto the other ship and practically overturned it for weapons. Now, these aren’t very large ships, but they aren’t small either; the best example would be that they’re five shipping containers wide, and four tall, so enough room to place a few hallways and rooms and have enough space to store some raw materials, but not enough for anything else. Kolt re-entered the other shuttle, and felt a little uneasier after the pilot told him something while he was looking for weapons. Apparently, they (the factory) only had enough trained crew for one ship, and Kolt was standing in said ship, flashlight in one hand, pneumo-gun in the other, not a living being in sight and an eery silence draped over the pitch-black hallways. There was supposed to be people here. Lots of people. 23 to be exact. Where did they go?

A pneumo-gun wasn’t much more than an extremely powerful single-shot nail gun, firing a gigantic fifteen millimeter nail at ludicrous speeds, meant for emergency space combat. {A} He had slipped a few of the thick, long nails into one of the pouches on his belt before returning to the other ship’s airlock. He scanned the hallways of the ship, the slender blue Co2 cartridge jutting out of the back of the vaguely-pistol shaped weapon and reflecting blue light with every flash of the emergency light. The hallways were empty, and still silent. He tried to open one of the doors, but it wouldn’t budge. He still had to check the storage compartments on the deck above.

After an uneventful climb up a flight of stairs in almost complete darkness, Kolt unsurprisingly noticed that this deck too was eerily quiet. He entered the cargo hold, the ears of his hood brushing lightly against the frame of the door as he ducked in, and observed large orange crates sat in lines, neatly organized, and the ceiling reached at least twenty feet above his head. Kolt stuck the flashlight in his mouth and let go of the pneumo-gun, the elastic lanyard attached to it zipping it back to his side, before unbuckling the metal straps over the top of one of the crates and popping it open. He found it was completely empty; he checked two more, which were still empty.

However, one last crate attracted his attention; on top was stamped ‘CLASSIFIED BY ORDER OF THE FUHRER – DO NOT OPEN WITHOUT EXPLICIT PERMISSIONS – OPENING WITHOUT PERMISSION IS PUNISHABLE BY LAW’. Strange, he thought, before pulling his flashlight out of his mouth and examining the latches. They were hanging loosely, as if someone had ripped it open, and two padlocks sat on the floor in pieces. Pulling open the crate, he squinted at the contents: tons of small glass vials were stacked on trays, all of them empty. However, one tray had about half of it’s vials missing. Kolt noticed a manuscript taped to the inside of the lid and yanked it off, closing the crate and setting it down:





Well that was endearing. Kolt stepped away from the crate and was about to start looking for the stairwell to the next floor when he felt something crunch under his boot. Lifting his foot, he saw that he had stepped on an empty vial, and noticed that there were quite a few empty vials sitting around.

“What the hell…” Whatever was in those vials, it probably wasn’t good for his health, so Kolt decided that he’d check one more deck before skedaddling off to the ship he arrived on and letting this ship drift into the atmosphere of some planet and burn up.

The bridge was the smallest deck, and by far the most claustrophobic. The hallways were almost half as wide as the ones in the lower decks, and Kolt didn’t appreciate this one bit. “Kolt,” The pilot’s voice buzzed into his eardrum as he apprehensively walked through one of the hallways, “You should probably leave soon.”

“Why? I haven’t even made it to the bridge!”

“The clone told me that something might be on that ship with you, something probably very, very pissed off.”

“Well, if there was something, I would’ve seen it by now; I already searched the hallways on the first two decks, and didn’t find anything out of the ordinary, unless it’s hiding in the cramped rooms. These ships ain’t big. Did it say anything else?”

“Yeah, it spoke of some sort of ‘red spade-headed thing’ that it saw before its eyes went poof.”

“Alright, I’ll keep an EYE out for any sentient playing cards.”

“That wasn’t even funny.”

As Kolt entered the bridge, the foul smell in the air got much, much worse, for no discernible reason. Chairs idly spun as Kolt brushed past them, terminals blinked, and computers buzzed. Tapping at one of the consoles, Kolt grumbled when it didn’t turn on. Power must be completely sapped, he sighed, rubbing his temple. He pushed a few buttons on a console, not sure what to do now. As if on command, the screen of a nearby console flickered to life, and Kolt walked over to it. The personal log of someone named ‘A. Edvin’ was left open, and Kolt pressed on the down-arrow on the computer’s integrated keyboard, scrolling until he got to the three most recent logs:

‘Dec. 1st, 11:12: Turns out there’s been a change of plans. We were hailed over the radio by a damaged GSS freighter, which asked if it could give us its cargo and if the crew could tag along. They said they were heading to Nova, same place as us, and they didn’t have very much cargo or crew so they wouldn’t be much of a burden. We tried to ask why their ship was damaged, but whoever was on the other end of the radio was being evasive. But anyways, after some deliberation, Kinsky and Helver decided to allow them to board with their cargo, and we moored the ship a few meters away from the cargo doors of the freighter. A few clones opened the rear door in space suits, before floating over some orange crates, and we opened the cargo airlock to let ’em in, whole process took about an hour. I have a really bad feeling about this.’

‘Dec. 1st, 11:49: Well, the only crew on the freighter were clones, and NONE of them wore GSS uniforms, but they all swear they’re Privateers that have been hired by the GSS to ship the cargo to Nova. Kinsky asked them how only four clones could fly a ship that big, but of course, they wouldn’t tell us anything else. Two are currently in the cafeteria talking with the others while Kinsky and Helver are trying to question the other two in their ro’ The log ended abruptly.

‘Dec. 1st 12fuck whatever that doesnt matter now. the cafe has been sealed, the big fucker is stuck in there, but the two that got Helver and captain are still around. gonna try and get to the engine and break the fucker, gonna blow the ship to hell. they arent clones. they were never clones. we shouldnt have leth em on.’

It was the 4th.

The lights suddenly flickered on. Kolt raised his pneumo-gun, pointing it at the ceiling as he scanned the room. His body suddenly froze up as the scrubbers burst into motion, their low humming audible through the ceiling panels, and the air lost its sour taste quickly afterwards.


A deep voice started to hum into Kolt’s ears, smooth and low, and a deep chill ran down his spinal cord. If Kolt had body hair, it would’ve been sticking straight up.

A new contender has entered the fray? Heh, I doubt you even realize what’s inside your blood, little insect.

Something red and black flashed out of the corner of Kolt’s eye, and his breathing became frantic as he fought his tensed muscles and leveled the pneumo-gun, scanning the brightly-lit room. What in the goddamn was this?

Maybe in time, you will be worth confronting, face to face, but until then, you are going to have to paint your own path, friend. In blood. And possibly other body liquids. As for now, I will leave you. Things will get very, very rough soon. But, C’est la vie.

The lights shut off again, and the air tasted worse than before. Kolt found his hands still on the controls of the console, his pneumo-gun still against his hip, and his flashlight in his hand. He wheezed.

Kolt frantically jogged down the stairwell to the second floor, sprinting through the halls with reckless abandon, but as he rounded a corner, he froze up, stiff as a board. At one end of the hall, in the beam of light from his flashlight, stood another clone, back to him. It leaned against the wall, and Kolt could hear over his own heavy breathing a faint rattling noise coming from it.

It suddenly turned to him, and Kolt got a full view of its face, or once was its face, an indescribably distorted mass that looked as if it had been pulled inside out and thrown into a blender, and the clone pushed itself off the wall. {A} It held its arms out in front of it, basking in the light from the torch, and Kolt realized that it had no eyes, kind of like the other clone. It wildly flailed, emitting a hissing noise from a contorted slash on its face, misshapen teeth jutting out. Kolt steadfast, and the mutated clone lurched forward, arms waving in the sickly air of the ship.

And then it stopped moving, freezing in place not unlike Kolt, but unnaturally quickly. Its arms slumped to its sides, and the clone stood silently for a second, not emitting any sort of sound.

A loud crack sounded out, and Kolt noticed that the clones left arm had suddenly snapped backwards, bending the wrong way completely. It started to shake, almost as if it was twitching, and Kolt watched in silent terror as its right arm began to elongate, stretching out and rotating upwards, before it loudly cracked again. Then its right leg emitted another snapping noise, and the knee bent inwards on itself, turning the leg almost digitigrade. What horrified Kolt the most was the fact that the thing’s skin didn’t tear, it was almost like putty, reshaping around the malformed limbs as they continued to distort. A chattering noise began, and Kolt noticed that it was coming from its mouth, the gnarled teeth, something that clones don’t normally have, gnashing and grinding rapidly. From the ‘mouth’ it had on its distorted face, a loud, guttural roar deafened Kolt.

“Fuck this.” He raised the pneumo-gun, and squeezed the heavy trigger.


The creature reeled back, wailing horribly from its maw as it began to profusely bleed from its lower chest, an iron rod having planted itself there, dug deep into its innards. Kolt turned and ran in the direction of the stairs, which were on the other side of the cargo hold. Ducking in, he scraped his sides against a few crates as he ran, and some of them began to violently shake soon afterwards. Sticking his flashlight in his armpit, Kolt pressed a button on the side of the pneumo-gun, and the barrel assembly slid forward, revealing a large breech. Pulling a rod from one of his pouches, he pressed it into the hole, before pulling the smoothbore barrel back into place, and the gun audibly clicked.

Shuffling down the stairs to the floor he entered on, he frantically sprinted through the hall, flashlight beam bobbing. An arm stuck out around the corner, almost clothes-lining Kolt as he ran past. A clone clung to him, and when he tried to shove it off he felt it tense up, and he heard hoarse breathing in front of him. Something chittered, and Kolt realized this wasn’t a clone anymore. His dropped flashlight rolled in a half circle, and illuminated the blood-soaked clone; it looked as if it’s facemask had been torn off, leaving a gaping, oozing hole and exposing the esophagus {A}. Its eyes were milky white, and it coughed blood onto Kolt’s face. Blinking, Kolt slammed the barrel of the pneumo-gun into the roof of its mouth, pulling the trigger and hearing the hiss of compressed air escaping down the barrel. It gurgled one more time before going limp, a large metal stud sticking out of the palate of its mouth, and Kolt shoved it away before running to the airlock that separated the shuttles, slamming his fist on the big red button on the terminal next to it. The doors inched open, and, in the dim light from the crack in the doors, Kolt hastily reloaded the pneumo-gun, clicking the barrel back into place as he started to squeeze between the opening doors. He quickly began to cycle the doors again as soon as they finished opening, and as the heavy metal doors began to slowly close behind him, Kolt faintly heard something horrendous echoing down the halls, an awful, distorted scream. “Yeah, I’m not going back there.” He sighed as he slumped down against the door leading to the other shuttle. This wasn’t his problem. This wasn’t his issue. 

As the shuttle lurched through the last layer of the planet’s atmosphere, Kolt had no idea what to expect. They were only going to be there for a few minutes, he knew that, but through the portholes of the ship all he could see was thick clouds covering the surface. Banking down, Kolt held onto the seat as he felt his stomach lurch in the opposite direction the ship turned. He rotated the crank next to his seat and the window slid up, shrouding him in darkness once more. Leaning back into his seat, the ship hummed and buzzed as it slowly floated down, the engines suddenly cutting off. The liquid inside the bottle Kolt held jiggled and began to float upwards, before sloshing against the bottom of the glass when the ship’s landing gear were planted in the ground. The windows automatically dropped, and the pilot called out, “We’ve landed.”

The planet’s surface seemed almost like a carbon copy of Earth, and reminded Kolt of the fake ‘island’ floating outside of Home. He watched as clones funneled out of a mineshaft outside the window of the shuttle, which was little more than a hole braced with wood beams in the side of a gigantic mountain. Each wore hardhats, and held on their shoulders baskets filled with what looked like multi-colored dust, which they poured into large crates similar to the ones found on that mutant-filled ship they had stopped at. The eyeless clone was lead to a large tent town erected outside of the mine, with both Menials and Privateers milling about, the Privateers watching over the obsolete creatures with a their silent gaze, rifles slung over their backs, hired as bodyguards most likely.

And just as soon as it had landed, the ship began to take off, having been loaded with supplies by the clones. Kolt watched as the plateau they had landed on began to disappear, and soon all he saw was mountains and treetops. The forest seemed to extend forever. {A}

“What’s this planet called?” He asked the pilot as he took a drink from his beer, who sat ahead of him in front of a console lined with row after row of multicolored buttons. They were an albino mouse, a relatively small man with a nub of a tail sticking out of the tail hole on his chair, signifying previous service in either the GSS or the Privateers.

He pulled off his headset and looked over his shoulder. “Nova. Big colonization effort going on down there, both the GSS and Privateers want it, Privateers for the minerals, GSS as a colony, but it seems the mercs are fine with sharing. The GSS, eh, we’ll see. I don’t care what happens to it-I’m too used to the insides of ships like this one.” He patted on the armrest of the pilot’s chair. “And it’s hell of a lot more comfortable in here than out there.”

“Yeah…” Kolt sighed, glancing down at the now-empty beer bottle in his hands, generic brand stuff, tasted horrible but hey, beggars can’t be choosers, it helped wash away his experience in that ship, but his eyes drifted to his hand. Cold stainless steel with a matte finish stared back. He could feel the bottle in his hand, yet, he couldn’t at the same time. It was just a feeling; he couldn’t describe the texture of it as he didn’t have any sort of way to feel the texture. It just… felt like he was holding something. He slid the bottle into his other hand before lifting his arm up from its resting spot below the keys of the navigator’s console, wiggling his fingers and listening to the buzzing coming from his limb. He turned it over and examined the letters stamped beneath his wrist: ‘Property of the GSS Cybernetics Division’. {A} The fact that this sleek piece of machinery was GSS tech astounded Kolt… He wondered how much it cost to make.

Leaning back in the navigator’s chair, Kolt grumbled and pulled down his hood a little more and closed his eyes. It took a good few hours to get to Nova, and it’s gonna take even more to get back, so might as well try to use the best of it, he thought to himself. The beeping of the consoles was calming, like white noise, and Kolt slowly began to relax. His mind began to wander.

Tossing the small pouch onto the desk next to the bed, Kolt yawned, stretching out his aching spine, sore from sitting in stiff pilot’s seats for, jeez, how many hours? The cold leather of the desk chair felt good against the undersides of his chafed legs, and he crossed his knees, bringing his metal hand up to his chin and sighing as he stared at the large, bulky monitor that sat on his desk, coupled with a keyboard. He was surprised the place even came with a computer!

Seven years of service, he thought, and this is the thanks I get; a tiny, two room cabin, no concrete job, and no veteran benefits or anything of the sort. I guess I was asking for it, I mean, maybe I did overreact when I left? At least he a got a discount for this little hut in the grove next to Home; it was a vacation home, and he really needed a vacation about now.

Kolt booted up the computer, hearing the rectangular plastic box whirr and sputter as green, pixelated letters began to form on the screen, spelling out the name of the operating system, but he skipped through to the command line. He typed, ‘SEARCH>GUN SHOPS NEAR HOME STATION 0451’, and tapped enter.

Instead of just giving him a name and address, the screen displayed an ASCII map, with a line comprised of 1’s leading to an X in a crudely-rendered universe map, and a set of coordinates were printed across the bottom of the screen. Scribbling these down, Kolt flicked the off switch of the computer, and squinted at something shining in the reflection of the darkening screen other than his flashy eyes. The barrel of a large handgun, chromed-lined, pressing against the window of the tiny cabin.


Kolt just managed to dodge out of the way of the thirty-two caliber bullet that punched through the window, shattering it, and into the wall right next to the computer. Laying on his side, Kolt instinctively reached for his hip, and when his hand hovered around the empty spot, he remembered, again, that he had his inventory stripped; he had to give it back when he filed his resignation form.

“Damn!” He cursed through gritted teeth as he scrambled to his feet, reaching out and picking up the iron poker to the fireplace. Slamming his shoulder into the door leading outside, he ran around the cabin, to the side with the window. A clone stood there, stiffly fiddling with its Automag, a spent cartridge jammed between the slide and the barrel; a stovepipe malfunction. It turned to stare at Kolt with their signature permanent upper-face scowl, before dropping its handgun and reaching to the small holster clipped to its belt. The air swished as the black stiletto’s blade snapped out, a bright chrome in comparison to the dark plastic grip panels. Kolt’s grip tightened around the fire poker, and the clone lifted its arms into a fighting stance. {A}

Stabbing wildly, Kolt jabbed with the poker, the clone backpedaled as the tip of the poker floated mere inches from its eyes. Reaching behind his head, Kolt swatted the clone across the facemask with the poker, and it clanged loudly-yet-harmlessly off in a glancing blow. The clone’s eyes stared into his, full of artificial hatred. Damn, he thought, all these new clones have some sort of metal facemask. The old ones had ones made of weak aluminum and Kevlotton, a hybrid material of, well, kevlar and cotton, which ironically was barely bullet-resistant. With a sudden lunge, the clone tried to stab at Kolt, and he raised his arm to protect himself. The stiletto’s blade blinged in the sunlight, harmlessly deflected off of Kolt’s metal left forearm, and he bashed the clone in the side with the curled point on the side of the poker. It responded with another jab of the knife, and Kolt caught its arm, dropping the fire poker.

Slamming his elbow down on its own, Kolt watched as it sickeningly snapped the other way, and red spikes of bone tore through the flesh before he gave the arm one final tug. It popped clean off, blood spurting out of the stump, and the clone emotionlessly kicked Kolt in the chest, causing him to skid back in the dirt a little and completely ignoring the fact that its arm had just been torn off t0 Kolt’s amusement, before bending over and picking back up its stiletto off the ground with its remaining arm. This had been the clone’s last mistake, and another testament to their general unintelligence.

Kolt slammed the arm down on the clone’s keeled over form, the spike of fractured bone disappearing into the fabric of the hood, bunching it up. The clone froze up before going limp, falling forward. Kolt pulled back on the limb, and the clone’s head snapped backwards. The sharp bone, topped with an eyeball kebab, stuck out of its orbital.

“Looks like you need some hand-eye-coordination training.” Kolt laughed. He then grimaced at how terrible that was.

His suspicions were confirmed. There was nobody else in any of the vacation homes on the islands; every single window he peered through, he was met with an empty, barely-furnished room, not unlike his own. The dead clone had no sort of identification on its body, but judging by the lack of neighbors and its quick arrival after him, the Privateers don’t like quitters. This event, plus the fact that his records were expunged, didn’t bode well for Kolt, but right now he needed to get strapped.

Kolt practically jumped into his ship, which he got to keep, and sped through the stars towards the planet that held the only close gunshop, checking his bank account through his PDA and breaking many laws at the same time because ‘All eyes on the road at all times’ crap is still forced down people’s throats. The green number on the screen displayed ‘045125’ quite prominently.

“Heh, enough to buy, like, one gun nowadays,” He grumbled to himself. Guns were expensive as all shit, especially after the great ‘100 Year’ law was passed in all civilised space. If the gun was manufactured prior to 1975, you can buy it, no license needed. If it was manufactured afterwards though, you had to either be a merc, a soldier, or someone with connections. Kolt was now none of those. Well, maybe the first one. He banked his ship into the atmosphere of the small, dusty planet, and began his descent.

The surface of the planet was barren, and it looked like Kolt had floated into the set of a spaghetti western. Speeders zoomed over a few hills in the distance, shattering that notion, but the people walking around in the town beneath him all wore older styles of clothing, like suspenders, and even dresses. It was practically socially illegal to wear dresses anywhere but in parties, and here, people were just wearing them out in the daylight, man, woman, and other, all the same. These people must have the biggest, brassiest balls in this sector, Kolt thought. With Kolt’s arrival, they were put in the second place in the ‘brassiest ball’s category. He began to lower his ship onto the dusty surface, to land a short distance away from the small, saloon-ridden town; He knew there were saloons when he saw the big, flashy legally-required neon bar signs beaming through the clouds, installed under the smaller,  more conventional wooden signs, due to laws ‘n such.

The outside of the gunshop was what Kolt expected; trashy. It looked like someone had simply torn the sign off a single-story saloon, as there was no identifying marks of all except a sign that said “Gun Shoppe” in ye old English on the outside, next to where the swinging saloon doors had been torn out and replaced with two very ornate wooden doors that looked extremely out of place for such an old-looking town on a desert-like planet, not as bad as Centim, but with more cacti and tumbleweeds.

Once the doors opened, the smell of dirt and rust disappeared, and air inside was instead filled with the stench of oil and incense; it flowed over over him like a wave. The walls were covered in red velvet, and for once, Kolt felt welcome somewhere, as the guns lining the walls almost made him pop an instant erection. In the middle of the room sat a wooden stand, a pristine gatling gun mounted on top of it, topped off with a quarter-scale biplane floating above. Behind a counter, an old mouse, maybe a rat, adjusted the tiny spectacles on the bridge of his snout, giving a small chortle as the mercenary gave many surprised looks at the ancient arsenal strung from the walls.

“Yes, I have quite a collection, all of which is for sale. Now, don’t you just stand there, come on over!” The old rat giggled when Kolt walked up to the counter, “Now, not many know of my location, so, if it’s alright that I ask, HOW did you find me?”

Kolt shook his head, breaking out of his trance. “Uh, I searched up gun stores in the area?”

“Hmmm……… Well, feel free to look over my ware.” The rat giggled again, motioning to the glass case he leaned onto and the walls around him. “And, please, don’t ask to take them off the walls, just do it freely.”

Kolt immediately took him up on that offer and pulled a Martini-Greener shotgun off the wall, fondling the lever loop and checking the action. That Martini-Enfield saved his ass a few weeks before from that Sark Beast, so he had grown fond of the Martini family of weapons. Every gun was kept in impeccable condition and looked factory new, even though many were over two hundred years of age, which made them eligible for purchase. Heh, lotta good THAT law made. Delicately placing the shotgun back onto it’s hooks, he noticed the racks of handguns, mainly revolvers, sticking out of the red wall behind the rat, who leaned on one of his hands. He wore a burgundy suit, which, compared to the rat himself, looked like it had just came out of the wash, the heat from ironing still rising off in a few places.

“If you need anything specific,” The rat hummed, “There’s a computer in the back.” He pointed to a doorway on the left side of the room, and Kolt walked through it into a very modern looking break room with a table surrounded by folding chairs and a microwave on a counter. Only a few feet away from the doorway was a very, very large terminal of sorts, with green text flashing; an input, and Kolt approached it slowly. Tapping on the stiff keyboard, which had a tiny layer of dust that stuck to his gloved fingers of his right hand, he started to enter in ‘ENFIELD’, but stopped after the F.

The ancient arsenal got him thinking. Backspacing, he instead tapped in ‘MARS’. The large, plastic-shelled terminal whirred and buzzed, and through a small slit above the integrated keyboard, a receipt-like piece of paper popped out. Clutching it between his metal index finger and similarly-metal thumb, it read, “TURN AROUND”.

Kolt jumped when he saw that the old rat had disappeared from the counter, having reappeared behind him with a clumsy armful of guns, including what seemed to be a way-too-small AR-15 and a way-too-big handgun. “I’m guessing these, urgh, are what you are looking for? There’s also a pocket pistol and a Bergmann, and I can take them out if you want.” Kolt nodded, before following the old rat into the other room. Said old rat pulled a boxy-looking handgun with a front-mounted magazine out from behind the counter and placed it with the others.

After having the guns laid out of the counter, Kolt looked them over. “So, a Colt MARS PDW, A Gabbet-Fairfax Mars, and a Bergmann Mars?”

“That’s what’s set out, yes. There’s also the pocket pistol.”

“Keep the pocket pistol.”

Kolt picked up the Gabbet-Fairfax Mars; if any pistol was deserving of the term ‘butt ugly’, it was this one. The barrel was over a foot long, the sights minuscule, and it definitely weighed more than Kolt’s old PHP but, it felt right in his hand, and when he swapped it to his prosthetic, it felt even better. His robotic hand was slightly bigger than his remaining one, to emulate his hand’s width when wearing Privateer-issued gloves, and the large titanium fingers wrapped around the grip with ease. He could easily press the high magazine release, too. Nice. {A}

“I’ll take this one.” He plopped a small sack of coinage on the counter, his meager payment from the guard job. “Will this cover all the costs? If I buy, lets say, a few boxes of ammo, if you have any?” Kolt knew it was wishful thinking that it would cover even a fraction of the price, but if all else fails, he could just grab a few guns and run.

Peering into the bag, the rat laughed, confusing Kolt. “Why,” He sniffed, wiping a tear from his eye, “This’ll cover that twenty times over! Are you trying to be charitable, friend? Because I do not need any more currency than what’s required.”

Kolt, confused, squinted at the rat. “Wait, what? Twenty times over? For this?” Kolt stopped talking, as he feared the old man would realize the rarity of the firearm, only approximately 80 of which were made, and raise their prices.

“Why yes! Hmm, actually…” The rat crouched down, his old bones creaking a little bit as he did so, and pulled open the display. Taking out a very iconic little .32, he placed it next to the other guns. “I’ll add in this Manurhin PP, for good measure. Seems that people only want the Walther-made one.”

Taken aback by the man’s generosity, Kolt lifted a hand to his mouth, contemplating. Should he milk this guy for cheap guns? Or should he take only one or two? “Oh!” The rat once more exclaimed, ducking under the counter, again, and drawing a large cigar box out of the display. “If you pay a little extra, I’ll add in these.” He popped open the lid, and the strength of the smell of grease almost made Kolt gag, but the old man didn’t seem to mind. Inside the box were over a dozen Smith and Wesson Lemon Squeezer revolvers, identified by the big grip safety on their back strap, all in mint condition. “They’re great for parties!”

“Hmmm.” Out of the corner of his eye, Kolt spotted a rifle that practically called to him with it’s spiral barrel and heat shield. At the same time, he noticed an absolutely gigantic handgun hanging from the hooks on the wall behind the rat, with a gigantic cylinder-shaped hump on the back of it. He looked back to the rat. “Is there a discount for a large purchase?”

Kolt wiped the Manurhin PP down with the rag quite furiously. No wonder no one wanted to buy it; the lubricant had started to harden the gun’s action. Nothing a few passes under the faucet and hard scrubbing wouldn’t fix. His new Pedersen rifle leaned against the end of his small bed, the Gabbet-Fairfax sitting on the tiny table in the corner that sat in front of the miniscule kitchen. A Calico M950 sat on the top of the tiny desk pushed up against the wall next to the front door, a one-hundred round spare magazine sitting next to it and a strap looped around the back of it for use as a stabilizing brace along with being a larger-than-needed magazine.

After giving his PP a few more rubs, Kolt blushed, realizing what he was doing and quickly tossing the gun on a stray chair. Somewhere, sometime, someone would laugh at that, he knew. As the gun landed on the cushion of the chair with a whoosh, the door to cabin suddenly rang from a knuckle being rapped on it. Raising from his chair and snatching up his Calico, he threw the door open, finger on the trigger of the recently-loaded pistol, his elbow on his hip. “What are you doing here.” He sneered at the shorter man, lowering his gun and placing it on the small kitchen’s counter.

“Once again, Kolt, I need your help.” Theo sighed, unsurprised by Kolt’s hostile reaction.

“Last time I helped you I lost my job AND I lost half of an arm,” He raised his left arm to accentuate his point, waving it around, “So give me a very, very good reason to help you, Knight. Also how the fuck did you find me?”

Theo sighed again. This seemed to be his trademark. “Please, don’t refer to me by my rank, Kolt. All Privateers are equal. And the  clone at the receptionist’s desk told me they gave you a brochure for a vacation home.”

Kolt scoffed. “Equal? The pay doesn’t reflect that, and i’m not a Privateer anymore anyways. Tell me why you’re here, now.”

“I’m going to Centim. A Privateer scout ship crashed there, but that’s not the only reason. Turns out, the ‘king’ of one of the few city-states has kidnapped a tribe of reptilians and is holding them for ransom, and many people are upset. Four other Privateers have been hired to deal with this problem, but they’re requesting you as a contingency plan, with your familiarity of the planet being an added bonus. You WERE a Privateer for seven years, Kolt. You’re one of the very best.”

Kolt leaned against the doorway, and shook his head. Goddamnit, could he catch a fucking break? Kolt ran his remaining natural hand over his face.

“Fine, fine.” He groaned, looking behind Theo, over one of the fake hills. The faux sun projected onto the glass of the orb just barely concealed the stars and infinite darkness behind it. “If I lose another limb, you’re paying for the replacement.”

“Can I design it myself? You know, the aesthetics and thi-”

“No, Theo. I still remember your horrible fridge drawings at boot camp.”