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Honourable Enemies: In Love and War, #16

Honourable Enemies: In Love and War, #16

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Honourable Enemies: In Love and War, #16

Länge:
247 Seiten
3 Stunden
Freigegeben:
Nov 18, 2019
ISBN:
9781393942030
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

Once, Colonel Brian Mayhew was the deputy commander of the Republican Special Commando Forces. But now he's gone AWOL to take out crime lord Rick Santerna, the man who murdered his family.

 

Mayhew's quest for vengeance brings him to the rim world of Maciste, where he runs into his former protégé Mikhail Grikov, now wanted as a traitor and deserter for eloping with enemy soldier Anjali Patel.

 

Mayhew knows that it's his duty to bring in Mikhail and Anjali. But with Santerna hot his tail, he finds that he needs their help.

 

Mikhail and Anjali know that Brian Mayhew is a threat to their freedom and their new life together. But now they are faced with a hard choice. Should they risk their lives to help a man who could condemn them both to death or should they let Mayhew die in the Great Arena of Maciste?

 

This is a short novel of 57000 words or approximately 200 print pages in the "In Love and War" series, but may be read as a standalone. 

Freigegeben:
Nov 18, 2019
ISBN:
9781393942030
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

Cora Buhlert was born and bred in North Germany, where she still lives today – after time spent in London, Singapore, Rotterdam and Mississippi. Cora holds an MA degree in English from the University of Bremen and is currently working towards her PhD. Cora has been writing, since she was a teenager, and has published stories, articles and poetry in various international magazines. When she is not writing, she works as a translator and teacher.


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Honourable Enemies - Cora Buhlert

Honourable Enemies

by Cora Buhlert

Bremen, Germany

Copyright © 2019 by Cora Buhlert

All rights reserved.

Cover image © Grandfailure, Dreamstime

Pegasus Pulp Publications

Mittelstraße 12

28816 Stuhr

Germany

www.pegasus-pulp.com

In Love and War

For eighty-eight years, the galaxy has been torn apart by the endless war between the Republic of United Planets and the Empire of Worlds.

Anjali Patel and Mikhail Grikov are soldiers on opposing sides of that war. They meet, fall in love and decide to go on the run together.

Pursued by both the Empire and the Republic, they struggle to stay alive and free and prove that their love is stronger than the war…

I. On the Run

On the independent rim world of Maciste, a man was running through the warren of grimy backstreets and dark alleys that made up the less savoury parts of the capital Cabiria.

He was no longer young, his reddish hair and neatly clipped beard liberally threaded with grey. His eyes were a watery blue and his body was stocky, packed with muscles rather than fat. The man was clad in the standard spacer’s garb of synth-leather jacket, shirt and utility pants. A blaster was strapped to his thigh — a high-grade model, Republican military issue — that clashed incongruously with the rest of his appearance.

In his regular life, he was Colonel Brian Mayhew, deputy commander of the Special Commando Forces, the elite military unit of the Republic of United Planets. But here on Maciste, he was just a spacer, captain of a tramp freighter, a man with a fake name and an equally fake identity.

He’d come to Maciste to take out Rick Santerna, one of the local crime lords, only to find that Santerna had sent assassins to take him out first. Lucky for Mayhew, the assassins had no idea whom they were really dealing with, and so he had been able to dispatch them, quickly and efficiently, if not exactly tidily. But there were more where those assassins had come from. And so Mayhew was on the run.

He darted into an alley to shake off his pursuers. It worked, too — well, almost. For one of Santerna’s goons — too clever for his own good — had followed Mayhew into the alley. The man should’ve just shot him in the back and be done with it. Quick, clean, efficient. Not exactly honourable, but who the fuck cared?

But the goon had other ideas. Either he had a sense of honour — unlikely, but stranger things had happened — or a grossly inflated sense of his own fighting skills. At any rate, he drew a knife, a nasty vibro-blade, and launched himself at Mayhew.

Bad idea.

Mayhew side-stepped the goon’s first lunge easily and drew his own blade, a standard Republican combat knife. He didn’t much care for edged weapons — blasters and shocksticks got the job done faster and more efficiently. But unfortunately, the rest of the galaxy did not agree and so Mayhew knew how to handle a knife just fine, even if it was not his preferred method of fighting.

The goon drew blood on his second lunge. Nothing serious, just a gash on Mayhew’s right arm. And Mayhew drew blood, too, a stab to the abdomen of his opponent. Nasty, but it wouldn’t kill the man. And if the thug gave up now, turned tail and ran, he could still have walked away from this. After all, killing a nameless goon wasn’t what Mayhew had come here for.

But of course the goon was stupid. Or maybe loyal or persistent or foolhardy. At any rate, he attacked again, weakened though he was from blood loss and the wound in his abdomen.

This time, Mayhew grabbed the man by his knife hand and slammed him back against the wall of the alley with a strength and speed belied by his appearance.

The goon wasn’t even half bad. At any rate, he managed to hold on to his knife, even though Mayhew repeatedly tried to wrest it from his grasp. Finally, he gave up and just let the goon take a stab or two at him, while Mayhew plunged his combat knife right into the man’s heart. The goon slid down the wall, quite dead, an expression of surprise frozen on his face.

Idiot. Mayhew spat out a mouthful of blood and sheathed his knife.

From a pocket of his jacket, he withdrew a small vial containing a shimmering powder. DNA dissolver, one of the many miracles to come out of the labs of the Republic’s Scientific Council.

Mayhew held his breath, opened the vial and sprinkled the powder onto the body of the dead goon. The powder would break down any organic matter it came in contact with to its nucleotides. Mayhew wasn’t entirely sure what the Scientific Council had originally intended the powder for, but in practice it was extremely convenient for disposing of a corpse without leaving a trace.

He strongly suspected that whatever passed for the police in a place like Cabiria wouldn’t particularly care about the dead body of a known gangster found in an alley, but you never knew. So better be safe than sorry.

Mayhew did not stick around to watch the DNA dissolver do its job. He knew what it looked like and it wasn’t pretty. So he just turned around and walked away, a little slower than before.

His own wounds were aching. The goon had gotten him in the arm, the shoulder, the abdomen and the thigh. The abdominal wound was the worst, but none of them were truly dangerous. Indeed, Mayhew could already feel the military grade medical nano-agents coursing through his bloodstream do their job and repair the damage. But even nanos needed time to work and for now, the wounds still slowed Mayhew down. He needed to find a place to lay low for a while and let the nanos do their job.

Mayhew sighed. Damn it, he was getting too old for this shit.

II. The Golden Glove

As he emerged onto the street on the far end of the alley, Mayhew spotted a bar. It was a typical dive bar of the type that could be found near any spaceport on any world, whether Republican, Imperial or independent, anywhere in the universe. Places like these were normally dark, quiet and the staff would ask no questions and leave you alone for as long as it took you to nurse your drink. In short, it was ideal for laying low for a while and waiting for his wounds to heal.

According to the neon sign above the entrance, this particular dive bar was called The Golden Glove. A boxing glove, if the shape of the sign above the door was any indication, and not one of those ridiculous things that the highborn ladies of the Empire wore.

The interior was dark and gloomy, illuminated only by a string of red lights along the ceiling. This suited Mayhew just fine. In a corner, a gambling machine blinked invitingly and at the far end of the room, a dancing pole gleamed deserted in the reddish light. The walls were decorated with sports team banners and faded announcements of boxing matches — so his guess about just what the name referred to had been correct. There were framed news printouts, too, stories about all the famous criminals who had drunken here once, with particular emphasis placed on one Frederic Honka, the spaceport ripper, who had killed and chopped up four prostitutes before he was finally caught and executed. Charming.

On one wall, there was a large viewscreen, broadcasting live footage from the Arena. An unequal fight was going on — a skinny man, armed only with some kind of multi-pronged pike, squaring off against a Sherwanian mountain lion. The man was already bleeding from several wounds and scratches, though the lion was barely breaking a sweat. The outcome was inevitable, but then fights in the Great Arena of Maciste always ended in death. And yet there were always new fighters entering the Arena, idiots looking for glory, those choosing trial by combat in search of justice or those sentenced to die here. That had been the fate of Frederic Honka, the spaceport ripper, at least according to one of the news printouts on the wall.

Mayhew had no idea what it was that had brought the skinny man on the viewscreen to the Arena, whether it was stupid bravado, the search for justice or one of those crimes considered beyond the pale even on lawless Maciste. Not that it mattered much. He had only seconds to live anyway, minutes at most.

Mayhew turned away, as the lion launched its final strike. He didn’t need to see the bloods and guts scattered across the sand of the Arena. Distasteful business, but Maciste was independent, which meant that the Republic had no way of putting a stop to the slaughter in the Arena.

There were only a few other patrons inside The Golden Glove, dockworkers by the look of them. Mayhew ignored them and made a beeline for the bar.

On a barstool, a prematurely aged woman with a tousled beehive hairdo sat slumped over her drink. Mayhew thoughts she was asleep, but as he passed, she suddenly lifted her head.

Hey, handsome, she slurred, Looking for a good time?

Mayhew supposed he should feel flattered that — even though he was on the wrong side of fifty and not in good shape right now — women still showed interest in him. Even if said woman was only a worn out spaceport prostitute.

Not really, no, he replied politely, But thank you for the offer.

The woman regarded him through wide eyes, then her head slumped onto the counter again.

The barkeeper appeared. He was human, not a robot, and covered bald head to toe in impressive tattoos, some of them animated via a variation of the same nano-magic that was even now working overtime to heal Mayhew’s wounds.

What will it be, guv? the man asked, his speech remarkably understandable given that every millimetre of his lips was pierced.

A whiskey, Mayhew ordered.

Due to the nanos in his bloodstream, he could not get drunk, but that had never stopped him from trying. And considering his nanos were currently otherwise occupied, Mayhew might just get lucky this time.

On second thought, make that a double. He looked around, taking in the general dirt and grime of the place. I don’t suppose you have whiskey from MacLane.

"Does this look like the Hotel Orbital to you? the barkeeper countered. On his left biceps, a monster was swallowing and spitting out a hapless man in an endless cycle, while on his right, a mermaid bared and unbared her breasts. Local brew is all I have. Take it or leave it."

Mayhew suppressed a sigh. Whatever you have then.

Stupid. He could almost hear Dana’s voice in his mind. Dana Gibson who had been his chief medical officer, before she’d abruptly resigned three years ago. You need nutrients, not alcohol.

Dana may have been a pain in the butt on occasion, but she was rarely wrong. For in order to do their job properly, the nano-agents in Mayhew’s bloodstream needed proteins, minerals and vitamins. Under normal conditions, these would have been supplied by the booster shots that every member of the Special Commando Forces carried with them to aid the healing process. But Mayhew had used up his last booster shot after his previous run-in with Santerna’s assassins and he hadn’t thought to bring any spares.

Stupid. He could clearly hear Dana’s voice in his head again, almost as if she were standing right next to him. Though the bar in which he’d first met Dana had been of a somewhat higher class.

So booster shots were out. Food, preferably something that was rich in proteins and vitamins, was usually a good alternative, so Mayhew asked, I don’t suppose it’s possible to get something to eat here.

No food, just drinks, the barkeeper grunted and poured whiskey from a bottle of dubious provenance into a glass that looked almost clean, "You want food, try the Little Tramp one street over. They serve sandwiches with schmaltz."

Mayhew wasn’t entirely sure what schmaltz was and he didn’t particularly want to find out either. Still, so much for that idea.

Mayhew supposed he could ask for milk, but that would probably get him the same response as before. So he scanned the menu screen for something that might fit the bill. There were several brands of beer available, all local, as well as hard alcohol, mostly the cheap and nasty stuff. Finally, there was the cocktail menu, which mainly seemed to consist of variations on common cocktails with extremely rude names. Very juvenile, but it did give Mayhew an idea.

Could you mix me a prairie oyster? he asked, Or whatever you call it around here.

The barkeeper narrowed his eyes. That’s a hangover cure. What d’you need a hangover cure for, if you haven’t even had a drink yet.

In response, Mayhew downed his whiskey in a single gulp. That’s no business of yours. So just mix me a prairie oyster. And another whiskey, please.

Mom, the barkeeper yelled, Here’s a customer who wants a prairie oyster.

Well, then make him one, a voice — rough, hoarse and not particularly feminine — replied from somewhere behind the bar.

But I don’t know how, the barkeeper called back.

Mayhew did his best to suppress a smirk.

A few seconds later, a woman trundled into the bar. She must have been in her sixties, maybe even her seventies. Bleached hair, blood red lips and almost as many tattoos as her son. She wore a tank top that exposed a biceps that would have made many a professional boxer green with envy. They made a good canvas for tattoos, too. And so a wave was crashing towards a shore it never met on her right biceps, while on her left, some tentacled horror was making a grab for hapless civilians.

She winked at Mayhew. You’ll have to excuse my Daniel, she said, He’s a good boy, but none too bright. I’m Rena, by the way.

Pleased to meet you. Mayhew said.

That was a prairie oyster, right?

Mayhew nodded. And a whiskey.

That’s good. Rena nodded approvingly. I like a man who plans ahead. Daniel, pour the man a whiskey.

Still sulking, Daniel poured Mayhew another shot of whiskey. Meanwhile, his mother began to mix the prairie oyster, pouring ketchup, tomato juice, brandy, Worcestershire sauce and a dash of hot sauce into a glass and stirring well. Unlike her son, Rena clearly knew what she was doing.

I knew him, you know? she said, misinterpreting Mayhew’s look as interest in the new printouts about the spaceport ripper behind the bar, Freddy Honka. Never would’ve thought he had it in him…

She cracked open an egg and poured the yolk from half-shell to half-shell, letting the white run into the drain.

Bad men sometimes come in here, hard men, rough men. But not Freddy Honka. He was always polite, quiet, almost shy. Not the worst we’ve had in here by far, I’d have said. Until they found the bodies… She shook her head. Dismembered, too.

Rena poured the yolk into the glass, careful not to break it. Then she sprinkled some salt and pepper on top.

Poor Freddy. He didn’t last five minutes in the Arena. Still, at least it was quick. The reigning champion skewered him clean through the heart.

She squirted some lemon juice — not the real thing, but the artificial stuff from a lemon-shaped plastic bottle — onto the drink.

Here you are, guv, she said with a smile and pushed the glass towards Mayhew.

He dug in his pocket for some coins. Places like this were usually cash only, which suited Mayhew just fine, since the last thing he needed was to leave a trail of his entirely unsanctioned presence on Maciste.

Rena reached under the bar and set down a can of instant bandage right next to the prairie oyster.

Here. On the house. She winked at Mayhew. I can tell when a man has been in a fight. Comes with the territory. And you, my friend, look pretty beat up.

Mayhew grimaced. You should’ve seen the other guy.

I can imagine.

He gave her a smile, genuine for once.

Thank you, he said and meant it.

A few minutes later, Mayhew sat in a booth at the far wall of the Golden Glove and applied instant bandage to his wounds, a glass of whiskey and a prairie oyster on the table in front of him.

He alternated between a sip of whiskey — just as cheap and nasty as he’d feared — and prairie oyster, which actually tasted better than Mayhew would have expected, given the environment.

The proteins certainly did him good. He could almost feel his healing accelerating. Of course, simply asking for an egg would have been easier, but Daniel probably wouldn’t have given him one, though Rena just might have. Besides, the tomato juice and the hot sauce contained a scattering of minerals and vitamins, too.

Still, his body and the nanos in his blood needed more time, until he was fully operational again. And The Golden Glove was as good a place as any to wait, while his body healed.

What Mayhew really needed, though, was back-up. Under normal conditions, that wouldn’t have been a problem for Mayhew. After all, he had the entire Special Commando Forces at his command

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