First off, I want to apologise. I haven’t posted a Tale for a few weeks. I have no excuse, it was just one of those things that kinda slipped my mind. I will try to keep up with them throughout November, though I may slacken, so I apologise in advance.
This one is the set-up of a new character, possibly a recurring one, and possibly another serial short story… not sure yet.
Ooh, there’s a also a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo of a certain someone…
Dark clouds raced under a red sky far above the bio-dome that protected the ancient city of Tiller’s Crossing. It was a dingy place, rundown and barely maintained to any civilised condition. It wasn’t a place for civilised society, just the opposite in fact. Tiller’s Crossing was an old colony dating back to the first days of humanity’s expansion into space, a place forgotten by the Terran Consortium as a whole, left to the dregs of the universe to inhabit and control.
It was, like all these places, a haven for criminals.
Tiller’s Crossing also happened to be the one remaining settlement left on Titan, the greatest of Saturn’s moons, and one that had once been home to a harsh regime of terraforming that never held. Thus the domed city was littered with thousand-year-old machinery.
It was from behind one of these aging, degraded machines that a human male stepped out into the dim light of the distant sun. Far above him, beyond the clouds, hung the massive sphere of Jupiter, a beautiful view on the best of days, but ignored by the man.
He was a dark-skinned unassuming person, someone who would go unnoticed in an equally empty or crowded room. He wore nothing that would make him stand out in the messy underworld, his clothes dirtied, his hair mussed, even his stance was slumped. All of it made him look like he had been a local for his entire life.
Except he wasn’t.
Alleczandr Fortune hurried through the streets, mimicking the speed and demeanour of those around him, as if he were hurrying to an under-paid, under-appreciated job that they would be literally fired from if they were late. He ambled into a small diner, sat down, and ordered a hot beverage and something that looked vaguely edible. The waitress, a red-skinned woman with three left arms paid barely any attention to him, sneering at him equally as much as the other customers.
The other customers, though, were quiet, eyes cast downwards as they drank their beverages and ate their breakfasts hurriedly. Fortune wolfed down the food, grimacing as the hideously bland lumps wriggled down his oesophagus. He sipped the beverage, hissing through his teeth as it scolded his tongue.
Like everything in Tiller’s Crossing, the drink was cheap –cheap manufacturing with minimal taste. It had no aroma beyond the hot vapour that seared his nose-hairs; he wasn’t actually sure if it was a good thing that he had gotten used to the brown sludge.
Breaking the silence, the door opened, and in walked his target.
No, he corrected, not a target; I am not N.I. anymore. This is just another case –I am not here to spy on a foreign power, or gather intelligence for a military operation.
The target was the reason everybody watched their food instead of their surroundings, the reason everybody in this place was so poor. The fat old bastard held his head up high as if he did not notice the patrons of the place sitting in their squalor.
Wearing silks that cost more than the diner made in five years, he was the leader of this ‘colony’, having murdered his way to the position, using enforcers to keep the locals to pay tithes, taxes, and the like.
His twin bodyguards, two lithe women in PVC outfits that left nothing to the imagination, accompanied him, as they always did when he left his armoured compound. The waitresses suddenly looked busy on the other side of the establishment, looking anywhere but at the fat man.
His name was Jz’Pan, a green-skinned native of Mertik, and he had once been a big shot outside Terran territory, brought down by Navy Intelligence operations. Here, he was a petty tyrant with no empire except a forgotten old colony in a forgotten old star system.
Jz’Pan sidled up to the woman behind the counter, gave her a wink and a smile, when a shadow passed the window of the diner, one shaped like a man. The fat old alien rushed to the front door, opened it, and looked nervously from one direction to the other. Fortune frowned at the tyrant’s behaviour –what could get him worked up in his own colony?
Jz’Pan darted out of the door; he actually seemed to be sweating from Fortune’s limited vantage point. The fatally attractive bodyguards moved with him as if tied to him at all times on invisible leashes.
Fortune stood, and almost crashed into the waitress.
“Why is he so upset?”
“Have you not heard?” she asked, looking at him like he was mad.
“I was working,” he lied –he’d only been on the moon a couple of days, hiding, watching the local thugs.
The waitress leaned in closer to his ear and whispered.
“They say shadows are moving in the streets during night and broad daylight.” As revelations go, it was a stunner, but not the sane kind. “They say spectres walk among us. They say The Ghost is here, on Titan, in Tiller’s Crossing.”