What happens when the galaxy’s top Bounty Hunter goes searching, on a desert moon, for the universe’s foremost Assassin? God help anyone who happens to get in their way.
Fred Sinclair, AKA, Iceman, exhausted, dehydrated, on the verge of total collapse, operating on his insanely indomitable will alone; forced his blistering boot clad feet to continue through the burning sands of the desert moon of Renquiste III. Halting on teetering legs ready to buckle, he painfully urges his helmet off and gazes into the two suns of the binary system that never set. Each step drags a toe deep into the amber hued sand leaving two distinct furrows in his wake.
His canteen, empty for several hours, drags by its strap from his fingertip. Slipping free from his feeble grasp it is joined by the discarded helmet.
Disoriented, delirious, his tank on empty; his sight erupts in a kaleidoscope of vibrant reds, oranges and yellows. Knees thump the surface first followed closely by the left side of his face. The Grim Reaper hones his scythe for the inevitable.
Footsteps crunching the inferno of sand, firmly approach the fallen form. Twin deep black shadows eclipse the burning rays slamming down on Iceman’s flushed, sweat-drenched features…Maniacal haughty deep laughter echoes off nearby cliffs.
RIGEL V: Four weeks ago:
The crimson sun sets behind the grimy city while a small spaceship zips down into the bowels of the spaceport where the small ship comes to a gentle landing. Seconds later the stairwell descends from the belly of the craft.
Iceman and a shackled prisoner, Benny Cargill, emerge from the ship. The shackled man stumbles while Iceman, mirrored sunglasses on, blaster on hip, shoves him along.
The terminal is crowded with travelers scurrying about. Iceman locks an arm on Benny and roughly shoves the prisoner into the entrance under protest.
“Hey! Watch it will ya! Yer hurtin’ my fuckin’ arm!”
“Shut up or I’ll break it off.”
The Immigration Officer glances at Iceman’s credentials, gives a jaundiced eye to Benny, and waves them through.
Outside the front of the terminal a cab, old, rusted and battered waits for a fare. Iceman hurries his prisoner from the terminal into the cab.
“Central Police Bureau.”
The Cabby flips the flag and speeds off. “You a cop or somethin’?” Iceman makes no notice.
“He’s a fuckin’ bounty hunter!” leaps from Benny’s lips. A quick backhand to Benny’s ugly mug, the silence resumes.
“I didn’t think you was a cop. I know most o’ them personal like.”
“Just shut up and drive.”
Taken aback, the cabby complies in a huff; muttering, “Boy. You try to be friendly…”
“Nothing… nothing at all.”
Crimson paints the horizon lending a pink glow to the Police Station and the nearby buildings when the cab screeches to a halt. Zipping his identi-card through the fare slot, Iceman shoves his prisoner out without a backward glance. The cabby holds up his grubby palm; it remains orphaned.
“What? No tip.” Tires screech when the cab zips away.
Shoving his prisoner Iceman elbows his way through the station crowded with felons and officers. Phones ring incessantly.
Scanning the room, half shoving half dragging his reluctant charge, Iceman bumps into a hooker led by an officer across their path. She postures alluringly.
“I’ll be outta here in an hour if you wanna wait,” she says.
Iceman frowns. “Not a chance.” She fakes a pout.
“You got balls lady, propositioning someone in here. C’mon,” says the officer, leading her away.
Iceman continues to the Sgt’s desk. “Got a skip for you.” He hands the paperwork to the Sgt. who scans it quickly.
“Well well well. Benny Cargill. Nice to see you again Benny.”
Benny grunts his disapproval while he stands idly. The Sgt. hands Iceman a voucher.
“Sign here… okay. We’ll take ‘im in and post the reward to your account.”
Iceman nods. “He’s all yours.”
To one side a commotion erupts. Iceman’s head snaps around. A huge brute of a prisoner is attempting an escape.
Leaping across desks Iceman takes an angle on the brute’s path. A diving leap — an extended arm — he clotheslines the escaping man who crashes to the floor. Unfazed, the brute scrambles to his feet; his way blocked by Iceman.
A front kick to the face stuns the brute stopping his forward progress. A roundhouse kick to the side of the head dazes him. Another heavy boot to the chest thrusts him backwards landing hard, the back of his head thumping hard on the thick concrete floor. The dazed brute stares up into Iceman’s blaster two inches from his nose.
The brute snarls while the officers take him in hand. “Thanks pal,” says one of them. “We got ‘im.”
“So you thought before.”
Put in his place the officer glares while the resistant brute is dragged away.
Twirling his side arm Iceman drops it lightly into his holster. Then strides to the video-phones on the far wall. Sliding his key card through he punches in the numbers. After a few seconds the screen lights up. A blond Goddess, Sharon appears.
“Your boss in?”
“Oh, hi Iceman. It’s been a while. Sorry, he’s gone to dinner.”
“Okay. I’ll see you later.”
Turning to leave he spies the same hooker cuffed to a bench. She flirts provocatively. He strides on oblivious. An indignant glare burns into his back while he strides out the front door.
Hailing a cab he looks in the window at the same cabby from earlier.
“Starmon’s Bar and Grill,” says Iceman, then sits in the back.
“Oh. It’s you again.” Iceman glares. “I know I know. Shut up and drive.
A light rain falls in the rough section of town around Starmon’s. Few people venture onto the streets. Trash and the odd wino litter the gutters of the dimly lit crumbling walkway.
Iceman pulls himself from the cab after paying the fare. As an afterthought he hands the cabby a few bills. “Here. Get this piece of shit fumigated.”
The surly cabby stuffs the bills in his pocket. “Take a bath bub.”
A wry grin on his face, Iceman watches the cab careen away.
Starmon’s bar and Grill: a dirty, rat-infested greasy spoon, catering to the sleazy and unwashed. Dense smoke blankets the room filled with swarthy men and women. Several gather around the pool tables. Loud music masks most of the din of conversation.
Iceman stands in the doorway scanning the room. He elbows his way to the bar. The bartender, a tall portly man sporting a greasy T-shirt, the stub of a cigar in his teeth, approaches.
“Mizel Blinch here?”
Eyes flare; the bartender looks like he’s been slapped with a summons. He points with his stubbly chin speaking in a raspy voice like coarse sandpaper on oak. “That Getouter. He’s over in the corner booth.”
Eyes scanning, Iceman spots his quarry. “Thanks,” he says over his shoulder while he angles toward the man of his search.
“Don’t mention it.”
The people of Rigel have a penchant for using words with double meanings. A Getouter is the Rigelean equivalent of a Bail Bondsman. Rigel’s laws, though strict, are quite fair and swift. Only once an arrest is made the people would prefer that the felons stay in jail. A Getouter is also a nasty adjective for the slimy underbelly of those things that inhabit the swamps. Considering the popularity of Bail Bondsmen Iceman was sure the bartender meant the latter.
Iceman accidentally bumps a pool player spoiling his shot. The biker type looms in Iceman’s face. “Watch where the fuck you’re going asshole!”
Without a word Iceman’s hand flashes to his blaster. Standing firmly he glares into the eyes of the man who relents. “Hey. It’s cool man. It’s cool.”
Nodding slightly Iceman elbows his way past the players to the corner booth.
Mizel Blinch: a balding, mousy, middle-ager in an oversized gray suit; sits eating a greasy concoction while reading a fist full of legal papers. Iceman looms at the table. His shadow falls over Blinch’s papers. He responds without looking up.
“Get the hell outta my light.”
“Make me asshole.”
Blinch drops his fork; sighs. Gazing slowly upward he stands, glares coldly into Iceman’s mirrored shades, then wrings Iceman’s hand.
“Fred Sinclair. What the hell you doing on Rigel?”
“Returning a new client for you,” he says while they sit. “Chased him from here to hell and back. Nice reward though.”
“How’d you find me?”
“Your secretary said you went to dinner. So I put two and two together…”
“And came up with this rat’s nest.”
“You know I only come in here for the ambiance.”
Iceman grins. “I don’t see why. They don’t seem to like you here.”
“Bane of the Bail Bondmen’s existence. They want the best they can get under the law…”
Two men at the pool table take exception at each other’s play and begin to shove each other around.
“…They just don’t want you bailing them out.”
“Until they need your services.”
“Ain’t it the truth.”
The shoving match at the pool table escalates into a full-blown fight.
“The floor show’s started already,” says Iceman.
“‘sa little early,” remarks Blinch, looking at his watch.
While one combatant crashes across their table, Blinch grabs his plate to save his dinner. Iceman casually grabs the man’s collar, shoving him back into the fray.
The bartender, annoyed, wades in, seizing the two men by the head; conking them together with a thunk. Then drags them out the door. Iceman observes the ejection while Blinch returns the table to order.
“Ya know, Benson Rourke’s resurfaced again.”
Iceman stiffens at the mention of Rourke. Vile memories leap from his mental file, flooding his consciousness.
“Fred. Fred! You, okay?”
“Where is he,” comes out through clenched teeth.
“Look. I know you two are bitter enemies.”
“That ain’t the half of it. I nearly had him on Regulus seven years ago.”
“You mean left you for dead when he blasted away most of your skull.
Iceman winces slightly and is elusive. “Well, I’m not.”
“You know. You can’t even tell that half your stubborn head is made of plastic, or that your left eye is bio —mech.”
Iceman fidgets. “Yeah, well, it needs adjusting.”
“I was wondering why the shades this time o’ night.”
“Enough about me. What about Rourke?”
“Word has it he’s being paid to assassinate someone on the mining moon of Renquiste III.”
“That hell hole. Who’d need his services there?”
“The Corporation wants the Union boss dead for calling a slowdown. To scare the men back into the mines.”
“They must be desperate. Rourke don’t come cheap…. Well, thanks for the lead.”
Iceman rises. Blinch catches his arm. “You be careful. You may be the best Hunter there is but he’s the top killer in the galaxy.”
“He’s the one needs to be careful. He owes me.”
“Revenge clouds judgment; causes mistakes.”
Iceman yanks his arm free. “He made the first mistake 15 years ago.”
“I see your minds made up. God help the people who get in your way. Good luck.”
“Rourke’s going to need all the luck once I catch up to him.”
“Just be careful.”
They shake hands vigorously. Iceman gets up, pausing for a few seconds while Blinch returns to his meal. “You know that slop’s gonna kill you one of these days.”
“Can’t be helped. I’m allergic to good food.”
Iceman grins. Then shoulders his way out to the street.
Replaced by a light fog; the rain has ceased. A sodden, spike haired cat feeds from the garbage in the gutter. Pausing in front checking both ways Iceman rolls up his collar and strides away; disappearing into the mist.
Amid the trash and dumpsters in the back of a vermin crawling alley three teen-aged punks roust an old hobo. Each clad in a leather jacket, sporting a garish hairdo, they stand in a circle pushing the hobo between them.
“P —please. Don’t hurt me,” pleads the hobo.
“We don’t wanna hurt you pops. We just want to watch you dance,” says the first punk.
“No. No. Please.”
Passing the head of the alley, Iceman’s ears alert him to the trouble within. Pulling his blaster, he peeks around the corner of the building. “Hmpf. Street punks. Just like me when I ran away to Tau Ceti.”
Returning his weapon to his holster he stealthily makes his way deeper into the alley; using the shadows and dumpsters for cover. The punks are oblivious to their impending danger.
“P —please. Let me go. I ain’t got nothin’.”
The first punk grabs the hobo’s lapels jerking him close. “That’s too bad pops…. I guess we’ll just have to hurt you after all,” he says while the other punks snicker insipidly.
Without warning, Iceman’s boot slams between the shoulder blades of the third punk who grunts and is sent sprawling.
A roundhouse kick thumps a boot into the sternum of the second punk; launching him heavily into the brick wall. He slides down into the soaking garbage at his feet.
The first punk slings the hobo aside, pulls a formidable blade and twirls it around lightly in his grasp. Polished metal glints in the subdued light. He circles slowly; sizing up Iceman.
“I don’t know who the fuck you are pal but you’re going to pay for messing with our fun.”
Iceman continues to circle; grinning at the punk. “It’s your call pal…. Better make it good.
The punk growls while lunging; thrusting out the blade. A lightning-fast parry by Iceman disarms the punk, sending the blade clattering to the brick paving. A vicious elbow cracks against the back of the punk’s skull, sending him sprawling into his two accomplices on the sodden garbage on the ground.
Scrambling to run they freeze stiff when Iceman’s hand flashes to his holster; the punks tremble in fear.
“So…. Out for a little fun are we.”
“W —we didn’t mean no harm,” says the first punk.
“Just getting a little fresh air, huh.”
The second punk stammers. “W —What are you going to do?”
“You know. This hasn’t had any exercise in a while,” says Iceman waggling his weapon. “I think I’ll let it exterminate some nasty alley rats.”
The yellow-bellied punks plead simultaneously. “NO! NO! WAIT! PLEASE! WE MEANT NO HARM!”
“Don’t worry. This won’t hurt a bit…. I think.”
Iceman’s finger slowly tightens on the firing stud. Three pairs of eyes clamp shut while the punk’s wince in anticipation of being vaporized; the hobo can only look on incredulously.
Agonizing seconds pass while the youths wait to die. Sweat trickles down their faces. The third punk sobs mutely.
Cautiously, the first punk cracks open an eye.
“BANG!” erupts loudly from Iceman’s throat; reverberating around the tight confines. The punk’s rigid bodies lurch reflexively. Three sets of horrified eyes gape like saucers “Be glad it was me. Someone else might have blasted you to atoms…. Now, beat it!”
Three trembling bodies scramble to their feet. Three pairs of legs spin their wheels in their escape. Three gasping big shot wannabes disappear rapidly into the gloom. Three sets of eyes never look back.
A wide grin, shaking his head, Iceman twirls his weapon into his holster then helps the hobo to his feet.
“You okay old man?”
“Yes. Yes I —I’m fine. Thank the stars you came along when you did.”
“Twenty years ago that might have been me.”
“It’s not safe out here after dark.” Iceman pulls a few bills from his pocket and presses them into the hobo’s hand. “Here. Get yourself a good meal and a place to stay for the night.”
The thankful hobo nods slowly, watches Iceman disappear into the mist.
“Thank you young man. Thank you very much.”
Four gray steel bulkheads, a single bunk with an overhead light, a dresser built into the wall make up the sleeping quarters of Iceman’s ship. Of his two bags the larger contains his clothes; the smaller several weapons. Satisfied, he sticks a small blaster in his shoulder holster then closes both cases.
Donning his leather jacket, he zips it up a few inches. Pausing for a last look he grabs his luggage and leaves.
Upon stepping off the last tread of the stairs they automatically retract into the belly of the craft. Determined steps carry him across the pad to the terminal.
Activity is light inside the terminal. His heels click hollowly upon the gray faux marble floor. Arriving at the rental counter he hands a magnetic key card and some paperwork to the female clerk there. She scans it quickly.
“O-kay, Mr. Sinclair. You’ll not be needing the ship any longer?”
“Where I have to go is out of its range.”
Taking the metal card, she inserts it in the computer behind her while Iceman gazes about. Nearby, a customer argues with another clerk.
“But according to my records you owe me 500,000 free miles.”
“But Sir. You had to use them by yesterday.”
“I don’t want to hear about that.”
The voices trail off in Iceman’s ears when the clerk returns with his receipt.
“Here we go.” Iceman scans the invoice, lays several bills on the counter and stuffs the receipt into his pocket. “Thank you, Sir. Have a nice day.”
Iceman grabs his cases and strides away while the customer continues his rant with the clerk.
Traversing the empty concourse, he encounters no delay at the travel agency counter. Another female clerk approaches.
“Can I help you Sir?”
“I want to go to the mining moon around Renquiste III.”
“There are no gravity ports on Renquiste III. You’ll have to transfer to the shuttle on Renquiste IV.”
“Whatever. Give me a ticket on the next ship out.”
The clerk pauses to check her computer console. “I’m afraid the only thing we have on the next ship out is a luxury suite.”
“How soon does it leave?”
“In about 20 minutes.”
“I’ll take it.”
“It’s an expensive suite Sir.”
“That’s no problem.”
She leers condescendingly at Iceman. “But…”
Iceman produces a large wad of bills from an inner pocket. She nearly stripped her gears changing her attitude to kiss up. Plastic, with its illusion of wealth, got you service but cold hard cash always had them stepping and Iceman liked to amuse himself with the results. “Yes Sir. Just one moment.”
She makes rapid inputs on the touchpad of her console. The printer spits out the results. She hands him a key card on a chain and the receipt to sign.
“That’ll be 45,000 credits Sir.”
Iceman peels off a stack of bills,
“Here’s your ticket and key card. Have a nice trip.”
“You don’t know the half of it,” he says, hefting his luggage.
She shakes her head when he retreats then turns to a colleague to show him her last booking.
Spacious, the suite is paved in dense carpeting. Exotic plants abound, indirect lighting illuminates an aquarium stocked with unusual fish. A tall window interrupts floor to ceiling murals.
On entry, Iceman studies the room before taking his cases to the bedroom; placing them and his jacket on the bed.
“Whatta room. Too bad I won’t be spending much time here.”
Reaching in the smaller case he removes a tiny tool kit. Standing before the mirror over the dresser he removes his mirrored shades. His left eye glows emerald green.
Using tiny tools, Iceman removes the cornea of his left eye to repair it. After replacing a microchip he reinstalls the bio-mech eye. The green glow now ceased.
“That’s better,” he says, checking the eye from all angles.
Stowing the tools he dons his leather jacket, checks the charge in his blaster then departs for the corridor.
The passageway is as luxurious as the suite; sporting polished brass handrails and muralled walls. The ceiling one continuous light fixture.
Once outside, making sure the door is secure, Iceman strides along the corridor. Passing the door of the next suite he passes an exiting steward.
The steward, a Jonathan Harris type (think Lost in Space) spies Iceman in his biker attire and is instantly contemptuous.
“Sir… Sir,” he calls to Iceman who remains oblivious. Not to be denied the steward marches after him grabbing iceman’s shoulder firmly. “SIR!”
Deftly, in one swift move Iceman has the steward against the wall, his blaster under his chin, replying calmly. “What?”
Visibly shaken, the steward declares, “This level is for First Class passengers only.”
“So, you don’t belong here.”
Not outwardly showing his amusement Iceman withdrew his blaster. Rummaging through his coat pocket he produces his key card and dangles it to one side by its chain. “Yes I do.”
The frightened steward, rigid against the wall, averts only his eyes to the dangling card.
Relaxing his grip Iceman straightens the collar of the paralyzed steward. “Don’t ever do that again.”
The speechless steward nods in rapid short strokes then side to side in equally rapid strokes.
“Now. How do I get to the 3rd Class lounge?”
The steward reacts as if Iceman has asked directions to the Ladies room. “Why do you want to go there?”
“I have my reasons.”
Regaining most of his composure the steward brushes imaginary lint from Iceman and himself. Haughtily animated, he points to the elevator at the end of the hall. “Descend 24 levels then proceed straight ahead. You can’t miss it.”
“Thanks.” Turning his back on the jittery steward Iceman allows himself a mute snicker. While Iceman departs the steward gives him a snobbish leer.
After the elevator doors close the steward tugs at his tunic. “Hmpf. The riff raff this line allows up here.”
Arriving at the deck just above the maintenance level Iceman egresses to a dim passageway —akin to a Klingon warship. The air heavy with oily fumes; motors thrum irritatingly.
The 3rd Class lounge is the space going equivalent of Starmon’s Bar & Grill with similar clientele. Loud music grates on the ears.
Iceman pauses to drink in the scene then elbows to the bar. Aware of the many heads leering his way.
The Barmaid: 45, overweight, displaying pendulous breasts, underdressed showing more cleavage than one cares to see; saunters over to Iceman. A half-smoked cigarette droops from the corner of her ample over painted mouth. “What’ll it be?” she says, undressing him with her eyes.
Returning shortly with the drink the barmaid leans her forearms on the bar pressing against them to force her ample cleavage even further forward. She flirts. “Y’know. I could do things for you…. Nice things…. If you know what I mean.”
A pregnant pause pervades; she jiggles her abundance seductively while Iceman takes a casual swallow of his ale. Unreactive, Iceman places his glass on the counter and leans closer to her. She comes in an inch from his nose. He gazes seductively into her expectant eyes. “I’d turn gay first.”
Neither shocked not insulted she replies, “In that case I’ll send Sonny over to see you.”
Sonny, a tall, massively muscled man in skin tight T-shirt and tighter slacks, wipes glasses at the far end of the bar. They turn their heads slowly to view him. Sonny twiddles his fingers at her. As one she and Iceman return to their nose-to-nose glare.
“I’ll pass,” says Iceman.
“No guts, huh?”
Retracting from one another she leers impertinent before sashaying away. Shaking his head Iceman grins wryly, turning, drink in hand to lean back on the bar.
“She sure twisted your tail,” came the passive male voice to Iceman’s side. He half turns his attention to see a working-class type: tall, muscular, in need of a haircut. “Names George,” he says, extending his hand. Iceman passes, sipping his drink. Taken aback, George retracts his hand. Uncertain what to do he wipes it on his red plaid shirt. “You must be going to the mining moon for a job like me,” he concluded, half questioning.
“What makes you think so?” Iceman said, not looking.
Drunk enough to be frank, George’s voice is not slurred. “Anyone on this level ain’t going to Renquiste Three for a holiday. They’re all on the upper level. Sound enough reasoning knowing Iceman’s attire, he didn’t know the half of it.
Iceman motions to the barmaid to bring two more drinks. While he does his jacket opens revealing the grip of his blaster. It does not miss George’s notice. “I’ve got a job to do there.” Normally this man would not get the time of day but he might know something that could be useful.
“If it’s in Security, forget it.”
Drink in hand, George points to Iceman’s weapon. “I seen your gun; it’s sure a honey. But seriously, the best paying jobs are in the mines.”
“I heard there was a slowdown.”
“Can’t last forever. Say, you ever been there?”
“Uh uh. What’s it like?”
George is animated. “It’s hell and a half on the surface. Those two suns never go down.”
“So why are you going there?”
“Like everyone else, I need the money. If the cities wasn’t domed and air-conditioned I might not go. How ‘bout you?”
A faraway look in his eyes, Iceman takes another casual swallow of his ale. “Like I said. I got a job to do there.”
The intense burning rays of the mining moons two suns are diffused through the long uncleaned smoked gray dome surrounding Boom Town; the major hub of the mining district. Several similar cities dot the barren bleached landscape pockmarked with various sized craters and the odd rock outcropping and low mountain range. A series of surface tubes carry high speed trains, gopher like, from city to city.
Like the others, Boom Town has no structure over five floors tall. If pressed to describe the fishbowl cities you’d say one pretty much looked like the other. This one happened to be the Capitol city where most of the off-world traffic came and went.
Benson Rourke sits on the bed of his Spartan hotel room. Nothing more than a place to flop, a night stand and four smoke stained walls with the obligatory TV built in.
His taught athletic build clad in bronze skin and sandy hair belies his 40 odd years. The ratty bed sways rhythmically while he cleans his formidable blaster; a sinister grin on his face. He’s prepared to carry out his mission; everything is ready.
“…so then I heard the Corp. was gonna do whatever they had to get their angium out,” droned George in Iceman’s receptive ear.
“Anything else I should know?”
“No. That’s about it.”
After downing the remainder of his drink in one swift gulp Iceman tosses a few bills on the bar. “It’s been nice but I’ve got other things to take care of. Have another drink on me.”
“Well thanks. Thanks a lot.”
Determined strides carry Iceman from the lounge; leaving George to hit on the ambivalent bar maid.
Iceman, hurrying into his bedroom, flips his jacket on a chair. Sitting on the bed he brings from his gun case a palm sized silver disk. Pressing a stud on the edge activates free photons that glow, rise and swirl above the disk; coalescing into a holographic image of Benson Rourke that slowly rotates.
“I’m close to you Ben…. And this time you won’t escape me.”
At mid-day the narrow streets of Boom Town are alive with traffic; both four wheeled and pedestrian. Everything is electric powered and hums quietly along. The buildings, dusty with neglect, are not water stained.
Rourke, lurking across the street from the Union Building, is noting everyone’s comings and goings in a notebook. Satisfied, he places the book in an inside pocket then ambles across the street straight into the Union Building.
Fashioned after 20th century architecture, concrete columns support high ceilings. Marble facings dress the walls, lit by hanging fixtures. The pink marble floor is replete with citizens going about their business.
Rourke casually makes his way to the Central Info Board hanging on the lobby wall. Scanning closely, Rourke’s finger slowly traces down the list, stopping at G. Ross: Union Pres., 3rd floor. Grinning like a Cheshire Cat Rourke’s head bobs up and down knowingly. Checking for anyone’s notice he casually exits the building.
It’s night and the weather is lousy with a natural electric light show over the spaceport on Renquiste IV. The space liner has been docked for ten minutes. Iceman emerges first from the boarding tunnel.
He displays his credentials to the Immigration Officer who nods and calls to his partner at the other end of the counter. “Hey Joe. This one’s immune.” Joe nods.
“Where’s the shuttle to the mining moon?”
“Across the concourse, second gate on the right. If you hurry you can catch the one about to leave.
Grasping his luggage Iceman steps briskly away.
Lightning and thunder surround the windy pad lit solely by a few flood lights. Iceman spies the shuttle pilot about to close the hatch not far.
“Hey! Wait up!” Alerted by Iceman’s call the operator pauses.
He jumps aboard what is little more than a flying bus: with a center aisle, double seats, luggage racks above. After paying the fare he takes a seat on the nearly full shuttle and stows his cases.
“Okay folks,” says the pilot. “Be comfortable. The flight should take about three hours.”
Rain pummels the shuttle while it powers up amid lightning and thunder. Lifting off it rotates slowly then flies into the storm. A determined Iceman peers out at the tempest.
Leaning over the bed of his dingy apartment Rourke pours over blueprints spread all over. Specifically, the route to the President’s office and the power room.
Outside the domed city is devoid of vegetation; only sand can be seen to the horizon. After landing near the dome an airlock tube snakes out to engulf the hatch of the shuttle.
Iceman and the others grab their belongings then file out slowly. Emerging from the airlock Iceman pauses to get his bearings while the remaining passengers file around him.
Of generic appearance, the terminal is empty but for the disembarking passengers.
Emerging to the street Iceman halts and reconnoiters. A cabdriver leaning on his hack calls to Iceman. “Taxi mister?”
The driver reaches for his bags. Surrendering the larger Iceman keeps the gun case. “I’ll keep a hold of this one.”
“Suit-cher self. Where to my friend?”
“Do you know where the Union offices are?”
“I know every square inch o’ this fishbowl.”
“Well take me to the closest hotel to it.”
“They’re kinda costly there. Ya sure you wanna afford it?”
“Just drive. And be quick about it.”
“Okay friend. It’s your funeral.”
Iceman is pressed into his seat when the cabdriver slams the pedal to the metal.
The Republican Hotel is a dusty old Victorian style edifice. Depression-like, the streets are empty. Iceman’s cab slides to a halt in front of the main entrance.
Regarding the building with disdain Iceman climbs out of the hack while the cabdriver retrieves the luggage.
“This is the best there is in town?”
“It’s a mining town friend. Whatta ya expect?”
Iceman holds out the fare while looking up at the façade. “I’d hate to see the worst.”
“They got rats as big as dogs their friend.”
Climbing into his hack the cabdriver waves while he speeds off.
Hefting his bags, he shrugs and heads for the revolving doors.
The 19th century lobby has equally antiquated furniture and fixtures about. Artificial, exotic and unusual plants abound hiding all the corners of the room and half the ceiling. Iceman approaches the front desk; the clerk is hanging up the phone.
The clerk’s lips curl at the corner. He’d turn this riff raff out if the hotel wasn’t half empty. “Good day Sir.” The words honey sweet, slipped false from his tongue. “May I help you?”
“I’d like a room on the second floor facing the front.”
A brief sigh, the clerk checks his computer for what he already knows while Iceman scans the room.
“2G is empty.”
Iceman sets his gun case on the counter while the clerk spins the register for him to sign along with his thumbprint.
“Be staying long… Mr. Sinclair?”
Another sigh. “In any case the rate is 5000 credits per week.”
Iceman reflects a you gotta be kidding posture while he peels the proper amount from his roll of bills. The clerk makes a diligent count while Iceman waits impatient. From the computer rises a key card which the clerk hands to Iceman.
“Here we are Sir. Room 2G. The lift is on the right.”
Iceman nods begrudgingly, takes the key and his cases and boards the elevator.
“Second Floor.” There is a long pause as nothing happens. “Second floor please.” Still nothing.
The clerk, hearing Iceman, leans over the counter. “You must push the button on the right to activate the lift.”
Scanning the panel, Iceman sets down his case and pushes the button. The snobbish clerk rolls his eyes.
While the doors close Iceman glances upward. “How Quaint.”
The doors having closed the clerk can’t restrain a remark. “Barbarian.”
On a scale of one to ten, with Iceman’s Liner suite being a ten, this hotel room rated somewhere around a two. It was made up of a sitting room, a bedroom and a bath with few amenities. What the hell, it was only a place to keep his things.
Placing his cases on the bed he removes his jacket and shoulder holster then checks the shower and closets. Reentering the sitting room, he activates the built in TV, pushes aside the curtain to peer at the filthy street then returns to the shower.
On the TV screen two women talk in front of the Union Building. The interviewer (a Connie Chung type) is professionally dressed. The other, Gloria Ross, the Union President is tall, 35, well built, though her business attire masks it. Handsome rather than beautiful but still a looker.
“Will the work slowdown continue?”
“We have no recourse until the Corp. is willing to reopen negotiations.”
“Is the slow down a means to get their attention without actually going on strike?”
“Precisely. And if the Corp. still refuses to talk to us, we are prepared to escalate.”
“Is there any truth to the threats upon your life?”
“It’s a ridiculous notion. And even if true, I’ve no intention of backing off.”
A man in a business suit approaches and whispers in Ross’ ear.
“I’m sorry,” she says. “I must cut this short. I have other pressing matters.”
The interviewer strives for one last question on the fly. “Does it have anything to do with the possibility of a strike?”
“I’ve no comment at this time.”
The interviewer faces the camera for her recap. “So, there you have it. Union President, Gloria Ross will not back down in having her demands met.” Iceman returns to the room, a towel about his waist, briskly rubbing his hair with another. “Rumors of threats on her life however are unconfirmed.”
Tossing the towel from his head on the chair he gazes out the window. “I know you’re here Ben…. I can almost smell you.”
Returning to the bedroom he reappears minutes later after dressing and picks up the phone. “This is Mr. Sinclair in 2G. I’ll be in need of a cab in five minutes…. Yes, thank you.”
After checking the charge in his blaster, he dons his jacket, turns off the TV and heads out.
He boards the waiting cab; greeted by the same driver who dropped him here. “Where to…. Oh, it’s you again friend.”
“Take me to the Police station.”
“Ain’t got no official police here friend.”
“Well, friend, what do you have?”
“Head o’ Security is all.”
“So, drive already.”
The cab pulls into the empty lane, travels one block, turns left and stops at the second building on the right, the Security Building: a dirty stone front affair with its logo over the door.
“We’re here friend. Thirty-five credits.”
“You’re kidding. I’da walked if you told me where it was.”
“You didn’t ask for directions friend. You asked me to take you. Thirty-five credits.”
“Bullshit!” comes out through clenched teeth.
“That’s the fare.”
Iceman leans close, placing the barrel of his weapon lightly against the cabdriver’s ear. “Guess what I do to chislin’ little rat-faced cabbies who try to rob me.”
Sweat peppers the cabdriver’s brow. “F -forget it friend. It’s on the house.”
“You’d like me to forget it wouldn’t you.” The cabdriver nods. “Well, I won’t…. You’ll get your fare after you take me somewhere else. Now, wait right here for me. Got it?”
Iceman pokes his blaster a little harder against the cabdriver’s neck for emphasis.
“S -sure friend. You’re the boss.”
Holstering his gun, Iceman steps from the cab, shoots the driver a last glare then enters the Security Building.
End of part one
Come back in one week for part two
Where you will learn:
Who is G. Ross
Iceman’s origin and how did he get his alias.
How Fred and Ben were terrorists together.