Severed heads weren’t commonplace, even in one of the crime-ridden shantytowns that sprawled along the rims of Hegira’s surface canals.
Winny frowned, her gut churning when Bex plunked the bagged, dripping thing down on her counter. Just as Winny got to wondering whether her human foster-sister had finally gone far enough ’round the bend to forget that a headhunter’s job wasn’t supposed to be taken quite so literally, there was a choked oomph, which suggested that something was, impossibly enough, still alive in there.
Since Bex’s Lloran sibling was clearly the only living being who’d dare threaten and, in fact, could slap her silly, Winny didn’t hesitate to make her displeasure with the grisly gift known.
“Got a death wish, do you?”
Bex was hardly intimidated. She was blue, not a natural blue. Her skin had been dyed in a pattern of planet-side ocean waves, decades ago when skin re-pigmentation was all the rage among Llorans who fostered human children. She was rough and wiry, armed to the teeth. The red fur collar and tail of her jacket didn’t do much to soften that sharp countenance.
Her voice was gravely, a souvenir from when a Merchant Guild metal-head had tried to crush her windpipe when she was twelve.
“There’s a bleeding head leaking into my breakfast.” Winny’s charcoal palm came slamming down, the embedded blue-gold intricate pattern adorning her skin glinted. “Yes, there’s a fraggin’ problem! Plus, you boarded the Koros Tower to catch a bounty?”
“… in the middle of a hostile takeover.”
“Attempted hostile take-over,” Bex qualified “I had to shoot a few Guild metal-heads too, so it’s not like I was taking sides.”
That wasn’t much of a qualification. The Merchant Guild’s hired guns were famously violent and stupid, hence the metal-head nickname.
Bex had been nursing a lifelong hatred for both Koros and the Merchant Guild, the two major factions vying for control of their shared domain. The hunter’s parents had been murdered right in front of her during a forced relocation by some trigger happy metal-head, back when she stood just knee-high.
Indifferent to the turmoil raging within, the legendary ship, Hegira, tumbled endlessly through the void. The massive ship was a great ghost dreamed up by ancients obsessed with chasing the stars. Their kind had mostly died out long ago. Their legacy was a wonder. It was old and it was dark. Its fount overflowed with mythologies.
The aged behemoth spun a magical web of mysteries across galaxies. It dipped its toes into slipstreams and toyed with wormholes like a child playing jump-rope. It collected intelligent beings like rare jewels and made its bones a haven for endangered creatures and conquerors alike.
Yes. Hegira was a wonder, but you couldn’t exactly call it paradise.
Winny palmed her face in dismay as Bex recounted her shenanigans aboard the Koros tower.
“You were party to a trans-provincial incident?”
“I wasn’t!” The hunter spluttered. “Not really.”
A beady-eyed monstrosity wriggled partially out of the opening in the sack Bex had dropped onto the table. Its visage was dark-green like the moss from the Molokai woodsea, mottled with yellow and orange spots.
“Oh yeh-yeh, she was!” It chortled maliciously. “I know!” it crowed. I was there.”Image Credits: Olga Osa