Here's the treat I've been promising. My friend, and fellow member of the Kindle All-Stars, Tony Healey will be my guest for the remainder of December. It is my pleasure to present to you Tony's short story, BEAST, in three parts. BEAST is for sale on Amazon (at a whopping .99) if you prefer to read it from your Kindle app or device. He also has a special deal just for my readers, but I'll let Tony tell you about it.
To my readers with more sensitive "ears," please note that there is just a bit of colorful language in the story that is not generally spoken on my blog, but I've chosen not to sensor it. You've been warned.
BEAST is a preview of the forthcoming novel THE STARS MY REDEMPTION due out at the beginning of 2012.
If you like what you read here, then please leave a review on BEAST’s Amazon page here: BEAST
If you leave a review I will gift you the full novel for FREE when it becomes available. So simply leave your review and I will make sure you get it.
He knew something was up when he heard the sound of another ship clamping itself to their side. From experience he knew the sound a starship made when it hit against another ship.
Abe was on his hands and knees in the engine room cleaning the proton filter plates when he felt the rumble and vibration of what could only be a gravity well drawing close to the ship and he’d wondered if it was an asteroid skimming past them. But then he’d heard the unmistakable scrape of metal on metal and a loud crash.
He stood and listened, forgetting about the proton plates. By the sound of it they were on the starboard side of the Royale. The security seals on the airlock would not open easily for them, whoever they were, but they would cut through in no time at all.
If they were Draxx, then they would be inside the ship in only moments. If it was an attack by pirates or mercenaries, then it depended on their equipment. Some melted the seals, some blasted them clean off... and some simply breached the ship itself by drilling through the outer shell. That was a much less common method of gaining access, though, as you risked hitting major ductwork and blowing both ships. But if you were that desperate to get inside you’d take that risk. Abe knew that.
He wondered if he should go up to the command centre and offer his assistance to the rest of the crew, or remain in the engine room and see who their visitors were before taking action.
Fuck 'em I’ll wait, he thought.
He took the heavy metal rod he’d been using to clean the filter plates and smashed the lighting panel. The engine room was plunged into complete darkness. He didn’t want intruders being able to flick the light back on. Abe sat and waited.
Frankenstein was their nickname for him, and he supposed he really did look a bit like the eponymous Monster. In fact he didn't mind the name. He quite liked it. None of them could have guessed at his real name. They took the name he’d given them – simply ‘Frank’ and nothing else – as gospel.
If only the rest of the crew knew where he had been over the years, what he’d done, they wouldn’t have taunted him the way they did. The crew were all from Earth – the very core world around which the whole of the Terran Union radiated -- and they were all more refined, a far better breed. They were handsome people despite their inherently disgusting natures, clean and well-groomed.
There was a distinct class divide between those born on Earth and the people of the outer colonies, who were decades behind the advancements of the rest of the Union. As you moved further and further away from the core worlds, the standards of living and society deteriorated. Some of the more backwater worlds were at least a century behind other worlds simply due to their distance from the rest of Galactic civilisation.
Abe's duties on-board consisted of working in the engine room, and maintaining anything mechanical on-board. This meant that he was almost always dirty and covered in grease and sweat from his labors. The others mocked him, called him names because of his uncleanliness. He also carried out general janitorial duties and the crew wasted no time in telling him when one of the toilets were broken or blocked-up.
Normally a ship of that size would make do with a replicant engineer and maintenance crew member. But the Union heavily sanctioned the creation and use of replicants. In layman’s terms, Abe knew that that meant they held the monopoly on them and used them strictly for their own ends. So only ships who in some way either operated for the Union or were owned by the Union were allowed replicant crews.
The crew mocked his appearance, his gravelly voice, his slurred speech. He was the odd one out, the man with a robotic arm and a broken face, the dirty one, the Beast, the Monster. In a way he might as well have been a replicant himself for the disregard they showed him.
He ignored them. Their comments didn’t bother him. Abe had faced death and beat it enough times to not let a few spiteful remarks get under his skin. He kept his calm. When he reacted, people died. It was that simple. He only needed the job to maintain a low profile for at least a few more months; otherwise he would have killed them all already.
He’d thought to himself, I bet they think they’re enduring me. But I’m allowing them to keep on living.
I’m enduring them.
They treated him as though he were scum, and he supposed that to them he was; those clean men and women in their clean white ship, transferring mineral shipments back and forth from the Alpha-Nimoy and Zara-X systems. It was easy work for them, and it was easy work for him. Compared to what he normally did, it was like having a holiday, a good rest.
Before taking the job, he had been contacted by a crime boss on the planet Farian, a man known simply as Wang. He’d offered Abe a lot of money to find his daughter, kidnapped a few days before by a rival gang moving in on Wang’s territory, transporting and selling narcotic star salts like 4Fava and 3Bz. Abe had done a bit of digging, bribing people for information, beating a few to a pulp to find out what he needed. He had discovered that she was being held in a compound hidden in an area of thick forest on the planet’s surface, and that she was guarded by at least twenty men.
After joy-riding a borrowed shuttle to the edge of the forest, he had proceeded on foot to the compound. He'd been a bit over-zealous in blasting a hole in the side of the compound with an A10 missile launcher, hoping to not only gain entrance but also throw the henchmen into disarray. However it had had the adverse effect of killing the girl he was meant to collect, the explosion erupting too close to her cell and killing her instantly.
He’d fled the scene knowing that now he would have both gangs after his skin. After hiding out for a few days in the busy capitol city of Farian, he’d met a man due to start work as an engineer on-board a ship called the Royale.
He told Abe that he hadn’t even met his new employer yet, and that a friend had set him up with the gig. After buying the man a few drinks, Abe led him outside on the pretence of going to another bar. He wasted no time and knocked him unconscious, locking him in a metal dumpster with a gag around his mouth and his arms tied behind his back. When – if – anyone found him, it would be days later.
The following morning Abe arrived at docking station 11 and met the Requisitions Officer of the Royale, who agreed to take him on despite being obviously uncomfortable in his presence. If it had been for anything else, he wouldn’t have been employed. But because he looked like a scarred-up engineer with years of experience under his belt, he was taken-on no questions asked. And he could talk the talk. He could always talk the talk.
Part 2 of BEAST will magically appear next Sunday, December 18, at 8:00 a.m.
Tony Healey hails from the UK. His first novel The Stars My Redemption, featuring the main character from BEAST (and an engineer named Laurie), will be available on Amazon in early 2012. His short story, "Redd," appears in the anthology, Kindle All-Stars Presents: Resistance Front which you will find HERE for the whopping price of 99 cents (about 86p).