By Matt Lao
“And what does survival have to do with flaming pistols and electric knives?”
“Those weapons aren’t just for style, you know. Both soldiers and scholars of the City rely on emotion (which is mostly anger) to get the most bang for their buck. But not us. We can’t throw black holes or become an actual bolt of lightning. We can’t become living shields or grow flaming wings out of our backs. If we let emotion get the best of us, we get reckless, we get sloppy. Can’t be sloppy out here. Out in the wild.”
The gunslinger went quiet; he looked to Demora as if expecting something, but her eyes remained fixated on the star-littered sky. Cloud flotillas formed a blockade around the Endurance, silken dust building Old-World bodies similar to those seen through the eyes that could once muster a glimpse beyond the stars. The Guardians’ reflection was cut short by the sound of mechanical hissing that growled from the ship’s bowels. Talon grimaced.
“That sound. Perhaps some fallen bandits believe they’ve hit a gold mine.”
“Somehow I doubt that,” Talon retorted. “I’m heading down below. If you hear any gunshots, try not to do your whole ‘sparky’ thing in here. Kinda hard to fly a flaming ship.”
Climbing down the ladder, Talon had already drawn his weapon, expecting a scuffle. The cargo hold was isolated from the rest of the ship by a sealed doorway, only accessible through the cockpit or the rear service ramp (which could only be opened via the pilot’s seat). The orange-stained plexiglass and pressure-sealed handle appeared more as a quarantine zone, rather than a storage compartment. Beyond the locked door stood Vert, and in his hands was his very own Ghost. The small machine no longer emitted its original blue aura. The Ghost now sat dead in the palm of the Guardian deserter, as he jabbed its insides with a scalpel-like instrument.
“What the hell are you doing to your Ghost?” Talon shouted, to let his voice ring through the steel wall. Vert either failed to hear Talon’s words, or had ignored them completely. The gunslinger slammed his metal fist against the wall of the cargo hold, hoping to snatch Vert’s attention. Without even a glance, Vert continued to tinker with the machine. Not since he was a Guardian trainee had Talon suffered such a high level of disrespect. Without a moment’s hesitation, the fuming Guardian unlatched the cargo handle, releasing chilled air and the smell of cooled sweat into the rest of the cabin. With gun sights set upon Vert’s head, Talon stormed into the cramped, box-filled space.
“I asked you a question. If I don’t get an answer in the next five seconds, I’m going to plunge a knife into your chest and rupture your abdominal aorta. Without your Ghost, that’s probably going to hurt. A lot.” Talon’s highly sophisticated interrogation efforts had finally broken the prisoner. Vert darted his eyes, letting them linger on his captor for a brief moment, then went back to work on his personal experiment.
“Gonna have to give it to ya straight, my friend. I’m makin’ another great escape.” The Ghost in Vert’s hand fidgeted.
“Uh-huh. And how do you intend to do that? By turning your little companion inside-out?” The little radio announcer in Talon’s throat had never been so facetious.
“I don’t reckon it’ll hurt him that much.” The Ghost in Vert’s hand hummed. “I just need a little somethin’ somethin’ from you, that’s all. After that, I’m outta here.” The Guardian deserter grinned a wicked grin. In a phantom form less than smoke but more than shadow, Vert tumbled towards Talon and coalesced right before the gunslinger. The outlaws crashed against each other not like two petty men, but as mad Titans.
Though Talon believed himself to be superior in hand-to-hand combat, Vert seemed intelligent enough to constantly avoid the revolver in play. The combatants traded punches, shattering knuckles and bloodying noses. Vert managed to give himself some breathing room by throwing Talon against the wall. Crates containing most of Talon and Demora’s valuables fragmented into plastic splinters. The Endurance, unsettled by the commotion in her stomach, lurched about in the air. The intercom on the cargo wall sparked to life.