Valerie walked into the kitchen from the direction of Erica’s quarters.
“How did she take it?” Kale was cooking scrambled eggs. Sure there wasn’t much to them, but every time he had access to actual food, it was his go to. They just seemed home-y and with the right amount of spices, the depth of flavor to scrambled eggs was near endless. Every batch was a new experience in taste. Valerie pulled a stool out from under the table, her long blonde hair dangling over her shoulder, not saying a single word.
Kale threw some eggs on a plate and slid them towards her.
William emerged from deck.
“I hope you saved some for me.”
“Last time we made port I made so many eggs you swore you would never eat them again.” Kale smirked. The two had a brother like relationship of push and pull.
“Anything is better than protein injections. Even your pathetic excuse for cooking.”
Valerie chuckled at the sentiment as William pulled the stool next to her out from under the island and sat. Kale nonchalantly slid him a plate.
“Eat up cupcake.”
“Don’t tell me you didn’t buy coffee again?”
“Hey those eggs are coming directly out of my savings. You should be grateful.”
“Grateful? I can try that on for size.”
William bowed his head and clasped his hands.
“Oh thank you Lord Kale, for providing me with this exquisite meal of unmatched glory.” Kale started cracking up. “May its nutrients course through my veins and better my life so I may follow in your ways. Eggs are worth giving up never kissing a girl, and for that I am blessed.”
Kale threw a dish rag at William’s face as the kitchen filled up with laughter. Erica stepped in.
“Oh great, more of Kale’s fantastic cooking. Do I get any?”
“Of course Cap, I wouldn’t leave you starving on a rock!”
“Hey!” William instantly retorted. “It was a joke. I only got about fifty meters off planet before I landed to pick you up again.”
Erica just sighed and shook her head. Stopping Kale and William from bickering back and forth was like trying to swim against the tides. No matter how hard you tried the two would keep pushing to see who got the last word.
“What’s the damage from the dust twister William?” Erica brought the crew back down to reality. The deed of dropping off the Enforcers and the Miners was done, and now they needed to get space born again and find another job.
“That poor fellow got splattered against our starboard side. It is a shame really. Kale and I will clean it as soon as the storm passes. Local data says it will be about four days before we can do anything really serious repair wise, but the winds should slow so we can walk to Olympus without too much trouble. Can’t get any of this Martian soil into the ships belly though. It could muck up the system so bad we would never see her touch the skies again. I figure we could go to Olympus tomorrow to gather supplies and rent a cargo hold at Valhalla to store the stuff, and then when the storm lifts we can just wheel everything out here and repair it right on sight.”
“Would save us money on renting a repair dock too. Do we have any damage on the underside?”
“According to the sensors? Nothing but the expected scratches and scrapes from entering atmosphere. Unless you have the need for a paint job Kale and I can get everything in tip top shape within two days.”
“Sounds like a plan. Kale anything mucked up that we can fix from the inside of the ship?”
“Push Drive needs a few parts. The computer was yelling about a pinched pipe in the Enforcers cabins not delivering the right amount of oxygen. I am going to see if I can’t bypass it, because the material needed to repair it is pretty pricey. About 450 bucks per centimeter. I know we don’t have that kind of cash in the budget though, so I am toying with some ideas. All in all, we are looking at about three days of internal work.”
“Good work on the eggs by the way.” Erica had finished her plate.
“Okay, it isn’t pretty. William Valerie and I will throw on some suits in the morning and go to Olympus. Kale, start working on anything you can and give William a list of parts and materials you are going to need. Looks like we get to stay in and relax tonight.”
Erica kicked up her shoes and breathed out, glad to have a stress free evening ahead of her.
“You just can’t enjoy the silence can you Kale?”
“What was the guys name?”
She bit her lower lip.
“James. James Fletcher.”
Nathan had never been to Olympus before, and it definitely lived up to the legends. All the women here were gorgeous and all of the locally brewed alcohol was delicious. And cheep.
The Miners and Enforcers weren’t needed in the bowels until tomorrow, and he intended to enjoy his one night of freedom before he climbed down that hole for two weeks.
Right now he was enjoying the sight of a girl going by the name of ‘Strawberry’, particularly focusing on her assets. She twirled and had a smile of innocence across her face. Of course it was all a façade, but Nathan needed a woman’s company tonight.
Nathan wasn’t the only Enforcer with lust on the mind, as a fair majority of the Enforcers squad was in the strip club with him, waving money at the women eager to take it. The locals were put off by all of the corporation muscle clamoring around the girls, but they could wait their turn. They had this delectable ‘Strawberry’ to themselves all the time. It was Nathan’s turn to take a bite. He stuck out his hand, a twenty clenched in his fist.
It had been a while since he had tasted pure fruit.
Evan pushed through the crowd with Conner and Tony behind him. The best place for a local brew was unfortunately packed, no doubt thanks to the scantily clad women dancing on tables and walking around with trays of liquor.
Evan didn’t seem to care much for it, and Tony had seen his fair share of flesh in his tours around the system. Conner dismissed the scenery as well, more interested in getting his hands on the beer than the breasts.
Conner had been to even habitable ecosystem in the Solar System except for Mercury and Mars. He was now one away from seeing the entire system. He had a collection of locally brewed beer bottle caps to prove it. And tonight, their one night of freedom before they were shipped off to the bowels of Olympus, he aimed to take Mars off the list.
Evan eyed a few of the Enforcers from Vigilance distracted by the women.
This beer better taste perfect and be worth the risk.
The miners were only supposed to have access to certain sectors of Olympus, but Tony talked a local city police officer to let them slip into the center of town. If they were caught in a first level sector, like downtown, they would have five more years added onto their contract. Evan didn’t want to extend his contract at all, but Conner had talked up this beer so much that he joked that he would come with him and Tony if they could get through the sector gates without hacking the system. A handful of money and a sly smile from Tony made Evan instantly regret the promise.
The trio elbowed their way to the bar where a girl in glowing blue underwear was gyrating to obnoxiously loud dance music. She stepped to the side when she saw Tony push forward to the bar and ignore her. He slipped her a five dollar bill and a sly wink.
“Thanks darling, but we aren’t here for the show.”
She stormed off and found a new section of the bar to show off on. The bartender approached Tony.
“What can I get you and your Enforcer buddies?”
Conner and Evan shared a gasp. While Tony definitely had the physique of an Enforcer, his eyes told a different story. But of course to a local who wasn’t part of the Sigris Corporation, Tony looked like he would fit right in with a group of Enforcers.
“Three of your best local brew.” Tony didn’t even let the insult phase him and handed the man a wad of cash. “And keep the change.” The bartender just simply nodded rang them up and passed them three beers.
Conner was instantly put off.
“Excuse me…” His voice was drowned out with the noise from the club and the bartender was already moving to the next customer. Tony let out a hearty bellow.
“Conner my boy, you can’t be so soft spoken. Stand your ground! Let the man know you are here!” Evan laughed. From what little he knew about Conner, he desperately tried to make everyone happy. This meant he was afraid to step on some feet if he needed too.
Evan turned and surveyed the club while Tony explained to Conner how using his chest he could amplify his voice. A group of Enforcers was packed tightly around the center stage while a red head danced with a pole. Out of the corner of his eye Evan caught a group of locals disappointed that the Enforcers were getting all of the attention, even though they were constant repeat customers. Evan laughed at the situation as he heard a scream from behind him.
“Hey! Buddy!” Conner had obviously taken Tony’s advice like a fish to water. He was waving money up and down as the bartender approached with a little resentment in his step. He leaned in to Conner.
“Hey man, I know this might be too much for you to comprehend, but I have been to nearly every damn bar in this system. I just want a bottle cap from this delicious brew.” Conner looked upon the beer as if it was his child he was immensely proud of. “So, here is some money for your trouble, and I hope you can accommodate my needs.” He slid the money across the bar and shot the bartender a wink.
The bartender just rolled his eyes and turned grabbing a fresh beer, popping off the cap and giving it to Conner while simultaneously raising his bottle. The two knocked the glass together with a satisfying ping and shared a drink. The bartender slid Conner a napkin and walked off.
Conner looked at the napkin with wonder, and then instant dismay.
Conner handed him the napkin.
Welcome to Mars. 2-309-555-8675. XOXOXO Cameron
Tony and Evan looked at the napkin in wonder and started busted out in laughter. Conner stormed off not happy with the turn the evening took. Evan and Tony followed still chuckling about the incident.
Nathan slid money towards Strawberry’s feet. It was enough to get her to stop her normal routine and draw her attention.
“For that honey you get me all alone for half an hour.”
Nathan put more money on the table, eager to get her into bed.
“I don’t need you for half an hour. I need you for the entire night.”
“Sorry honey, not that kind of club.”
The liquor took over and Nathan put more money down on the table.
“You aren’t listening… I want you in my bed tonight.”
“And you aren’t listening to me. It is not that kind of club. And if you keep it up I am going to have to get you removed.” She pushed him away from her and turned over her shoulder. “Plus you couldn’t handle me sugar.” She winked.
Nathan shoved off as Alex, his second in command approached him from behind with a stern pat on the back.
“Smooth boss!” The squad shared a laugh and lifted a glass, the liquor flowing as if from a waterfall.
That bitch. I will have her.
Nathan forced his way up to the bar, way more violently than he should have been. The crowd parted.
“Hey! Bartender! Scotch! And keep it coming until last call…” She would get what was coming to her. No one said no to Nathan Cole.
The night was long. Spacers always made the club more active, but they always pumped a lot into the Olympus economy. Plus Sarah could always use the extra money to pay off her bills. Sure taking off her clothes and letting guys imagine her in the most risqué of positions and situations wasn’t how she imagined getting back to Earth, but it was way better than signing with the Sigris Corporation. They ran the entire system essentially. It was possible to live a life free of their influence, but it typically ran you around five times to cost of living. Not to mention most people who signed a Contract ended up as a Miner, which was basically slave labor.
The Enforcers that came to the club tonight were few and far between as far as the corporate layout of the company. For every fifty Miners there was one Enforcer.
Sarah swallowed her pride and used her fabulous body to accomplish her needs. She just wanted to set foot on Earth, Paris if she could. Earth was only for the super wealthy, but if one worked hard enough, anything was within reach.
Her tips tonight broke over three thousand, no thanks to the Enforcers just setting foot in Olympus. Nights like these almost made the career choice reasonable and worth it. She tightened her scarf and hat and walked out into the cool air. The terraforming set up a day and night cycle to try and mimic Earth as best as possible, meaning the nights would always be colder.
Sarah was walking on cloud nine as she left the club. She didn’t even notice the three drunk Enforcers walk up behind her.
Evan, Conner and Tony had one crazy night on the town. After getting Conner’s prized bottle cap the three of them left the club and started sight-seeing. The center of town, dubbed the Court of Zeus by the locals, had a great appreciation for art. Musical acts performed at all hours of the day while the homeless provided a captivating audience.
Tony went to a local grocery store and bought some bread, and even though he hadn’t eaten real food in months, he divided it amongst the people. Conner ever started dancing with some of the locals, having a good time.
Tony approached Evan with a cup radiating steam.
“Coffee, two sugars.” Tony presented the cup.
“Thanks.” Evan smiled. Conner started dancing with a little girl, a smile growing across her face. Tony and Evan shared a laugh.
“He seems to be having a good time.” Tony raised his cup and motioned to Conner.
“Yeah. He just seems like a big goof ball who likes to have a lot of fun.”
Conner spun the little girl, who seemed to love the fact that her dress spun perfectly.
“What about you Tony?”
“Look Evan you are still young. This system is a harsh place and I made some mistakes that I couldn’t back up. One of those mistakes added a considerable term to my contract… But I don’t regret it.” His smile glowed and the fire reflecting off the silver lining in his beard was magical. He really meant it. He didn’t regret what he did, and most importantly where he was.
The little girl gave Conner a kiss on the cheek after a hug and smile. The crowd was dispersing and it looked like everyone was heading home. Conner walked up and grabbed the scalding cup out of Tony’s hand and took a swig. His face scrunched up in agony.
“Damn Tony how can you drink that crap?!” Conner tried to remove the taste lingering on his tongue. “Well boys, our night out on the town was fun and all, but I think we should probably head back to the slums. The next three weeks are going to be brutal and if I am ever going to get that last bottle cap I better play my cards right.”
Conner didn’t break his stride and just kept walking. Tony and Evan followed.
As they passed the club Conner claimed his bottle cap from something caught Evan’s ear. He thought he heard a cry from help.
The thought instantly vanished as a scream from the alley confirmed the thought. Tony heard it too, immediately dropping his coffee and bolting down the alley.
“Conner…” Evan darted down the alley, Conner right on his heels. Three men had a girl pinned to the ground. Two of them were holding her arms back and the other was swinging at her stomach. She looked like hell.
Not wasting a second Tony grabbed a metal pipe from a nearby dumpster and charged, aiming for the man doing the punching. He was obviously the leader.
He yelped in pain as the pipe connected. The weapon was unwieldy at best, and Tony dropped it to the ground after the first hit. The element of surprise was gone now and he would have to fight defensively if he was to keep the upper hand.
“You son of a bitch!” The man on the left jumped at Tony, releasing the girls arm. Conner was there to intercept the foolish attack with a swift punch to the neck. The other two men focused on Tony while Conner’s adversary squared off against him after regaining his footing.
Tony was holding his own without breaking a sweat. Evan grabbed the dropped pipe and moved toward the girl, using the pipe to defend himself against the three assailants. Tony grabbed one of the men’s arm and used his forward swinging momentum to propel him into the wall. Conner, Tony and Evan placed themselves between the remaining two men and the battered woman clutching her knees.
Evan was the one to speak up.
“Get your friend and get the hell out of here. Now.” Evan was determined that they wouldn’t get any closer to their goal with her.
“Stupid ass holes. You never mess with Enforcers. If we ever find out who you are so help you God…”
Tony stepped forward and accepted that challenge.
The smell of stale liquor radiated off the three Enforcers, but the two standing men took the hint, even under the influence. The gathered their fallen comrade and left the alley. Conner took off his jacket and draped it over her exposed shoulders and ripped blouse. Evan kept a watch as Tony headed to the end of the alley, making sure the drunk thugs were out of sight.
The girl was shaking pretty bad.
“Get her something warm.” Evan called out to Tony. “Don’t worry man, Conner and I will watch her.” Evan and Conner helped her to her feet and they moved toward a bench outside the nearby convenience store. Tony came out with a coffee and a bottle of water.
“Here, this first to heat up. Then this to get your blood flow back to normal.” Tony handed the coffee to her and the water to Conner. “I am going to go find someone to escort her home.” Tony went back into the convenience store and started chatting up the clerk.
Evan and Conner sat on both sides of the girl.
“T…T…Th…Thanks.” She was shivering.
Conner put an arm around her.
“Save your strength darling. Keep warm.” He started to rub her shoulders and Tony came back outside.
“Local police will be here in ten minutes. I suggest we aren’t. We aren’t supposed to be in this sector and I doubt we could talk our way out of it. I convinced the store clerk in there to come out as soon as we left though so she wouldn’t be left alone.” The clerk came outside, a side arm in hand.
“Wow, can’t believe you are a Miner. These two,” He motioned at Conner and Evan, “for sure. But you? You’re built like a truck.” He stood over the girl. “Go. Get out of here. I will watch her.”
Sirens screamed from a distance, but they were closing in.
“Guys… we need to leave.” Evan and Tony were ready to run, but Conner was still on the bench, not moving an inch. “Conner. Now.”
Conner inched over and kissed the girl on the forehead and leaned into her ear.
“I will find this guy. And he will pay.” He hugged her and placed the water on the bench next to her.
The three of them ran, heading to the edge of the sector as fast as their legs could carry them.