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Copyright: © 2009 Jaye Patrick
Jarik opened her eyes to darkness. Night, thick and sinister surrounded her. An echo
in her mind of... something, an unfamiliar voice, confused her. Blech. She felt… awful, all achy and tired and plain… blech. She slowly sat up, winced and pressed a hand to her left side. Jarik turned, put her back to the alley wall and leaned her head against soot-stained bricks of an alley. A dark, narrow alley, rank with the acrid stench of piss and shit and rotting garbage. Her stomach rebelled and she suppressed the nausea. At the end of the alley, rats squeaked with hunger, paper rustled in the light, stinking breeze and traffic, a quiet hush, sounded too far away for her comfort. Jarik shuddered. Someone was responsible for her being here. Jarik leaned forward and rested her forehead against her knees, closed her eyes. She winced again at the jab of pain, at the stretch of abused skin and muscles just below her ribs.
Bleak Town Think! She ordered the confusion to clear. Why am I in an alley, all messed up? What… happened? Greller. The name echoed in her mind, followed by images. A tall, gelatinousskinned alien. Green, multi-limbed, with scared/furious, pupil-less black eyes, three of them set in a triangle on a narrow, mucus-dripping face. Shouting, pleading, demands and threats – hers, his – then pain and nothing. She’d had no chance against the Rocknar. Eight highly flexible, octopus-like appendages against her four. Not a fair fight, and then he… Her eyes opened and she looked around. He’d stung her. With his long, near prehensile tongue. Lashed out, like a lizard tasting food. She raised a hand to her right cheek, touched her fingers to her flesh. The skin felt hot, swollen and tight. Her fingers brushed over the tiny barb in the middle of her cheek and she used her fingernails to pluck it out. Warmth dribbled down the hot skin. She pressed two fingers on either side of the hole and more fluid oozed out. Hopefully, the thin stream of blood was mixed with poison. “Make that nine appendages.” She muttered and pushed to her feet, used the wall for balance as the world swirled before her. Jarik drew out a small, clear packet from the pouch on her belt, tucked the barb into it. He’d made a fatal mistake in stinging her. Greller was dead meat, a walking corpse, food for worms when she caught up with him. She’d damn well chop him up for sushi! Using personal poison against an officer of the law was a guaranteed trip to a death chamber. Too many aliens had come to Earth in search for sanctuary. Most of those aliens were wanted on their own worlds for a variety of crimes, but some were legitimate migrants. Earth, too assured of its isolation and solitary status in the universe, suddenly found itself frequently invaded by a multitude of species. Panic, hysteria, punitive laws quickly enacted followed.
Bleak Town Each country resolved to deal with the problem in their own way; some evicted them, some eradicated them, some captured them for study and some simply took them in as an act of humanitarianism. The stupid freks. Fifty years later and Bridge City was still dealing with that carte blanche offer of sanctuary. To keep the population under control, the Police and Public Safety officers were given the job of enforcing penalties. Jarik could arrest villains and take them in and let the courts exercise draconian punishment, or – if the crime was heinous enough – she could take them out with extreme prejudice. Greller deserved the latter. Jarik staggered to the mouth of the alley and tried to shake off the dizziness. Not much traffic around and even fewer people - none of whom would look sideways to help a cop. Old, mud stained buildings with their windows missing overlooked a debris strewn street. Busted street lights, dented garbage cans, burned out cars, graffiti writ large in luminescent paint on anything stationary. Uh oh, she was in trouble. She was inside the border of Bleak Town, where the poor, the drugged, the lawless and despairing lived; where murderous gangs ruled and outsiders might as well have ‘victim here’ tattooed on their foreheads. No one came here without permission, and she was pretty sure she didn’t have it. And since she didn’t have permission, that also meant her vehicle was parked at the perimeter – with all the gear she needed. A wave of light-headedness washed over her and she shut her eyes until it passed, pressed her hand against the grimy wall to keep herself upright. When the stomachchurning spinning slowed to a stop, she felt brief tap on her thigh. “Wha...t?” She mumbled and looked down at the child-like, brown-skinned and brown-eyed Pixitar. The small alien bore a striking resemblance to the pixies of Celtic legend, and their personalities were as capricious as those creatures in the old folk tales. “Missus need help?” Fingers continued to stroke her jean-clad thigh with suckertipped fingers. “You see a Rocknar come out of here?” The Pixitar nodded. “Skank run like appendages on fire.”
Bleak Town “Which…” She squinted down at the creature. Sweat slid down the side of her face as heat flared across her skin. “Which way?” Jarik swallowed hard. The Pixitar pointed to the right, deeper into Bleak Town. “You the lookout?” Jarik asked. “Yar. Don’t need no skanks down here.” The big eyes blinked like an owl’s. “Rocknar skank no welcome.” “What’s your name?” The stroking stopped and the Pixitar backed up, shook its bald, nut-brown head. “Don’t need no name. Don’t need no trouble.” “I just wanted to thank you.” Jarik sighed. “Don’t need no thanks, either.” It looked guilty, the eyes darted around the alley as if it was doing something it shouldn’t. And to a degree, Jarik understood. No one did anything without permission here, or suffered the consequences if discovered. Helping a cop was right up there with stealing from a gang boss. “You have it just the same. I am Jarik, okay? Ja-rik. You have trouble, mention my name.” The Pixitar took off without a reply, vanished into the darkened depths of Bleak Town. Jarik watched it go until a wave of nausea cramped her stomach, bent her over and she vomited onto the street with muscle aching ferocity. When she stopped purging, she was on her hands and knees, breathing hard and the aching in her muscles worsened. More sweat dripped off her face, dampened her shirt. “Damn.” She croaked. “I’m chucking up blood.” Her nose ran and her eyes watered. Jarik rubbed her face on her shirt sleeve. She lifted her head. Was there a cure for Rocknar poisoning? She couldn’t think, her thoughts swirled with chaos as she climbed to her feet, staggered left to find her vehicle. No one got in her way, which was a miracle. The denizens must be shy tonight. If ever they had an opportunity to take her out...
Bleak Town The low slung, bright red vehicle was where she parked it: under a street light and with full security engaged. Jarik shoved a hand into her pocket for the keys, drew them out and closed one eye to focus on the security panel. The lights flashed and beeped as she pressed the button. The driver’s door popped open and she all but fell in. The message light on her dash blinked and it took two tries to hit the replay button. “Deran here, I need your report ASAP.” Her Captain said, then the message was interrupted with a live call. She hit the button and blinked when the double image of ancient gladiator appeared. “Uh?” “Jarik, you look like Drepa doo-doo.” Deran said from beneath a strange, winged and silver helmet. “Rocknar poison.” She replied and rummaged around the back seat for the medkit. “Well, stop fooling around, take the multi-spectrum and bring me Grellar!” “He’s in Bleak Town, sir.” She said and drew out the infuser, dialled up the multispectrum antidote, held it against her throat and pressed the button. “Ah. Well.” She barely heard him through the roar of blood through her ears and head. She felt like she was about to explode as the agents scrubbed her blood and consumed the poison. Jarik watched his mouth move, his eyebrows lowered, and then the drugs smoothed out and she could think again. An analgesic would take care of the headache pounded behind her eyes. “Jarik? You okay?” “Gotta be more wrong with me. Still sore and tired.” She replied. Deran raised an eyebrow. “Could be the shot you took yesterday, or don’t you remember that?” “Shot? What shot?” She said, astonished.
Bleak Town “The one where hot lead passes through your body and you leave the med-centre before the regen has finished to pursue a wanted felon.” He stared at her, suspicious. “Are you telling me you don’t remember?” Jarik squirmed in her seat. “Things are a little... hazy.” She confessed. “But it’s slowly coming back to me.” She used an antiseptic wipe and the rear view mirror to clean her face of blood and thick, green... stuff. Rocknars, she decided, were the most disgusting of aliens. His mouth quirked. “Could be a good thing or... a bad thing. Find me Greller. Dead or alive, Jarik.” She nodded and then paused. “Sir… why are you dressed that way?” His eyes rolled. “The Mayor’s Christmas party. It’s fancy dress.” He gave her a grin and jabbed his thumb against his broad chest. “I’m a gladiator.” A... gladiator? “Uh, right, sir. I’ll just go and put Greller down.” “You do that. Then get back to the Med-centre.” He shut off the call and Jarik leaned back in the seat, rubbed her eyes. Greller. The more she thought of him, the more she remembered. No wonder he’d smacked her with his poisoned tongue. He’d tortured and killed half a dozen clients who failed to pay his fee for the under-aged beings he procured for them. Just one more result of the so-called humanitarian effort to resettle the ‘lost’ and ‘marginalised’. Frek. All the effort did was make her job harder. Now her quarry was where she couldn’t go without causing problems. There was only one person who could help her. A man she’d been deliberately not thinking about. Jarik groaned. She had to call Kael after all. Kael Torrin: the bane of her life, suspected criminal warlord, world-class charmer and ever-lasting temptation. She put the call through, closed her eyes to wait. “Why, this is a lovely sight.” The familiar, baritone murmured. The man could make a fortune with that voice. For now, he just raised her temperature.
Bleak Town Jarik looked at him, at the midnight hair combed back, the forest-green eyes surrounded by thick, lush lashes, the square jaw and firm chin with its shadowed cleft. He wore a black jacket with a white shirt and black bow tie. Oh, boy. She thought. Now there is a package I’d like under my Christmas tree. “You’re all flushed and look like you’ve just had a sweaty bout of highly satisfying sex.” He said with a slightly strained smile. As if. Since meeting Kael ten months ago during a raid on one of his legitimate establishments outside Bleak Town, every other man paled in comparison. She hadn’t had a ‘sweaty bout of highly satisfying sex’ since... Jarik blinked away the depressing answer. She knew a gang boss and a cop could not have anything other than an adversarial relationship. She’d do well to remember it, even though Kael tried to seduce her at every opportunity. She looked at him with a bland expression. “Upchucking, actually. Got poisoned by a rat bastard now headed into your territory and I’m throwing up blood and expelling other green tinged, mucus-like nasties.” She said and dabbed her cheek as his expression twisted with distaste. “Darling, must you be so… graphic?” “Yeah, I do.” “And what do I get if I help you?” Kael asked softly, his gaze focused on her. “The appreciation and thanks of the Bridge City Police and Public Safety Department.” Kael laughed, flashed the dimples in his cheeks. “Oh, no, darling, I’ll be wanting something more. Some... personal… appreciation perhaps?” Her blood heated under his gaze, as it always did when confronted by his charisma. Damn him. And damn her traitorous body, too. She was sick damn it, she had no business lusting after the likes of him. “Kael, I’m not in the mood and I…” He leaned into the screen and whispered, “I could get you in the mood, oh, so easily.”
Bleak Town She firmed her lips, ordered her body not to respond to the low, seductive voice. And failed as images of what they could do together popped into her mind. Again. Jarik firmed her crumbling resolve. “Paedophile, Kael. Greller procures youngsters, some just babies.” The lust vanished from his eyes and cold hate appeared. “Name of the dead man?” “Greller. A Rocknar.” “I’ll take care of it.” He said and went to disconnect. “I’m coming in, Kael.” And she shut off the call before he could disagree. Jarik got out of the car and went to the trunk, grabbed her Armalite rifle, loaded with a large enough calibre to take down an elephant. She did not think it overkill; she did want to make sure he never procured anything again. She took out the clear packet and removed the barb, slipped it into the sensor slot on the top of the Armalite. The targeting system would use the molecular structure of the sliver to home in on Grellar. Greller hadn’t taken her pistol, or her cuffs; his appendages couldn’t use them. In fact, only her blade was missing. She grabbed spare ammunition in case the natives decided she’d make a nice meal after all. The com sounded and her lip curled. She knew who it was, so she slammed the trunk, locked her vehicle and re-engaged security. She still felt a little off her game, still tired and achy, but she was hunting the Rocknar. He wouldn’t get the chance to use his tongue on her again – or anyone else. Her boots clicked as she marched down the centre of the street, dared any hidden miscreant to mess with her. In Bleak Town, you had to be the baddest badass around, or be crushed. No one interfered with her; no one took up her challenge and she wondered if that was because Kael’s on-going warning to the residents she was off limits, or because she just looked that pissed off. Anger at Kael’s presumption surged through her. He had a freked up idea that she couldn’t handle herself, that she needed his protection. She was a cop, damn it, not a socialite.
Bleak Town Jarik used the high beam of her flashlight to guide her. Red, green and blue eyes glowed in the darkness, vanished when the light flashed their way. Too many creatures, she thought with a frown, who despised the law, despised everything and everyone; including themselves. She’d be happy to put them out of their misery, if only they gave her the chance. But none were quite that desperate. Kael met her outside his club, the Last Dance. Dressed as if attending an uptown concert, he walked, no, strode towards, anger tightened his features. “I said I’d take care of it, officer.” He bit out as he reached her. Jarik tilted the rifle in her arms. “Call me ‘officer’ in that tone again, and I’ll zap your gonads.” He gripped her arm, dragged her away from the light. “In this area, you don’t challenge me, Jarik, it’ll get you dead whether I’ve forbidden it or not.” “I don’t take orders from criminals.” She pulled her arm from his grasp. “Prove it.” He sneered. “Prove I’m a criminal, Jarik Draxon and take me in. Otherwise, shut the frek up.” She couldn’t prove it, more’s the pity, so she firmed her mouth into a disagreeable line. He glared down at her. “Good choice. Now. I hear tell of a slimy, eight-limbed, three-eyed, green - of all the colours – Mo’frecker, hunting down by the river. He your mook?” “Sounds like it. He’s got to be trolling for fresh meat.” She said. “Down there? Where the river rats play? Oh, you betcha.” Jarik began walking, Kael beside her. “He must have a contract. But he looked desperate the last I saw of him, frantic to get away. Probably why he stung me. Took me down quickly and long enough for his escape into your territory.” “He picked the wrong part of Town. He needs a quick supply to be here.” Kael offered.
Bleak Town “Probably. But he’s also up for the murder of some of his clients, too. Dead or alive, I’m not fussed.” Jarik said. “Then neither am I.” Jarik eyed him in the gloom. “Your shirt stands out tits on a bull.” She said and saw his teeth flash before he folded the lapels of his jacket across. “There, better?” “Better would be you back at your soiree and me out here taking down a freked up asshole Rocknar.” “I so appreciate your vocabulary – and the offer - but hunting is more fun.” Kael replied. The scent of the river caught her nose before she sighted it. During the day, the river ran slow, thick and brown with the detritus of the city. At night, it was worse, with the refuse dumping; bodies, weapons, used illegal drug infusers, alien body waste products, all found their way into the stinking water. “Oy, but this is rank.” Kael murmured as they walked down one last alley and onto the river bank. “If it offends your aristocratic sensibilities, you could always go back.” She said quietly and got down on one knee, used the flashlight to look for the distinctive, three toed print of a Rocknar. “Nothing.” For the next hour, they walked the bank of the river, searching for a trail. When Kael saw movement, he went and spoke to the hidden creature, came back without news. “He’s here, somewhere. No one would lie to me. The Pixitar said it followed Grellar’s scent from you to further along the river. Didn’t want to get too close, didn’t want to lose him either.” He said. “He’s hiding.” Jarik whispered. Oh, yeah, she could feel the bastard and he was close. Her cheek throbbed where he’d stung her, as if the poisoned area knew where the source was and wanted to return. Jarik lifted the rifle, stared through the telescopic low-light sight and slowly scanned the area. A heat signature appeared just beyond the entrance to an alcove,
Bleak Town down river. “Target acquired. One hundred metres.” She said quietly and stepped forward. She sensed Kael beside her. The target didn’t move and she took another step. Still nothing. She might have the beacon, but she didn’t have a clear shot, couldn’t detect anyone else; Grellar could be holding a cold-blooded hostage, hiding them with his own heat signature. And her rifle was powerful enough to blow through Grellar and his hostage. Moving quietly she walked the distance, swung the rifle barrel down and poked Greller in the back of his narrow head as he crouched low in the mouth of the alcove. An appendage swept out as if to swat an annoying fly. “Nice and slow, Mo’frecker. I don’t need to take you in alive.” She said softly. Greller slowly turned. Beneath him lay a small humanoid, with brown and mudstained leathery skin, dirty gossamer wings. Her eyes were uptilted, large and blue. Two holes in the middle of her face acted as scent organs. “Greller, you freker.” Jarik cocked the rifle, shifted the setting to kill. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t execute you now?” She saw his tongue flicker, as if to strike. “Stung once, always follow.” Greller said. “Stung twice, no tomorrow.” Jarik stepped back, stayed beyond the range of his flickering tongue. Greller lifted the Fairon in two of his appendages. “See? Stung once.” He murmured and drew his tongue along the side of the paralysed Fairon’s face. “More, then?” “Put the girl down.” Jarik said with a spurt of fear for the Fairon. “But she’s tasty.” He licked her again, his three eyes focused on Jarik. “And I’m so hung…” His head exploded in a spray of greenish blood and Jarik flinched. The Fairon dropped to the ground, her blue eyes blinking rapidly in panic as thick green fluid splashed onto her. “Kael!” She lowered the rifle and turned. Smoke drifted from the barrel of his antique, 20th century pistol.
Bleak Town “You might like listening to that trash, but I do not.” He tucked the weapon back into his jacket and walked to the body. “If you’re going to shoot, then shoot. Don’t toy with the victim, they have a nasty habit of resisting.” Kael kicked one of the appendages away and Jarik shone her light down. On the ground next to Greller lay a long stiletto knife. “Isn’t this yours?” He asked and picked the blade up, studied it. “Yes, here’s the engraving I had put on. ‘To Jarik…’” “Frecker stole it!” She cut in and grabbed it off him, turned it to see the shine on edge then put it back into the sheath on her belt. “I don’t think you need any more life threatening injuries tonight.” He looked at her over the light beam. “And you were shot yesterday.” “Mmm… yes, about that…” She slung the rifle over her shoulder and turned away as the Fairon began to move. She started the long walk back to her vehicle. Kael walked beside her. “Hey, it wasn’t my fault you stood up and into my sights at the last second!” “I had everything under control. He wasn’t going anywhere.” She replied calmly. “Oh, yeah, sure you did. Was that headlock comfortable?” Jarik grinned. “Not so much comfortable, as convenient. I did have him by the balls at the time.” “That sounds familiar.” Kael sighed and slung his arm around her shoulders. “Dinner?” “Duty.” “Ain’t it always the way with you.” He said and she smirked, slid her arm around his waist. For support, she told herself. What the hell. She might not be able to have a relationship with him, but that didn’t mean she couldn’t touch him; and it was, after all, Christmas.
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