Suspense R .  Mac Wheeler Multi - Genre Author
A ngel   is   liberated   from   prison   seconds   before   her   execution for   murder.   Her   career   a   shambles,   she   finds   herself   thrust into   a   new   job,   hunting   real   felons   across   the   frontier,   and piloting the fastest, most sophisticated craft in the galaxy. Why   Toni,   the   enigmatic   EUSA   commander,   takes   Angel   on, falls   into   place   quickly.   They   have   a   lot   in   common.   Though two    decades    separates    them,    both    have    fought    a    life    of persecution   for   their   dwarfism.   Orphans   raised   in   the   same institution,    graduated    from    the    Merchant    Academy,    they even trained under the same martial arts coach.
Urban Fantasy
Chapter One ~ B urnt   opium   scorched   Angel's   sinuses.   The   screeching   band,   musky   smell   of   labor, stale    hook-up    lines,    and    the    constant    shoves    of    drunken    miners    cranked    her hackles.   She   didn't   want   to   go   there   to   begin   with.   Intimidated   by   her   superior   to accompany   him,   and   immediately   abandoned   at   the   bar   like   the   tagalong   she   was, did not help her mood. She    elbowed    hard    one    last    slime    ball    who    grabbed    her    ass,    and    searched through   the   haze   of   the   dark   room.   The   bastard   sat   at   a   table   with   five   locals dressed   like   harlots   you'd   find   in   any   spaceport   dive.   Angel   fought   her   way   to   him, keeping   her   eyes   moving.   Anything   could   happen   in   that   cesspool.   She'd   counted five   fights   already.   The   establishment's   muscle   efficiently   cleared   the   rabble,   both sides   of   each   social   entanglement   carried   through   the   din   and   hurled   into   the   back alley quickly enough, probably without their valuables. Angel   pressed   through   a   last   group   blowing   off   steam   and   stepped   up   to   the table.   Two   of   the   tramps   with   her   lieutenant   appeared   to   have   a   little   too   much testosterone   to   be   dressed   as   they   were.   But   Angel's   shipmate   didn't   seem   to   mind. He   no   doubt   had   a   quart   of   hooch   in   his   gut.   One   of   the   locals   leaned   into   him, looked   as   though   she   had   a   hand   in   his   crotch.   He   must   not   have   made   it   home   in   a long time, to enjoy that action. “I'm out of here,” she yelled. Of   course   he   didn't   hear   over   the   so-called   music,   the   cat   calls   to   the   strippers over   the   bar   and   the   general   chaos.   His   slotted   eyes   took   a   moment   to   focus   on   her. He   tilted   his   head   back   a   smidgen   in   that   what-the-hell-did-you-say   manner.   Angel rotated   her   thumb   toward   her   chest   before   spiking   it   over   her   shoulder.   He   lifted an   inebriated   eyebrow   in   answer,   a   lot   less   concerned   about   her   company   than   he was an hour earlier. Maybe it was the action he was getting under the table. Angel   pivoted   for   the   exit   and   was   immediately   slammed   by   a   female   obviously born   to   the   heavy   gravity   planet.   Her   shoulders   barely   tapered   into   a   neck.   Her boobs   hung   to   her   waist.   God   it   was   a   curse   to   have   breasts   on   that   planet.   Angel noted   one   of   her   own   hands   unconsciously   pressed   against   her   chest.   She   was   glad she took the time to put on a tight sports bra. Not that she needed much support. “Ya   need   to   stand   taller   in   this   place.”   The   woman   belched   in   Angel's   ear.   The foul breath was followed by a drunken cackle. Ya saying I'm short, you— The   woman   disappeared   in   the   dark.   Angel   hurried   on,   wishing   she   indeed stood   taller   than   the   hundreds   of   armpits   between   her   and   the   door.   She   managed the   fifty   meters   with   only   one   drink   poured   down   her   shoulder.   The   quaff   of   course had to be a nasty smelling ale. Bastard . A   bouncer   opened   the   heavy   door   for   her   and   shared   a   courteous   nod.   Another born   to   the   world,   it   was   a   wonder   his   thick   neck   allowed   his   head   to   tilt   forward. Angel   told   him   thanks.   He   probably   couldn't   hear.   He   was   already   descending   the steps to the bar floor to interrupt another disagreement. The   closing,   fist-thick   door   clipped   Angel   and   turned   her   around.   As   she   spun toward   the   street,   she   found   herself   face-to-face   with   another   local-yokel   thick- neck. “Ya   should   watch   where   yer   going,   sweet   little   lady,”   he   said,   looming   toward Angel. Another   voice   to   Angel's   right   said,   “She   don't   look   too   familiar   with   these parts, Angus. Look. She's TA.” A hand wrenched at the epaulette on her right shoulder. “I'll   bet   she   hasn't   learned   what   our   gravity   does   for   a   real   man   here.   We   ought to show her.” The   stitching   of   her   shoulder   board   gave   way.   She   saw   her   ensign   insignia   pull away   in   a   fist.   The   man   in   front   of   her   reached   out.   Instinct   and   fear   ushered Angel's    well    trained    fist,    slamming    him    in    the    throat.    The    first    man    stumbled backward.   Angel   grasped   the   arm   holding   her   rank,   and   blasted   a   forearm   through the elbow. The snapping joint echoed off the concrete of the building. A   third   man   materialized   to   Angel's   left.   He   grabbed   her   by   the   hair   and   tugged her   toward   him.   Angel   managed   to   keep   her   balance,   and   rammed   her   heel   down on   the   top   of   his   instep.   He   groaned   and   tilted   forward.   Angel   pasted   him   square   in the face with an elbow, and she was free again, only to face the first tree trunk. Don't let him get his hands on you! Angel used a strike designed to finish a fight. Her   knuckles   rammed   the   cartilage   of   his   nose   into   his   brain.   The   bulk   of   the man   teetered,   but   Angel   had   to   turn   her   attention   back   to   the   third   man,   recovered and   ready   for   more—not   a   quick   learner.   Angel   kicked   him   in   the   groin.   As   he leaned forward, she jabbed him in the temple. He fell hard and didn't move. She   turned   to   her   second   attacker   as   the   bar   door   swung   out.   The   injured assailant's   eyes   shifted   from   Angel   to   someone   behind   her.   “She   shot   them!   In   cold blood,” he screamed, cradling his broken arm. Angel   sensed   the   mass   of   the   bouncer   behind   her,   heard   the   double   tone   of   a computer connecting with the local communications grid. “Yeah.   Need   a   wagon   at   The   Den   on   Poltergeist   Street.”   The   connection   tweaked closed. “Lady. Ya better get out of here.” “I    didn't    shoot    anyone.    They    attacked    me.    Look.”    She    flipped    up    the    torn epaulette. “Go. Better for you not to be here when the constable arrives.” “Where I come from, it's against the law to leave the scene of an incident.” “You ain't home, lady. Ah, crap.” A hover with flashing lights rounded the near corner and pulled toward them. “Wished   ya'd   listened,”   the   bouncer   mumbled,   slipping   back   into   the   bar.   The momentary   noise   escaping   from   inside   sounded   like   a   cymbal   emphasizing   the man's warning. “Arrest   her.   Arrest   her,”   One-arm   was   screaming   at   the   two   officers   getting   out of the hover. Angel   glared   at   the   man,   unbelieving   the   fool   could   have   such   cajones .   She walked   down   the   three   steps   to   the   street,   but   before   she   could   open   her   mouth, one   of   the   constables   grabbed   her   and   flung   her   toward   the   hood   of   the   car.   Her face   bounced   off   the   metal,   and   she   blinked   away   stars.   Pain   from   her   shoulder, bent-back arm, knifed into her. A   spotlight   attached   to   the   side   of   the   hover's   door   caught   her   in   the   eyes blinding   her   again.   A   hand   slid   down   her   side,   inside   her   legs.   It   gripped   her   crotch and   lingered   there,   squeezing,   before   moving   up   her   arms,   across   her   shoulders, and down to her breasts. “Don't build 'em big where you're from, do they, girly?” The   man   pressed   hard   against   her,   making   sure   she   could   feel   bulges   that   had nothing to do with the equipment hanging off his weapon belt. “These two are done.” The voice behind them sounded mirthful. The   officer   leaning   into   her   gave   her   another   thrust.   “You're   gonna   be   done   in   a bit too, missy. Ya shoulda stayed where you belonged.” A   collar   cramped   down   on   her   left   wrist,   before   it   was   wrenched   behind   her   so it   could   be   bound   to   her   right.   “I   didn't   do   anything,”   she   muttered   through   a   cough of pain. “They attacked me.” “Sure.   That's   why   they're    dead.   And   you're   leaning   against   our   car.   Hardly   rates as a good alibi.” A   cry   was   forced   out   of   Angel's   throat   as   the   officer   pulled   her   backward   by   her bindings. “I don't see no gun,” the other officer shouted. “She had time to hide it. Or probably gave it to someone else.” “Not much blood.” “They weren't shot. Look at them,” Angel screamed. The   first   officer   slapped   her   in   the   back   of   the   head,   hard,   before   thrusting   her into the back seat of the hover. “Shut up. Sensors more reliable than anything you can tell us.” The   other   officer   released   a   mechanism   that   slowly   circled   around   the   front   of the   building,   only   hesitating   over   the   two   bodies   for   a   moment.   Angel   looked   for One-arm.   He   wasn't   in   sight.   A   wagon   pulled   up   behind   the   first   hover,   and   Angel heard   one   of   the   constables   shout,   “Got   two   cold   ones   for   ya.   Killed   by   someone from   the   Transit   Authority.   Ain't   that   rich?   Bastards   think   they   can   do   anything they want around here.” “Not tonight.” The   door   slammed   closed   cutting   off   a   trio   of   snickers.   Angel   sat   within   the quiet   of   the   officers'   cruiser,   trying   to   collect   her   thoughts,   telling   herself   everything would   get   cleared   up.   She   looked   down   at   her   hip.   Unnoticed,   the   cop   had   taken her   computer.   Couldn't   contact   her   ship.   Couldn't   contact   the   TA.   She   thought   back to the travel warning for the planet. It   could   have   been   stated   more   emphatically.   The   locals   weren't   wary   of   the   TA. Outright disdain fit more aptly. Chapter Two ~ T he   smell   of   vomit   wafted   past   Angel's   face.   She   turned.   The   ugly,   long-haired   tree trunk standing behind her loomed near. Too near. “Back off.” “Only   these   chains   keeping   me   from   eating   you   up,”   he   whispered.   “Inside   the joint, won't be nothing to keep me away.” Angel   edged   away.   Continued   to   feel   his   leers.   He   pressed   against   her   every   few minutes,   but   there   was   no   place   to   go.   Her   shackles   and   the   armed   escorts   ensured that.   Angel   had   never   felt   so   dirty,   though   hazings   at   the   Institute   emotionally prepared   her   for   the   night's   terror.   She   studied   psychology.   Held   her   doctorate,   but never   bothered   to   get   licensed.   Still   didn't   understand   how   humans   found   such amusement   in   the   torment   of   others.   Oh,   she   understood   the   explanation,   but couldn't empathize with the evil of it. An   hour   slunk   by   as   the   line   of   detainees   worked   its   way   toward   the   bored magistrate   at   the   front   of   the   court.   Angel   couldn't   make   out   the   discussions   taking place   at   the   bench   due   to   the   surrounding   noise   until   she   was   escorted   forward,   in preparation   to   be,   she   assumed,   arraigned.   But   the   magistrate   was   sentencing    the woman in front of her. Angel's stomach tightened and her skin bristled with sweat. The   magistrate   slammed   his   gavel.   The   woman   would   serve   three   months,   hard labor. For drunk and disorderly conduct . The   bailiff   yanked   Angel   forward   and   a   mechanized   voice   emanating   from   the ceiling   recited   a   series   of   charges,   which   included   murder   and   resisting   arrest   with violence.   Angel   shouted,   the   words   coming   out   incoherently,   didn't   even   sound   her own—from   a   panicked   youth   perhaps.   Her   heart   pounded   and   she   hyperventilated. The bailiff gave a yank at Angel's manacles and hissed, “Shut up.” The   metallic   voice   continued.   “Evidence   indicates   three   men   confronted   the accused,   but   she   exhibits   no   signs   of   trauma.   With   no   facts   demonstrating   her decision    to    use    deadly    force    twice    over    was    appropriate,    an    argument    of    self- defense   is   denied.   Blood   trace   from   the   third   participant   indicates   he   was   also injured   by   the   defendant.   His   actions   undoubtedly   contributed   to   the   reaction   of the   accused.   For   his   part   in   instigating   the   conflict,   he   also   stands   under   indictment for   the   murder   of   the   two.   When   apprehended,   the   court   will   proceed   with   a   death sentence for the individual.” “Who   were   the   two?”   the   magistrate   asked.   His   voice   was   weary.   He   leaned sideways resting his cheek on a fist. The mechanized voice stated, “A local miner and an off-world contractor.” “Missy.   You   killed   one   of   our   own.   Transit   Authority,   are   you?”   He   chuckled without   humor.   “Not   gonna   help   you   way   out   here.   Twenty-five   years’   hard   labor for    the    murders,    six-months    for    the    other    charges,    to    run    consecutively.”    He banged his gavel. “Nnnnnnext.” The   world   spun.   Felt   as   though   someone   gripped   Angel   about   the   throat.   Her body   numbed,   except   the   points   of   her   shoulders—cramped   from   having   her   hands wrenched   behind   her   so   long.   She   had   to   have   been   lifted   bodily   toward   the   ceiling by   her   bindings.   Angel   believed   she   screamed,   but   she   was   being   slapped   in   the face,   so   she   couldn't   be   sure.   Her   stomach   emptied,   and   a   stream   of   invective   from a   dozen   voices   attacked   her   ears.   She   choked   through   the   puke.   Her   eyes   cleared, and     she     numbly     watched     her     spew-covered     dress     shoes     shuffling     forward, bookended   by   two   pairs   of   commando-style   boots   that   were   also   garnished   by   her splatter.  “They attacked me .” Vomit   burned   her   throat   and   she   choked   again,   and   gagged.   She   was   rewarded with another upward jerk of her arms. “Ahhhh.” “Cooperate or you'll get a lot worse.” His spittle hit her in the face. Another yank on her manacles drew another screech. “Move!” She   managed   to   push   herself   forward.   The   world   danced,   a   kaleidoscope   of images   that   made   no   sense.   Down   a   gray,   overly-lit   hallway,   into   a   corridor   lined with   vertical   bars.   Angel   swallowed   at   the   intense   bitterness   in   her   mouth,   rocket fuel marinating her throat. “That   one   won't   be   any   good   in   the   mines,”   floated   to   her   from   the   other   side   of the bars. “Too dainty. Give her to us? Got room for her on my bunk.” Cackles   and   cat   calls   echoed   up   and   down   the   corridor.   Barred   doors   rattled.   An arm   reached   through,   hand   flexing   in   a   crass   fondle.   The   arm   pulled   back   as   a guard's prod swung toward it. “Would   be   interesting   to   see   you   in   the   mines,”   the   escort   grasping   Angel's   left arm said. “But be safer for them to keep you up here all day.” Angel looked across at him. The other guard gave her a yank at her manacles. “Eyes forward,” he snarled. “Was that all the justice I'm going to get?” Angel's voice came out in a rasp. The   chattier   of   the   two   guards   snorted.   “An   advisor   will   review   your   case.   But unless you have deep pockets, get used to the color gray.” They   yanked   her   to   the   left   into   a   doorway   of   ceramic   tile.   A   roar   like   an   un- muffled   anti-grav   engine   screamed   around   the   corner.   A   mechanical   arm   extended from the ceiling, clamping down on her manacles. “Good   luck,”   one   of   her   guards   said.   He   turned   and   disappeared   with   the   mean one. The   robotic   arm   pressed   her   forward.   A   laser   sliced   her   clothes.   She   jerked   at the   heat   as   it   cut   through   her   shoes   and   socks,   panties   and   sports   bra.   Another   arm pulled   away   the   debris   leaving   her   naked,   before   she   was   pressed   forward   another three   meters.   Stepping   over   a   ten   centimeter   ledge,   Angel   fought   a   sob   as   she realized the next insult. She    barely    got    her    eyes    closed    as    the    antiseptic-laced    liquid    struck    her, practically   taking   her   breath   away   by   its   force.   It   assaulted   every   centimeter   of   her flesh,    stung    like    needles    as    the    spray    circled    her.    It    stopped    as    suddenly    as    it started, and she lurched toward the absent spray. The manacles dug into her wrists. The   arm   moved   her   forward   again   without   warning.   Five   seconds   later   she   was within   the   roar   she   heard   earlier,   a   biting   gale   gnashing   at   her   flesh.   Her   tears   blew away without ever touching her cheeks. Fifteen   agonizing   seconds,   and   she   was   being   led   back   down   the   gray-painted hallway,    fronted    by    three-meter    square    cells.    The    catcalls    returned,    and    the harshest     words     Angel     had     ever     heard     in     her     life,     vile     propositions     and unfathomable threats. The   robotic   arm   stopped   in   front   of   a   cell   that   opened.   A   human   limb   extended and a laser mounted in the structure above pricked it. Owww ! Damn!” “Told you,” a female voice within said. A   man   stepped   back,   toward   the   center   of   the   cell,   and   the   robotic   arm   thrust Angel   forward.   The   cell   door   clanged   shut   behind   her,   the   manacles   releasing.   The hallway   quieted   as   the   echo   subsided,   and   Angel   could   hear   the   whir   of   the   robotic arm moving away. Angel   glared   at   the   three   already   in   the   cell.   She   struggled   to   shift   her   arms forward   to   cover   her   nakedness.   Hands   being   clasped   behind   her   three   hours,   the agony   in   her   shoulders,   subdued   the   humiliation.   Two   men   and   a   woman   looked her   over   head   to   toe.   A   clunk    to   the   left   drew   Angel's   eyes   to   a   metal   drawer,   fifteen- by-thirty   centimeters-wide,   opening.   It   contained   a   stack   of   folded   clothes   and   a pair of boots. Angel   felt   numb,   and   hesitated   moving   toward   what   must   have   been   intended for   her.   One   of   the   men   moved   to   the   clothes   first.   Angel   closed   her   eyes   a   moment, thankful someone was finally stepping forward to help her. “What would these be worth to you?” The words clamped down Angel's throat.   © R. Mac Wheeler 2017
Dystopian Fantasy SCI FI
R .  Mac Wheeler Multi - Genre Author
Tail Kicker Chapter One ~ B urnt    opium    scorched    Angel's    sinuses. The    screeching    band,    musky    smell    of labor,     stale     hook-up     lines,     and     the constant      shoves      of      drunken      miners cranked   her   hackles.   She   didn't   want   to go   there   to   begin   with.   Intimidated   by   her superior       to       accompany       him,       and immediately    abandoned    at    the    bar    like the    tagalong    she    was,    did    not    help    her mood. She   elbowed   hard   one   last   slime   ball who     grabbed     her     ass,     and     searched through   the   haze   of   the   dark   room.   The bastard    sat    at    a    table    with    five    locals dressed    like    harlots    you'd    find    in    any spaceport   dive.   Angel   fought   her   way   to him,   keeping   her   eyes   moving.   Anything could     happen     in     that     cesspool.     She'd counted       five       fights       already.       The establishment's   muscle   efficiently   cleared the     rabble,     both     sides     of     each     social entanglement    carried    through    the    din and    hurled    into    the    back    alley    quickly enough, probably without their valuables. Angel    pressed    through    a    last    group blowing   off   steam   and   stepped   up   to   the table.     Two     of     the     tramps     with     her lieutenant    appeared    to    have    a    little    too much   testosterone   to   be   dressed   as   they were.   But   Angel's   shipmate   didn't   seem   to mind.   He   no   doubt   had   a   quart   of   hooch in   his   gut.   One   of   the   locals   leaned   into him,   looked   as   though   she   had   a   hand   in his    crotch.    He    must    not    have    made    it home in a long time, to enjoy that action. “I'm out of here,” she yelled. Of   course   he   didn't   hear   over   the   so- called   music,   the   cat   calls   to   the   strippers over   the   bar   and   the   general   chaos.   His slotted   eyes   took   a   moment   to   focus   on her.   He   tilted   his   head   back   a   smidgen   in that    what-the-hell-did-you-say    manner. Angel     rotated     her     thumb     toward     her chest   before   spiking   it   over   her   shoulder. He     lifted     an     inebriated     eyebrow     in answer,    a    lot    less    concerned    about    her company than he was an hour earlier. Maybe   it   was   the   action   he   was   getting under the table. Angel    pivoted    for    the    exit    and    was immediately      slammed      by      a      female obviously     born     to     the     heavy     gravity planet.   Her   shoulders   barely   tapered   into a   neck.   Her   boobs   hung   to   her   waist.   God it    was    a    curse    to    have    breasts    on    that planet.   Angel   noted   one   of   her   own   hands unconsciously   pressed   against   her   chest. She   was   glad   she   took   the   time   to   put   on   a tight    sports    bra.    Not    that    she    needed much support. “Ya   need   to   stand   taller   in   this   place.” The   woman   belched   in   Angel's   ear.   The foul    breath    was    followed    by    a    drunken cackle. Ya saying I'm short, you— The   woman   disappeared   in   the   dark. Angel    hurried    on,    wishing    she    indeed stood   taller   than   the   hundreds   of   armpits between   her   and   the   door.   She   managed the     fifty     meters     with     only     one     drink poured   down   her   shoulder.   The   quaff   of course had to be a nasty smelling ale. Bastard . A   bouncer   opened   the   heavy   door   for her   and   shared   a   courteous   nod.   Another born   to   the   world,   it   was   a   wonder   his thick     neck     allowed     his     head     to     tilt forward.     Angel     told     him     thanks.     He probably    couldn't    hear.    He    was    already descending   the   steps   to   the   bar   floor   to interrupt another disagreement. The    closing,    fist-thick    door    clipped Angel    and    turned    her    around.    As    she spun   toward   the   street,   she   found   herself face-to-face      with      another      local-yokel thick-neck. “Ya    should    watch    where    yer    going, sweet   little   lady,”   he   said,   looming   toward Angel. Another    voice    to    Angel's    right    said, “She    don't    look    too    familiar    with    these parts, Angus. Look. She's TA.” A   hand   wrenched   at   the   epaulette   on her right shoulder. “I'll    bet    she    hasn't    learned    what    our gravity    does    for    a    real    man    here.    We ought to show her.” The    stitching    of    her    shoulder    board gave    way.    She    saw    her    ensign    insignia pull   away   in   a   fist.   The   man   in   front   of her      reached      out.      Instinct      and      fear ushered       Angel's       well       trained       fist, slamming    him    in    the    throat.    The    first man   stumbled   backward.   Angel   grasped the   arm   holding   her   rank,   and   blasted   a forearm   through   the   elbow.   The   snapping joint     echoed     off     the     concrete     of     the building. A    third    man    materialized    to    Angel's left.    He    grabbed    her    by    the    hair    and tugged   her   toward   him.   Angel   managed to    keep    her    balance,    and    rammed    her heel   down   on   the   top   of   his   instep.   He groaned   and   tilted   forward.   Angel   pasted him   square   in   the   face   with   an   elbow,   and she   was   free   again,   only   to   face   the   first tree trunk. Don't let him get his hands on you! Angel   used   a   strike   designed   to   finish   a fight. Her   knuckles   rammed   the   cartilage   of his   nose   into   his   brain.   The   bulk   of   the man   teetered,   but   Angel   had   to   turn   her attention      back      to      the      third      man, recovered    and    ready    for    more—not    a quick    learner.    Angel    kicked    him    in    the groin.   As   he   leaned   forward,   she   jabbed him   in   the   temple.   He   fell   hard   and   didn't move. She   turned   to   her   second   attacker   as the    bar    door    swung    out.    The    injured assailant's    eyes    shifted    from    Angel    to someone   behind   her.   “She   shot   them!   In cold    blood,”    he    screamed,    cradling    his broken arm. Angel   sensed   the   mass   of   the   bouncer behind   her,   heard   the   double   tone   of   a computer      connecting      with      the      local communications grid. “Yeah.   Need   a   wagon   at   The   Den   on Poltergeist       Street.”       The       connection tweaked   closed.   “Lady.   Ya   better   get   out of here.” “I   didn't   shoot   anyone.   They   attacked me.     Look.”     She     flipped     up     the     torn epaulette. “Go.    Better    for    you    not    to    be    here when the constable arrives.” “Where   I   come   from,   it's   against   the law to leave the scene of an incident.” “You ain't home, lady. Ah, crap.” A   hover   with   flashing   lights   rounded the near corner and pulled toward them. “Wished    ya'd    listened,”    the    bouncer mumbled,   slipping   back   into   the   bar.   The momentary    noise    escaping    from    inside sounded    like    a    cymbal    emphasizing    the man's warning. “Arrest   her.   Arrest   her,”   One-arm   was screaming   at   the   two   officers   getting   out of the hover. Angel   glared   at   the   man,   unbelieving the    fool    could    have    such    cajones .    She walked   down   the   three   steps   to   the   street, but   before   she   could   open   her   mouth,   one of   the   constables   grabbed   her   and   flung her   toward   the   hood   of   the   car.   Her   face bounced   off   the   metal,   and   she   blinked away   stars.   Pain   from   her   shoulder,   bent- back arm, knifed into her. A   spotlight   attached   to   the   side   of   the hover's     door     caught     her     in     the     eyes blinding   her   again.   A   hand   slid   down   her side,   inside   her   legs.   It   gripped   her   crotch and     lingered     there,     squeezing,     before moving      up      her      arms,      across      her shoulders, and down to her breasts. “Don't     build     'em     big     where     you're from, do they, girly?” The    man    pressed    hard    against    her, making    sure    she    could    feel    bulges    that had    nothing    to    do    with    the    equipment hanging off his weapon belt. “These     two     are     done.”     The     voice behind them sounded mirthful. The   officer   leaning   into   her   gave   her another   thrust.   “You're   gonna   be   done   in a   bit   too,   missy.   Ya   shoulda   stayed   where you belonged.” A    collar    cramped    down    on    her    left wrist,   before   it   was   wrenched   behind   her so   it   could   be   bound   to   her   right.   “I   didn't do    anything,”    she    muttered    through    a cough of pain. “They attacked me.” “Sure.    That's    why    they're     dead.    And you're    leaning    against    our    car.    Hardly rates as a good alibi.” A   cry   was   forced   out   of   Angel's   throat as   the   officer   pulled   her   backward   by   her bindings. “I   don't   see   no   gun,”   the   other   officer shouted. “She   had   time   to   hide   it.   Or   probably gave it to someone else.” “Not much blood.” “They    weren't    shot.    Look    at    them,” Angel screamed. The    first    officer    slapped    her    in    the back   of   the   head,   hard,   before   thrusting her into the back seat of the hover. “Shut   up.   Sensors   more   reliable   than anything you can tell us.” The        other        officer        released        a mechanism   that   slowly   circled   around   the front   of   the   building,   only   hesitating   over the    two    bodies    for    a    moment.    Angel looked   for   One-arm.   He   wasn't   in   sight.   A wagon   pulled   up   behind   the   first   hover, and    Angel    heard    one    of    the    constables shout,   “Got   two   cold   ones   for   ya.   Killed   by someone     from     the     Transit     Authority. Ain't   that   rich?   Bastards   think   they   can do anything they want around here.” “Not tonight.” The   door   slammed   closed   cutting   off   a trio   of   snickers.   Angel   sat   within   the   quiet of    the    officers'    cruiser,    trying    to    collect her    thoughts,    telling    herself    everything would   get   cleared   up.   She   looked   down   at her   hip.   Unnoticed,   the   cop   had   taken   her computer.     Couldn't     contact     her     ship. Couldn't    contact    the    TA.    She    thought back to the travel warning for the planet. It     could     have     been     stated     more emphatically.   The   locals   weren't   wary   of the TA. Outright disdain fit more aptly. © R. Mac Wheeler 2017