Here is a sample of chapter three of Attack on Europa. It's only a second draft so there will be grammar and spelling issues. Anyway. I've got something new from here on out. I will only post one chapter on my blogs now. If you want extra sample chapters sign up to the mailing list.
(A Portion of Chapter 3)
As we made our way up a moving walkway I watched other ships mounting up or settling upon landing pads above and below us. Some were old classic solar sail ships, others with vast mounted mirrors to collect sunlight for fuel and heat, besides the usual plasma fuel based ships like ours.
“All kinds.” I muttered. Some looked like fantastic things straight out of dreams or stories.
“Those kinds of ships usually remain in areas very close to the sun.” Said Diamond. “Most of the time they're usually around the stations or hideouts near Venus and Mercury.”
“Seems like you'd save an incredible amount in energy costs flying those ships.” I said. Diamond grunted.
“You could save a lot of money. The problem is that when you need to travel for extended periods of time away from the inner planets, the power source becomes to weak. You can lose energy and fuel and be in danger of getting stranded. I'd thought of buying one of those sail ships when I started building my own team but it wasn't worth the long term costs or the danger in the end. Those ships don't have much in the way of speed. And with the situations I was dealing with, I needed speed.” I didn't press further on that.
As inside the complex, fat plexi-glass doors lifted up as our walkway ended and a series of long wide corridors inside opened up to us. We were greeted by an elaborate fountain, a copy of the Trevi Fountain. That was the signal that we were inside the sealed part of the complex and we took our helmets off. It looked like a much older built station with an amalgam of different parts of complexes patched together. There was a riot of activity going on in here and it was filled with vendors selling all kinds of stuff. Stationed at one hundred foot intervals were huge port screens being fed weather reports of various planets and solar activity reports. I was betting the truly dark and dirty stuff was hidden away in secret alcoves somewhere around here. It had a thrumming, chaotic energy that I found thrilling and scary. What I didn't see were aliens, or if there were, they were well disguised. Gunner's Run was still the province of humans. But they have to know what's going on out here. We passed by a vendor stalls where strong currents of tobacco and other substances wafted out, a fueling station where right outside the viewport I saw a long line of ships waiting to be fueled, traveler's huts, motels, bars and other businesses.
“The hideouts are in the inner ring. You won't find them on the outer ring out here,” said Diamond quietly. I saw ships bearing the company names of powerful privateer companies and other wealthy denizens who docked their ships in private hangars. Very expensive. I'm sure that affords them certain advantages.
I followed him down until we came to a large pair of polished wooden and copper doors around the corner to the right. Diamond pushed them open and we found ourselves inside a clubby, convivial- looking establishment. A courtesy mech built like a glamour model greeted us.
“Hello gentleman. It's happy hour. Please seat yourself,” she said pleasantly.
It was huge and it had three bars and at least seventy tables. Everything was leather seats, burnished brass lamps and highly polished wooden tables. I could feel my boots sink down into the plush, deep red carpet.
“Smells good already! You can get anything here if you ask the right person.” He grinned wolfishly. I rolled my eyes.
“Well what I want right now a big steak and some potatoes.” I said.
“No problem. Sounds good to me too.” Everyone here I noticed was armed and strapped out with weapons. All sorts of weapons that were banned back home. I wasn't in much position to talk seeing that I kept and still used my atomic rifle. I'd brought my laser dragon and Diamond had two small lasguns strapped on either side of his space suit.
“Want anything else?”
“Steak and taters and beer.” I said resolutely and sat down at a table while Diamond used his ear piece to make a call and then he loped off toward the main bar to order. It gave me a chance to look around. I saw all kinds of people, most busy talking and laughing, commiserating with each other. No one seemed to be paying much attention to me. At first. I saw a group of female smugglers walk in and go to the bar to the left. Covered in tribal tattoos and wearing tight-fitting black space suits that flattered every inch of their forms, they carried not only large blasters on their left hips but sported slender katana swords in sheaths at their right hips as well. They looked a whole lot tougher than me. The leader, with a long sleek black ponytail that came down her back and her entire face covered in glowing tattoos looked directly at me, her black eyes raking over me and then she turned and lead her team to the bar at the opposite end. A few guys walking past my booth gave me a hostile rundown as well and I was wondering if there was going to be a problem when finally, after about a half hour Diamond starting back toward our booth. The women glanced over at him too and eventually went back to their drinks. Diamond didn't seem fazed at all by them. I remembered that Diamond said he'd made some dangerous enemies among some of these folks a while back. And now I was seen with him. I really don't want to have a bad feeling about this. Diamond sat down with a huge tray of food.
“Got our order. T-bone steaks, medium rare, haricot verts in butter, duchess potatoes and porters.”
“What? No filet mignon?” I asked, kidding with a grin. He shrugged and laughed, setting the plates on the table from the tray. A mech came by and took the tray away.
'The beers are half off because of happy hour. Out here they ain't much into service. You get what's available. For the week.”
“It looks delicious either way.” And my mouth was watering.
“So what kind of stuff can you find on this station?” I said quietly, tucking into my meal. He raised a brow.
“All kinds. This is one of the more upstanding places. There are worse places. I was thinking of picking up a few things before we leave besides the plasma coil. I know some people here. Got a few friends here still.”
“Things such as?”
“Some miniature nuclear detonators. A few moisture pills since we're going to Mars. May be a new, more powerful lasgun. Trackers.”
“Ah! Moisture pills. Great idea. And what are the detonators for?”
“Considering where we're going, you never know what you might need. They'll come in handy.”
“You have the money or the credit line for all that? Doesn't sound cheap.” I said. He snorted.
“I ain't broke if that's what you're thinking, Mr. Astor. Far from it. Also. . .well, I have a few favors I can call in.”
“Mighty big favors by the sound of it.” I inhaled my steak meal and after having done that, I savored my beer, sitting back to relax a bit. I threw a surreptitious glance over to the female team of smugglers to the left side bar at the far end of the room. They didn't seem to be paying anymore attention to us.
“So, any enemies here you might have run into?” I asked, trying to be nonchalant. He chuckled.
“You mean the women in black over there? Sure. But this is a “no beef” zone. The whole station is. And it's strictly enforced.”
“So what's their problem?” I asked sliding my eyes over to the left bar and then back to Diamond.
“They're pirates. They robbed a small smuggler's vessel of its most prized goods. I was contracted to get those goods back. I was good at my job. I stole the goods back. I won't say what they were. But she and her crew have had it in for me ever since. Her name's Livilla. Livilla the Black. She's also known as Livilla the Killa in certain circles. It wasn't personal but she made it personal. Something she took from that company meant a lot to her, I think. A whole lot. But it's just business.” He sighed and took a sip of beer. “She, of all people should know that. She first taught the concept to me.” He lowered his voice. I leaned in to hear better.
“The guy that owns this place is head of one of the wealthiest rings in the solar system. They're known as The Legion. This place is also the most powerful and best run stations out here. You can get everything you need. No one in their right mind who isn't running their own major station or isn't a privateering vessel is going to cross them. Some have tried but if they do, they know what'll happen.”
“Any number of things. Usually they'll get banned. Might not sound like much but when you're out there and in desperate need of supplies or you come in contact with enemy gangs and you're by yourself that could spell disaster if you've burned a major bridge like this one. Having ties here can mean protection against other gangs. I know them pretty well and I've never been in their cross hairs. It might be illegal what folks do out here, but there are unspoken rules. This place is well established. They control a large share of the fuel and energy distribution out here in space and on the moon. If you want your ship and your business to reach beyond the orbit of Remus Station, if you don't want to find yourself caught and turned over to a privateering vessel, you follow the rules. If you break the rules, you do so at your own peril. In some cases, some people who cross them end up ejected out into space like so much trash, their ships and goods confiscated.”
“Do these guys know about what's happening on-”
“Mars? They know something's going on out there. Most as far as I know haven't been out that far but people do bring back information. There are a few that have been to Mars and do business there. They bring back all kinds of interesting things that folks on Earth never seen or heard before. Individual explorers, prospectors and privateers working for some government or other. There are a couple of privateering ships that play both sides of the fence. Wouldn't trust the bastards but they do bring back important information and these days information is more important than fuel, hard money, credit, gold or any other resource. Most don't go farther than the asteroid belt though. There's not much profit in going farther, yet, unless you're fabulously wealthy already and have the infrastructure and resources in place to go out here and set up an operation.”
“So people out here have heard about these things.” I said thoughtfully. He nodded and finished his beer. The tattooed-faced woman and her friends cast us another round of dark looks.
“I don't like the looks of them, man.” I said, straightening up in my seat. He shrugged.
“Whatever you do, don't show fear. Folks around here feed off of that. They'll eat you for breakfast.” I pushed my plate away and decided to keep them within my peripheral vision, kind of hard to do as the place was beginning to fill up. I wasn't particularly excited about meeting her and her friends in some dark corner out here and I couldn't figure out if Diamond was for real or only pretending not to be nervous. I changed the subject. At least I had my laser dragon at my side and I know how to use it.
“You have any idea what kinds of contraband that's made it past the belt out there?”
“Well, when I carried cargo for a guy who worked as a contractor for a large corporation. Won't name any names. On the side he bought and sold alien technology. A lot of people didn't believe it was alien, just brand new stolen military technology. It was hot and very desirable stuff. Even more so now. I carried a load of cargo for him out to Gan Ning.”
“Where?” Diamond gave me a level gaze before wolfing down the last bite of his steak and speaking again.
“It's a station beyond Atticus. Near the moon.” Things were clicking into place in my mind.
“The one most people don't know about?” He snorted.
“Well, the right people know about it. There's a lot of interesting stuff that slips through that station. If you pay the right people the right price to keep quiet.” A thought suddenly occurred to me.
“And no random surprise inspections are ever conducted there?”
“Like I said, pay the right people the right amount of money and you can move anything through there. They don't call Gan Ning Smuggler's Paradise for nothin'.”
“Well, well, well. How very interesting. Tell me, if you're not smuggling anymore Diamond how did you still know how to get in here? You seem to still know the pulse of this place.”
“I have one smuggler friend left whose still in the business. I talk to him every now and then too keep myself up on any news. Information is currency. It might be useful to U-net.” At first I was getting suspicious about him again, bringing me here but this turned out to be very helpful indeed. I was lucky to have Diamond Dog as a new ally.
So that was the station with no name. Gan Ning. I never would have found that out by myself. I made a mental note to write this information down once I got back t the Phoenix. A spy could use important information like that. I wondered if Diamond's old smuggling contacts might come in handy one day. I was thinking that they just might.