Here’s the newest addition to Black Ice. You can find all of the chapters collected here.
A Novel By William Louison
Brill took a longer route home that morning. She wanted time to think in the fresh air – as fresh as it could be in this district. The homeless people hugging the sides of buildings may have assumed she was wandering aimlessly about, which was a little unusual in this part of the city. Most people hurried on to their destination, or hunkered down and stayed in one spot. It was generally acknowledged to be unsafe walking alone, but right at this particular moment in time Brill didn’t care about any of that.
There was a plethora of thoughts, relentlessly spinning inside of her head. All the ‘worst case scenarios’ that she could think of were assaulting her mind, and she didn’t want to think of what would actually happen if the Syndicate came after Sin. If they were dead set on finding Sin’s brother, Brill had heard that there were certain torture methods that that the Syndicate used to get information out of people. The thought made her shiver. The only upside to all of this is that Sin didn’t yet know his brother’s location. She couldn’t help but emphasize the ‘yet’.
Whatever Sin decided to do about the whole situation, Brill knew that it would affect Black Ice and all of his workers. There was image in her mind of Black Ice closed down while Sin went off in search of his brother. While Brill knew that Sin needed money first and foremost to attempt anything of the sort, she still made a promise to herself that she would follow Sin wherever he goes. No matter where that may take her, Sin was her greatest and oldest friend, and she would do whatever required of herself to help him.
With all of these things to consider, Brill knew that difficult times were in store for Sin and herself. Right now, the future looked bleaker than ever.
Kora had decided that she liked Black Ice a lot. It was not anything fancy or high class, but she had never lived a lavish lifestyle. She had worked for Sin almost a month now, and was getting along just fine. Sin was a pleasant boss, always seeming to be in a good mood. Kora, noticed though, that there was something on the back of his mind – something that worried him – and every once in a while it got the better of him. The senses she had honed learning to hunt as a youth on Tavia had told her that much about Sin.
She liked her coworkers, too. They seemed simple, ordinary and stayed out of each ot’ers’ ways most of the time. Brill was, in Kora’s opinion, the best worker there. She learned the most from Brill, and picked up on how to be a server by observing the thin, Boranese woman. Kora hoped that she would stay at Black Ice for some time, and keep her new friends for the rest of her life. The moment that Kora told herself these things, was the moment she realized they might not come to pass.
It was after the shift was done and Black Ice was cleaned up. Kora, Brill and Sin were talking in front of the bar, as had become a regular occurrence. The other workers liked to leave right away so they could get home, go out or do whatever they are going to do, but Kora noticed that every night Brill stayed late to talk with Sin. She had gathered that they were very good friends, and had been so for a long time.
Their friendship was deep, but Kora doubted that it had any effect on their professional relationship as employer and employee. She placed him as a fair man and observed him treating Brill no better than any of his other servers. Kora was not blind, though, to the intensely strong friendship Brill and Sin shared. She could only imagine the things the two of them knew about the other.
Still, even after becoming well acquainted with the both of them, Kora knew nothing of the message Sin had received from his brother about the Syndicate, some two or three weeks ago. Kora didn’t know about the response that Sin and Brill had planned either, which included Sin’s attempt to save enough money to get himself and Brill off world. If he couldn’t conjure up enough, he intended to sell Black Ice.
Today, though, with Kora around, that particular topic of conversation was left alone. Sin actually preferred it that way. He didn’t like to talk about the possibility of selling Black Ice, a bar he had worked so hard to keep in business. He much preferred to distract his mind by getting to know Kora a little better each night after the bar closed. It was becoming almost a nightly custom for the three of them to stick around and chat with each other – a custom that was greatly enjoyed by all three.
“So you were trained to hunt?” Sin asked curiously. He glanced over at Brill, remembering how she had guessed that Kora was a warrior on the first day they all met. It was hard for Sin to believe that a month was in between that day and now. Time was passing too quickly, which was a slightly stinging reminder that he was running out of time to find his brother. It wouldn’t be long before the Syndicate actually made good on their promise, and sent some mercenaries to find Sin. Provided they didn’t already find his brother, for Sin had not yet heard from his brother since that first message of confession and warning.
“That’s right,” Kora said, proving Brill right. Her standard had also improved extremely well, and she spoke it nearly flawlessly. Her words still came out with an accent though, but most people who spoke standard as a second language usually did have an accent. “I was raised from birth in a communal hunting society.” She took a sip of water from the glass cup in her hands. “I’m sure it was a lot different than how most others live their lives.”
“Did you live primitively?” Brill asked, trying to recall what she had learned about Tavia during her life. Not too much came to mind.
Kora shook her head and laughed a little. Not a demeaning laugh at Brill’s ignorance, just a laugh between friends as an acknowledgement of one’s mistakes. “Not at all.” She was quick to correct Brill’s misinterpretation of her life on Tavia. “We had everything everyone else does, a fairly modern world. We lived in houses similar to those you’d find in any average classed neighbourhood anywhere in the galaxy.”
“Why did you hunt, then?” Sin asked her.
“Many of my people are very traditional,” Kora told them, images of Tavia rushing back to her. “In my family clan, my parents had a great respect for the hunt and wanted their children to share the same admiration. This was not unusual among families, either. Nearly half of us on Tavia survived on food we caught, killed or grew ourselves, right on our own property or in the forests and plains outside the cities.” She smiled back on those years, the smallest hint of sadness in her eyes. “I remember when we used to go out every weekend for a new hunt. It was like a family ritual for us, and I used to get so excited.” She paused for a moment, hoping not to get too emotional. “Everything I know about discipline I learnt from my parents. They taught me much more than just how to survive on my own – much more than just hunting.”
Sin opened his mouth as if he was about to say something, but stopped when he heard a pounding on the front door of his bar. “What the hell?” he exclaimed, turning to look at the door. Brill stepped up beside him and Kora noticed her whisper something in his ear, but she didn’t hear what was said.
Sin nodded quickly. “I’ll take care of it,” he said, and Kora sensed an immediate change of atmosphere around them.
“What’s wrong?” she demanded, before Sin even finished. “Who is that?”
Sin turned to face her, trying to hide the fear in his eyes. “Hopefully nothing,” he assured her, building up his confidence. The pounding came again, followed by a few unfriendly shouts. “You two just stay there,” Sin instructed as he headed for the door.
Brill motioned for Kora to sit down as she quietly opened the door to Sin’s office and slipped inside. Kora assumed that she would be looking for a laser pistol, and her stomach started to turn. She practiced a breathing technique that her father had taught her. It only took a moment to calm herself, and then Kora forced her mind into a state she would go into when on the hunt. She felt her blood start to boil as Sin reached forward, unlocked and opened the door.
“Can I help you?” Sin asked, making sure to keep his hand on the door handle, so his arm was stretched across the doorway, blocking the two men standing outside from coming in.
Kora couldn’t get a good look at them – she was trying to size them up – so she just tried to act casual, even though she was ready to pounce at any minute. She hadn’t known him that long, but her senses told her trouble was just waiting to burst through the door, so she had already decided she would aide Sin, if it came down to physical force.
“We’re looking for Sin Alia,” the taller of the two men said. He was a dark-blue skinned, bright eyed and broad shouldered Netillion. Both of the men wore similar clothes – all black – just their belts and the various pistols and knifes strung across them were different colour.
Sin tried not to get nervous, even though both men looked stronger than he did. Not to mention their obviously large array of weapons. “His name is actually Alia Sin,” he said, deciding that it would be better if he tried to show some strength of his own through his speech. “What do you want with him?”
“What we want is our business,” the gray skinned Horin said with a mouth half-filled with jagged teeth. His eyes were deep and daunting, but his massive, sleeveless arms were definitely the most frightening thing about him. “Where is Sin?”
Sin so badly wanted to look back and see if Kora and Brill were discussing some way to jump in if things were going to get messy, but he knew he had to focus on the two men in front of him. They looked like bounty hunters, Sin finally decided. He was just hoping that, for today, they came only to deliver a message. Sin kept his hold on the door handle and barred his teeth at the two men whom he was certain were agents for the Syndicate. “I’m Sin. Now tell me what you want? If it’s a drink, I’m sorry but I’m closed already.”
The Netillion growled in rage as he slammed a huge fist against the door, breaking Sin’s hold and sending it smacking into the wall. His large, blue eyes were menacing as they glared down at Sin in rage. “Don’t play stupid with us, Fienian!” The Netillion used the name of his species as if it were an insult. “You know what we’re here for.”
Sin shook his head, trying to act genuinely surprised. “I actually don’t. Maybe we can discuss this later today, when I open? You can enlighten me then.”
The Horin took a step forward, but Sin stood his ground. A grumble escaped his gray lips before he demanded, “Where is your brother?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Sin said again, hoping he was a better actor than he felt he was. “What is it about my-”
The Netillion also stepped forward, so close that Sin was forced to take a step back. One of the Netillion’s blue hands dropped to his waist and wrapped around the handle of a knife hanging on his belt. “Your brother has not only broken the rules of the Syndicate, he has also stolen something quite valuable from it.”
“Our employers want it back,” the Horin added with a devilish glare. “And you’re going to tell us where it is.”
“I actually don’t know what you’re talking about.” For the first time during the encounter, Sin was telling the truth.
“Well then you can come on a trip with us and tell us why you don’t know, and maybe we can help you remember,” the Netillion said as he pulled out his knife and pointed it at Sin’s throat. Sin was quite impressed that he didn’t flinch, even though he wanted to turn, run and hide. He was going to say something, but never got the chance.
“Drop it!” Brill’s voice was loud, clear and commanding. She was holding a laser pistol, aimed right for the Netillion.
The Netillion’s mouth opened into a wide, cruel smile. “Do you pay her to play bodyguard, too?” he asked, directing the question to Sin but meant it as an insult to the both of them.
“It’s too bad the whore forgot to lock the back door,” the Horin replied, flicking his long tongue out and laughing.
It was then that Brill noticed someone behind her. She was going to turn around, but a voice ordered her not to move as the cold end of a gun barrel was pressed against her neck. “You drop your weapon, honey,” the voice commanded from behind her.
Not The End
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