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The Desert

By Robert Lynch

I’m out of my element in the desert.

I landed on Araki and walked into ‘The Dead Zone.’ The zone is a place where portals cannot form, so it’s the perfect place for scumbags to hide. A physicist explained to me once why the place is naturally resistant to portals, magnetic eddies or quantum doohickies or some such, something nerdy which I didn’t need to know. For me, all I needed to know was that you had to go in and out on foot, so I would be alone – but these idiots wouldn’t be able to escape to orbit either.

43oC sand tried to burn me through my shoes and the glare tried to blind me. I think my sweat was sweating. It took 6 hours cautiously avoiding the other inhabitants of the zone, but eventually I found what I was looking for.

A small shack frequently used as a halfway house for new arrivals. I snuck up to the shack and listened in from the outside, it was tricky to avoid being seen by the sentries, but this isn’t my first rodeo. The perimeter was patrolled by a couple of low level goons, probably too hot headed to be useful anywhere in the galaxy that required tact or restraint. In the zone it didn’t matter if you fired first; there was no law in the zone.

It took a little work to get around to the large water tank at the side of the shack, then to move around the perimeter and prepare to subdue the group. There were six people in the area; two guards and four inside the shack. Galborous, my target, was inside, but the others all had connections to the Bratva and would all net me a little if I took them to the right system. Anatoly Galborous was the motherlode, wanted in six systems for grand larceny, three for murder, and seven for grand theft auto. The bounty on Galborous alone would pay my mooring fees and fuel for a year.

Once I had all my surprises set I set off the fireworks. Literal fireworks shot into the sky and the sentries ran out firing at nothing. From my vantage point on the roof, I shot each of them with a rubber bullet, knocking them out.

Galborous and the other three ran outside, each wielding huge weapons. Several hologram generators I had set up simulated police taking cover in strategic places; the gangsters took the bait and fired. With holographic bullets flying, it was easy to take them out one by one from behind.

I climbed down from the roof, collected their weapons and put them all in handcuffs.

Galborous was the first to come to. “You’ve made many enemies today.”


“I don’t think that The Brotherhood and I would have gotten along well anyway.” I said.

“You never know; my bothers can be very generous.” He said.

“You murdered a kid who was caught by the cops so he couldn’t identify you.” I said. “That’s not very generous.”

The others were waking up.

“Listen.” I said. “You’re going to walk out of the zone to my ship. When you get there I’ll give you a drink.” I set off the explosive on the water tank, vaporising the tank and half the shack. “Since that’s now the closest water, I suggest you walk quickly.”


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