First Monday Free Fiction: Double-Cross

Double-Cross by Cora BuhlertWelcome to the November 2020 edition of First Monday Free Fiction. To recap, inspired by Kristine Kathryn Rusch who posts a free short story every week on her blog, I’ll post a free story on every first Monday of the month. Well theoretically, this is the second Monday of November, because I forgot to post the story last week, but it’s still a free story and it will remain free to read on this blog for one month, then I’ll take it down and post another story.

Later this months, I will be releasing two new adventures of Anjali and Mikhail, my pair of intergalactic mercenaries on the run from two regimes that want them dead. So I thought I’d share Double-Cross, an earlier In Love and War adventure, with you today.

I tend to call the In Love and War series space opera romance, because the protagonists are a committed couple having adventures in space, but the individual stories are all over the genre map. This one has a strong cyberpunk vibe, largely because it was inspired by by two pieces of cyberpunk artwork, this one and this one. It also is a science fictional crime story. As with all the In Love and War stories, the cover art is by the hyper-talented Tithi Luadthong.

So accompany Anjali and Mikhail, as they retrieve some stolen medical nanites and deal with a…

Double-Cross

The independent rim world of Kyusu was infamous for its pervasive cloud cover and its constant, never-ending rain.

Landing on Kyusu was dangerous because of the low visibility. Yet its spaceport was one of the biggest on the rim. For Kyusu was also a major hub for both legal and illegal trade along the galactic rim.

The capital Shusaku was a neon-drenched maze of skyscrapers and open air markets offering literally any legal good in the galaxy and most of the illegal ones, too, provided you knew where to look.

A man and a woman strode side by side through the neon labyrinth that was Shukasu, their movements perfectly synched, indicating close companionship.

The man was tall with pale skin, striking blue eyes and long black hair that he wore tied back in a ponytail that was now dripping wet. He was clad in a long back synth-leather coat, the collar of which he’d pulled up against the rain. This was Captain Mikhail Alexeievich Grikov, formerly of the Republican Special Commando Forces, now wanted as a deserter and traitor.

The woman by his side was a good head shorter, with brown skin, sparkling dark eyes and black hair tied into a straggled braid. She was clad in utility pants and an electric blue tunic, topped by a poncho of transparent plastic as protection against the steady downpour. This was Lieutenant Anjali Patel, formerly of the Imperial Shakyri Expeditionary Corps, now wanted as a deserter and traitor.

They’d met on the battlefield of the eighty-eight year war between the Republic of United Planets and the Empire of Worlds, fallen in love and decided to go on the run together. Their flight had brought them to the independent worlds on the galactic rim, the only place in the galaxy where they could live in relative safety, far from the forces of the Empire and the Republic both that pursued them, determined to bring them to heel.

And now their flight had brought them to Kyusu, while their work as mercenaries had brought them to the rain-drenched markets of Shukasu.

Anjali looked up. Before her loomed two towers of stacked up freight containers, covered over and over in neon ads, many of them rendered in the boxy characters of the old script of Kyusu. A makeshift bridge stretched between the two towers, also covered in ads.

“Are you sure this is the right place?” she asked Mikhail, “Because I’m cold and soaking wet and not really keen on trudging through the rain for another couple of hours.”

“The pharmacist we interrogated said ‘the Open Market’. So unless you’re losing your touch…”

“I’m not,” Anjali replied.

The guy had practically peed himself as soon as he saw the dagger with the Shakyri crest at her waist. And afterwards he’d been only too eager to talk. He’d talked like the proverbial waterfall, confessing to every single substance of dubious legality he’d ever sold in his shop. No intimidation necessary, the problem was getting him to stop talking.

“…this should be the place.”

***

This story was available for free on this blog for one month only, but you can still read it in Double-Cross. And if you click on the First Monday Free Fiction tag, you can read this month’s free story.

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