First Monday Free Fiction: Bullet Holes

Bullet Holes by Cora BuhlertWelcome to the August 2022 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 the first Monday of every month. At the end of the month, I’ll take the story down and post another.

This month’s story is called Bullet Holes and is part of my In Love and War space opera romance series. Anjali and Mikhail are two soldiers from opposite sides of an intergalactic war, who fell in love and decided to go on the run together, pursued by both sides. In this story, they have a run-in with Mikhail’s former superior and finds themselves dealing with…

Bullet Holes

Varishka was a miserable ball of ice and mud on the galactic rim, orbiting a distant sun. Its remoteness, hostile climate and a lack of useful resources meant that neither the Republic of United Planets nor the Empire of Worlds, the two powers that had divided the galaxy amongst themselves, had any interest in the planet. Those very same qualities, however, had made Varishka extremely interesting to the assortment of smugglers, pirates, outlaws, fugitives and other lowlives who had established a colony here.

Through the commercial district of Varishka’s capital, a man and a woman, both in their mid twenties, trudged side by side through the wet snow. Their pace was brisk, their movements in synch with each other, all of which suggested a close and intimate partnership.

The woman was short, with brown skin, sparkling dark eyes and thick black hair that fell loosely down her back in soft waves. She was Lieutenant Anjali Patel, formerly of the Imperial Shakyri Expeditionary Corps, now a deserter, traitor and wanted fugitive.

The man was tall with pale skin, striking blue eyes and long dark hair that he wore tied back in a ponytail at the nape of his neck. He was Captain Mikhail Alexeievich Grikov, formerly of the Republican Special Commando Forces, now a deserter, traitor and wanted fugitive, just like his partner.

Mikhail and Anjali had met on the battlefield of the eighty-eight year war that the Empire and the Republic had been waging on each other. Against all odds, they had fallen in love and decided to run away together to eek out a living in the independent worlds of the lawless rim. Neither the Republic nor the Empire were particularly happy about that.

Since they’d gone AWOL, Anjali and Mikhail had taken all sorts of odd jobs from anybody on the rim who required their particular skills and didn’t ask too many questions. Such as the smuggler who’d hired them to deliver a shipment of black market cyber-implants to her customer.

“I don’t like this,” Anjali said quietly to Mikhail, speaking in the Imperial tongue, so they wouldn’t be overheard, “We’re fighters, not smugglers.”

“We’re not the smugglers, just the delivery service,” Mikhail pointed out.

“We’re not couriers either.”

“I know. But the money is good and we need to replenish our funds.”

“It’s too good,” Anjali countered, “Who in their right mind would pay that much just for a courier? Especially since there are plenty of established courier services around who’ll work for much less.”

“Our client is also paying for the extra security.”

“Yeah, but why?” Anjali adjusted her shawl and kept her head down against the snow and the icy wind. “Sure, those implants are almost certainly smuggled and very probably stolen, but they’re still not valuable enough to require extra security to deliver.”

Mikhail winked at her. “Well, I for one am not going to ask the person who is paying us an obscene amount of money for an easy delivery job just why she feels the need to do so…”

Anjali scanned their surroundings, a warehouse district that seemed largely deserted. “Are you sure this is the right way?”

***

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

 

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