21 January 2021

Shell Games Excerpt

With recent national events, it seemed as good a time as any to dust off an old excerpt from my short story "Shell Games" for your perusal. Want to check out the full story? Catch it as part of the Dead or Alive collection from ResAliens Press!

The hatch slammed shut before I’d even finished, leaving me no choice besides pushing my way through the thickening crowd. Sadly, they had no manners and my legs ended up getting hit so many times I lost count.

Along the edge of the corridor, near the outer hull, a middle-aged man jumped atop a platform. “Ladies and gentlemen, I ask for but a few moments of your time.”

Many had come specifically for this show, or whatever it was. At least they seemed to, since everyone stopped right in place, making it tough for me to keep moving.

“Are you tired of scrounging for meals to eat, a bed to sleep in, a job to find and keep?” Heads in the crowd nodded, while some in the audience verbalized their agreement. It only bolstered the speaker’s rhetoric. “Well, I have a proposal which will give you all three in one!”

His comments stank as if they’d come from a used starship salesman and made me scramble for the exit. “Sign up now, and you’ll never have to worry about any of that ever again.”

The crowd erupted. I turned and watched him yank an electronic pad from his belt as several drew closer to the elevated stage. They lined up to stamp their thumbprint on whatever he was offering. Then the deal-maker directed them toward a corridor where I presumed his ship was docked. Every single one of them sprinted off toward the paradise presented.

I shook my head and continued on my way. Some people were just naive. These types of offers weren’t made out of the goodness of one’s heart.

“You there!”

My eyes went wide, but I kept moving. I knew better, but wanted to assume the slimeball wasn’t addressing me.

“Grab him!”

Now past the outskirts of the main crowd, I picked up my pace. Before I made it through the emergency bulkhead hatch, a bald, muscle-clad enforcer blocked my escape.

“I’m leaving.” It wasn’t a request for permission, but a statement of fact. I only wished I’d broken the rules, both the station’s and my own, and had my Mark II blaster on me. From the look on this beast’s face, it didn’t look like this behemoth and I were going to be getting along all too well.

His bronzed face sneered as he grumbled. “You’re staying.”

“If you think so...” I continued forward, but he shoved me back. Anger boiled up through my body, tempered only slightly by the tinges of pain running through my leg.

“Local ordinance says you have to stand here and listen until he’s finished.”

I narrowed my eyes, but the confidence on his face told me it wasn’t deception. And it always amazed me how people wondered why I despised politicians.

“Bring him up!”

I turned and stared down the leader of this mess with a growl. “I suppose there’s a law that says I have to?”

“You catch on fast.” The enforcer put his meaty paw on my arm, and I jerked away. Hobbling up toward the leader of this sideshow didn’t stop the beast from following every step I took.

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