Two-Fisted Tales

Tales of Mystery and Adventure

Pulp and Dagger welcomes a new star in the pulpish heavens with this riveting reflection from the pen of Mr. John M. Whalen. In this two-fisted science fictioner, a female CEO of Virtual Fuel finds herself the prisoner of aliens on an alien planet until help arrives in the taciturn figure of Jack Brand. But they're not out of danger yet. Because it's a long way to...


Tulon Station
(Part 1 of 2)

by John M. Whalen
About the author


The woman looked up at him and then at her Tulon captors. The man had put a laser sighted electron rifle, three thermo blankets, six pairs of Krylor boots, and a case of Thompson Synth-whiskey down on the table. He was a tall man, lean and hard looking, dressed in a blue tunic, dark grey pants and knee-high Krylor boots. An electro-pistol was strapped to his leg in a Velcro holster. The Tulons, six of them, dirty, smelling of foul living, and dressed in their customary desert garb, stood nodding their heads, thinking what a good deal they had made.

She got up from the floor where they had kept her chained to the wall. The man took her by the arm and led her out of the hut into the hot desert sunlight. They walked to his Hover-Jeep. He let her open her own door and got in behind the wheel.

The leader of the Tulons and one of his men came out of the hut and stood there looking at them, as he started the vehicle. She was afraid, the way they looked at her. She felt the Jeep lift up and then they were moving. She could not take her eyes off the rear view mirror on her door. She watched the Tulons recede in the distance, praying they did not get into their hover vehicles and come after them. After what she'd endured the last two weeks, she could not face that again.

Finally satisfied they were not in pursuit, she let out a sigh and sat back in the seat. She looked over at the man who had bartered for her.

"Thank you for getting me out of there," she said.

"Yes, ma'am," the man said, keeping his eyes straight ahead

"Who are you?"

"Brand, ma'am," he answered.

"How did you find me?"

"I heard the Tulons had a woman captive," he said. "They're usually willing to give up a captive, even a female, in exchange for things they really need."

She smiled ruefully.

"I guess a woman's life isn't worth very much on this planet," she said.

"No, ma'am," he said. "Nobody's life is worth much here. This is an oil rich planet that made the most of the Earth's dependency on fossil fuels. The oil companies sent exploitation teams and made this one of the richest planets in the galaxy. But when Earth converted to Digital Atomic power, this place went bust. Nobody needed oil anymore. The oil companies went bankrupt and left Tulon high and dry. The Tulons were left to try and exist anyway they can."

She looked at him carefully.

"You almost sound sorry for them."

"They're victims as much as anybody else. It's the big corporations that are to blame. First it was the oil companies, now it's the Digital Atomic conglomerates. Everyone's at their mercy now."

"Well, I'm sure that at least one of those conglomerates, as you call them, will make your rescue of me well worth your while. As Senior Vice President of their interplanetary development division, I'm sure Virtual Fuel must have posted a substantial reward for my return."

"Could be, ma'am."

"You don't know?" she asked.

"There isn't much in the way of communication out here," Brand said.

"Then how did you know I'd been kidnaped?"

"Like I said, I'd heard they'd taken an earth woman captive. I didn't know it was you."

"And you risked your life without knowing anything about me?"

"I know what the Tulons do to their female captives," he said. "For a couple of weeks they would have kept you alive for their own satisfaction, but eventually, being short of food they'd have killed you. I couldn't let that happen to any Earth Woman."

"I see," she said. "Then I guess I should introduce myself. I'm Myra Steele. My father is Jessup Steele, CEO of Virtual Fuel. I was on a transporter on the way back to earth. I was here closing down the last fuel development site Virtual bought out from Trans-Exxon last year. The transporter crashed. I was the only one who survived. Those savages found me wondering in the desert. I tried to tell them  who I was and that they could collect handsomely if they contacted my father. They just laughed. They have no phones, no radios. They said they didn't care about money. They treated me like a slave. They— "

She suddenly was unable to talk, as the memory of the last two weeks flooded over her

"Best not to talk about it," Brand said.

"Where are we going?" she asked, after she'd pulled herself together.

"There's a relay station not too far away," he said. "We can stop there. I brought along a change of clothes for you. You can get cleaned up. Then it's a long trip out of the desert to the Transport Center. You can catch another ship back to Earth."


"Tulon Station," Brand said.

She looked through the Hover-Jeep's dirty windshield and saw a small, silver, dome- shaped building ahead that looked totally abandoned. Brand pulled up in front of it and cut the power. The Jeep sunk down on the sand and they got out. The sun was still fairly high in the sky and temperature was close to one hundred Fahrenheit. Brand opened the trunk and lifted out a canvass sack. He tossed it to her.

"There's a fresh tunic, pants and some sandals," he said. "You can go in there and change. There won't be any water, but I brought this."

He lifted a ten gallon can out of the back of the vehicle. He carried it to the station. He pushed the stainless steel door open, and saw a scorpio-pede skitter out into the sand on its hundred legs. The place was a mess inside. It had once been a café, where oil workers stopped on their way to and from drilling sites. But now all the windows were gone, the tables were overturned, broken dishes lay shattered on the lunch counter. Brand went back into the kitchen and came out carrying a stainless steel pot.

"You can wash in this," he said, pouring water from the ten-gallon can. "I've got food in the Jeep. I'll bring it."

A half hour later, she sat at one of the tables, drinking water from a cup and chewing on the Synth-Steak Bar, Brand had given her. She was dressed in the clothes he brought, which amazingly, fit her perfectly.

"How'd you know my size?" she asked.

"Didn't," he replied. "Just lucky."

She looked over at him, as he sipped water from the tin cup he held in his gnarled hand. She judged he was in his late thirties. But something about him made him seem much older. His face was lined and creased, and there were flecks of grey in his dark brown hair.

"Where are you from, Mr. Brand?" she asked.

"Back on Earth, originally from Utah," he said. "I came here as a kid in the big oil boom. Worked for Trans-Exxon."


"Little bit of everything."

"When was the last time you were home?"

"Never went back," he said. "Been here twenty years."

"Where do you live?" she asked.

"Anywhere I can," he said. "You can call me a desert rat."

"Must be a harsh existence."

"Harsh," he said, "but clean. A lot cleaner than life back on earth. And despite what you might think, a lot more peaceful."

"But surely you must miss civilization," she said. "What could possibly keep you here?"

Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of roaring engines outside. Brand got out of his chair and she followed him to one of the windows. She saw three land rovers. Unlike Brand's Hover-Jeep, these were old fashioned four wheelers with combustion engines. But like the Hover-Jeep they ran on gas and oil. On Tulon gas was free and there was plenty of it.

Three men got out of rovers. They were big men, with electro pistols strapped to their legs. They wore denim pants, Krylor boots. Two wore tank tops and one wore no shirt at all. All three had scarves tied around their foreheads, Apache style.

"Who are they?" she asked.

"Trouble," Brand said.

Click to go to Part Two



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Tulon Station is copyright by John M. Whalen. It may not be copied or used for any commercial purpose except for short excerpts used for reviews. (Obviously, you can copy it or print it out if you want to read it!)