Two-Fisted Tales

Tales of Mystery and Adventure



Pulp and Dagger welcomes a new star in the pulpish heavens with this riveting raga 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 2 of 2)

by John M. Whalen
About the author


THE DOOR OPENED AND THE MEN came into the station.

The man with no shirt came in first. He was bald, muscular and had bright blue eyes. The other two followed him and all three stopped when they saw her and Brand standing there. The man with no shirt looked Brand up and down.

"Well, I'll be damned," he said. "Brand. I thought that was your Hover Jeep out there. Fancy running into you. Fancy."

"Hello, Dancer," Brand said. "I might have known it would be you."

Dancer looked at her now, his eyes devouring her inch by inch. When his eyes finally got to her face, he grinned.

"Ms. Steele," he said.

He looked back at Brand.

"Should have known you'd beat me to her."

He looked back at the men behind him.

"Boys meet Jack Brand," he said. "Every body just calls him Brand. We go back a long ways. Don't we, old buddy."

"That's right," Brand said. "But I don't recall that we were ever buddies."

"I guess that's true enough," Dancer said. "Matter of fact, you were the one mainly responsible for that time I spent in Tulon Prison."

He turned to the men with him.

"See, Brand here worked for Trans-Exxon security," he said. "Seems somebody made off with a payroll, and ol' Brand arrested me for it. But I told 'em I never had nothin' to do with that robbery."

"You were found guilty."

"They never found no money. If I did that job, what I do with the money?"

"There was evidence. Your fingerprints. And the bullet from your gun matched the one found in the payroll guard."

Dancer grinned.

"Fancy that," he said. "Well, what's the use goin' over all that after all this time. The main thing is that now you got a chance to make it up to me, Brand. A chance to wipe the slate clean."

"How's that?" Brand asked.

"Simple," Dancer said. "Just hand her over to us and let us take her in for the reward Virtual Fuel is offering. You do that I might let you walk out of here."

"Just like that."

"They're offering a sizeable amount for this woman," Dancer said. He started to move to the side and the men behind him spread out on his right and left. "A million Euro-Creds. Seems her old man owns the outfit. He's so worried about her, price is no object."

"A million, huh?" Brand said.

"That's right. Funny thing. It's dead or alive. Seems as if her old man is so upset, he just won't feel right again until she's either back safe, or he has proof that she's no longer alive. Kind of foolish of him, if you ask me. But that's the way it is."

"I'll give you one chance, to turn around and get out of here, while you still can," Brand said. "Don't make me have to kill you."

Dancer grinned.

"Fancy that, boys," he said. "Outnumbered three to one and he figures he can take all three of us. Fancy."

Myra Steele could stand it no longer.

"What's wrong with you men?" she screamed. "Are you all crazy? Are you such  greedy pigs that you'll kill each other just so you don't have to share the money?  Stop it. If it's the money you're worried about, I can guarantee that my father will pay double what he's offered, if I ask him to. This isn't necessary."

Brand moved away from her, keeping his eyes on the three men. He stepped sideways until his back was to the lunch counter and the three bounty hunters stood facing him with the windows at their backs.

"Three million," Myra said. "Four million. A million for each of you. Just don't do this."

"Hear that, Brand?" Dancer said. "Four million Euro-Creds. Aint that somethin'."

"It's not too late, Dancer,"  Brand said. "Just take your boys and leave."

"Not likely," Dancer said. "We've got things to settle."

As if he'd given some unseen signal, all three men suddenly reached for their electro pistols. But before any of them could even get the weapons clear of the holsters, three blue rays zapped from the muzzle of Brand's pistol. Three loud reports sounded as the rays burnt large black holes in their chests and they flew back against the wall. They lay unmoving on the floor, smoke rising from their bodies..

. Brand stood crouched, the Teflon coated plastic gun in his hand. Satisfied they were no longer a danger, he holstered the weapon and looked over at her. She glared at him in contempt, as he went over to the fallen men.

Dancer was still alive. Brand lifted him up. Dancer's blue eyes looked up at him almost with amusement in them.

"Four million," he said. "Fancy— "

Brand let him down.

"Are you happy now, Mr. Brand?" Myra said. "Now you don't have to worry about not getting your full share of the reward. It's all yours. You've been lying to me all along, haven't you? You didn't tell me you were a security agent for Trans-Exxon. You acted like you didn't know about the reward my father posted. You made me believe you were some kind of hermit who'd turned his back on Earth to live clean in the desert. But it was all lies, wasn't it. You just proved that you're no better than anybody else. All you want is money."

Brand stood up. If her little tirade bothered him, he didn't show it.

"We've four hours of daylight left," he said. "We can make it to the Transport Center before dark. We better be on our way."

***

They rode in silence the next four hours, as the Hover Jeep raced over the desert. And as twilight spread its purple and orange light across the sky, she saw the lights and towers of the Transportation Center. Brand looked over at her.

"For what it's worth," he said. "I didn't know about the reward. I didn't tell you I'd worked in security for Trans-Exxon because I didn't think it was important. And the reason I killed those three wasn't money. Dancer wanted to settle an old score. Even if I'd turned you over to them, they'd have tried to kill me anyway. And if they'd succeeded, they would have had to kill you, as a witness to murder. Your father made a mistake making that reward dead or alive. They wouldn't have had anything to lose if they killed you."

She didn't know what to say. She wasn't sure she believed everything he'd just told her.

Brand docked the Hover Jeep and she got out. They were greeted by a Customs officer.

"Brand," the officer said. "How have you been, old man?"

"Sam, this is Myra Steel," Brand said. "I believe her father is looking for her."

A half hour later, she stepped out of the Customs official's office, a thin strip of plastic in her hand. She expected to see Brand sitting where she'd left him, in one of the waiting room chairs. She wanted to fling in his face the check her father had statted her. But he wasn't in the waiting room. She turned to the Customs Official.

"Where did he go?" she asked.

"Brand?" he said. "Probably back out on the desert. He doesn't like it where its' too civilized."

"But what about his money? He killed three men to get it."

"Money doesn't mean much to Brand," the official said. "Not much use for it out there."

"I don't understand," she said. "Why did he do it then? Why does he stay out there."

"He's still looking for her," the official said.

"Who?"

"His sister. She worked at Trans-Exxon Security too. She got taken one day about ten years ago. The Tulons. There's thousands of them out there. Different gangs, families. Some a lot worse than the ones that took you. Whenever he hears about a woman being held by one of those gangs, he rides out to see if its her."

She stood there in stunned silence.

"After all this time, though," the official said. "I don't think he's ever going to find her. But still, he keeps looking."

She ran over to a window and looked out at the dark desert beyond the Transport Center. A half moon revealed the distant mountains and the long stretch of barren sand that stretched endlessly to the horizon. She thought she saw the tiny sparkling light of his Hover Jeep making its way in the dark.

The End.


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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!)