Hammerheads

It’s been way too long since I posted a writing sketch! I actually posted a little bit of this a couple years ago, but I was feeling around for something to work on at the write-in tonight and worked on it some more. I don’t think there will be any more to it. A little over 800 words.

Anyway, it reminded me of how much I like writing this particular pair of characters (if you want to find more of them, you can look here). One of these days I need to sit down and write the Chuck Chaykin novel that is quietly smoldering in a corner of my brain.

Chuck Chaykin Fights Some Shark Guys

A single serrated tooth jutted from Valeria’s arm, just below the elbow. Blood poured around the jagged edges to pool on the deck plating. Other lacerations scored the rest of her arm. She held the arm close, squeezing just above the wound. Chaykin knelt beside her, dropping his pistol onto the pilot’s couch.

“You should go,” Val said through clenched teeth. “If they reach the engine room-”

“Don’t talk,” he said. He gently touched the tooth. He heard a shark intake of breath from the young woman, and a burst of pain impaled Chaykin’s mind. He reeled back and gripped a control panel to keep from collapsing.

Sorry, she said, her words just echoes in his head. He didn’t like it too much either. Only thing that saved me. She tilted her head and her lips tightened. Sometimes involuntary projection works out for the best.

“Yeah, okay,” said Chaykin. “Any idea how many there are?”

Val swallowed and closed her eyes. Chaykin imagined her mind roaming the corridors of the Rhiannon, searching out the Xook pirates that had boarded them. He knew she sometimes had trouble reading alien minds, but she should have no trouble locating them, even if it were jibberish.

Three of them, she said. Two are in the cargo hold. The one who attacked me is just down the hall, in the kitchen. And it’s not jibberish. His name is Selach. The other two are Squaline and Benthic. Squaline totally has a crush on Selach.

“I don’t need the soap opera.” Chaykin retrieved his gun and crouched at the door. “There’s-”

A first aid kit under the chair, I know.

Chaykin nodded. “Sit tight. Keep this door locked.”

What’s your plan?

Chaykin keyed off the pistol’s safety. “I’m gonna go punch ’em in the nose.”

#

As far as Chaykin knew, they’d picked up their guests at the last open port, Fittsburg, a little asteroid mining community. Routine stop, refueling, resupply, check the work board for bounties. Chaykin had spent a minimum of time at the local saloon, while the girl did the shopping. Normal pit stop.

I’m “the girl” now?

“Quiet, I’m concentrating.” Chaykin eased to the kitchen door, which Valeria’s attacker had half-closed after fleeing the bridge.

These guys are on the net, boss. Wanted in…where the hell is Pipe Springs? Worth a little alive.

Chaykin peered through the door. The kitchen was quiet, but the door on the opposite end was closed. Somewhere in there was a pissed off Chordata with a missing tooth and a headache.

“How much?” he whispered.

Grand each. Alive. Careful boss, they’re all coming in.

The door at the opposite end of the kitchen slid open, and in marched the pair of their visitors. Nearly three meters tall, the bipedal sharkmen had to stoop to get through the hatch, bending further at the knees to clear the fin on their backs. They wore simple work clothes, but the blasters in their hands were anything but cheap. Transparent hydro-bubbles over their fins allowed them to breathe.

“Long way from Pipe Springs, fellas,” Chaykin called. The Chordata scattered for cover and splashed the door with a few hasty shots. “Keep ’em here, will ya?” Chaykin whispered. He pulled open a panel in the wall and ducked into the maintenance shaft.

Shall I charm them with some of your usual sparkling dialogue?

“Just make sure they keep their eyes on that door.”

“We’re not going back, Chaykin!” one of the Chordata yelled.

“All we need is your ship!” another called in a reasoned tone. “We can let you go.”

We can swim to the nearest port, I presume. Chaykin smiled at the hint of laughter in Valeria’s projection. He couldn’t hear whatever she was slinging back at them in his voice, but judging by the flurry of fire against the wall, he could guess.

Chaykin gingerly positioned himself at the center of the kitchen ceiling. He had a clear view of each of the three. He grimaced as they poured superheated plasma against what was becoming a slab of melted door. Without return fire, it wouldn’t take them long to assume he was dead, even with Valeria psychically throwing his voice at them.

“Might want to go dark, darlin’,” Chaykin muttered.

What? Why-

Chaykin lightly tapped at the corner of the maintenance hatch, and it swung down into the room. Three shark faces turned up at him in surprise. He put a bullet in each blunt nose in just a couple of seconds.

Ow. Motherfucker! Little more warning next time?

He dropped to the kitchen table and eyed the sharks for signs of movement. “Language, miss.”

You realize that’s three thousand credits we can’t collect.

“The door costs more than that, plus the run to the other side of the quadrant to Pipe Springs? No thanks.” He hefted the blaster pistols. “These fish are worth more dead.”

#