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Excerpt from Wildcat Arrows

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Unconcerned with the potential fate awaiting him, the man known as Wildcat Arrows coolly surveyed the dimly lit interior of the bar.
     Several shimmering strands of pitch-black hair dangled over his eyes. Even after months in the dark Cretion mines the locks still glowed softy in the low light.
     Like polished ebony silk.
     The jet color was rumored to be a gift from an ancient Crow ancestor; chief of his tribe and fearless warrior. As for the sparkle. . . well, that was another story.
     The rest of his hair- a long, dark cloak– slid forward over his cheek to partially shield his features from those in the tavern who might be overly curious. Arms crossed over his chest, he leaned back against a stone wall. One leather-clad foot hooked over the other.
     Idly, he glanced down at his well-worn moccasins.
     ‘As you explore the path of your life you will find them the finest covering to grace a warrior’s foot. . .’
     That advice had been given to him long ago and was unquestionably true. In fact, the moccasins had proven themselves this very day for the path he had recently traversed had included a prison break.
     He smiled slightly– just a hint of lifting at the corners of lips that had been called sensual and merciless. The gratification of redemption.
     Well, someone had to save him.
     Turning his focus back to the room and its inhabitants, he inhaled the dank, stale air of the barroom.
     And not by choice.
     Every Cretion hellhole he had ever been in smelled and looked exactly the same. Musky. Shadowy. Dark. Dangerous.
     He did not belong here, yet he felt right at home.
     Now what denizens crawled out from under the Cretion sewers this dark eve?
     The illicit outpost was an infamous gathering place for those with ‘creativity’ in obtaining that which was not (at least at present) corporate controlled.
     In other words, Cretion was benign host to thieves, cutthroats, rash entrepreneurs, and erstwhile adventurers. Wildcat noted that ‘benign host’ applied to anything Cretion was akin to, say, a Venus flytrap lovingly hosting a benign afternoon tea for its parched, winged neighbor.
     In a subtle twist of a kind so beloved by the Practitioners of Irony, it just-so-happened that Cretion was also benign host to, ‘THE WORST PRISON EVER!’ (Hence the titillating headline in twelve digi-mags this year)
     Such a delightful circumstance afforded Cretion management the opportunity for one stop shopping, i.e.: It was not unheard of for your drinking partner of the evening to roll you over to the authorities in order to pay the bar tab for the drinks that he had been kindly buying you all evening.
     Good ol’ Cretion cause and effect.
     Of course exception to this practice was always taken, which was why at least five knockdown, drag-out fights occurred every night in these happy dens.
     Wildcat had never been turned in by “professional courtesy”.
     He was too good at what he did for that.
     And since he was a free agent, no one could be sure what deal they might be stepping on should they happen to cross him at any given time.
     Furthermore, he made sure his dealings were, for the most part, law-abiding. Like Einstein’s theory, this viewpoint was relative to whatever laws one happened to be abiding at the time.
     Naturally, Wildcat tended to favor laws that were favorable to him. Hence, me judice.
     Some folks considered that behavior criminal– others, just plain savvy. Wildcat had a rep for being on the sharp side– but he hadn’t been too clever this go-around.
     He was ashamed to admit that he had been bagged in the time-honored manner of all rogues. He had been caught in bed with the wrong woman.
     The prison warden’s pretty young wife, to be exact.
     Unfortunately, the warden of Cretion was also the governor of the colony.
     Not a particularly beneficial coincidence.
     If Wildcat recalled correctly, at the time of discovery the bed frame had been slamming the facts home like an accountant in a budget crunch.
     Honestly, he had not known the woman was that warden’s wife–
     He hadn’t known she was anybody’s wife.
     Of course none of that mattered to the warden, a man whose nickname was Meanest-Nastiest-Bastard-in-the-Whole-Galaxy Joe.
     Ergo, there had been no trial. No formal sentencing either.
     He was sent directly to jail.
     Hard time. Strenuous labor in the dank orzon mines.
     Now prison is generally a vast warehouse of peculiar oddities, but the strangest curiosity– so far as Wildcat was concerned– was the marvel that the entire cell block had been incarcerated for sleeping with Meanest-Nastiest-Bastard-in-the-Whole-Galaxy Joe’s pretty lil’ wife.
     Except no one had actually ridden the “A” train home. So to speak.
     No one except him, that is.
     Wildcat wasn’t altogether sure that entitled him to bragging rights.
     Considering his current situation and all.
     . . .
     Pale blue eyes, slightly tipped at the corners and as clear as the waters of a Loch in spring, scanned the room. It had often been noted that Wildcat had the sharp focus of an intelligent, formidable adversary.
     With good reason.
     His remarkable eyes were the result of a combined ancestral gift.
     One part of the gift was from a shrewd Norse Jarl who went a-viking in Caledonia, only to finish his journey ensconced in the highlands and married to the Laird’s daughter. (In the pattern of most rogues, this occurred only after he had first kidnapped the girl and then made love to her. Repeatedly. It was said he was quite besotted with the puir wee lass).
     The other part of the genetic gift came from a Samurai warrior turned ronin turned Shogun. (The least said about him, the better.)
     Naturally, such eyes missed nothing.
     A line briefly formed in the middle of his smooth forehead as he sized up a potential mark. A Zoltarian captain.
     Probably pirate.
     She was sitting at a table, surrounded by her crew.
     Snorting to the male on her left, she snatched a tankard skin off the rickety bar tray. In an instant, long, pointed fangs pierced the bladder of Cretion hootch.
     Down the hatch it went.
     Glub, glub, glub.
     While this was going on, the comrade to her right spit three times, then squawked-cussed, sounding exactly like a rooster with Tourettes. He followed up nicely on this set by keeling backwards right over his chair.
     Face up, he flopped across the floor and might well have been taken for dead if not for the faint, intermittent twitching in the vicinity of his groin.
     Wildcat cocked his head to the side with a kind of horrified fascination as he watched the floor show.
     No mystery now as to why Zoltarians had a hard time scoring in bars. . .
     He winced as the captain cracked open a hard-shelled jub-jub nut by using the poor lout’s head like a can opener.
     That’ll hurt in the morning.
     The pirate’s brethren did not appear to notice their mate’s quasi demise. By their raucous behavior, the scruffy band had been on the binge for hours.
     Hell, maybe they’d been drinking for days.
     With Zoltarians, you never knew.
     Their aggressive in-your-face attitude was only surpassed by their unending capacity for high octane rotgut. Cretion grog fit that bill perfectly.
     The leader suddenly noticed him by the door and arched her slanted brows in interest.
     Oh, hell no.
     Wildcat closed his eyes and exhaled as he tried to talk sense to himself. He was stranded on this planet and if he didn’t get out of here soon, there was a real possibility his bed tonight (and every night forever) was going to be the stone floor of a 6 by 8 cell.
     If he was lucky.
     They might decide to just kill him as a thank you for the trouble he caused. This pirate captain might be his only chance.
     He cringed at the thought.
     He really, really hated that thing they did with their teeth. . .

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