Matilda Dulac has worked for the Galactic Mining Guild for 10 years. During that time, she has risen rapidly in rank to that of Commander. Now, she is working a remote station with Marc Slatterly. They are not only co-workers, but lovers. Life is comfortable, productive and predictable—until one of the miners comes in with a load of Trimagnite; highly toxic liquid ore. They aren’t prepared to store it, so they have to contact someone to pick it up. As soon as he hears the name, Marc starts acting strangely. When the many shows up at their station, Marc’s demeanor changes dramatically.
As Matilda followed Marc to the docking bay where the ship was locking on, she noticed he was armed. The energy weapon he wore was hardly standard Guild issue. On the maximum setting, it could take down a 300-pound man, putting a sizable hole in him.
“Expecting an army? You can kill a xar beast with one of those.”
“I wish I had something bigger. If I order you to fire, Commander, you fire. No questions. Is that clear?”
Marc opened the door to the docking bay. The other ship had attached and the airlock was pressurizing. As the door spiraled open, Matilda sensed a shudder pass through Marc. He raised his weapon, covering the entrance.
Slowly, with a casual air, a man entered the airlock. Nearly as tall as Marc, he was leaner of build. His curly, dark brown hair fell to his shoulders. He stood still while Rubee scanned his identification tag before releasing the force shield in front of him.
He wore a black eye patch over his left eye and a scar ran from his left temple to the corner of his lips. It was an old scar, worn and somewhat sunken. A slight stubble of beard shaded the lower half of his face, all but the scar line, leaving a pale crescent in the dark. His uncovered eye glittered, black and dangerous in his ruggedly handsome face. Holding his arms from his sides, he waited as Rubee scanned him for weapons. Finding none, she gave clearance for him to pass.
He stepped forward, lighting a dark, thin object. The pungent odor of a cheroot filled the confined space. Squinting past the smoke, he gazed into Marc’s eyes. Marc’s weapon remained pointed at the other man’s head, his calm expression strangely predatory.
Their visitor sized Matilda up with a glance, dismissing her as non-threatening. He puffed on his cheroot thoughtfully. A crooked grin cracked his face in half, the scar pulling his left lip up at an odd angle.
“Marc, it’s been a long time.” He held out his hand.
Marc remained aloof, not taking his eyes off the visitor, lowering his weapon or acknowledging the proffered hand.
“Kind of a cold reception, isn’t it?” His voice was rasping and low.
The smile was replaced by a slight frown, a hint of sadness in the obsidian eye. Then the same placid expression took its place. Nothing in Marc’s face betrayed what he was thinking or feeling.
Marc spoke calmly. “Commander Dulac, please show Colonel VanLipsig to the lounge.”
“Of course, sir.” Looking puzzled, she did as he asked, feeling his eyes on her.
Marc followed, covering the man from the rear. When they had seated themselves, Matilda ordered three cups of joe from the synthunit. Marc kept his weapon out on his knee with his hand resting upon it. The other fellow leaned back, seemingly unconcerned and at ease. Taking a sip of the joe, he grimaced, glancing down at his cup before matching his gaze with Marc’s.
“I know we parted under difficult circumstances, but is this really necessary? I’m here to do a job, nothing more.” He carefully kept his hands in plain view, moving slowly, talking with deliberate ease.
Marc looked at him blankly. “I thought you were dead, Wil.”
VanLipsig nodded slowly, thoughtfully. “You were sure you killed me.” His voice was flat, toneless, unemotional. He shrugged casually, tilting his head to the left. “I got better.” There was a flash of a chilling smile.
“The reports of my death were greatly exaggerated,” VanLipsig quipped, dark eye glittering mischievously.
Marc’s fist dented the metal table with a furious blow. “Dammit, Wil! Can’t you stay dead?”
VanLipsig threw back his head, laughing caustically. The laugh became a long, high-pitched, chilling howl. Matilda felt a shiver run through her to the very bone. She did her best not to show it, but a subtle shift of her bearing betrayed her. His gaze penetrated her soul, laying it bare, finding it wanting.
“Aren’t you going to introduce me to the lady, Marc?”
Marc hid his anger, but Matilda knew he was furious. His attitude toward VanLipsig was puzzling. They seemed to have known one another for years, obviously parting on less than amicable terms. Though VanLipsig seemed to harbor no ill will, Marc certainly did.
“May I present myself, ma’am? I’m Colonel Wilhelm VanLipsig, also known as the Lone Wolf. Perhaps you’ve heard of me?” He attempted to look humble. “Pleased to make your acquaintance.” His glance flicked to her nametag and insignia, dark eye lingering hungrily on her chest. “Commander Dulac.” His mouth formed the words, enjoying the feel of the consonants on his tongue.
He waited patiently for a response. Getting none, his eye locked with hers, curious, intrigued. “Do you speak?”
Matilda studied him quizzically, raising an eyebrow. “There seemed little to say.”
Wil chuckled deep in his throat. It was a seductively menacing sound. He put his feet up on the table between them, relaxed, but all business.
“So, what’s this load I’m supposed to pick up?”
Matilda glanced at Marc, his blank face betraying nothing. He gave no indication that he was going to speak, so she took over the conversation.
VanLipsig, who was staring openly at her full breasts, raised an eyebrow. He grinned wolfishly, dragging his gaze to meet hers.
“Really? Nasty stuff.” He sounded almost gleeful. “How pure?”
She met his eyes with a challenge as his smile became predatory. Her personal scanner showed him the basic specs. His brow furrowed slightly as he read, then he handed it back to her, whistling softly in surprise.
“Show me the full scan.” All joking aside, he stood expectantly.
Matilda ushered VanLipsig to a console and typed in the commands. He leaned over her right shoulder, his face mere inches from hers. His scent tantalized her. It was disconcerting, made all the more disturbing because he was dangerously handsome, well built, virile, wickedly seductive and extremely close. Forcing herself to look back at the screen, she felt his warm breath on her neck, tickling her skin in a very sensuous way.
He leaned forward, tapping the console, watching as the view and number readout changed. The very air between them was charged with energy. His shoulder brushed hers from behind, making her shiver
VanLipsig put his hand on her shoulder, brushing her neck slightly with his thumb, leaning in as if to kiss her. He checked himself abruptly, nearly brushing her ear with his lips. His breath stirred wisps of hair, tickling her neck.
“I’m sorry, Commander. Are you cold?” His raspy voice seemed loud, although he whispered.
She ducked out from under his arm, stepping aside. “No, I’m fine. Really. Thank you.”
Marc stood a few feet away, his eyes on the other man, saying nothing. The muscle in his jaw worked rapidly, bulging and relaxing as he fought for control.
Wil seemed unaware of them both as he read the screen, making mental calculations, sensuous lips moving as he spoke to himself. He nodded, clearing the screen, turning to them with a dazzling smile.
“No problem,” his smile broadened, but didn’t reach his eye. “I’ll just get my bots to work, then.”
He made for the door, but Marc stopped him with a powerful arm across his chest. Wil halted, pressing aggressively against Marc’s elbow.
“Old man, you know that’s dangerous.” Wil’s body stiffened defensively.
Marc glared at him, cold fury erupting. “By God, Wil! I killed you, you bastard!” Marc pounded the table next to him, scattering the cups of joe.
Wil didn’t even blink. “I told you, I got better.”
© 2015 Dellani Oakes