Chapter 01: The Job

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Trent opened his eyes to the haze of a monster hangover. His first thought was that this was the twenty three hundreds, surely they'd have found a way to make alcohol hangover-free. But he knew the simple and, he supposed, happy truth of booze: it hadn't really changed all that much in ten thousand years. It still worked the same way on a space station orbiting a far-flung world as it did when it was being brewed back in the middle ages.

As he rubbed his eyes and then began to massage his temples, gently encircling his forehead with his forefinger and thumb, he supposed that it was like bullets. You were going to get shot, the only thing you could do was make a better vest. Which they had. He knew the hangover pills were stashed in his pocket...but he had no idea where his pants were.

A soft sound drew his attention. He glanced over slowly, taking in the bedroom as he did. He hadn't had much chance to see it last night, his attention being filtered through a smoked-glass lens of drunken lust.

There wasn't much light, for which he was grateful. From what Trent could see, the bedroom wasn't anything special. The walls were bare, no pictures, nothing. A short dresser squatted in the far corner, two drawers open, clothing spilling out of it. There were more clothes spread out across the carpet. Besides a desk, nothing else occupied the room.

Trent let his gaze settle on the woman beside him. Beneath the blanket, she was nude, long and lean, her muscles small but clearly visible. She was on her side, facing away from him, short red hair in disarray. Trent decided he should probably go. Women like her usually felt more comfortable if you didn't stick around for breakfast.

Pulling himself from beneath the blankets, Trent sat up, swung his feet onto the carpet and sat hunched for a moment, massaging his temples again. First thing was first, his pants. He needed to dry-swallow a few of those pills. Letting go of his skull, Trent stood and swayed slightly, the hangover making every movement difficult.

He began shuffling about the room, letting his feet figure out what was what. Finally, his bare toes hooked onto his jeans and he knelt, grabbing them and liberating the narrow tube of pills from his pocket. Popping off the white top with his thumb, he upended the tube and let three of the little yellow beauties fall into his dry mouth.

Putting a new shine on the phrase dry-swallow, Trent managed to get them down. He capped the tube and shoved it back into his pocket, then went back over the bed, abandoning his jeans, and sat down. The pills would do their job, he just needed to give them time. A shower and some coffee would help, but the headache that was currently ripping through his skull, threatening to burst free at any second, needed to be reduced first.


Trent glanced back, surprised and slightly startled. The redhead had rolled over and was now looking up at him with blue eyes that glowed in the darkness. Neon implants that kept her connected to the ultranet.

He wondered if she had a camera built in, wondered if she'd recorded him when he'd been drilling her the night before.

"Hey," he said, not caring one way or the other.

Trent reached out and gently brushed some of the hair back from her face. She smiled up at him, hand slipping out from beneath the blanket and grabbing his wrist. Shifting the blanket made it fall away from her, revealing her pale breasts.

"Can you stay?" she asked.

Trent hesitated. "Do you want me to?"

"Yeah, I guess. I'm off duty today."

They'd met at a bar that hosted an uncomfortable blend of Marines and mercenaries. Trent considered it for a moment. What were his plans? How long were they going to stay here? He and Drake had only gotten in yesterday, still riding high from a somewhat successful stint of running protection for a deal between two minor corporations. Both men had hugged, wished each other good luck, and then had gone in search of one night stands.

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