Fire From Above

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"You sure this goes with milk?" Hull said, reading the contents of a can she held in her right hand.

The shade from the large dirty gray tarp shielded Hull and Lael from the midday sun on Duskatelle, casting a square shadow around them. Boxes of various items were stacked along one side of the tarp while an old woman stood, watching them intently.

"Absolutely," Lael said, going through the boxes one at a time, taking a can out of one, a bag out of the other and putting them into an empty yellow crate she brought from the drydock. "I guarantee that you haven't had anything quite like Crepes." She took a step back, looked over the items and nodded. "That should do."

Hull tossed the can to Lael, took out a stack of crumpled bills and counted them off to the woman."You didn't forget coffee, right?"

Lael made a face. "How can you drink that stuff, it's nasty," She loaded the crate onto a steel hand truck. She tilted it back and pushed it alongside Hull."You should eat healthier. I could cook up some nice vegetables?"

The moment they stepped out from the shade, the bright Duskatelle sun hit them with such force that they began to sweat. A light breeze swept across the desert that made the weather almost bearable.

Hull wiped the sweat from her brow."Remember our deal. I'll train you, but you're keeping the Katanga Bay neat and tidy, and you're cooking, and you'll cook what I want to eat. I'm not a damn rabbit."

Lael frowned. "Rabbits eat healthier than you, ma'am."

Hull smiled at Lael. "Yeah, but I eat rabbits, so what does that say about them?"

She frowned. "You're mean." Her hydraulic arm hissed as it tilted the hand truck around some rocks in the uneven ground.

"How's the transmitter working out?" Hull asked.

"It's great," Lael said, nodding to the diamond-shaped gray box soldered on the side of the arm's bicep. "I suddenly have all sorts of power in the arm that I wasn't getting from a battery. I still don't understand how it works."

"Radio waves," Hull said. "It sends energy at a specific frequency and powers the arm remotely through a purpose-built antenna in the box."

Lael stared at Hull in shock. "You can do that?"

"You can do anything," Hull said. "The trick is figuring out how, and that's our job."

Lael looked about the expanse of the town called Kitchita. Dirty square tents lined up in neat rows across the tan desert. A low mountain range cut the monotony of the flatland. Across from the tents was a square, one-floor gray shack with large square framed windows that reflected the sun with intensity. The Second Chance was parked on its side in-between them.

Lael's hydraulic hand let out a loud hiss as it adjusted on the handle of the hand truck. She pushed it up the short ramp and into the open hatch of the rocket.

"Stow the supplies. I got to see a man about a horse." Hull said. She turned and walked down the ramp and across the desert expanse. She entered the shack.

Lael frowned. "What would you want with a horse?" She watched Hull for a moment and went back to stow the boxes in the sliding door closet. Once she finished, Lael left the rocket and entered the shack.

The inside of the shack was no better than the outside; rotted gray wood all around. The walls had old framed mirrors and soiled playbills for acts that performed at the saloon. A counter ran from the door to the opposing wall with a giant mirror and bottles in neat rows behind it. Mismatching tables were scattered throughout the saloon with the only two people, outside of Lael, sitting in the far corner; Hull and a slim, gray-haired man cut in a military style. He wore a blue shirt with a braided gold collar. A matching dolman hung over his left shoulder like a cape.

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