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   Chapter 2 No.2

Dead Man’s Hammer By Christina Engela Characters: 6053

Updated: 2018-06-30 12:02

"Yeah, well yours too!" He shouted after it angrily. He picked up a small stone and threw it. It bounced off the creature's solid head at an angle with a 'tonk' sound – its only effect to make the creature squawk again and shuffle along a fraction faster. So here he stood – at the side of the highway seventeen kilometers outside the outskirts of Atro City as the crow flies – or rather, walks – and not a single vehicle in sight.

He sighed, leaning against the higher side of his immobilized electric vehicle as he seriously considered that perhaps he should get a crowbar fitted after all. Honestly, this was the second time this had happened in as many months!

Beck preferred reliable old fashioned projectile guns to blasters and always had. He carried a ten-mil automatic in a holster at his side. There was just something more real about a good fire-iron in his hands than the light plasti-steel alloy casing of a blaster. He felt inclined to shoot the freakin' crow in the hopes that it would learn from the experience and hopefully wouldn't do it again. 'If the bullets wouldn't actually ricochet off it', he thought.

Ramalama was moving higher in the sky already, the day was getting on. He was going to be late getting to San Fedora for his meeting with the Sheriff. And as a bounty hunter – even a good one with a lot of work, time is money. It seemed today that time was running out for Beck the Badfeller.

* * *

Lupini Street – near the center of Atro City, the largest city on Deanna – was a circular road that ran round a sort of public square, with a large paved area and benches for people to sit on and throw food-related objects at flocks of pigeons. At the center of the square there was a fountain. The statues at the very center of the fountain were intended to commemorate the founding of the colony, and the most prominent of these was a large bronze figure representing Adriano Lupini, the very first colonist to set foot on the surface of the planet. He was a bronze man of course, and he was dressed in bronze dungarees and wore a plain bronze shirt and a worn-looking bronze hat. His bronze face displayed the boldness and determination believed to be typical of the true-blue, dyed-in-the-wool colonist. Mister Lupini was standing on what looked like crabby-grass – or at the very least, a struggling clump of bronze pseudo-grass with little feet and lots of sharp little teeth captured in mid-snap by the very talented sculptor.

Despite the honor of being remembered as the first colonist to set foot on Deanna, he was also credited with discovering crabby-grass, the aforementioned life-form that disliked being stepped on. However, this also led to the unintended consequence that Mr Lupini also set the record for being the first person to actually swear on Deanna. He still lived on Deanna, and attended the Founder's Day Ceremony every year, in safety boots. Not surprisingly, the bronze Lupini didn't look very amused. Beside the representation of Lupini, stood Deanna's

national bird. It was supposed to be a symbol of the early colonists' determination to stay and make a success of the colony, but its expression only made it look slightly constipated.

Obsidian crows frequently got run over because quite frankly, they were too damn lazy to get out of the way and anyway, they could just get up and walk off again afterwards. Despite an enduring reputation as a road hazard and a general obstacle to wheeled traffic, obsidian crows were completely harmless otherwise. Obsidian crows were flightless, mainly because they were extremely hard-bodied and far too heavy to fly – unless one fell off a cliff or was launched from a catapult, they were pretty much grounded. Anything will fly if launched from a catapult – just ask the navy.

Behind Lupini and the obsidian crow stood a horse, one of the few domestic Earth animals to travel to the stars with Humankind. Most people would think the artist must have been on something illegal because, when viewed directly from the front, the horse looked a little cross-eyed and seemed to be grinning. Lop-sidedly. And then, as a native of Deanna, you would remember – ah yes of course – the crabby-grass. And then there would be a nagging feeling that would make you watch where you set your feet down… All these figures were arranged around the white marble upper dish, the water cascading over the gilded rim and splashing down into the pool below.

There was, according to Elgar Sondigan – the artist and designer of the monument, another figure present among the others. He said it was the pigeon, the other Earth species to travel to the stars with Humankind. Now, when looking at the fountain from the front, at the group of statues you would see – Lupini, crabby-grass, horse, obsidian crow – check. "– Okay, so where's the pigeon?" You would ask. The artist would just smile and say – "The crabby-grass ate it." And yes, crabby-grass pretty much ate anything if it stood still long enough – and crabby-grass loved pigeons.

People were already up and about, going about their business. Buildings of all kinds surrounded the square, on the opposite side of Lupini Street, rather like gangsters at a Valentine's Day re-enactment. The Governors Palace was one of them, looking grand and regal. The Municipal buildings stood beside it, a little off to one side – looking if anything a little intimidated, if that was the right word. A stout, serious-looking building somewhere to the left was the Court of Justice, with its many pillars and myriad of steps (purportedly designed to cripple lawyers) and on the opposite end, at the corner of Hasselblat Road right where it joined Lupini, was Atro City University, a stately looking complex behind its low walls and ornamental railings. There were stands and small shops in discarded shipping containers dotting the square here and there, surrounded by clusters of benches, tables and umbrellas. They were brightly painted, and one of them was a coffee shop called Albrecht's Takeaways.

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