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   Chapter 5 No.5

Black Sunrise By Christina Engela Characters: 6121

Updated: 2018-06-30 12:02

"I suppose it's not having to pause for breath." He replied.

* * *

Gary Beck, AKA Beck the Badfeller, was headed back to the small farming town of Lugaluru with his prize. His Jeepo was bouncing along the long dry dirt road, with him at the wheel. Corrigan was sitting beside him, cuffed and cursing. After a while, Corrigan had settled down a little. At least he'd finally stopped swearing. He didn't bounce too much on the rough road, but this may have been because Beck had tied him down to the seat. Couldn't be too careful with a wife-beater. You sort of knew where you stood with an axe-murderer, but a wife beater was capable of absolutely anything.

"What you do with my horse?" He asked sullenly.

"Dunno." He said. "It ran off when you started shooting at me. I guess he'll be okay as long as he doesn't try anything stupid, like maybe try to eat some Crabbygrass."

Trying to eat Crabbygrass could be a rather unsettling experience for native Earth creatures on Deanna, especially horses. It might be screwed up for days afterwards, maybe even for good.

"Damn." Corrigan said, "I really liked that horse."

Beck kept driving, as Corrigan fell silent again. Lugaluru was about ten clicks ahead still, and that was just the outskirts of Atro City. It was a small farming community where news tended to get around a bit. Corrigan's main crime had been assault and battery, inflicted on his nearest and supposedly dearest. Beck didn't hold with that kind of thing. Neither did the law – and neither did Mrs. Corrigan, who last month fired two barrels of buckshot through the toilet door while he was sitting on the can. Lucky for him, he was leaning down to read the paper at his feet at the time and thought his ass had exploded. This episode led to all sorts of jokes, some of them of the 'knock knock' variety. The local gossip rag had a field day. Ten years of abuse became too much for Mrs. Corrigan. She was a fine upstanding member of the community (not to mention the Mayors' sweet little sister) and so, Mister Corrigan was arrested, given a three-year jail term – and promptly divorced in absentia. The whole thing was conveniently arranged before the trial even took place. At least she didn't take getting stomped on lying down. He liked it when women put that kind of man in their place.

Two weeks ago Mister Corrigan here, had managed to break out of jail, and had been on the run till Beck caught up with him. The bounty was not that much, but it would probably cover his expenses and leave him with enough for a few comforts of home. Besides, it wasn't bad for only a few days work – and besides, his friend the Warden missed Corrigan's conversation at dinner.

* * *

There is a Ruminarii proverb few non-Ruminarii have ever heard. It goes something like: 'Mansk pohl D'uvah Llshahl"'. Its meaning, more-or-less, is as follows: 'The 'Sword of Darkness' has been drawn, and it's time to kiss your ass good-bye!' Remarkably compact language, Ruminarii, don't you think? At any rate, this proverb was currently goin

g round and round the hammerhead in the form of a chant as it reached visual distance from Deanna.

Half-Lieutenant Kluss'ta liked the rhythm of the chanting crew. It reminded him of the sound his walking ring had made when he was still a little hatchling learner-biped. It had been a nice walking ring. He had passed it on to his youngest son two years ago – who then promptly gored one of his older cousins with the wheel-spikes and later ran over the family g'haargh' with it. Twice. Like father, like son. Oh well, Marshk had always wondered why a g'haargh was called that – and anyway, it was proof negative of the claim that watching violence on TV makes children into killers (that's what it's there for, innit?).

Two of his bridge crew were performing the ritual Dance of the Annihilator, naked. The dance was an important part of Ruminarri tradition, and was significant for several important reasons, but mainly because it primed the troops for an impending battle. It involved much twirling and posturing and hissing at each other. The rest of the crew applauded whenever one would suddenly stab at the other with the short ritual knife. In a proper contest points were awarded for artistic style and the tonality of the hisses and even for the artistic expression in the slashes inflicted to the loser's body.

Marsh'k encouraged competition among his crew. It was bad for morale. It worked up their fighting spirit before an attack. Anyway, it gave them something to do – a distraction for one or more of them who may have been giving his command seat undue attention. Perhaps he might make ten years as a ship commander yet. That would make him something of a record, as the longest serving example was something in the line of nine years – and that was him.

This unusual longevity was not because he was unusually lucky or because the demons scowled on him. It was because unlike his subordinates, who competed parallel and upwards of their respective positions (as was the usual tradition), Marsh'k also competed downwards. This meant, effectively, that his executive officer was usually someone who had just recently assassinated his predecessor and was just settling into the post nicely – and beginning to think the title of 'Ship Commander' sounded nicer, when he would suddenly find himself leading his own funeral procession. It was always assumed that some other aspiring candidate of lower rank was the culprit. It might have been somewhat unorthodox, but hey, it worked for him. And it was kind of fun. Yes, Marsh'k was kind of an unusual Ruminarii – which given the Ruminarii's uniqueness itself, was quite remarkable.

The next question you might be tempted to ask is: Why hadn't he advanced since attaining the rank of Half-Lieutenant? Well, mainly because once he was captain of the ship, there was nobody else onboard higher than him to assassinate, but also because this too meant he would have to give up the freedom he now enjoyed, and somewhat surprisingly, Half-Lieutenant Marsh'k Kluss'ta enjoyed his freedom.

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