Beyond The Underworld

Discussion in 'Survival Reading Room' started by Tyler Danann, Mar 12, 2016.

  1. Tyler Danann

    Tyler Danann Monkey+

    Alright folks, this one is set in the near-future, after the collapse of Western Civilization. Europe is in tatters as are parts of the USA (but still holding firm!).

    A hidden empire of mixed-race hordes with corrupt white leadership have unleashed hell on earth! The haven't won but it seems dire. Elsewhere Asiatic races are on the rise as they too want a piece of the action....

    Story to follow...
  2. Tyler Danann

    Tyler Danann Monkey+

    Beyond The Underworld

    “Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.”
    -Plato. 5th century BC

    Chapter 1

    The Vengeance

    A new day dawned at the picturesque village of Parohm.

    Yet this was not going to be another day of leisure for the one the Triamese called ‘The laughing Pathman’. Galtero Summurspire was his true name but it was as Galt that he was commonly known in Parohm.

    As Galt slowly stirred in his soft bed he reached out and felt the warm form of the girl he’d met the previous week, she warmed a little to his touch and he felt the boozy fumes of the previous night’s indulgences fade away. The Triamese city, many miles from Banroth was many more from his Saken faction.

    He felt these were the glory days. Galt was far from his home faction and answerable to no-one but himself, he was master of all he surveyed. It was still dark in the room though. The second and third-floors external shutters, installed at some expense, kept out the morning daylight nicely.

    The light-armored pick-up was the first to arrive two blocks distant and Galt’s keen hearing picked up on it. Yet as he did so, as if with some synchronicity, his lady in the bed began responding more to his earlier touch and soon his mind was on other things.

    The pick-up truck contained several armed Triamese enforcers who now disembarked and lined along the riverside buildings. There they faced the direction of Galt’s workshop retreat.

    Following the enforcer truck was an airborne trio of Fell Ryders. They were westerners not allied to any faction but only to adventure, women and that which provided it, gold. They travelled in no vehicles, but on portable flight unit’s that were about the size of a backpack which they wore to fly about in. They preferred a life without rules and would sell their unique abilities to the highest bidder. Corrupt and savagely loyal to Asiatic people they relished to take down one who thought of himself as above their adopted race.

    The three Ryders descended to near-ground level, but stayed lofty from the enforcers, knowing they were jealous and envied their equipments ability for powered flight. The trio looked past the Triamese and watched as another land-based vehicle approached their direction.

    This was their current master named Sten Zealand, a cyber-sleuthe of some note. He was accompanied by another, a tough and veteran Ameri-Asian warrior who was his personal bodyguard, confidante and sometime friend Merth.

    Sten had felt insulted and humiliated at the stinging and barbed wordings from the Galt. Time and time again comments and entries were flooding onto his Nexus logs, read by many thousands, attacking him due to the Galt’s criticisms.

    Initially Galt’s allegations of corruption, foul-play and skulduggery were outrageous. First they were laughed at, then ignored, before finally upsetting and annoying too many of Sten’s allies and contacts. Something had to be done. Many were starting to accuse and even desert his own Nexus logsite now, even questioning his own stories and ways. The risk of losing the lucrative trade-missions that exchanged data-chips for mono-atomic gold could not be jeopordized. Now Sten considered himself the whirlwind to tidy up Galt’s mess once and for all.

    It had taken many months work to locate and track down Galt to Parohm. A random enquiry at a pleasure house there saw him directed exactly to where Galt’s was. He wasn’t sure what it made, some said it was machine parts, others it was something else entirely. The fact it was a base was enough for the well-paid Triamese police to be engaged in helping him.

    One thing was for certain in Sten’s mind, the playboy Pathfinder had made his last Nexus entry. Sten felt relieved knowing that the days of Galt were at an end. His adversary was everything he was not. Where Galt was strong, fair and manly, he was weedy and feeble. Indeed Sten was far from being an oil painting. Galt had leaked Sten’s picture online revealing less than handsome looks and ensuring his mockery. In contrast Galt proudly showed his image and held himself up as a man fair and square in his business dealings, while Sten was often more than corrupt and shady. As a final insult the Pathman had revealed Sten’s birth surname of Ziegal, showing his Kaslar roots for all to see. It was too much for the man’s pride and fanatically he sought either death or capture for the Saken officer.

    A sharp voice snapped Sten out of his thoughts.

    “Well, make your call Sten,” Trelt, one of the senior Ryders barked at Sten on the radio-net. “We can’t wait any longer!”

    “Give the devil the dish then!” the Kaslar said, using a Rabian saying. They knew to tarry would allow Galt time to prepare, as it was he was likely to still be asleep and unready.

    Copyright - Tyler Danann
  3. Tyler Danann

    Tyler Danann Monkey+

    All three of the Fell Ryders now opened the throttle on their machine packs and launched themselves from the riverside towards the Pathfinders workshop and home.

    All three stopped within earshot. The noise of his whirring hover unit would be easily heard by Galt being so close and Trelt wasted no time. He began the declaration that was required by Triamese Law before they could begin assaulting the place.

    “Galt the Pathfinder!” he addressed the building as the protocols of the declaration required. Moving around it slowly as he spoke, scanning for body heat through the walls and shutters. No Fell Ryder had equipment akin to artifact-level, but their flight-helms, at a pinch, could do the job of scanning buildings in this way.

    Over the radio-net Trelt began the rest of the summons declaration. The key bits were jotted down on his wrist slate, having been translated from Triamese script the evening before.

    “It is decreed that Galt the Pathfinder of this place shall be apprehended and brought to a court of law for the following offences,” Trelt shouted the words with his flight-helm’s chin-piece and visor raised.

    This was important for it meant no speech-modulators could affect the words, they had to be from a natural voice and Trelt made his full intent known.

    Although mercenaries, he and his Fell Ryder’s were lukewarm allies to The Zealander’s fledgling faction of Nexer’s. Yet they relished the justice due to this one, they too had been slandered and insulted by Galt. Trelt continued now describing the offences.

    “Slanderment of a Triamese business, besmirching the good name and character of Sten Zealand along with several others whose names will be made known to you. Whoremongering and upsetting the natural order of the land.”

    Of all the offences the first and last were the serious ones. Sten himself was an outlander and low on the pecking order for the most part. The whoremongering charge was practically a mis-crime in Triam, such was the general indulgence in it. Yet upsetting the order of the land along with slanderment of Triamese businesses were less trivial. Galt’s hasty words attacking a friend of Stenman’s along with the Triamese business he worked for now looked set to bring him down.

    Now Trelt detected movement. His scry-lense made out two bodies from within which moved about inside. Trelt took no chance of being seen and he dropped down to the first floor level and flattened himself against the coarse wall. He could take no chances. As a Pathfinder, Galt was almost certainly armed, with visual capabilities the match of his own. More than a match for mere Enforcers, being as he was on his own turf.

    The other two Ryders followed in his lead.

    “Leave this building, submit to Triamese authorities or face extra-judicial consequences,” Trelt shouted out before slamming down his helmets chin and face visor, the declaration of arrest complete. Now they could kill or apprehend as needed.

    Trelt reached for his slung SCAR carbine and chambered a round knowing that the noise would herald its own authority in the ears of the Galt. Twice more the cocking sound echoed from the others. Aython was around the front and Perep at the roof.

    “There’s no escape Galt this is your last chance!” Trelt boomed, this time with his helm closed, the voice now taking on a scrambled, sepulchral address.

    The wordplay was over, it was time to see if Galt could fight as well as he made out on the Nexus.

    Trelt signalled to the other two and all three began their attack. Three times the Fell Ryders swooped past the Galt’s building at high speed. Their deployable wings suits made stabilization and horizontal flight was a breeze. The wide-angle, variable thrusters meant transitioning to ascent and descent hovering enabled unparalleled flexibility.

    Each time they flew past they opened fire on the windows and entranceways with their carbines. Repeated gunfire raking the rendered breeze-block masonry, almost penetrating it in parts. Concentrating their fire on the shuttered windows the flyers had some success with bullets piercing the thin metal.

    Down below a contingent of Triamese Enforcers now scurried forward, shotguns and pistols in hand. The distraction from above did not make them reckless, they darted from one piece of cover at a time as a singular group.

    For the Triamese locals had been long since on the wane to Galt’s doings. Wandering womanising and swaggering about like a macho-man European was one thing. But this one who claimed he came from higher beings than they rankled more than a few Triamese elders. His reckless license to do almost anything he pleased had used up his earlier grace and favor. Sten was not challenged when he approached the Enforcer commander with an arrest bribe. The generous support from wealthy Sten soon switched Galt’s guard militia with little argument to the contrary.

    The Fell Ryders fired again without respite, having already changed magazines once.

    Sten shook his head in disbelief as the Ryder’s opened fire pre-emptively.

    “Those gunning fools! They are to cover the windows and roof to prevent his escape, not shoot him to death. You call this even-handed Merth!?” Sten cried, stunned by the sudden turn in expectations.
    “He’s a Pathfinder they face Sten,” the swarthy Kaslar said matter-of-factly. “Fell Ryder’s aren’t soft when facing hard-cases like this.”

    “Maybe, maybe. But there could be consequences in doing this. Perhaps I’ve taken this gambit too far,” Sten said.

    He looked through the mag-lenses as another passing attack caused gunfire to echo back sharply.

    “He brought this on himself Sten,” Merth responded. “How many times was he told to shut his ranting mouth? Calm yourself my friend, let the Triamese and Ryders do their work.”

    “I know, but I fear the locals may yet rally to him.”

    Sten cast a few worried glances about but the place was quiet and still elsewhere.

    “The locals may rally, but you’re getting rid of that which threatens your own ways. Think of your own family and little ones how Galt indirectly affects them too,” Merth said sagely. It was no secret that Sten had children to a Triamese woman.

    Suddenly a set of steel shutters now rattled upwards at the entranceway. The way-in was now open and someone was leaving.

    “That’ll be the honey-trap I planted,” Sten gleamed with satisfaction.

    “She’s the one from the hostess bar? The one who told us of this place?” Merth quizzed.

    “Yes, it took a while but she managed to get her claws in to his lair,” Sten said, the creep of a smile about his face.

    Sure enough, it was their girl, Lek who was their eyes and ears into Galt’s world. She was just barely dressed but determined to move.

    Lek had been crucial in tracking down Galt to his home base. Her week-long insidering meant sharing a bed and her body for the Galt's powerful pleasures.

    The Triamese wench was stereotypically five foot nothing, dark-haired with a light-brown complexion. She ran from the building towards Sten’s vehicle. The small woman moved in a characteristicly ungainly fashion, one that was common to Triamese women unused to fast movements.

    For a moment Sten feared that one of the trigger-happy Fell Ryders would shoot her out of movements sake. They concentrated on the building itself for another blazing attack run, firing whenever they caught a spectral glimpse of Galt within.

    The shutters were down on the upper two floors, but with their sophisticated scry-lenses the Ryders could see and interpret Patterns and images of the Galt. That’s what Sten hoped they were doing anyway.

    They’d not allowed him into their world of wonder-flight, helmets that could see on all manner of spectrums and more besides.

    The enforcers were aware to the girl’s subterfuge and did not attempt to arrest or stop her. She ran on as her sandaled feet carried Lek to Sten’s truck. He opened the door allowing her to dive onto the back seats.
    “Well done little sister,” Sten said, addressing her as a familiar, turning to pat her on the head.

    “He alone in the house. No have guard,” Lek said in faltering English.
    Her word’s confirmed Sten’s belief that, on the nights when Galt took a woman home, he’d dismiss his guard-force entirely for privacy. Sten pumped his weedy fists triumphantly. “It’s over for you now!”

    Sten had big plans for Galt. Parading him through the streets of Banroth like a prisoner of the state was one fanciful notion. That was probably too much to wish for though, he’d not committed any capital crimes. Having him chained within the entertainment zone for the mockery of all would be achievable. Afterwards prison was likely and that would be just the start of his woes.

    “Oh you’re mine now Galt, after I’ve finished with the your humiliation then it’s the Enforcers’ turn,” Sten said out loud. Several years awaited Galt in the ‘Monkey House’ as the Triamese called their prisons.
    Another burst of gunfire came from the Fell Ryders, attracting Sten’s attention. Galt had been trying to close the steel shutters Lek had opened, but Aython emptied a full magazine of ammunition, driving back the startled Pathfinder.

    Copyright - Tyler Danann
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  4. Tyler Danann

    Tyler Danann Monkey+

    Chapter 2

    Holding Fast

    Galt wasn’t giving in easily to the onslaught. As far as he was concerned it was him against the world and destiny be damned!

    It was only as the actual attack became underway that the true concept of his predicament dawned on him. Galt wasn’t going to be able to talk his way out of this one or smooth things over with gifts and smiles.

    He hastily donned his Serch Suit, grabbed his recoilless hand-gun and clipped his trans-helm to the integral harness of the Suit.

    The building thud-thudded again as another wave of attacks was unleashed and the aerial assault had him in a quandary of escape plans and schemes.

    It seemed like every direction was covered and he was pinned down like rat in a trap.

    Turning on his surveillance monitors from sleep mode he grimly viewed the approaching forces.

    The flying danger, while potent was made up of only a handful of enemies, but the Enforcer ground forces were many more than he could handle.

    If they got inside even his tricks and technology would be hard pressed to cope.

    The airborne-force that hammered down high-velocity death was a real danger too, his cold mind knew they had more than flight-equipment and carbines. They could vaguely see him through the walls.

    He was certain that the outcome of vainly striving to gun down one would result in being cut down by the remaining two.

    A bullet, aimed directly at the shutters without the angled attack that was mostly deflecting them previously now pierced through. Only by being caught against one of his metal experiments was Galt unscathed. The flyers were getting bold now, they were not making passes and fly-pasts, but hovering and moving in for the kill.

    Galt wasn’t going down without a fight though and amid the shaking and rattling he began his last-ditch defensive. The pulse arrays were on three sides of the building, but could only be fired off one-at-a-time.

    It was meant in the unlikely event of a House Soliter or Vril attack, being attuned to the specialized frequency of flight units. He gambled that the Fell Ryders used similar ones, albeit with a noisier, low-grade, hydrax-fired engine.

    Flicking the safety gate of the switch open he watched on the monitor as an airborne fighter came in on another attack run, concentrating his direction on his workshop and living quarters.

    With a shout he stabbed the red button.

    The invisible pulse radiated outwards in a controlled south-westerly direction destroying the sophisticated control chip of an approaching Ryder. Galt at last had some comfort instead of being on the back foot.

    He watched in raw glee as the throttle, elevation and rudder controls went haywire, sending the bewildered flyer downwards at a shallow descent into the hard side-walk. The man landed past the building in a skidding, mangled jumble of wrecked composite plastic and parts. The crashed Ryder stopped sliding a few yards short of the river bank, earning him a reprieve from drowning at least.

    The incident gave Galt some breathing space and he made good use of it.

    He’d just formulated a complicated, potentially dangerous escape vector when he heard the unmistakable shriek of metal shutters being opened downstairs.

    The Pathfinder had just formulated a complicated, potentially dangerous escape vector when he heard the unmistakable shriek of metal shutters. The sound echoed up from downstairs and he almost panicked. He’d not noticed Lek, the pretty little Asiatic companion he’d been with for the past week, furtively getting dressed. She slipped out unnoticed with the access keys to complete her mission.

    Hearing the noise Galt moved downstairs like a shambling man possessed, his helmet banging slightly as he moved around a corner. As he’d feared dawn light streamed in through the open shutter fatally exposing his defences. The girl was nowhere to be seen and his fears of betrayal had become realised. What a fool he’d been to trust in such a hussy, he admonished himself briefly.

    Galt moved quickly to the shutterway, intending to pull them back down and slam a loose piece of rebar through the retaining ring but, like an uncanny response, loud gunfire and bullets blasted downwards stopping him in his tracks.

    Several did not bury themselves in the smooth concrete floor but bounced upwards, one striking off his Serch-suit’s shoulder pad.

    “Damn those Ryders, come down and fight like men, instead of like cowards!” Galt screamed in defiance.

    He moved back up the stairs as Triamese shadows moved to the opening. The Enforcers were confident now, seeing the supposed immortal Pathfinder cowering back to the shadows.

    Galt’s proud mind didn’t usually show fear, but the enemy at his doors now almost sent off waves of panic. His two-wheeler was parked within seconds reach but it would be suicide to try and get it ready and flee with the attack unfolding as it was.

    He moved up the stairs quickly to the workshop level and slammed the last line of defence, a lockable-steel door which he’d installed along with three heavy-dead bolts. They slid deep into the concrete wall.

    It would at least prevent access from the stairs up to the upper floors, buying him precious time.

    As he turned to move upstairs he was stopped in his tracks by the sight of something inside the workshop.

    “Drop it Galt!” a voice said with a synth-like echo. An advancing figure in black and grey was at the other end of the large room, it was one of the other Ryders, his cycling-down flight-unit making a faint tinkling noise.

    Off to one side the bullet damaged and kicked-open shutters made clear his entry.

    Copyright - Tyler Danann
  5. Tyler Danann

    Tyler Danann Monkey+

    The Ryder held a pistol aimed directly towards him, a battered but functional flight-helm completing the image of a faceless enemy.

    Galt inadvertently had his wish for a face-off, but not how he’d intended.

    This one had the drop on him and the range was good for a hit, only ten yards or so.

    “So it’s a Mercenary Ryder who answers Sten’s call. How much did he pay you to make a move on me?” Galt said, stalling for time.

    “More than enough to bring you down,” came the response. He wasn’t tall like Galt, but shorter and seemed ungainly.

    “One on one against a Pathfinder, you are out for the glory little air-bird,” Galt said, sounding out the intruder, slowing his words.

    Galt wasn’t wearing his trans-helm yet he could see a keen-hearted, but amateurish vibe from this one, despite the fact he could see nothing of his face except for the tinted reflection of his own self. His inner mind entity, peculiar to most Pathfinders now worked on getting him out of this one as the danger loomed closer. Galt hardly had to call upon it, for it knew when lethal dangers were at a knife-edge.

    ‘Plans with plans, wheels within wheels. A Fell Ryder, but not so tough,’ came a whisper from within his psyche.

    “You’re not a true Pathfinder Galt!” Perep gloated. “We’ve found out enough to know you as an apprentice, one that is out of favor.”

    The Ryder’s speech interrupted Galt’s train of focus.

    This was slightly ironic coming from Perep, for he was, like all the Fell Ryder’s no full Ryder himself either. His adrenaline and zeal masked this well though and Galt now viewed him as one regards an elevated cobra.

    Galt slowly crouched to the ground, lowering his weapon to the concrete floor as he did so. As it touched the surface he let the heavy gun, a retro-engineered fallien, lie flat, but retained his grip on it.

    He’d acquired it at great expense and was loathe to relinquish it.
    ‘Wait, wait, wait,’ cautioned the inner-voice.

    “Now slide it to me! Do it now Galt,” shouted Perep, his voice now a touch uncertain, knowing something was critical here.

    The Pathfinder now detected traces of an accent, a personality within, something given to daring but hasty plans.

    A sudden, loud, bang sounded against the deadbolts.


    Galt, seizing upon the chance like he’d never seized before sprang like a jack in the box towards a workshop desk. As he did so he activated his serch-suit’s velocity-field.

    The distraction, the cover of the desk and the sudden move of the Pathfinder spoiled Perep’s initial shot which ploughed a shallow groove in the concrete floor where Galt had been moments before.

    A twinge of alarm now resonated through Perep as he fired off a hasty succession of aimed shots from his handgun.

    Two of the five slugs struck near or upon Galt but were nullified almost completely by the velocity field surrounding him now. Even so it’s delicate matrices faltered from the pounding. Galt instinctively concealed himself around the heavy metal desk, greatly enhancing his protection from the barrage.

    Perep pulled the trigger for a sixth time as his target almost disappeared.

    Nothing happened.

    The slide had locked open, jammed on an ejected case. The Fell Ryder felt alarm roar into stabs of fear as he desperately tried to clear it.

    Galt deactivated his flickering velocity-field then he raised and fired his heavy revolver off again and again, unflinching at its deafening roar.

    Perep had just cleared and re-chambered the remaining bullet when the first of Galt’s heavy slugs slammed into his chest, punching through the thin armored weave. He fired off the remaining in pain, the shot going awry as the world went sideways. The force and impact spun him violently as he fell to the smooth concrete floor.

    Galt was in no mood for mercy, all the work he’d planned using the workshop was in disarray, his plans for a long life of happy leisure vanishing by the second. The fallen one’s arms and legs pedalled to find cover but it was futile, he was going nowhere. Perep was part of the instrument of Galts downfall and while it would not be stopped, he would have his taste of vengeance against those sent by Sten.

    Perep’s little legs and arms started to slow now, but still he tenaciously clung to life. Moans of agony sounded, the noise coming out distorted from the helms synth-unit, Galt likened it to something off off a primitive video game.

    “You should have moved for cover, instead of fumbling with your slugger little one. But then you weren’t to know of a Pathfinder’s tricks,” Galt said in wisdom-mockery.

    His ears rang like shrine-bells from the deafening roar of his firing, but such noise did not prevent him sparing the Ryder’s life. He sent the remaining four heavy slugs into Perep, each shot like an explosive. Ragged, bloody holes and nasty exit wounds made their mark and showed the savage power as Galt’s weapon did its work.

    Then a hollow bang sounded, this time against the second dead bolt and he heard saw it rattle in two. He suspected it was an enforcer ‘ram-key’ and he dragged a heavy work desk between it and the wall buying him some time.

    He donned his trans-helm and scanned the skies. No sign of the other Ryders. Then his grey eyes noticed a running Caucus man headed to the Ryder he’d sent whirling from from the sky. He still moved and struggled, despite broken and battered life-signs.

    Two were defeated then, but what of the third?

    Had the pulse effects scared the remaining one from the sky perhaps?

    He moved across to the dead Ryder and began preparing his escape.

    Copyright - Tyler Danann
  6. Tyler Danann

    Tyler Danann Monkey+

    Chapter 3

    Flight of the Pathfinder

    Sten sweated as the prickly heat of the tropical day slowly took over from the morning cool.

    For all Sten’s desire to see Galt brought down he wanted no bloodshed that day, although a sanguine streak in him did want a bit of roughing-up reserved for the Galt.

    Trelt’s tactic of an aerial skirmish for distraction initially had merit, until he saw him go whirling to destruction into the hard concrete below that was. The skidding violent path across the road in a trail of sparks before bouncing over and down to the riverside awakened him to the danger of the Galt.

    He knew the rules of the game had changed.

    Now the Enforcer squad had made its move through the opened shutter-way though.

    A Ryder landed close to the policemen and followed them in. The other Ryder was out of sight though, possibly on the other side of the building. With the fade in gunfire moans from Trelt’s crashed area could be heard. Without a word Merth got out of the carriage, turning only to grab his pocket-pistol and aid-kit. He went running over to where Trelt had carved a path through the scrub and undergrowth.

    Alone now Sten stepped out from the passenger seat, and viewed the building where Galt had planned his dream of making himself master in the Triamese city.

    “Not anymore Laughing Pathman!” he admonished. “Not for you Galt, your day is done here,” Sten spoke with a rich relish.

    A few more gun shots from within the building now as he heard metallic banging. There was a silence now and he wondered if it was over.

    ‘Has Galt been shot down?’ Sten mused, moving away from the vehicle.

    After a minute another loud bang from the building and the Ryder’s Radio-net, on radio silence from the moment of the assault, now crackled into life.

    Aython’s voice now sounded, it was hard to make it out clearly. The Enforcers were like noisy birds quickly singing in their tuneful Triamese language, albeit with a rougher edge.

    “Galt’s hiding...not here ....workshop—” said a Fell Ryder. There were gaps and interruptions in his speech.

    The transmission faded to nothing as a Ryder from the other side of the building appeared. He flew up above the rooftop from the other side of the building.

    ‘This must be Aython, no doubt trying to clearly look for the Galt there,’ Sten reckoned. The Ryder flew up above the rooftop. Sten knew something was wrong, he looked vaguely different and was flying right at him.

    A stream of people came out onto the rooftop, they included Enforcers and another Fell Ryder.

    Aython’s voice crackled clearly now.

    “It’s Galt! It’s Galt! Take cover Sten!” Came the warning.

    The Zealander had just enough time to shout in cowardly terror as Galt fired off a burst of accurate carbine-fire.

    Time slowed down, Sten could not see the face of his enemy, only the mask-like effects of the Helmet. Sten’s arm tensed to raise his pistol in hand but too late, too late as the Galts retaliation sent Sten to the ground in a heap. He was only lightly wounded, but Galt had successfully disarmed him with shot to the wrist. Sten crawled under the pick-up like a scampering rat. He knew it wasn’t the bravest thing to do, but the fire of keeping alive was as strong in the Sten as it was with the Galt.

    Galt’s carbine clicked on empty as the disappearing Sten completed his move underneath.

    Merth, standing now from tending to Trelt’s savage road-rash, fired off his feeble pin-fire pistol. The range was too great though but then the Enforcers joined in and a steady stream of lead now poured off the rooftop towards Galt who’d momentarily hovered as he considered ending Sten once and for all.

    There was no time to reload his Fallien revolver and he knew the time was over for any notion of descended to attempt to kill or capture Sten. A volley of bullets lept out from behind behind him, some pounding and bruising through his shield. Thrown forward by the impact, as some penetrated and slammed against him with a bruising fashion. Another nicked at his arm and Galt knew it was too risky to continue his attack on Stenman. He relented his notion of brief revenge.

    Noticing Lek’s sly almond eyes which watched him hovering with fluttering alarm he flashed her a scowl with a sideways cock of the head. She gave a whelp and hid under the vehicle to be with the sobbing Stenman.

    Then Galt was away flying east, over the vast river dividing Triam from the neutral lands.

    Sten gritted his teeth in agony, bleeding from his wounds and could only watch as his foe disappeared over the jungle-lined exterior along the river.

    Copyright - Tyler Danann
  7. Tyler Danann

    Tyler Danann Monkey+

    Chapter 4


    Galt the Pathfinder flew low from the Triamese border, his backpack-sized, trans-unit carrying him fast and sure. It meant he was exposed to the elements, but at nightfall in the tropics this was little to be troubled about.

    The exhilaration of eluding his enemies wrath soon faded after several hours of sustained flight. Now the hard-slog of surviving as a renegade began.

    He made multiple direction changes to satisfy a random escape vector, reducing his chances of being tracked. Those he had fled from had a small air force, but were not likely to have time to bring it to bear. Although his Trans-Helm hid his head the Pathfinder was pale, with rugged-looks. The look in his eyes was wild and dangerous.

    The Fell Ryders he’d clashed with were on the warpath though. He’d killed one of their number and that meant a blood-feud was likely from them. They were unbound by local laws which meant he’d have to be careful how he surfaced and moved.

    He had to land at a dusty clearing after nearly fifty miles of travel. After quickly making some trim and ballast adjustments he headed deeper into the jungle interior.

    He waited a week to weather any storm of retribution. As he existed on his stored ‘essence’ and cached food supplies no sign of the Fell Ryders materialized.

    The boredom of nothing but existing, along with the eerie jungle-nights soon set in. By the end of the week, the strange night beasts, creeping biters and fliers that bit at exposed flesh were taking their toll. One sleepless night in the jungle too many finally saw him summon up the will to return to the border of Triam, which he did without incident.

    Once he reached the river that he’d fled across the previous week he detected no hostile signs from the city of Parohm. Even so he proceeded carefully.

    As it was the early hours of the morning he held off for a while, that way even the most hardened Triamese drinkers were nowhere near his former abode. For he knew from experience the girly-houses and sing-bars were less than a few hundred yards adjacent on the waterfront.

    When he felt the time was right he moved in, taking extra care that no enforcers were lurking about. None were present, no doubt asleep in their police-quarters as they usually were whilst on night-shift. From the outskirts of the riverside it was a quick infiltration inside.

    As Galt had expected, his once-thriving workshop was now a blackened ruin with debris and broken furnishings everywhere. The stacked oil drums outside facing the waste ground were still intact though. Exiting the workshop through the northern facing-window Galt flew down to them, all the while his optimism climbing.

    He now took his time as these contained his hoarded supplies and equipment.

    Tech-relic’s or Techrels as they were referred to in the Saken slang was a better way of describing them. One by one he removed each ring-clamp from the drum and saw, to his relief, that all was how it had been when he’d last closed it up. He’d sealed most of the cache inside evacuation bags months before Stenman’s raid. His gear was environmentally-sealed, which was just as well, for the drum he’d stashed it inside was filled with waste hydrax oil.

    The spare flight-unit was inside another drum, also oil-filled. It was a sky-soar variant, fast enough to keep up with his own type but would need a major overhaul when he had time. For there had been no time for sealing it during the confusion and chaos of the raid. The concealment oil from the drum would undoubtedly have gummed up the nano-mechanism from within. Once he removed the unit, Galt used a spare poly-bag to prevent the oil-ridden unit from contaminating any of his other gear.

    Minutes later he was airborne with both the evac-bag and the poly-bundle netted and suspended on a glider line below him. Now he was ready to pick himself up and start anew elsewhere.

    A vengeful part of him mulled over hunting down Stenman and wringing the little wretch’s neck for what he’d done to his dreams of power within Triam. Yet deep down his soul knew it was time to move on, he’d danced long enough here and with the son of a Pathfinder’s uncanny intuition, he knew the land of Triam was now unfavorable to The Galt. It had the influences of both Indus and Jade ruling castes upon a native population, making him a second or third-best competitor anyway. His chances at success in the Orient now depended on places elsewhere.

    Copyright - Tyler Danann
  8. Tyler Danann

    Tyler Danann Monkey+

    Chapter 5

    New Beginnings

    Galt flew northwards, following the mighty Mekhong River as it wended and divided Triam from the bandit lands to the east and north.

    When the great river meandered westwards, Galt kept abreast of it. After about a hundred miles, he’d taxed his search suit and trans-pack to the limit. Towing the bundle was cutting down his range but he pushed the envelope and rested only once at the midnight hour. The moon was strong that night and helped re-power his flight-unit for a few more hours.

    By dawn the next day he’d arrived at the fringes of the House Saken base. It was the only active outpost within a realistic range and one he’d been to many months previously. It was just over the Triamese border in the disputed lands between Jade Empire and Triam. He espied it from afar at first to gauge the place and take its measure.

    As an apprentice Pathfinder he still had some status and rights within the ways of his ancestral people The Saken. Indeed he still wore a wrist badge showing his Saken Cypher. Some part of him held to his faction even being an outcast. He looked at it briefly, then checked his bundle of contents. They contained: Triamese currency, his gold reserve in both hard and monoss forms, spare ammunition for his fallien revolver plus nine encrypted data-slates. The last item was a crown of jewels compared to the rest. They had an ocean-like capacity of details and gnosis peculiar to the Pathfinders. He resisted the urge to delve into them further, for his pressing goal of the moment was to get to the Saken base.

    The Pathman noticed a roving outwatch patrol which went around the exterior. Their movements were predicable enough though and Galt easily dodged past them.

    His Trans-helm interpreted and analyzed the data and after about five minutes showed favorable signs. Eyes that were long accustomed to the images and scripts beamed at the complex data. He saw that the commander of the base, a Saken Watcher named Kharseg ruled from the complex, but was currently absent. A dozen or so of his Craiven-Elite were gone with Kharseg as well but a resident Pathfinder, Mar-Wek remained inside. The remaining garrison force were mostly Sindle troopers. It was fortunate Mar-Wek was there. Galt knew him of old, back when he was a struggling trail-finder still learning his way as a novice.

    Mar-Wek was his father’s sworn blood-brother and even in his father’s death the bond between them lived on, as the older, grizzled one looked after Galt the younger.

    “Mar-Wek, what paths do you cut amidst this rabble?” Galt wondered softly, watching those upon the base’s walls pacing about.

    Sindle warriors manned the wall’s crossbow emplacements. Doubtless more of them dwelled within that he could not see directly. Caucasian, Asiatic and Twin-Race alike made up the smorgasboard of races present. Galt had found that race was a strange thing out here in the Orelta part of the Orient. Although Galt’s flesh was of House Saken’s upper-caste bloodline, their modern way had little in tune with his Pathfinder spirit.

    As he watched his inner entity sang the Song of the Outcast in his mind, reminding him of his predicament.

    ‘Where he sought knowledge, there was only closed-dogma.
    Where he yearned for freedom there was only control.
    When attempts were to change them and their ways, the path of a Renegade was the only means of survival.’

    Galt listened to his inner-guiding voice some more, then made his next move.

    He made the secret signs and signals to Mar-Wek via his Trans-Helm and wrist-slate. Shortly thereafter Mar-Wek appeared at the walls, his blocky head looked about from the high vantage point with a pair of old scry-lenses. Mar-Wek located Galt who waved to him, the Pathman smiled seeing it really him. With this being assured he was no longer apprehensive about the stronghold. With a final gesture to Galt, the way into the base was signaled as safe and clear for him. The gateway’s hardened steel doors opened and a few Craiven warriors emerged with Mar-Wek among them.

    “You can step into the clear Pathman! There’s no bounty-claim on you by the powers!”

    Trusting Mar-Wek’s words Galt relented any final caution and sheepishly walked clear of the jungle foliage. A friendly jeer from the bases occupants sounded and they brought him inside to the others.

    Once the buzz of his arrival had died down the older Pathfinder brought Galt up to speed on the doings of Triam.

    Stenman still smoldered for his head, as did Aython who now led the Fell-Ryders. However, since Galts breakout from Parohm there had been a rift in attitudes. Triamese authorities had outlawed foreign mercenaries hiring themselves out. In addition firearms restrictions were being declared by royal decree. This meant the Fell-Ryders were themselves undone and likely to be heading to pastures anew elsewhere. Some said the south, others further west.

    Elsewhere in the world it was still relatively stable. At at least as relative as a bloody new age could be with warfare still smoldering across the globe. The peace treaty that was keeping things calm on the Eurasian Front between House Jade and House UNAS looked to be wavering. A UNAS recon-unit being recently been captured by Jade troops. The unit had been executed, enraging the Unifier who wanted vengence.

    Galt brooded on this as he rested and recovered from the ordeal of the past week. He felt the paths of fate calling him to the north. That was where he felt the need, the pull of that which a person should follow to get the best things from life. After analyzing the data-slates and trade-routes for a few hours he got to work about making preparations.

    Firstly he and Mar-Wek went about overhauling the oil-clogged sky-soar unit. The older Pathfinder relished fixing things and did not complain or grumble. It was one of the things that made him liked by all, even the cruelest of Saken could not fault Mar-Wek.

    Next Galt did a discrete review of the Saken garrison present. For his next gambit planned he’d need a bodyguard, one suitable for training as a trail-finder or an assistant at the very least. Previously, he’d relied on a small Triamese guard force in Parohm but they had been of no real use, especially on the gambit he had in mind. Thinking back to the night of his near-downfall he felt no love lost for them. As Stenman’s morning attack unfolded they’d not been keen to rally to his aid, especially when the enforcer assault was underway. Then there were the capricious whims of the Triamese women — warm and willing one moment then treacherously duplicitous the next. He put the memories aside, dwelling on what he’d lost would not bring it back.

    His first choice for abodyguard would have been from the female ranks. Unlike many of his peer’s he preferred a warrior-mistress over a casual bedding-wench. The Asiatic women he’d previously known made for pliant mistresses but poor fighters. For all that he’d heard that some of the upper-class could command their own warriors. Even then he’d have to try a large urban city, many hundreds of miles away. So that notion was right out.

    The only woman at the base belonged to Kharseg, she was a hazel-eyed Manchurian lass. Even if he could persuade her to join him the retaliation from Kharseg wouldn’t be worth it. He’d be harried to the ends of Terra for such an affront. As it was Kharseg did not see eye-to-eye with Galt. Galtero had only been to the base once previously and the brooding Watcher had been glad to see the back of the outspoken apprentice.

    He was somewhat tempted to recruit one from the notable Craiven Elite, a few of which loitered around here and there. They’d been interested in Galt’s arrival at first but on hearing that he was not within Kharseg’s inner-circle of brethren, their interest soon cooled. They were capable experts in killing and fighting as armed scouts. Some even said they were capable of besting the Ryders of House Soliter. Galt doubted that but their skill and hard-won experience counted for something with him. Ultimately Kharsek’s elite tier were too tough, brutalized and closed-minded for being under his wing. Violence was a noble trait of his faction, but many took it took far and gave in to the ways of sadism and torture of their enemies. He’d struggle to operate and handle one of them.

    There were a few low-born drone warriors present, the former would be difficult to train to a suitable standard though. Drone-folk tended to be machine-minded in many ways. Kharseg’s ones tended to be good for keeping a base or settlement clean and tidy, and were moderately capable of defending it with a rifle. Yet they were too stupid in most cases for airborne dynamics.

    The Sindle troops were more promising and Galt spent a few hours among them, making light-conversation, seeing who was promising and who was not. Among these foot-soldiers of the Saken he encountered Roachas. Galt immediately knew he was bodyguard material. He’d been recently promoted to Craiven status and was something of an innocent, at least as innocent as a Saken warrior can be. He was fresh-faced, with Hyborean-Tocharian ancestry and youthful. The lad was not quite as pale as Galt, his hair color was much darker and his skin was slightly swarthy. Yet the burn of the sun showed upon his features unlike many of his Sindle peers. He was not long out of the Underways and less hardened to the surface shenanigans and corruption. He had eyes that were not the usual pure-black, brown or red but instead were brownish-hazel. Galt’s own eyes were a gray-green shade for he was not quite a pure-blood red-eye according to the Saken Lords. For, like most Pathfinders, he was from a family of converts from earlier times. Some were uneasy converts at that which continually rankled the Saken Lords. Yet truth be told quite a few of them were converts as well. Roachas though was born in the Underway bases to a mixed bloodline and had spent about twenty years there. He knew little of the outside world, save for Triam and the surrounding Asian borders. He had not chosen a surname yet and was reasonably well-equipped for a former Sindle trooper. He wore a functional scry-helm which gave a reasonable degree of spectrum detection. A shrouder-array that was integral to his Craiven uniform gave some optical camouflage ability as well. It wasn’t quite a superior cloaker-class model but was better than no concealment at all. Unlike Galt he did not have a conditioner, or even an active-cooling system to cool the body down in the sweltering tropical heat. Such an item was a luxury though and added slightly to the weight and drag on an airborne warrior. As a newcomer to the Craiven ranks he lacked even a Glider-Unit for airborne capability. Only his shrouder gave him an edge as a scout-fighter. Galt knew he’d have to soon remedy that short-coming.

    The typical arsenal of the Saken troops had improved since the early years of their emergence onto the surface. No longer were many relying on bolt-guns and revolvers. Even the low-middle rank of Craiven had decent weaponry and Roachas was no exception. He was lightly-armed but carried an excellent combat-pistol that had select-fire capability. Its original designation was a couple of letters and numbers joined together. In the Saken tongue Galt knew them referred to as a Ceezeck for brevity purposes.

    Roachas was a scout-class Craiven and front-line fighting was not typically their role. In some ways he was a gentle-type but when the mood and need took him the Craiven was capable of incredible violence. A classic trait of his Saken bloodline.

    Galt knew he was making a good choice with this one. First he spoke with Mar-wek who, as acting-base commander gave his consent. He confirmed that the lad had nothing outstanding against him, no disease picked up from the local pleasure girls nor blood-debt incurred during his lifetime.

    With the flight-unit as payment to Roachas he traded it for six season’s worth of services, along with some basic, if unofficial training in the ways of Pathfindership. According to Saken law this was a gray area. A Pathfinder could, in theory, recruit another Saken warrior’s services. Yet Galt was only an apprentice officially, albeit a highly experienced one. So this was a debatable practice, especially given Kharseg’s fiery and abrasive personality. With the Base Commander absent and Mar-Wek in charge the way was open for Galt to operate in his maverick fashion regardless.

    The following day was preparation. Galtero consulted his devices, deciding that outside of Triam would be best, no doubt where his doing’s and deeds were less well-known.

    He had Roachas overhaul and service the drained and cleaned sky-soar flight-unit. While this was going on some good-natured bartering with Mar-Wek saw a spare canister of fuel in his bags for a just a pinch of the powdery gold monoss. Fuel would be available in other lands, but having a spare reserve would be handy in case of trouble.

    By mid-day he began his work servicing his own flight-unit, which had long been lacking in attention. It was a difficult procedure even for trained hands, but Galt had become savant-like at making it look easy. By the evening he had finished. Meanwhile Roachas, with help from Mar-Wek, customized and configured his flight-unit to his body.

    After this was done the Craiven flew about the base like a slave free from the Underways. Apart from a few hours on a borrowed glider unit Roachas had no real flight time to speak of until now.

    Watching Roachas fly around the base made him think of the Fell-Ryders’ assault days earlier. Galt was mindful of the Craiven’s new flight unit once belonging to the slain Perep. He was not one to brood but Galt considered the passing on of the unit closure of the violent show-down in Parohm. The loss of his workshop there was a fading memory now, as was the violent clash that took place.

    “At least now your flight pack is seeing good use little air-bird,” Galt said, in prayer and remembrance to the fallen Ryder.

    His new companion made a final pass before landing nearby to speak to some of his Craiven peers. He was proud as punch and there was some envy from his friends. They tended to suffer from a dearth of flight-equipment in comparison.

    Galt smiled, Roachas had some natural skill at the aerial-way and this reassured him that his bodyguard was a handy one. Snapping shut his own dyna-sealed flight unit he had time for a quick meal before retiring to the third floor for a good night’s sleep. With the tinny buzz of the jungle humming in his ears Galt slept well for the night hours.

    Just after dawn he was shaken awake by chubby Mar-Wek with Roachas at his side.

    “You need to get going! Kharsek is coming back,” he muttered with an urgent manner, much less than his usual jovial self.

    “So soon? I thought evening-time was his return,” Galt blurted, astonished at the suddenness.

    “Nay, the outwatch glimmered his approaching presence,” he warned. “He’ll be here within the hour, now get going. Hurry now, I have to prepare and the Sindle fools are drunken all over the place.” Mar-Wek stomped outside to shout at someone.

    There was no time for delay and within ten minutes, he and Roachas were away, flying over the eastern walls before turning to the north. Galt suppressed a notion to wait on the periphery and spy out the arrival of the Watcher, but then thought better of it. Kharseg’s Craiven were likely to be scouting ahead of him and would report on them both if they caught a glimpse.

    The Pathfinder pushed his trans-unit to the limit and Roachas kept pace admirably without complaint. The sky-soar unit was built for sustained speed and needed only infrequent refueling. When such instances arose the land-based fuel stations all sold compatible fuel-mixtures for a few coins.

    The Jade Empire was their destination. It was a vast, decentralized realm along the southern border though. The rest of it was busy warring with the UNAS faction far to the west. To the Pathfinder that meant an opening, for where there was a distraction, there could be opportunity.

    Once again Galt was on the move, at least this time he was prepared, ready and a-fire with a plans for the future.

    Copyright - Tyler Danann
  9. Tyler Danann

    Tyler Danann Monkey+

    Chapter 6

    The Blue Serpent

    Chientze was a small and industrious town, a mere thirty miles or so north of the Triamese border. From the mountainous terrain that separated the nation of Triam from the Jade Empire it flattened out around Chientze for a few dozen miles. Away from it to the north it became undulating hills with a few mountains. Beyond them lay vast mountain ranges in all directions with many more narrow valleys between. They were great jutting and ugly brown things for the most part, not at all like the lush terrain beyond them.

    Trade was big business in Chientze and not all of it was above board and lawful in the eyes of the Jade Overseers. Inside the bustling casinos, gambling dens and warehouses shady exchanges of coin for contraband were commonplace. On the town outskirts sing-song bars, herbalists and brothels contributed to the booming flesh trade. Heavy trucks, belching black fumes roared out with fresh wares for smaller markets and factories across the vast Empire. Leading and following the heavy trucks were smaller escort wagons and scout cars with armed men inside. Thus ensuring that any who wished to intercept the cargo wagon would have to brave the escort-guard first.

    In the town center was where the real money was made. Several buildings resembling warehouses dominated a small quarter, one of these was the Blue Serpent. Like most of the traders’ warehouses it was of rough concrete construction with wooden fascias for the lower trading rooms. An honest aspect of trading machine-bearings was maintained on the surface, but for those in the know there were illicit goods to be acquired. Tong Paeng, the owner, was a short and conniving easterner and a typical-looking denizen of Chientze. A wispy moustache and a faint beard on wrinkled feature’s showed experience and a mind keenly honed to the cut-throat business of the smuggler’s world.

    The euphoric fumes of the olume leaves, deadly in concentrated amounts and the precious fluids of human blood were the Blue Serpent’s specialty. The olume crops were harvested in the fields not far from the town and south of the border. The plasma was extracted from Triamese and Jader folk desperate enough to sell their life blood. It was also rumored that some originated from murder victims. Like most smuggler-lords Paeng asked no questions on such trades with his fledgling faction.

    Thick and heavy with fumes, Paeng’s business headquarters was a murky place indeed. The smoke shrouded the periphery as two foreign figures now entered the smuggler’s lair. Those at the entranceway dispersed somewhat at their arrival inside.

    The two entering men were of the Western race, as they stepped into the florescent light they became more noticeable. One was tall and lean, the other stocky and broad. The former was helmeted and wore a gray and black skin-suit with an active cooling system that whirred faintly. His trans-helm was open and raised but the auxiliary glass over one eyeball gave him a measure of their intent. All seemed neutral, for now. On his back was a roughly square-shaped back-pack which helped his suit perform wonders as needed. Armed only with a holstered pistol at his side he radiated assurance with how he carried himself. The other man was just as exotically attired, with pad-armor clothing, a holstered side-arm and a back-pack slightly smaller than his companion.

    Behind Paeng were two hired warriors. Both Jaders of some means and they eyed the pair warily. Paeng’s men were equipped to a higher standard than ordinary foots-soldiers of the Jade Empire. Both had AK carbines pointed off to one-side and Galt subtly kept his hand only inches away from his shield’s defensive switch. One that would send a velocity-field enveloping around him.

    Westerner folk, for the most part, were seldom seen in the Jade Empire since the collapse. Immigration restrictions on them coming and going meant either serious connections had to be made, or the border check-points had to be ignored entirely.

    “So who are you white man and how is it you come to us?” Paeng said addressing the taller one and taking the measure of them both.

    “I am Galt Pathfinder,” The tall one responded, ignoring the last part of Paeng’s question. He spoke into his helm’s built-in I-trans device, which relayed the translated words. It synthesized his words into the sing-song Jade language effortlessly, with only a slightest of delay per sentence. It was a device he’d taken great care to fashion into his Trans-Helm, so it was not obtrusive to the eye. Roachas also had one of these, but it was a more basic and bulky model encased in a small square hollow of his helmet. Like Galt’s it was capable of a variety of language translations but slower and less precise.

    “Mr Galt, I’ve heard that name before, something on the Nex-news of trouble in Parohm by that name,” Paeng stated shrewdly.

    “The Nex often makes mention of trivial-nothings. I have rivals who foster dissent on the news-net. Being a Pathfinder has its own hazards you must understand,” Galt smoothed.

    “Hmmm, what is it that brings you to Chientze?” the old one asked, knowing the duo were no casual visitors.

    “Opportunity, travel and profit,” Galt smiled as he spoke the last word, knowing that it would be an ice-breaker. In response the rheumy eyed one now nodded and smiled, showing cracked and herb-stained teeth.

    “I am listening, what is it you offer?” Paeng asked, narrowing his eye’s. The hard-nosed businessman in him was flowing into being as he listened for Galt’s response.

    “As you know, the war between the UNAS and the Jade Empire rages onwards, supplies are ever required for the war-machine and on the front-lines.”

    “I am a veteran Pathfinder, trained in the arcane arts by my father who is no longer of this world,” Galt said in his best voice, exaggerating his status and standing. This was absorbed well but after a few moments Paeng responded.

    “Who is this one?” the Jader pointed at his companion.

    “This is Roachas, my apprentice,” Galt responded smoothly, but slightly annoyed at the interjection.

    The Jader took a slight inhalation on his chelg pot then bade Galt continue.

    “You are a contraband smuggler, one who specializes in blood-packs and narcotics, the latter of which the Jade Council have officially outlawed for many years now. The largest cities and troop garrisons are paying a premium for your wares though. For the most part these are nearly two thousand miles away to the Tarim Basin plains and northwards. With the UNAS front lines being contained just beyond the Nuklun mountain ranges further north-west, it’s a lucrative business.” Paeng nodded to the slightest fraction and Galt continued, he spoke fluidly, without hesitation now. “So you require subterfuge from the mainstream avenues of passage. Yet to sell your wares at a profit you must often risk such routes. The mainland routes are risky though, patrolled by Jade Warriors who have orders to slay any suspected smuggler they capture. You could try to make a way across the Koralle Mountains, thus avoiding police-checks and military patrols. But that’s mostly infested with bandit-warriors, skraeg creature’s and mercenary-marksman.”

    Paeng now began to realize this one was no mere chancing scoundrel, intelligence radiated from him. Galt carried on in full flow.

    “The small and narrow trails would delay you at least three to four months anyway. Assuming your convoy made it through relatively unscathed that is.”

    Paeng absorbed the words and now regarded Galt with a combination of suspicion and intrigue. Unofficially the UNAS were allied to House Saken making them the enemy of his homeland. Yet, as a smuggler he was part of the criminal underworld and this Galt seemed a wise snake to converse with.

    “Times are hard now Pathfinder. The last two shipments sent out have not been... fortunate. I cannot afford a third loss! What is it you have for me? Stating the facts does not change them.”

    Now Galt smiled as he unfolded his master plan that would set him up for the future.

    “I can navigate a safe way, one which has no meddling Jade authorities or treacherous mountains to cross. As a Pathfinder I have access and knowledge of the Underways.”

    The I-trans speech translation came across somewhat sketchy at this and Paeng frowned a little. Galt explained further.

    “The Underways are great stretches of tunnel that run across much of Terra. One of these exists not far from this border-town. It goes far across the empire to the central plains and valleys you so dearly seek to sell your wares in,” Galt concluded, laying out his scheme.

    Taking all this in Paeng now weighed up the options.

    Galt in his own mind was taking a gamble, and what he was attempting was extra-risky. As an experienced, albeit apprentice-level of Pathfinder, he had only the rudiments of finding and tracking through an Underway, much less leading a supply caravan of Jade foreigners. Yet his data-slates gave him an edge, for they were filled with detailed files, plans and charts of the Underways. Normally even a veteran Pathfinder would struggle to acquire more than three in his career. Galt had managed to purloin nine from a horrifying Base Rock long ago. The crowning jewel of his efforts was a comprehensive travel map of the Underway network. It wasn’t complete, but covered much of the Jade Empire, all the way to the west, stopping at the central mountains and plains, where the Eurasian borders began.

    It was his trump card and he intended to play it well.

    “The underworld is too dangerous Caucas man.” A dismissive tone showed in Paeng. “Those entranceways are hidden, sealed, guarded. They are said to be infested with demon-beasts and impossible to navigate.”

    “Not for a Pathfinder!” Galt inadvertently raised his voice more than Jade etiquette allowed and the guards behind Paeng shifted uneasily. “I am an expert on safe travel through such places, no demon-beasts will assail us if I am trusted to lead the way. I can assure safe-passage.”

    A silence set in.

    The narrow-eyed one briefly regarded the white-eye with a baleful look. Who was he to state that tunnels underneath the Jade People’s feet were his domain? Yet the previous two attempts at a smuggling run had ended in abject failure for Paeng, a third loss of merchandise would see both his standing and his fortune destroyed. He had already had to pay the money lenders a visit to cover his losses. Now a chance was before him to set his smuggling house back as credible smuggling operation for others to use.

    Galt smiled with gray eyes twinkling in a conspiratorial gleam. “Name your term’s Master Paeng,” he concluded, smoothing over the jagged moment of transgression.

    “The Pathfinder can speak first, as is the custom in doing business with outsiders,” Paeng countered, showing his merchant-class roots.

    Galt expected this and was ready for hard-nosed negotiating. “We can lead your supply convoy into and to the end of the Underways. That is all the way across the Jade Empire westwards to arrive not far from Uzbez at the western fringe valley,” he said firmly. Uzbez was just twenty miles from the Jade border and within range for distribution up and down the frontier.

    “How much for this service?” Paeng asked carefully.

    “Four centires of gold,” Galt said positively with a fair smile. A centire was roughly equivalent to six ounces of gold monoss, each of which could buy plentiful goods, even advanced equipment.

    There was a pause as Paeng’s mind spun the numbers. Centires were a European and Eurasian standard he was aware of but Paeng was more used to Jade specific weights and measurements. These tended to be somewhat less than a Centire. When he’d worked out their worth he answered.

    “For such a mission one is all I can spare,” Paeng spoke firmly.

    Galt said nothing in answer, forcing the Jade one to speak on.

    “Fuel is a high price these days, especially since the UNAS resumed their blockade,” Paeng said, feigning regret now.

    “Is there not plenty of bio-hydrax available?” Galt asked, refencing the low-grade fuel rampant on the black market. “Also the way through the Underways is a straighter road than the overpasses and mountain routes, less expense and time from your gold-box. Only a single fuel-tank’s worth will be required, plus a reserve for emergencies,” Galt responded shrewdly, before repeating his original offer.

    “You push your luck outlander, the Jade troops garrisoned nearby would be keen to know of strange newcomers that are here.”

    Galt’s hand subtly rested onto his velocity-field switch. It wouldn’t stop a bullet dead in it’s tracks but would slow it down or deflect a few well enough.

    Roachas tensed for action. He had no protection from a shield-barrier himself and would have to hope Galt’s own field-projection would protect him if it deployed.

    “Trying to harm or have us captured won’t change your problem,” Galt said slowly and deliberately. “If you want your merchandise sold for a safe, tidy profit then I can be the key. All other suppliers of your wares will flock to the Blue Serpent once more. You will be the one with what you smugglers call ‘The Golden Route.’” Galt let his words sink in carefully. He wasn’t one for schmoozing about but it had its place in negotiations, nor would he shift on his offer either. It was a calculated risk bringing outsiders into the Underways, especially for profit and his own ends. Yet in the Galt’s view it was well worth the risk. With I, Galt Pathfinder steering the way your former glory as Smuggling Lord can be had once again. The offer stands at four centires. You are the best in Chientze, I know you can afford this risk.”

    “Three centires then.”

    Galt nodded.

    “But for that price I expect no problems Mr Galt!” the Jader hissed loudly, he did not like to be hard-bargained with, especially by an outlander.

    Galt nodded with a grin. Things were going to plan and he listened as Paeng laid out the arrangements.

    Copyright - Tyler Danann
  10. Tyler Danann

    Tyler Danann Monkey+

    I hope you are enjoying the story so far folks.

    Thanks for your support. If you want to find out if Galt and his crew make it...

    The book is almost ready for release to the general public (this weekend all being well!).

    However, a discount code will be available for paperback versions along with periodic weekly discount periods on Kindle (I'll announce these here).

    Here's the book link:

    The Amazon E-Book isn't coming up with the new book cover (the old one looks natty), but the cover can be seen on the video trailer. [​IMG] Beyond The Underworld eBook: Tyler Danann, M. Michaels: Kindle Store
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