By Richard Barrett
The dark pitch of night surrounded the Saloon d’Imperium, the last little bit of civilization before the passing of the stars into the vast black unknown of space.
Here and there, shooting billiards at the tables or playing cards in the lounge, were Imperial Union correspondents in dark formal suits, star-pilots and legion officers in their trim blue uniforms, and like-attired civil servants.
A chandelier of crystal cast a low luminescent glow over the posh surroundings carpeted in the rich oranges, reds, and gold inlays with cream walls with dark toffee colored wood. The Big Band’s tunes swung softly.
There in the corner sat Lawson Fuller. Fair-browed, eagle-eyed, hard-jawed, with a mass of black hair, and sinews of steel encased with the dark-colored suit. His gaze hypnotically raked across the room from his corner perch in the back of the bar.
A .45 M1911 hung from a hidden shoulder holster.
He had come here, where the exotic juices of tart yellow fruits from the distant moon of Xonsha flowed into slender glasses, out of the distant darkness of space, hiding in plain sight…laconically awaiting the arrival of the Longzhu Pirates who sought his head.
A suited orderly, slender, haggard, and trembling, approached him. He was sweating bullets, a cream-colored call card in hand.
“Telephone for you, Mr. Fuller,” he with the desperate drone of man wishing to perform his duty and be done with it—and fast. “You can take it in the call room.”
Lawson’s gaze narrowed knowingly as he got up and moved like a panther across the carpet to the call room.
There, the assistant directed him to Booth #5 etched in red letters where a shining black rotary phone sat. Lawson picked it up.
“This is Lawson Fuller speaking.”
“Hello Mr. Fuller,” came an impassioned voice. “Your presence is requested at Government House, #1 Row—”
Suddenly, the line went dead.
He hung up the phone, paid the man the tab, and walked from the call room back toward the back of the bar.
Suddenly his eagle-eyed gaze caught sight of a twenty sallow, sulking, degenerates in dingy golden and read and indigo silk robes. Their teeth bristled and their slant-eyed gaze held sadistic murder. Their hands were hidden.
The Longzhu Pirates.
Lawson’s hard eyes narrowed as his steely gaze met the band’s leader. His gaze met Lawson’s in a fit of rage and fear and he shrieked!
“He is our man! Kill! Kill! Kill!”
Like lightening Lawson’s gun flashed and spewed lead dead-eyed cracking like thunder.
The Longzhu scattered left and right, the lot overturning billiards and card tables as from their robes and hidden hands drew PPSH-41 submachine guns.
Automatic fire rattled the room as Lawson leapt behind the bar. The torrent of fire shattered the bottles and glasses above him, sending the bits of glass firing in all directions.
Within the mind’s eye of his calm steely gaze Lawson pictured the positions of the attackers; two tables were turned over straight in front of him. They had five, maybe six of the scum behind each.
Behind the bar’s cover Lawson dashed right. He sprang up around the corner, crouching and fired, the .45 ribbing into their degenerate bodies as they twisted to their deaths.
The enemy fusillade continued as Lawson turned crouching to his left, facing the left table head on.
He blasted into the table from the hip—and then suddenly in one swipe he leapt on top of the bar and flung himself from the sky toward his attackers, eyes blazing and Colt blasting, ripping into the three pirates behind the left table as they screeched in death terror.
Three more remained, as Lawson landed and let loose a sledgehammer blow from his left fist against one, smashing into the Longzhu’s glass jaw as he pumped .45 into his stomach.
Again he slammed his hulking frame into the other Longzhu that stood behind the falling carcass of his comrade, blasting away and dropping his enemy when his Colt suddenly went click.
He spun around against his other attacker, leaping toward the Longzhu as he smashed the butt of the empty Colt in his eye with his right. With his left he grasped the barrel of the pirate’s automatic weapon in an icy vice grip, ripping the submachine gun from the scum’s hand and bashing into his head.
From nowhere another Longzhu leapt at Lawson, and he found himself upon the floor. This Longzhu one bigger than the others, with a broad flat face and sallow dead eyes and stubby grimy fingers that clawing at Lawson’s thick, sinewed throat.
Lawson’s eagle eyes blazed in rage as steely fist gripped the Longzhu’s wrist like a vice, squeezing and crushing the wrist. The Longzhu’s head shot up in pain as he screamed in terror–his weight shifted, and Lawson was no longer pinned.
With all his strength Lawson leapt his carriage up and grasped his neck in a vise grip of steel with his other hand, choking out his life as he stood up and threw him across the room to the floor.
His eagle eyes raked for the room for more assailants.
There were none.
The remaining degenerates were apprehended by the Air and Legion Officers, and the whirr of the Imperial Police motor-cars was audible.
Lawson’s reached down and picked up his spent Colt. A hand was laid upon his shoulder menacingly.
Lawson spun around like a tiger, ready to strike.
Suddenly, all was black.
The last image he remembered seeing was of the telephone call man: no longer shaking, but smiling satisfactorily.