Malachi was dreaming of a dark world with a violet sky and twin moons. He stood on a precipice overlooking a deep valley carved millions of years before, the bottom hidden from sight by shadows cast by the moonlight. He turned to see a figure in the distance running toward him at impossible speed, a streaming cloud of dust trailing behind it. He could see it was carrying something, but could not tell what. Before he could move closer to inspect the thing rushing toward him, it was already there, a robed figure shoving a bucket at him... a bucket filled with blood. He cried out in shock, stumbled backward, and fell into the abyss, swallowed by shadows as he plunged into oblivion.
He awoke to see the woman who had been lusting for the man at the bar earlier, as well as her husband standing over him, an empty glass in the woman's hand. Malachi felt his face and was relieved to discover that the wetness he felt there was only water.
"You all right, Mister?" the husband said.
"Yeah. How long was I out?" Malachi asked.
"You were convulsing for maybe fifteen minutes, twenty tops."
"That was incredible," the woman said. "What you did, I mean."
Malachi could feel her lust for him, reaching out to ensnare him like a coiled serpent, an image of her desires flickering in and out of his vision. While he was flattered by most of it, he didn't think her husband would care for being a severed head on a pike watching him engage in lustful acts with the man's wife.
"As much as I'd like to stay and chat, I've got places to be," he said, getting up. He was still a bit woozy but no worse for the wear. Shaking off the vertigo, he headed for the door.
Kai and Haley arrived at Docking Bay 1138, their eyes darting around for phantoms. Locking the gate securely behind them, the relaxed for a few moments.
"Did you bring the artifact with you?" Kai asked. "I want to get out of here as soon as possible."
Haley smirked. "What, you're not having fun on Sikarra, World of a Thousand Delights?"
"The only delights, my Lady, have been your beauteous countenance and the desire to get the hell off this rock. The only thing that could please me more is if you joined me in my fast getaway."
"As much as the thought of getting off-planet would please me, my life is here, Kai. The only stars I'll be seeing are the ones in the night sky," she replied.
"As you wish. Let's complete our business and we can part ways as friends."
Haley reached into her back pocket and yanked out a cloth. Carefully, she peeled it away to reveal the artifact.
Kai chuckled. "All of this for some dried up old bone." He stopped grinning when he saw Haley wasn't grinning back, and he suddenly remembered why.
"Look, I... I'm sorry about Mal. I've known him myself for probably as long as you have. The bald guy pretty much grows on you. I wish things could have ended up differently back there."
"Yeah. Me too," she said sadly. "Come on, let's do this."
Kai walked over to his dropship and came back a few minutes later with a briefcase. It placed it on a rusty iron tool cart and opened it up to reveal thousands of credits. Haley brushed her hand through them.
"Looks good," she said. Kai closed the case and handed it to her as she handed him the artifact.
"And with that, our business is concluded..." Kai said.
"Not quite," came a feminine voice. What struck Kaiyrnyn as being odd wasn't the fact that it wasn't Haley's voice, or even that of a third person among them. What was weird was that he heard the voice in his head, and from the look on Haley's face, so did she. They turned to see a tall hooded figure standing a few meters away.
A scaled hand crept out of the figure's robes and pulled the hood back to reveal the face of a female Protoss.
"Unfortunately, Terran, I do not have a container of metal trinkets to barter for the object you carry. I will, however, take it by force if need be." She revealed her arms, as psionic blades seemed to unsheathe themselves from her gauntlets.
"Verana?" Kai said, half-surprised. "Look, I don't know why you followed me but —"
"The object she holds belongs to the Protoss. I will not let it be defiled by ignorant Terrans, Kaiyrnyn," Verana said.
The mutant was about to argue with her when a pane of glass shattered from above and Malachi swung down by way of high-tensile fiber cord. He let go of the metallic rope, flipped through the air and landed in a horse stance half a meter from Verana. Brandishing metal gauntlets ending in hooked claws, he crossed his arms and bowed briefly.
"Let's get it on," he said.
Verana moved into a defensive stance and prepared for battle.
A loud whistle echoed in the musty hangar and everyone turned to see Haley leaning against the dropship and giving them all The Look.
"You two wanna put those things away and talk about this first or do I have to get rough?" she said, hefting up a Kemper Gat-Gun and aiming it at both of them.
Mal's jaw dropped and Verana's eyes widened.
"You would kill your own defender to protect the artifact?" she asked.
"Come on, Haley... she was gonna gut you and Slappy," Malachi said.
"I was not going to gut anyone, human... though I may make an exception for you."
"Oh yeah? Bring it on, bi—"
The Gat-Gun roared to life, spewing out hundreds of spikes in a matter of seconds. On the far wall, a hole the size of a Vulture had been carved through the rusty metal of the hangar.
"Now... let's try this again, shall we?" Haley said with a scowl. "Why do you want this thing?"
"It is part of the sacred remains of a fallen Protoss warrior. It does not belong to you," Verana replied.
"My employer wants it for his collection. He has several types of Zerg remains already and when Mal mentioned this had surfaced during a mining excavation, I told the boss, and he sent me to procure it. So I put out the word that it was wanted."
"When I learned you were going after it, I figured I'd set up the deal with Kai, and you and I could split the profits."
"All right then. That's much better," she tossed the cloth-wrapped object to Verana. "Give him a good burial or whatever."
"Haley!" Malachi intoned.
"It's the right thing to do, Malachi."
"I agree," Kaiyrnyn said. "I'll just tell Ro'taann we were outbid. He won't like it and he'll give me some shit jobs for a while, but what the hell."
"Fine! Fine!" Malachi said, waving his hands in surrender.
"I thank you, Terran. I will not forget what you have done for me," Verana said.
"Hey, us girls have to stick together, right?" Haley smiled.
Verana's eyes changed color briefly, and Haley was certain it was the Protoss form of a smile. She tucked the remains of the dead warrior into her robe, pulled the hood over, and left the hangar via the new back door Haley had made.
Haley walked over to Malachi, who was sitting plaintively on a rusty engine block. She placed her hand on his shoulder and gave him a kiss on the side of his head. "I'm glad you're alive, big guy."
"Alive and poor," he droned.
"Hey, Mal... why don't you come with me? Ro might give you something lucrative instead of me after I botched this job all to hell."
"I don't know, man... who's going to watch out for Haley if I'm gone?"
"I think she can take care of herself pretty well," Kai replied with a smile.
Mal looked at Haley who was also smiling. "You gonna stay outta trouble while I'm gone?"
"I promise," Haley said. She kissed him, no holds barred.
Malachi grinned. "Damn, girl. Some more of that and you just might convince me."
All three of them laughed.
The Antioch Chronicles™ © 1998, Eric Dieter & Ruben Moreno. All rights reserved. The Antioch Chronicles™ trademark and associated logos are the exclusive property of Eric Dieter & Ruben Moreno. Characters and distinctive likenesses thereof, character names, item names, place names, named events, artwork and all other related material not disclosed herein are protected under the laws of the United States of America and other countries. Any reproduction, retransmission, or unauthorized use herein is prohibited without express written permission.
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