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Bolkarus Station: the Junkyard Dog’s last chance to make the dangerous rendezvous with Slade and hand over the precious and highly illegal Rose Sunstones. Bolkarus Station: an ugly refinery and refueling planet, a place no one in their right mind wants to visit. Perfect for a secret rendezvous. Margarita King plans to land, meet Slade, and leave as quickly as possible. Simple. Straight forward. Stay on task and get out of there. Unfortunately the best laid plans rarely work out as intended. Join the Junkyard Dog’s crew on another adventure as they dig into the hidden world of a galactic refinery and the secrets it holds.
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Copyright © 2018 by CHARLEY MARSH
Bolkarus Station is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents, and places are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For more information contact: timberdoodlepress.com
All rights reserved.
Published 2018 in the United States of America by Timberdoodle Press.
Cover art courtesy DepositPhoto
Logo by Peter Corbin
E Book ISBN# 978-1-945856-50-1
Print ISBN# 978-1-945856-49-5
Also by Charley Marsh
About the Author
Margarita King, commander of the Viking Class ship Junkyard Dog, felt the ship settle into the Bolkarus Station refueling bay and let out the breath she hadn’t realized she was holding.
Finally, finally!, they had made one of the scheduled rendezvous with special agent Slade and were going to hand over the highly coveted and very illegal Rose Sunstones that she and her crew had gathered for him on the planet Myam.
She suppressed an inward shudder at the memory of Myam. Her ship’s engineer Lexa had nearly died during that mission. In fact, the entire ship had come too close to being destroyed. If not for a native named Zetok, a specialized miner who had helped them gather a few small pieces of the famed Sunstone crystal, they would all have perished.
Rita dismissed the memories with a head shake, released her harness, and slid out of her gel pilot seat. She stood and stretched her six-foot two frame, grimacing at the soft pops in her spine. Too many hours hunched over her command center. At thirty-two years she was well past the prime age for a Red Baron pilot.
Her age didn’t matter now that she was no longer in law enforcement, she reminded herself with disgust. When would she stop thinking of herself as a Baron? Surely there was more to her than her job.
Ex-job. After someone—or more than one someones—in her squadron had sabotaged her ship and sent her out to die, she had been roaming the galaxy as a renegade pilot.
She had repaired the ship, renamed it the Junkyard Dog, and essentially stolen it from the Mars-based law enforcement agency that she had once devoted her life to.
And apparently still had not come to terms with her new life.
“It’s not a very attractive place, is it?”
Rita looked down at the tiny ship’s engineer standing next to her pilot’s chair and smiled. A cerulean blue female Weegan, Lexa was the first of her species to venture off their colorful home planet. Laxa’s insatiable curiosity and ability to diagnose and fix almost anything made her a valued friend and shipmate.
“Bolkarus Station is a refinery and refueling planet. It’s hard to pretty that up,” Rita replied.
Lexa narrowed her large amber eyes. “Still, the workers have to live here, right?” She waved at the sight that stretched as far as the eye could see outside the Dog’s clear nosecone.
“That’s just ugly. Ug-leee. No one should have to live with that . . . ugliness,” she finished lamely.
“I agree with Lexa. What a nasty looking place.” Yani, a willowy, ebony-skinned translator, joined them. Her delicate features frowned. “How do the natives stand to live like this?”
Rita shrugged. “People do whatever they have to do to survive. You know that, Yani. You’ve seen what civilizations live with all over the galaxy. The Bolkaruns probably have no choice.”
She hadn’t really given the natives here much thought before. Recently blinded, she looked out at the refueling station through the electromagnetic visor Lexa had created for her, and tried to see the station through Yani’s and Lexa’s eyes.
Grime-coated metal structures wrapped in an exterior skeletal frame filled the landscape outside the ship and faded into the smoky distance. The tall smokestacks spewed thick, oily black smoke that obscured any sunlight that might have reached the planet’s surface, leaving the station in perpetual gloom.
Harsh yellow lights did nothing to hide or soften the view. Even with her new way of seeing things Rita knew that her shipmates were right—Bolkarus Station was not only an eyesore—it was a very unpleasant place to live.
A wave of unexpected sympathy for the natives forced to raise families in the refinery washed over her. Had they made the free choice to have it built on their home planet? Or was the refinery forced on them by the EFCC—the Energy and Fuel Cell Commission that regulated all energy sources in the galaxy?
If the Bolkaruns had agreed to the refinery then they had willingly destroyed their home, hopefully in exchange for a large mass of credits. But if the refinery had been forced on them by the EFCC, then they were to be pitied for what they had lost.
“I hope we aren’t planning to stay here long.”
Rita looked up into long, red eyes that she knew were silver-gray without her visor. In her mind’s eye she always pictured her crew mates as they were before her accident.
John, a Healer they had rescued from Myam, smiled down at her. Strong white teeth gleamed against his copper-colored skin.
She smiled back. “We aren’t staying a moment longer than we have to,” she assured him. “No one is happy about this place.”
She didn’t mention the Sunstones. Everyone knew the crystals were aboard the ship but they never spoke about them. The penalty for possession of the rare crystals was life imprisonment on Alcatraz Moon, a penal colony named after a famous Old Earth prison. Life in a concrete cell on Alcatraz Moon was worse than a death sentence, according to the few who had visited the prison moon.
“You haven’t met Slade yet, have you?” Lexa craned her neck to look up at John. “Slade’s our friend. The last time we saw him was on ZetiTau. We rescued him when some of his crew mutinied.” She turned to Rita. “Where are we meeting Slade?”
“We aren’t meeting him anywhere,” Rita answered firmly.
“Is he coming here then?” Yani asked. “I’d like to see him again. He was kind to me.”
“No, not here.” Rita shook her head. “Darwin and I are meeting Slade at a small drink and food bar called Fuel Up.”
Darwin, a rare telepathic shadow-creature who looked like a science experiment gone awry—an odd mix of dog-cat with two tails—padded softly across the Dog’s main cabin and leaped onto Rita’s shoulder. She put a hand up to ruffle his wiry gray fur.
He had been the first to join her exiled existence. Rita had rescued Darwin when her sabotaged ship crashed on a lonely rock known only as B4629. His small pack had been forced to leave him behind when he broke his leg and could no longer travel.
Before Darwin’s pack left they had begged Rita to take care of their pup. Since taking in the odd shadow-creature he had repaid her by saving her life on more than one occasion.
Lexa turned away from John and scowled at Rita. “It isn’t fair. Darwin always gets to go with you.”
“Not true. Sometimes Darwin stays with you,” Rita reminded her engineer.
Oh, for her Red Baron days when she had commanded and her crew obeyed, no questions asked! This odd group who lived aboard the Dog with Rita thought nothing of arguing with her commands. They behaved as if they were her equals.
Rita sighed. The truth was, they were her equals. More importantly, they were her friends.
Ever the peace maker, John waved a hand at the view in front of them. “Personally I don’t think this looks like the kind of place you want to spend much time in. It looks unpleasant and unhealthy out there.”
Rita shot John a grateful look. She had known Lexa would complain about being left behind after what had happened with the ghost ship.
In truth, Rita had originally considered taking her to the meet because Lexa and Slade were friends and enjoyed each other’s company, but one look at the refueling station had changed her mind. It was no place for an innocent like the young Weegan.
Lexa stamped her bare foot and crossed her arms over her narrow chest. The Weegans’ long toes were as agile and clever as their unusually long fingers so they never wore boots on their feet.
Looking at her now, Rita was reminded of a picture she had once seen in an Old Earth history book of an extinct species called chimpanzee. Other than her color, Lexa bore a remarkable physical resemblance. The thought made Rita smile.
“It isn’t fair,” Lexa repeated. “Yani and John can watch the ship. How am I supposed to learn if you always make me stay behind?”
Rita groaned. “Lexa.” She had never had children but she guessed that dealing with Lexa came close to that experience.
“If I let you join me you’ll have to follow my instructions exactly.” Rita tried to glare but the effect was lost behind the visor and she gave up. She pointed a finger at her engineer instead.
“I give you an order, you obey. No questions, no hesitation. Do you think you could manage that?”
Lexa’s face lit with a wide smile that exposed the bony blue plates that served her as teeth. “Yes! I’ll do anything you tell me, I promise.”
Rita suspected she had just set a bad precedent by changing her mind but she couldn’t retract her decision now. Besides, she knew Slade would be happy to see Lexa. And Lexa had almost died helping Rita get the Sunstones that Slade desperately needed. She deserved the opportunity to see this particular mission through to the end.
“All right. You can come meet Slade with me and Darwin. But—if you make me regret this I’ll never let you off the Dog again,” she warned.
“You won’t regret taking me, I promise. Wait ’til I tell Slade about the Spider Woman and the pirates on New Earth. Oh! And the sand creatures! I better get my knife.” Lexa ran back to her bunk and disappeared, still talking.
“I hope I’m not making a mistake,” Rita muttered.
“Well, it is Lexa. She has a certain knack for finding trouble.” Yani set an elegant hand on Rita’s arm and squeezed gently. “Don’t worry. She’ll listen to you. And for whatever reason, she adores Slade. I’ve noticed she’s been a little mopey after missing out on our adventure on the ghost ship. This will boost her spirits.”
Rita gave Yani a rueful smile. “You’re right. She’ll be fine. She’s just so trusting of strangers and she’s small—small and vulnerable. I don’t ever want to have to return to Weegan and tell her family that something awful happened to her.”
Yani’s smile lit up the beautiful face that had served her well in her work as a translator. Every species, no matter how war-like, responded to Yani’s natural beauty and charm, a fact that often aided her in defusing tense negotiations.
“You sound like a mother hen, Rita.” Yani laughed, a light musical sound. “Lexa is tougher than she looks. Don’t forget, she can communicate with Darwin. He’ll help look after her.”
“That’s true.” Shadow-creatures only communicated telepathically with one chosen companion. In Darwin’s mind, Rita belonged to him, and he mainly communicated with her. But when Rita’s life had been on the line he had also communicated with Slade and with Lexa.
“What do you think, Darwin, can we look after Lexa?” Rita asked.
I will help watch over Lexa, Ree.
Rita knew Darwin would guard Lexa with his life. “All right, it’s settled then. Not that I could say no after telling her she can join us.”
She looked out at the desolate landscape and wondered what was bothering her. Besides the ugliness of the refinery . . . something niggled at her. What was it?
She stood watching for several long minutes. Nothing moved, she realized. Where were the refinery workers?
She hadn’t even left the ship yet and already she had a bad feeling about Bolkarus Station. She turned and headed toward the loading bay.
“Let’s get this done and get out of here.”
A short while later, Rita, with Darwin riding her shoulders and Lexa at her side, exited the ship. Rita and Lexa both wore breathers but had opted not to wear the enviro-suits over their sturdy spider-silk skinsuits.
Darwin didn’t need a breather. Rita had learned early on that the shadow-creature’s unique biology enabled him to utilize any type of atmosphere, a trait that had come in handy more than once since he had joined her.
The skinsuits they had acquired on the spider-planet Kwaku were impervious to anything short of a nuclear bomb so their bodies were well protected, although Rita now realized that Lexa’s bare feet were going to be black with oily grime by the time they returned. She was so used to seeing Lexa’s bare feet that she never considered foot wear.
Unfortunately she couldn’t send Lexa back for boots because the Weegan didn’t own any.
Rita made a mental note to have a pair made for Lexa in case of future situations like the one they were in. Hopefully there would be no lingering adverse effects on Lexa’s health from direct exposure to the sooty carbon that covered everything.
Rita silently berated herself for her momentary weakness. She had been foolish to give in and let Lexa come with her. For a brief–very brief–moment she considered ordering Lexa back inside the safety of the ship, but she held her tongue. Rita never went back on her word. That was one thing her crew could absolutely depend on. She wasn’t about to start now.
Darwin would watch over Lexa, she reminded herself, and turned her attention to the task ahead of them.
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