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Deadman's Hand - The Kowloon Job (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 19[]

Dead Man's Hand: The Kowloon Job[]

Tranh Truk Ngo Memorial Spaceport
Nha Tranh, Kowloony
Federated Commonwealth
Bucklands Province
1st July, 3054


Liz watched the mercenary DropShip descend upon a piler of flame, zeroing in one one of the massively re-enforced landing pits. Its massive landing struts extended and absorbed the jolt of the landing, even as hoses started to spray it down with coolant. She was no stranger to off-world travel. Although she did her best to avoid interstellar jumps due to her chronic Transit Disorientation Syndrome. Oh, sure she knew that some considered it a gift. That with the proper training, especially Spacer's Guild training, TDS suffered could become some of the best hyperspace navigators in the known universe. But she was not only a Noble, meaning that the fiercely independent Guild would never even consider letting her join. She was also a dead woman walking, and probably wouldn't live long enough to become a Master Navigator even if they would.

It was just one of countless dreams she'd learned to let go of.

But, today, one dream was coming true. Oh, it had taken a considerable amount of string pulling, favor trading, and when all else failed, outright blackmail. She had made sure that the ship carrying her brother had made it home without incident. LIC had made it very clear that they would be dropping by to debrief him, but at least he would be home. Not whisked off to some hidden base that didn't officially exist subjected to whatever mind games they normally used on people recovered from the other side of the front lines. Rank had its privileges, and Liz had made sure to insist on every last one.

A klaxon sounded, indicating that the DropShip was safe to approach, and workers in bright yellow IndustrialMechs started attaching umbilicals and fuel lines. Even as the crew hatch opened to meet a portable staircase that had been brought forward. Even from the back seat of her approaching limo, Liz recognized Henry as he stepped out into the light of his homeworld for the first time in far too long. She felt her heart skip a beat she she saw how much older, more mature and sure of himself he looked in comparison to the last time she had seen him in the flesh.

Right behind him came a woman, somewhere between Liz and Henry in height, with dirty blond hair. Liz recognized her from the report that Joker had forwarded once they were safely back across the boarder. Shelby Hoffstein, a Blackjack native and one of Henry's fellow cadets who had likewise been indoctrinated into the Clans warrior cast. The mercenary had included a note indicating that Henry and Shelby were romantically involved, and Liz reminded herself to be extra polite to her possible future sister-in-law.

Next came two strangers, dressed in the same dull, utilitarian uniforms as her brother and his partner. One was a taller man with what could only be described as rugged good looks that made Liz feel... peculiar, in ways she wasn't used to. The other was a shorter, younger woman with jet-black hair that seemed at odds with her almost deathly white skin. Poor girl would probably burn like mad come High Summer in the binary-system. They were obviously the two Jade Falcon warriors who the mercenaries had been all but forced at gunpoint to take as the spoils of war. It had been clear in the communication she sent that Joker had felt very much the same as Liz did about the whole concept of owning another human being, but that was the price demanded to have her brother home, so she would find a way of living with it.

The limo pulled to a halt a short distance from the bottom of the steps, and Liz did her best to compose herself for what was about to happen.


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