Trouble Is Where You Look for It

Priscilla swished the whiskey back and forth over her tongue in time with the pulsing neon lights and the bassy, synth-heavy music that swirled around the club. It was packed tonight, and she was in one of her moods. She was looking for a specific brand of trouble. She shouted to the bartender, “Another double,” and held up her empty rocks glass. He narrowed his eyes in disapproval but filled the order. It was a win-win; Priscilla thrived on disapproval.

She took a swig and held it in her mouth as she made her way to the staircase beyond the dancefloor, holding her glass above her head and shoving horny gyrating rich kids out of her way, turning it into a kind of violent dance of her own. The whiskey was full-bodied and smokier than a cigar shop set aflame, but she tamed it as she forced herself not to swallow, bringing out flavors of honey and walnut and chocolate. She climbed the spiral staircase to the second level balcony and surveyed the crowd below. Someone clapped her on the back and she spit out her drink above the dancefloor in a sticky plume. “Hey, fuckass!” she started as she turned. But she found Rade’s deep black eyes looking back at her. Impossible. Her voice caught in her throat; a prominent scar ran across his. “How?”

He grinned like a kid with a cookie. “With much effort. Dying isn’t really my style. Yours either, I see.”

Priscilla closed her mouth and regained her cool. She was hard to surprise, and she never stayed stunned for long. “Yeah, well, bounty hunting’s a tough gig. It doesn’t attract the dying type. How’d you get back offworld?”

“Took Cutter’s ship.”

“Cutter’s ship? I put it into a scuttle sequence.”

Rade’s face seemed to change between the flashes of red and purple strobes. “Yes. I really wish you hadn’t. Nothing like a countdown to get your heart pumping—something you decidedly should avoid with a slit throat.” The music filled the air to its saturation point; it was a blaring, physical presence. But between them was only tense silence.

“Sorry about that,” said Priscilla, “but a girl’s gotta make a living; you know? How about I buy you a drink?”

The corners of Rade’s mouth slid into a sneer. “That’s not necessary. I’ll just take the bounty. I did have him in custody when you arrived.”

She leaned back against the railing, inching her fingers closer to her holster. “Bounty’s already gone, Rade. Not a lot of hunters saving for retirement; you know what I mean? Use it or lose it.”

He bowed his head. “I suspected as much. Revenge, then.” His massive frame lunged at her. They shattered through the railing and went careening into the air above the dancefloor. The shots couldn’t be heard above the music, and the blood wasn’t obvious in the wild lighting. It was for the better.

Priscilla got to her feet, having broken her fall on some guy with greasy hair and a badly broken arm—or maybe his broken arm was the result of her landing on him; didn’t matter. She was out the door and down an alleyway before anyone realized Rade was dead. She tried not to make a habit of killing for free—it devalued her job—but it did bring a certain satisfaction. She’d found the trouble she’d been looking for.

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