Science Fiction Speculative Crime

This story contains sensitive content

{CW: Drug Use, Violence, Sexual Themes}

“It's your move,” Even with a face covered partially by a mask and goggles, Karnack could sense them smiling at him.

“What if I don't have that much weight. Can I renegotiate the offer?” Karnack stuck the hand rolled cigarette between his lips and pulled a slow steady hit into his lungs, following it with a suck of stale fetid air.

“I'll give you a hundred thousand for ten pounds. That's my final offer,” The man pulled out a smaller attache and unzipped the top. A pile of large denomination bills filled the bag to the top.

He sounded confident, yet the beads of sweat dripping down his forehead onto his dust goggles told a different story. Karnack lifted up the backpack, his eyes scanning the empty room. He noticed the door was still locked and could hear the murmur of music and people out on the main floor. Unbuckling the straps and pulling the brass zipper, it opened like a grotesque mouth. Reaching in he pulled out a solid brick of Bhang powder and slammed it on the wooden table between them.

The other man put his gloved hands together and wrenched his knuckles back and forth, cracking sounds breaking the silence. Rubbing them together he pulled off a glove and reached out with a finger to taste the powder for purity. Karnack unsheathed the knife from his belt and simultaneously grabbed the man's wrist and lunged over the table.

This undercover agent was quick, his free hand pulled a large pistol from his waistband and released the safety, before he could turn the barrel into Karnack's gut, a seven inch blade thudded into his forehead, pinning his goggles to his face as blood squirted out filling the mask. He gave the blade and extra shove before pushing it back and forth to free it from the man's skull.

As the body twitched, Karnack reached into the inside pocket of his leather jacket and pulled out a small flask of 180 proof whiskey and emptied the contents onto the two bags full of money. Pulling the cigarette out of his mouth he blew on the cherry to ignite the paper and then touched it to the loose cash. The money was engulfed in flames when he wiped the blood off his blade on the dead man's shirt sleeve and holstered it.

He finished his smoke as he watched the money burn, not taking any chances of some cranker getting hands on it. He flicked the butt into the burning bags and walked out of the room.

“This is for your trouble, you've got a mess to clean up,” He flipped a bag of Bhang powder to the bartender, and walked out onto the filthy streets of Aldor.

Seth fired up the buggy when Karnack slid into the passenger seat, throwing his backpack to the storage behind them.

“Did you take care of business?” Seth's crooked grin cracked.

“I did what any good Aldorian would do and knifed him in the head,” Karnack opened the tin from his pocket and poked another smoke into his mouth.

“Why do you think Terradorn is doing this?” Seth's nerves caused him to speed up, distance from a murder scene was always a good thing.

“They are trying to flood Aldor with paper money and make our bartering system useless. It's about control. Terradorn lost the city of Aldor when the gang leaders burned all the money and established the new system based on the trade of goods and services,” Karnack savored his smoke as Seth wheeled back and forth on the road, dodging street walkers.

“Speaking of that, can you spare a few grams in trade for this ride? I really want to get laid tonight,” Seth's brown teeth were exposed by a wicked smile.

“Find a clean prostitute for me and I'll kick in a few extra grams. Go by Stillmans before we go back to the cell block, I need some whiskey if we're having a party tonight.”

“Whatever you say Cis, it's your show,” Seth gunned the throttle, the dust swirling in the wake of his buggy.

* * *

The Pink Pony was buzzing. Sweet young bodies in fishnet and heels plied their trade, working the poles and the floor. Karnack pulled his long dark locks into a pony tail on top of his head. Waiting for Seth to score some entertainment for the night, he lit up and sipped his drink.

“Is this seat taken?”

Karnack didn't look over. He recognized the voice. The owner of the Pink Pony herd was a thick man with rolls on his neck and a bald head, his cheesy mustache and dyed beard, an attempt to hide his age. Nobody knew his full name. Everyone called him Paulie.

“Yes,” Karnack knocked back the rest of his mug and pulled his tongue over his upper lip.

“Too bad, it's my bar. I sit where I want,” The penal colony of Aldor had gatekeepers. The lawmen called them shock collars. They would take advantage of anyone and were ruthless like wild dogs.

“See that one over there?”

He didn't look, he knew it was Sherry. She was off limits to everyone and the owner's personal body guard. Seth told him she was a Yoga master with a red belt in Jiu Jitsu. Her body made Greek sculptures jealous.

“You can have a joust with her if you let me have some of this,” His pudgy fingers massaged Karnack's shoulder. Thinking back to the only time he was raped in the block house, he cringed. The Aldorian gatekeepers were privileged and used to getting what they wanted. Knowing Paulie was untouchable, Karnack stiffened his expression and gave him a side eye.

“I don't swing that way boss,” Karnack pulled a hand rolled smoke out and tapped the filter on the bar.

“You just don't know how to have fun, big guy. It's your loss.” The owner got up and slapped his shoulder. Grunting before waddling off.

A redhead built like a gymnast, flipped upside down on the pole, doing the splits as she slid down and gave Karnack a wink. He blew her a kiss knowing that was all he was going to get after spurning the owner. The wolf whistle from over his shoulder announced Seth's return.

“We better juke. I just pissed off the owner, so we ain't getting no action here,” Karnack stood up and flipped a dime bag of Bhang over to the bartender to pay for his drinks and the show. He walked with Seth out into the streets of the red light district. The Pink Pony wasn't the only action in Aldor.

“I talked to a couple of girls at the Raging Rhino. They said they were up for a party after they get done dancing,” Seth flipped a balisong knife in his hand, practicing tricks he learned from his last celly.

Karnack knew about the place. Most of the people there were clean. He might have to dig into his weapon stash for trade. Girls at the Rhino didn't shoot or snort Bhang. The owner there was a straight edge, he liked clean girls that used protection.

The sun was hanging low, casting an orange glow over Aldor. In a couple hours they had to head back to the blockhouse. Unsafe during the day, Aldor was deadly at night.

Stepping around a cranker passed out with a needle hanging out of his arm, the two stopped to watch a barefoot topless girl in a peasant skirt spinning fire sticks in front of a tattoo parlor. Even the dust mask strapped to her face couldn't hide her good looks. After salivating for a bit, Seth dug a small trade knife out of his pocket and tossed it in her collection plate.

The Raging Rhino was closing up, the patrons streaming out. Seth piped up, “I told them we would wait for them out front.”

“Did you get any names?” Karnack closed off his stance, folding his muscled forearms in a show of strength. Showing weakness was like blood in the water to the sharks on this reef.

“Candy and Mocha. I get the Candy,” Seth bummed a smoke with a grin and flipped a zippo light off the leg of his pants. Clasping the metal hood on the lighter closed as he inhaled, the cherry glowed in the ebbing light.

“Hey,” Candy walked out, the blonde was all legs and arms with bright blue eyes.

Seth slid an arm around her waist and she shied away like a stricken puppy. Karnack never could figure out what women liked about his cell mate. He had more bad traits than a comic book villain.

A brown skinned woman followed her out, her hand laced in Candy's. She leaned close as Candy shot whispers into her ear and smiled. The woman eyed Karnack and tipped her chin back. He knew the move. Acknowledge each other and see where this goes.

Her and Candy and Seth held hands as they walked back to the cell block. Karnack felt for his flask and followed, checking the corners for tweaked out crankers and pick pockets. Seth was drunk on pheromones and he figured the girls were just looking for a good time.

Karnack scanned the tattoo on his fist and the gate to the blockhouse slid open. No use putting them on the record if they were getting it on tonight. The cell houses had no privacy. They were designed to warehouse inmates. Furniture consisted of a set of bunk beds and a small table with two chairs. The bars were removed from the cells when Terradorn relinquished control of Aldor to the gangs. The authorities now considered the entire city a penal colony.

Before Karnack could sit back and light up a smoke, Seth was unwrapping Candy. They were swapping spit and giggling like tween school girls. He looked over at Mocha, who had taken a seat across from him.

Flipping open his tin he offered her a tube, “Smoke?”

“Sure, thank you.”

He noticed her complexion was smooth, her dark lashes didn't need makeup. They shared some fire as the slurping and snogging sounds heated up on the bottom bunk. Karnack reached out to ash his cigarette and opened his mouth to say something when she spoke up.

“I'm gay, just so you know. Candy is my celly. We're together like that, but she needs a guy now and then.”

After that revelation he needed his flask, pulling off a double gulp, he offered it over the table. Mocha waved him off and toked on the hand rolled synthetic tobacco. Karnack was already tired of listening to the copulation opera and decided to milk Mocha for information.

“Who is responsible for the dreadnaught full of cash pallets coming this way?” The girls got all the pillow talk from the gangland heads. If anyone would know, they would.

“What you got to trade? Information isn't free.”

Karnack reached down in his boot and pulled out a snub nose derringer with five bullets taped to the grips.

Mocha's caramel eyes widened. Guns were harder to find than unicorns. She reached over the table. He pulled it back, “What do you know?”

“It's Paulie at the Pink Pony. He's got twenty submissives he's willing to sell to Terradorn. The dreadnaught is coming in tomorrow on the South Side of Aldor.”

Karnack slid the pistol over to her. She looked over at Candy squeaking like cheap furniture and rolled her eyes as she stashed the gun in her booty shorts, blowing out the last of her smoke and stabbing the butt in the ashtray.

Candy pried a few grams of Bhang powder for trade stock from Seth before the women left. Karnack flipped Seth's shorts to him, “You still know that weapon dealer?”


“We are gonna hook up with him tomorrow, message your boy and tell him to be ready to negotiate.”

* * *

Karnack packed two bricks of Bhang powder into his ruck sack and checked his blades. The survival knife on his belt had an ancient carbon steel blade and was sharp enough to shave. He stashed another double edged blade in his boot, since he traded off his back-up pistol.

If Aldor had a seedy side, it was the South Side. If you didn't see a skeleton and a few burned out buggies you weren't there yet. The food trailers grilled stray animals and called it gourmet. Naked people sold themselves behind dumpsters for drugs. The children would stab you for whatever they could find in your pockets.

The death dealer had a compound. He sent Seth a code to open the gate. His shop was like a fortress, with cameras, guard dogs and sentries armed with old school assault rifles. Seth fingered the code into the keypad from the window of the buggy and the armored door slid open, a guard motioned for us.

After the pageantry to get in, the shop was mellow. Antique weapons lined the walls. Firearms and blades filled the display cases. The dealer walked out from an office, “What can I do for you fellas?”

Karnack pulled the pack off his shoulder and said nothing. Seth, having arranged the meeting, shuffled up and offered his hand. The ancient gesture still signified a person was unarmed.

“My friend here needs something very, how do you say, unique.”

Karnack unzipped the pack and pulled out a kilo brick of Bhang and placed it on the glass shelf, “I need something to take down a Dreadnaught.”

The man shifted nervously. Not saying he didn't have it, opened the door for negotiation, “You need a launcher.”

“And a handgun,” Karnack pulled out the other brick, laying it all on the line.

Tristan motioned to a guard, neither had even noticed was there, standing motionless in the corner. He brought out an old olive drab case with alien markings on it and flipped the latches waving a hand to Karnack. The tube had instructions on it in an ancient text, with illustrations.

“It's a 57MM rocket launcher. You have one shot.”

Karnack picked it up and felt the weight of the explosives in the tube. If he hit the engine or the fuel system, it would do the job. He pointed a finger like a gun at the dealer and raised his brow. The guy lifted his head to the guard, who walked out of the room and brought back a black plastic case, motioning to Karnack.

Flipping the latches revealed a 9MM ghost gun, entirely synthetic construction with ten bullets. He nodded in agreement. The dealer looked at his security guard and smiled, looking down at the powder. Two kilos of Bhang could keep a man square for months.

“Is it a deal?” Tristan shot out his hand for a shake. Karnack wrapped his fingers around the man's palm and nodded.

Karnack and Seth took turns snorting Bhang to stay awake, the buggy parked inside the south edge of the wasteland, “Those bastards in Terradorn aren't going to flood this place with paper. Paulie will be the kingpin and we'll all be kissing his ring to even get a sandwich.”

Seth gasped a laugh and motioned for another drink from the flask, the Bhang cooking his brain like gunpowder in a flash pan. They moved past the wall in full gear, the night was a dust devil on steroids. The protective masks and drugs made them sweat. Their goggles were dripping wet when the flashing lights from the flying Dreadnaught shone through the darkness.

They were a mile from the rendezvous point with Paulie. Karnack pulled the rocket launcher from its case and flipped off the protective caps on the ends. He looked in the business side and the yellow warhead was parked there ominously near the exit of the tube. Looking at the instructions one last time he slid the launcher tubes apart and the sights and trigger flipped up.

“Swing low sweet chariot,” Seth sang and squinted an eye at the airship as it lumbered through the sky.

Doing the math in his brain, Karnack led the ship, estimating the impact point of the rocket. Punching the trigger, the back blast knocked them forward as the rocket gained flight and zoomed to intercept the Dreadnaught.

The impact was fireworks. The engine compartment exploded as the hydrogen fuel ignited and pallets of burning paper money blew away from the wreckage on fire, trailing the debris like shooting stars

“Bingo, Bango.”

August 16, 2022 01:26

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Chris Campbell
01:06 Aug 23, 2022

A very futuristic noir story told well. It has echoes of a combination of Raymond Chandler and Sin City in its prose. I'm a great fan of the bartering system. Long live Aldor! Well done, Kevin!


Kevin Marlow
01:51 Aug 23, 2022

Wow, thanks. The prompt was a perfect fit for Aldor. I wasn't thinking noir while writing, but it hits those notes for sure.


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Craig Westmore
20:58 Aug 18, 2022

Fascinating world you've created, Kevin. And a great narrative voice. It has a detective-crime vibe to it. I'm surprised you didn't include crime as one of the genres. I like how the cellblocks have become apartments and the inmates continue to live there even though they are free.


Kevin Marlow
21:33 Aug 18, 2022

I added the crime label. Thanks for reading and the suggestion.


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Tommy Goround
03:13 Aug 18, 2022



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Michał Przywara
17:55 Aug 22, 2022

As others have said, a neat setting! The government lost control of the prisons, in a roundabout way legitimized gang rule, and then tried to take over again with the might of the dollar. Definitely a cool setup, and I can see some people being opposed to this, as Karnack is. I suspect he's fighting an uphill battle though. The general flavour of this reminds me a bit of Frank Herbert's The Dosadi Experiment. One line did trip me up though, " a guard motioned for us." It looks like we change person here, from third to first.


Kevin Marlow
18:23 Aug 22, 2022

Thanks for that, I loved Herbert's Dune series. Also, thanks for the editorial note. I hadn't written much in the third person before trying my hand at short stories on Reedsy. I'm still learning and all the thoughtful feedback is much appreciated.


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Murray Burns
19:18 Aug 21, 2022

I liked the story...very interesting...and yes, a tad more violent than mine....but, more importantly, your recipe was a winner! Everyone loved it...even the 3 year old. And of course I gave you (partial) credit. I will never again boil up some pasta, throw in some fried hamburger and a jar of sauce and call it spaghetti dinner. You've made a nice contribution to someone you don't even know! Thanks!!


Kevin Marlow
22:04 Aug 21, 2022

Thank you so much, I was hoping for a good outcome. My Grandma would be laughing and smiling right now knowing her recipe lived on and made others happy. She was the kindest person and a great cook.


Murray Burns
03:41 Aug 23, 2022

A copy of Grandma's recipe left Wisconsin with my daughter and is now headed for Colorado. Her youngest is three, so I'm sure it will be served many times over. Thanks again.


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Jocelyn Nelson
22:07 Aug 20, 2022

Very atmospheric! You fit a lot in there cohesively and it was interesting


Kevin Marlow
23:17 Aug 20, 2022

Thank you for the kind words. It is another world building piece in my Terradorn series. I have started a novella (novel?) based on these stories.


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