This story is by John D. Ziegler and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
by John D. Ziegler
I peeked up over the hood of the rover and was immediately rewarded by a flurry of blaster pulses that nearly took my head off. I plopped back down on the ground behind the rover and looked over at Allie. “Well, we aren’t going anywhere. He can’t get us back here, but if we try to move away from here he’ll have us dead to rights.”
Allie, who was bleeding from a nasty head wound that looked worse than it actually was, grimaced. I slid over and examined the wound. I wiped away the blood with my shirt tail as best as I could.
“You’ll live,” I pronounced. “Why is this guy so pissed at you?”
“I don’t know. Maybe it’s the money I owe him.”
I thought about that for a moment. “How much money do you owe this guy?” It wouldn’t be the first time that Allie had attempted to deceive me. There had to be something else. This guy had murder on his mind.
Allie glanced at me and quickly looked away.
“It might be the asteroid I sold him,” she mumbled.
Damn it! I knew it! This was not the first time she had worked this scam. Under different circumstances I would let her take her just desserts and move on, but this guy was shooting at me too just because we were bouncing along in the same rover. The unknown assailant fired at the rover again, ricocheting the pulse off of the roof.
“Hey Jake! What are you doin’ with that thieving bitch?”
I recognized the voice immediately.
“Is that you wasting all that blaster charge over there, Johnny Ford? What the hell are you shooting at me for? I haven’t done anything at all to you!” Actually I had done something to Johnny, but that had been long ago and his first wife had taken that secret to her grave.
“Let’s see if we can work something out here, Johnny!”
I could almost hear the rusty gears in Johnny’s peabrain trying to make sense of what I just said. The fact that he even was entertaining options meant that he hadn’t thought this whole ambush thing through because if he had, we wouldn’t be talking.
“Tell you what Jake! You just start walking and leave Allie and I’ll let you live.”
“Let me think about it for a moment.”
“OK, Jake! You have five minutes!”
I sat back down and looked over at Allie. The bleeding had stopped but judging from her grimace she had one hell of a headache. Well, good for her! It was her damn fault we were lying behind this wrecked rover in this Godforsaken corner of Mars while the dope she had ripped off was taking potshots at us.
I considered my options. There were only two options available unless you called praying for a miracle, like a lightning bolt from God to strike Johnny Ford dead an option. The first option was to take Johnny at his word that he wouldn’t shoot me in the back and just walk away and leave Allie to her fate. The second was to stay here and slug it out and hope that I could kill Johnny before he killed us.
The first option was tempting. I owed Allie no allegiance; we had burned the bridges between us a long time ago. None of the other colonists would fault me; in the eleven years we had been on this planet Allie had managed to antagonize most, if not all, of them. We had been a couple when we arrived, but even that was a scam that Allie had cooked up since they weren’t taking singles. She was here to make her fortune and she had no time for romance. I was quickly and unceremoniously cast aside for what Allie had considered better pickings.
The problem I had with Option #1 was that it meant that I had to take Johnny at his word that he wouldn’t shoot me in the back as I walked away. The second option was to stay here and fight it out with Johnny until I ran out of charge or we died from exposure. The advantage was definitely Johnny’s, and there would be no such thing as mercy applied to either Allie or me. I looked back over at Allie.
“Go ahead and go, Jake. I’m way past the point of needing a damn babysitter.”
It was just the sort of answer that you would expect from a tough broad like her; in fact, it was that attitude that had attracted me to her in the first place, all of those years ago. Things had changed between us, but that didn’t mean that I still didn’t admire her spirit.
“I think I might have a way out this mess without either one of us getting hurt,” I told her, “But for once in your life you have to do what I tell you to. No ad libbing! Understand?”
“I need to hear you say the words, Allie, or I swear I’ll…”
“Oh, OK, Jake! I will do what you tell me to do! Damn!”
I looked down at her and smiled. I knew how hard it had been to agree to follow anybody’s lead, especially mine. However, she knew that she didn’t have much of a choice. I moved over close to her and outlined the plan. Her eyes widened as we went over the details but she nodded that she understood what her part was. I redistributed the ammo and made sure she was ready. Just before I started to call out to Johnny, Allie beckoned me closer. I leaned closer, and she impulsively kissed me on the cheek.
“Good luck!”, she whispered.
“Hey Johnny! You still there?”
“You make up your mind?”
“Yeah. I think I’m just gonna walk off and leave this psycho bitch to you, Johnny. She just ain’t worth dying for! You aren’t gonna shoot me in the back as I walk off, are you, Johnny?”
Johnny hesitated for a moment before answering that of course he wasn’t going to shoot me in the back. That little hesitation told me that he was lying. Johnny stood up, pulse rifle trained on the rover.
“OK, Jake stand up and throw your blaster out in front of you so that I can see it.” I complied. “Good! Now start walking, and don’t stop until you are out of sight!”
I looked down at Allie and smiled. “Here we go!”
She smiled back as she took the safety off of her blaster and tucked it behind her. “Don’t miss, you bastard!”
I turned my back on her and started walking. About 100 meters in front of me there was an outcrop of rocks that would cover my movements. I heard Johnny leaving his perch and come running down the hill toward the rover. I reached the outcrop at about the same time as he reached the rover. I heard him say “You and me gonna have some fun before we get down to business.” I drew a bead on him but waited until he had laid his pulse rifle down before whistling and calling “Hey Johnny!”. He turned around to stare at me before I put a single shot from the antique .44 Automag through his skull.
When I got back to the rover, Allie had already changed the tire. She looked up at me and grinned. “I don’t think that”, pointing at Johnny and the hole in his head, “was on the list of options that he had in mind for you.”
“Screw him and his options.”, I said. “I make my own options and luck.”
“Let’s go!”, Allie said. “I’ll make you dinner tonight.”
I grimaced. “I’ll take a rain check. You never could cook worth a damn.”
I couldn’t imagine why she threw that water bottle at me.