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Excerpt for Just One More Little Job ... by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Just One More Little Job ...

By R. Richard © 2019

Published by R. Richard at Smashwords

Copyright 2019 R. Richard

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

Just One More Little Job ...

By R. Richard © 2019

Chapter 1: Leaf Runner

Justin Fentar moves cautiously through the underbrush. He has been working steadily East, through the night. A stealthy movement, however, continues just to his West. He’s being tracked. That’s not too unusual, or normally too bothersome. However, this tracker has kept with Justin all night. Not many have the endurance to track Justin so far, at least not at the pace Justin is setting. Just up the hill is the ridge road and then an easy ten miles into Nollar. It has been a long hard night already for Justin and a bit of ease is tempting. However, the iron discipline, that’s Justin’s main means of survival, takes over.

The easy route is too easy; it has earlier occurred to Justin that he’s being herded. Now, no one patrols the ridge road; except, maybe tonight. There’s another, safer, way, through the wind scoured canyons just North of the ridge road. The canyon route will be at least twice as long. However, the canyon route won’t be as long as the route through the forced labor camp, if they catch him with leaf.

Although he moves slowly and cautiously, Justin’s mind works quickly. If they have tracked him this far, they’re using dogs, or more probably a dog. Justin can’t outrun a dog. However, Justin can out think a dog. Justin moves along the dim trail, past a ledge of some eight to ten feet in height. As the ground dips away to the West, a blast of wind greets Justin. Perfect, he thinks! Justin very carefully backtracks a bit and then leaps and catches the top of one of the lower spots on the ledge. He pulls himself up quickly, ignoring his fatigue. He then begins to move quickly but quietly along the higher ground that runs up from the top of the ledge.

Justin has his choice of two small canyons that will eventually run into the ridge road. Naturally, Justin chooses neither canyon, but continues up near the top of the little ridge. If anyone waits, they’ll watch the canyons, not the ridges. As Justin reaches the edge of the ridge road, he’s perhaps 20 feet above the narrow dirt track, at the top of a sloping wall of huge boulders. Justin works his way through the boulders down to the edge of the ridge road. A commotion well behind Justin, signals the fact that the ones tracking Justin have lost (or found again) his trail. A dark shadow in the canyon at the far end of the boulder wall rises up and, perhaps scans the ridge road. The shadow then moves up, toward the top of the ridge.

Justin rolls in the dirt at the base of the boulder wall and then moves quickly but erratically across the ridge road into the relative safety of the wind scoured canyons just South of the ridge road. As Justin disappears into the labyrinth of canyons, he changes direction and then pauses for a bit to check his back trail. There’s no sign of immediate pursuit. However, a careful man will spend extra time and extra miles changing direction and climbing walls that a dog will have to be carried up. It’ll be hard work for a very tired Justin, but he’s a careful man; always! He has to be careful, his freedom and maybe his life are at stake.

It takes quite a while, but Justin finally slips into a dark alley, at the edge of Nollar. He then slinks along several alleys until he finally gets to the back door of Roonda’s place.

A quiet knock on the door finally opens the door a crack. A voice asks, “You got the stuff?”

Justin replies, “As always. Prime grade.”

The door opens and Justin goes in.

Chapter 2: Comes The Executive

Blosta Veran isn’t happy. First, he has had to make a journey to Omicron 4 via freight carrier, instead of passenger liner. The accommodations don’t nearly match the expectations of a Senior Vice President of the Septagon Group and the interaction with the freight carrier crew had been nasty and insulting. Once on the ground, the surly, undependable natives have demonstrated their rather nasty untrustworthiness to the maximum. After he has arrived at Nollar, the mountain capital, Blosta is unable to immediately find Justin Fentar. Again, the surly undependable natives find ways to amply demonstrate their rather nasty untrustworthiness.

After paying considerably more bribe money than he had intended to pay, Blosta Veran at last finds the elusive Justin Fentar. However, the meeting doesn’t go well. It seems that Justin is still a bit unhappy about being marooned on Omicron 4 by the Septagon Group. Well, no real problem for Blosta Veran. He has managed to relieve Justin Fentar of his bank account, admittedly by means of a bribe of several times the value of that bank account, but no matter.

Mr. Justin Fentar then has to come to terms with the assignment that Blosta Veran has for him. Justin will find the legendary Gate of Areen, or die trying. With the gate located, of course Justin will die. The idea of a minor employee trying to extort money from the Septagon Group is intolerable. The ridiculous laws that try to bankrupt a business by trying to force them to pay for the return to hire point of employees no longer needed will have, once again, been circumvented by the superior intellect of Septagon upper management.

Admittedly, it would have been even nicer if Blosta Veran had been able to convince the local authorities to prosecute Justin Fentar for smuggling leaf. However, since nearly everyone in Nollar is a user of leaf, the prosecution of Justin Fentar has proved impractical. Oh, it might have been accomplished, but the bribes involved would have been truly enormous.

In any case, Mr. Justin Fentar has been dispatched for, (Blosta rolls the scene through his mind again,) “... just one more little job for the Septagon Group and then we’ll settle all accounts, once and for all.”

Blosta gazes questioningly at his nearly empty glass of brandy. Has Mr. Fentar bought his little fib? Well, no matter, the bully boy he has brought with him will see that the job gets done. Once the job is done, well, Blosta Veran will be in good position for a shot at the Presidency. He thinks, “After all, a man who locates a major new product/service for the Septagon Group and, simultaneously eliminates the whining malcontent who did the leg work is the kind of creative thinker who should lead the Septagon Group.”

Two days later, Blosta Veran actually talks with Justin, with the help of local officials.

Justin wants nothing to do with Blosta Veran. However, it’s pointed out to Justin that his bank account is frozen and that there’s a warrant out for his arrest. A long, frequently angry exchange leads to the conclusion that Justin can either work for Blosta Veran or run, after abandoning all of his worldly possessions.

Justin has no real choice but to take the job that Blosta Veran wants him to take.

Later, one Golor glowers at Justin Fentar. Justin glowers back. Justin snarls, “All right, bully boy. Let’s get things straight. I’m the only one capable of locating the Gate of Areen that the Septagon Group is so interested in. I alone really know the local people. I alone really know the local terrain. I alone know how to survive in the high mountains here. If you harm me, it’ll delay or even cancel the expedition. If the expedition is delayed or canceled, the Septagon Group will be very unhappy. They weren’t even unhappy with me, when they decided to maroon me here two years ago. What do you think will be your fate if they get unhappy with you; even a little bit unhappy?”

Justin returns his attention to the trekking equipment that he’s carefully selecting.

Golor continues to glower at Justin Fentar in a calculating sort of manner.

After a minute or so Justin shifts his gaze back to Golor. Justin snarls, “Don’t even think about trying anything, without your laser. You may be big, but I’m much quicker. You’ll find out that quickness, not to mention conditioning, beats size every time.”

Hate flares in Golor’s eyes.

Chapter 3: Mountain Trek

The next day, the little two man expedition starts up into the 15,000 to 20,000 foot peaks surrounding the 9500 foot elevation of Nollar. The two men are just Golor and Justin.

Justin climbs with little effort, despite the 50 pound pack and the thin air. Golor struggles with a lighter pack and no adaptation time to the local conditions. Justin is careful to adapt his pace to the maximum that Golor can produce. Several times, Golor has to call for rest halts in their upward progress.

Justin seems to become more concerned with Golor’s welfare. Several times he halts, without being asked, to drink water from one of the fast running streams that descend from the snow capped peaks. He always suggests that Golor drink. Golor tries several times, but doesn’t seem to drink very much. For some reason, this last seems to please Justin.

At dusk, Justin finds a small hollow, sheltered among large rocks. He places perimeter warning alarms, then quickly and efficiently prepares a meal for one. By the time Justin cooks and eats his meal, Golor has wrapped himself in his sleeping bag and doesn’t even attempt to eat. Again, for some reason, this last seems to please Justin.

In the morning, Justin wakes, prepares breakfast, eats his meal and then cleans up, finally finishing by securing the perimeter alarms. Golor does nothing but lie in his sleeping bag and breath in a labored and ragged fashion.

After he has repacked a very heavy pack, Justin goes over and addresses Golor. He says evenly, “Golor, you have mountain sickness, probably pulmonary edema. Last night I relieved you of your laser rifle and the clever little slug thrower you had hidden under your pillow. I also relieved you of four day’s rations. It will take me a minimum of six more days to reach the high meadow where I expect to find more supplies, via airdrop. I’ll need the food that I took from you, if I’m to make it.”

Justin pauses, as if in thought and then continues, “I could attempt to carry you back down the mountain, but I would fail. Those who live here would track me down before I got half way back. If they caught me carrying you, they would take us both. Life is hard here in the high mountains. The mountain dwellers need the meat that we represent.”

Justin again pauses, “I can get through them, particularly with the laser rifle. They won’t, however, bother with me, especially since they’ll see the laser rifle. They need the meat too badly. They’ll end your suffering very shortly.”

Justin switches to a lecture voice, “Almost every off worlder who comes here suffers from mountain sickness unless they acclimatize for months at successively higher elevations. Blosta Veran knows this. There are two reasons why you were sent with me. First, the local authorities would never allow me to have a laser rifle. Second, the first day’s climb was much easier for me with you carrying half of the food and the laser rifle.”

Justin finishes, “Never deal with people like Blosta Veran, Golor, you just don’t have the talent.”

Justin turns and begins to work his way up the mountain slope. He doesn’t follow the faint track, but moves up open land, where he has a good view in all directions. After a brief time, he pauses at the top of a ledge and looks back. Three dark figures move about his former campsite.

(Three, he thinks. Too many. The local people wouldn’t have three scouts out. He has been betrayed. Well, it’s no more than he has expected. More likely than not, the locals have betrayed him. Blosta Veran would have no reason to betray him and much to lose by betraying him. The local officials would realize that a very careful Justin will survive any attack by the high-mountain people. In fact, the Nollar officials might well have anticipated Justin killing several of the high-mountain people. The killings would ease the threat of attacks, on the outskirts of Nollar. Very efficient planning for the Nollar officials.)

Justin continues to move carefully, but rapidly, up slope. The travel is exhausting, but keeping to a disciplined schedule is an absolute necessity. Only Justin knows where he’s going, but the high-mountain people will trap him if they can do so, without too much trouble.

Justin prepares meals only in spots where he can check in all directions for intruders. He doesn’t prepare meals in his nightly camps. This high in the mountains, a campfire would only be a signal for a barbecue for the high-mountain people; a Justin barbecue.

It actually takes Justin seven more days to reach the high meadow. He has managed to find a few isolated patches of wild Quoroa and managed to fill out his rations a bit. The Quoroa is the only reason people can live this high in the mountains. It’s a hardy, low growing grain that contains all of the elements necessary for nutrition of the people who live here. For such as Justin, it has a few minor deficiencies, but it’ll do in the short term.

Strangely, Justin already knows where the Gate of Areen is to be found. There’s a tall, isolated peak, called simply Storm by the people of Omicron 4. The peak is always lost in stormy clouds and is holy/haunted, depending on who a man talks to. High on Storm is the Gate of Areen. Areen was, in the old religions of Omicron 4, a female demon who ruled cold and death. Why the demon needed a gate puzzles Justin, the high, stormy mountain alone offers nothing but cold and death.

In Justin’s mind is another puzzle he can’t yet solve. If Justin returns, having not found the Gate of Areen, The Septagon Group will have him put to death as a worthless failure. If Justin returns, having found the Gate of Areen, he will be put to death, by The Septagon Group, as a dangerous threat to their exploitation of the Gate. The prospects don’t look good. Justin realizes that his only hope is to find and use the Gate of Areen to his own benefit. While it’s a very slim chance, Justin is a disciplined man who simply won’t let himself just lie down and die.

Jason finds the badly damaged crate of rations, where he had expected to find it. Some of the rations are damaged, but he can probably last until the next drop. There has been wild Quoroa along his path, doubtless there will be more. If there isn’t more Quoroa to be found, why Justin will just starve to death. He tries not to think about it.

Justin moves quickly toward Storm. His scanty rations don’t permit a slow, cautious approach. The lower slopes of Storm contain a twisted forest of hardy little trees the exact like of which Justin has never seen before.

The winds are constant and unpredictable. There’s no real pattern, just swirling winds that seem to come from this direction and then that direction. The small trees expertly deflect the winds and seemingly add to the swirling. The winds are strong and Justin has some trouble just walking. There seems to be a clearing in the little gnarled trees that perhaps promises a bit less swirling. Justin makes his unsteady way in that general direction.

When Justin gets there, it’s not a clearing; it’s a road! It’s not a small mountain road, but a broad, if winding, thoroughfare. From the cratered surface, it’s a very old road.

The exact purpose of the road is not clear, although there’s no real doubt in Justin’s mind that the road will eventually lead him to the Gate of Areen.

The swirling winds change to a nasty freezing rain. It appears that Justin needs to seek shelter from the freezing cold. The small trees offer no real shelter. Perhaps there will be shelter further along the road.

Justin struggles along the road for what seems like hours, although his watch says that it’s less than an hour. In the shadow of a sheer wall, Justin finds a small shelter, of the kind that the government of his home world frequently puts up along hiking trails. There’s danger to using the shelter. However, there’s certain death if Justin continues along the road and doesn’t find shelter soon.

Justin staggers into the shelter. Inside the shelter there’s calm air, even though the storm continues to rage outside. Under Justin’s light, the shelter contains a small cooking stove and four platforms, clearly intended for sleeping places. Justin alarms the doorway, that’s the only way in or out.

After a bit of examination, Justin clears the air passages for the cooking stove and places a small alcohol burner. He quickly cooks a meal and eats it.

The inside of the little shelter is at the same temperature as the outside air, which is to say below freezing. However, it’s dry inside the shelter and there’s little wind, due to the clever design of the shelter. Justin strips off his wet clothing and, after drying the laser rifle, hangs the garments from a hanger that he extracts from his pack. With a more or less dry garment, Justin finishes the drying of the laser rifle. Justin then gets into his sleeping bag and is almost instantly asleep, after a very hard day.

The next day is again full of swirling wind. However the freezing rain has disappeared, at least for the time being. Jason shakes the small amount of remaining ice from his outer clothing and then he dresses. A second meal requires another small tin of alcohol. There then being nothing else to do, Justin sets out upon the road again.


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