Read Hard Luck Hank: Screw the Galaxy Online
Authors: Steven Campbell
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Space Opera, #Teen & Young Adult, #Fantasy, #Superhero, #Alien Invasion, #Cyberpunk, #Dystopian, #Galactic Empire, #Space Exploration, #Aliens
HARD LUCK HANK
SCREW THE GALAXY
Cover Art by Tariq
Back Art by Revo Yanson
All images and content Copyright
© 2013 Steven Campbell
All rights reserved.
This is dedicated to my parents, the teachers that
“got” me, and the many writers who helped and inspired me over the years.
Lewis and Judy Campbell, Michelle
Walker, Stan Berezovsky, Sharifah Williams, Andreas Gustafsson, Christopher
Smyth, Amanda Layton, Kim Turner, Ronald Richter
The space station
Belvaille was not the most corrupt city in the galaxy, but we liked to think we
were in the top five.
My job here was as a
negotiator and general purpose goon. At the moment I was running late for an
assignment to help settle a business disagreement. If I arrived too late, the
interested parties would take it upon themselves to resolve their differences
and things might get a bit gory.
I currently stood at
the edge of the elevated railway. The train, in typical Belvaille fashion, had
broken down and left me stranded. I was in the warehouse district by the space
port. There were squat, metal, box-like buildings packed tightly all around me.
Like a very unimaginative architect had gone mild when designing our city.
It was a five-block
walk to the nearest stairs or a fifty-foot plunge straight down to the gray
After a lazy mid-air somersault,
I landed approximately on my head. My guns flew from my holsters and I tumbled
on the ground a good ten feet.
“Ow,” I said to no one
in particular, rubbing my neck.
I sluggishly got to my
feet and examined my clothes, finding my roll had torn a hole in my
three-quarter length synth jacket. Not only that, but I noticed a bunch of
small holes in the back of my pants. Where did those come from? I didn’t think
the fall could have caused them. Had I been walking around all day like this
and no one said anything?
I recovered my
four-barreled shotgun and my plasma pistol and looked around to see if anyone
had noticed my ungraceful descent. Someone had.
“Did you just dive
headfirst from the train tracks?” Garm asked, astonished. She had been standing
in the street under the rails and must have seen my head plant.
“I meant to land on my
feet.” I secured my guns back in their holsters under each arm, the shotgun
bulging out closer to my waist.
“I wish I had your
mutation,” she said wistfully, walking closer. “I heard the train stopped so I
came to see if you were stuck. Figures you’d just throw yourself off a
Garm wore her usual
decorative military attire, heavy pistol on her thigh and dark sunglasses. She
was young, had that nervous energy young people have. I think “enthusiasm” is
what they refer to it as. She was only about eighty-five years old and I’d
known her for the last twenty or so she’d been on the space station. She wore
her black hair short and straight like a knife. There wasn’t a round surface on
her, she was all edges, like she was made out of triangles. If she wasn’t so
intimidating she would be extremely attractive.
Garm ran Belvaille. I
believe her official title was Adjunct Overwatch, but everyone just called her
by name. She was the senior liaison with the Colmarian Confederation’s armed
forces, which ostensibly governed our city.
“I don’t get you,” Garm
“What’s not to get?” I
“You’ve been here on
Belvaille longer than anyone, right?”
“No way. You know
Chepless, the lady who runs that noodle shop in the southeast? She’s been here
way longer. And Orgono Dultz, that guy with metal legs who works on the sewers?
He was here before Belvaille even opened. Working on the sewers.”
“Yeah, but how long you
been here? How many years?”
“About a hundred.”
“Right, so a lot longer
than nearly anyone.”
“And you’re mixed up in
just about every scam that comes by. You’re practically my employee.”
“What’s your point?”
“How are you so poor?”
“Who says I’m poor?”
“I can see your
underwear,” she said, indicating my pants.
I turned around from
where I had been re-clasping my boots.
“What are you doing
looking at my butt?”
“I’m not looking at
your butt. I’m looking at your tatty clothes. You look like a vagrant.”
“So what’s this job,
anyway?” I asked, trying to change the subject.
“It’s not far from
here. We need to hurry. Follow me.”
We started jogging. Or
she jogged and I did my best.
“What are you doing?”
she asked, in mid-stride.
“You’ve never seen me
“You’re running? You
look like a fat kid with flat feet trying to dance.”
I grumbled, but it was
true. I was a class-four mutant. Most people, if they were anything, were class
one or two. My body was dense, very difficult to hurt, which was how I could
jump off trains and not suffer a scratch. In fact, I was pretty much
bulletproof. They told me if I was made out of solid steel, I would weigh less
than I do now, so it’s all weird stuff. Unfortunately my muscles didn’t keep up
with my size. I wasn’t weak, but I was underpowered for my mass. I liked to
think I had torque instead of speed, but that was probably me being generous.
I could also heal very
fast. The government had done testing when they first classified me and they
sliced off the tip of my pinky. It grew back after a few months, but felt stiff
for years after. I kept thinking what jerks they were for doing that since they
didn’t actually know if it would regrow. But our government was not known for
Garm was also a mutant.
I think she didn’t need to sleep. Or didn’t sleep much. Maybe that’s why she
was all hyper. You find a lot of Colmarians go into lines of work where they
can take advantage of their mutations.
Garm ran a crooked
space station and never took her eyes off it.
I was a punching bag.
“Well, I finally know
your weakness. If I ever get in a fight with you, I’ll just run away.” Garm had
started jogging backwards to rub it in.
The fact she had picked
me up personally for this particular job was unusual—not that we never dealt
with each other, but she could have sent one of her soldiers. It told me she
was personally invested in this deal. I didn’t ask her about it because I knew
she wouldn’t tell me.
Garm and I had a great
relationship. She always lied to me and I always lied to her. But each of us
knew the other was lying.
I had to stop and catch my breath and Garm took
the opportunity to fill me in.
“A delivery to the space station has come and
there’s a dispute over payment. You should expect everyone to be armed and
unhappy. The merchandise is for Zadeck,” she said.
Colmarian dialect was the galactic standard and
this was something we were rightly proud of. Seeing as like 99.99% of the known
species were within our empire, it only made sense to use our language. That
said, Colmarians had widely varying accents. The joke being that if you asked
two Colmarians directions to the same location and followed them both, you
would continually run in a figure eight. It took me a second to register the
name because of Garm’s particular pronunciation, but then I got it.
Zadeck wasn’t a big crime boss. He ran one
whole block in the northeast. It was where all the truly upscale restaurants
and clubs resided. He catered to those wealthy refugees on the space station
who wanted the finer things.
“What’s the shipment?” I asked.
“Really?” That struck me as an unusual product
for Zadeck. But a man’s allowed to diversify, I suppose. “How much are we
Garm looked off in the distance as she answered
in a small voice.
I blinked. That was an outrageous sum for
consumables. Very rarely, the station would require some major components to be
shipped over and those might run over a million credits, but the idea of food
or even alcohol costing that much was incredible.
I guess it made sense that Garm was involved.
This was probably a shipment for a sizeable chunk of the bars and clubs in the
city. Or they were trying to corner the market and be the sole supplier for a
year or so. But a scary idea came to me:
“How much am I authorized to cut the price?” I
hazarded. This was a polite way of me asking if they had the money.
“Hank, I’m counting on you to get that shipment
unloaded and delivered. Talk to Zadeck when you’re done and settle up.
Garm left, saying we would speak later. I
headed for the warehouse to earn my paycheck.
There’s a reason people hire me. It’s not
because I’m a genius. Or an expert marksman. Or because of my stunning good
looks. No, it’s because I actually listen. I take in both sides of every
disagreement, evaluate their interests, squeeze as much as is equitable from
everyone, and make the fairest deal possible.
Also, I’m hired because when things go wrong
around Belvaille there’s a high probability it ends in violence. But because of
my mutation, I’m resistant to most weapons, so people know they can’t just
shoot their way out if I’m around, they actually need to stop and talk. And
that’s good for everyone in the long run.
I’m not bragging when I say there wasn’t one
Colmarian on Belvaille I was truly afraid of. Sure, Garm could have me dragged
to the port and thrown into space, but we were friends—sort of.
The warehouse had one door for loading and one
for pedestrians. I could vaguely hear yelling within, which was better than
gunfire. Sounded like a lot of voices.
I knocked on the door and the shouting ceased.
There was a pause and then someone answered from behind the door.
The door opened and I saw Rooltrego Denke, his
mouth slightly ajar. He took my hand and shook it vigorously, as if he were
suffocating and my arm dispensed oxygen with every pump.
“Hank. Hank. Man, it’s good to see you. We got
a real problem here.”
I followed him in. There were about two dozen
men inside, clearly squared off. The building was of large enough proportions
that it could receive goods directly from spaceships docked at the port.
Mechanical movers were laden with crates that had obviously just been unloaded.
The boxes were still packaged for zero gravity.
Half the men looked happy to see me and
welcomed me as graciously as hoodlums could. They were definitely Zadeck’s
guys, as he had a dress code for his people. Except for their numerous scars
and generally vicious demeanor, they looked like wealthy art patrons.
I knew most of them or was introduced. I made a
point of saying their names to myself mentally after I met them to try and
remember. Makes people feel good when you know their names.
The other dozen men were from the ship. Some
were wearing their undergear from spacesuits. You could tell they weren’t from
around here. Belvaille wasn’t exactly up with the latest styles and a bunch of
these guys had on those embedded, glowing tattoos. To me it was like wearing a
neon sign, but whatever.
“I’m Captain Ulsaker, who the void are you?”
one of them asked. His outfit was somewhat better than the others, using bright
golds and blues and whites that hadn’t yet been dirtied from use. He had a few
medals on his chest he’d probably bought from a store, as they didn’t match the
uniform or each other. These were all working men, covered in grease and grime.
“I’m Hank. I’m here to help.”
The men looked even more wary.
“Zadeck hasn’t paid. When they pay, they get
the shipment, nothing to discuss.”
“Where’d you guys come from?” I asked, hoping
to steer the conversation to a less tense destination for a moment.
“It’s none of your damn business,” Captain
The Colmarian Confederation was a vast, vast
empire with a truly insane amount of cultural idioms, not to mention
appearances. It was quite simple to accidentally be rude because you didn’t
know someone’s culture, though it was also a Colmarian trait to forgive such
But this guy was trying to piss me off.
I could respect their frustration. They’d spent
at least a month in space. They haul this stuff out here and all of a sudden
they’re greeted with a big fat nothing.
“Tell them to give us our credits and we’ll be
on our way,” the Captain reiterated.
“Zadeck already transferred the credits. We
weren’t instructed to pay anything,” Rooltrego said.
“I’m getting tired of this runaround. I knew we
shouldn’t have come to Belvaille. This damn space station is so far away it
wasn’t even on our navigation.”
“We do that to keep out the riffraff,” I said.
But he didn’t get the joke. Or didn’t think it was funny.
There were a million citizens currently on Belvaille.
The overwhelming majority were involved in illegal activities or were wanted as
criminals. Everyone knew it, but as long as we didn’t make too much noise and
the right bribes went to the right people, the government didn’t care.
That’s how Belvaille originally became what it
was. Being so remote, fugitives fled here to avoid prosecution. After a while,
so many villains in one place naturally formed their own unique society.
“Do you guys work alone or do you have a boss?”
I asked the Captain.
“Look, I don’t know who you are and I don’t
care. Our business is with them, not you.”
“Hey, this is Hank,” Rooltrego said. “He works
for everyone here.” There were some agreements from Zadeck’s men.
“Well he doesn’t work for us and we didn’t
invite him. This whole deal is starting to stink!”
The Captain took out a submachine gun and his
crew also drew weapons. A few of Zadeck’s men had pistols, but for the most
part I could see they were unarmed. They backed away or got closer to cover.
Lots of time in deep space can do this to you.
I didn’t blame them and frankly it very well might have been a double-cross, I
just didn’t know. But that wasn’t really my concern right now.
When someone pulls a weapon, I like to evaluate
just how likely they are to use it. These guys wanted to get paid. They had
nothing to gain by getting in a gun battle. They certainly wouldn’t be able to
leave port if they did. So unless they were suicidal, this was just a bluff.
More a display of how upset they were becoming. Still, they didn’t have a good
grasp of the situation.
“First off, I’m a level-four mutant. That GJ303
and Lam26 and Super Dooli can’t hurt me,” I said honestly, appraising their
armaments. Then I reached inside my right holster with my offhand for my plasma
“Still, if you really want to fight,” I began,
“I have this thing I’m fond of saying.”
I flipped the pistol’s power on and a
mesmerizing green glow burst from both sides of the weapon; it hurt the eyes,
but you were still drawn to it. There was also a kind of hum that vibrated some
deep organ in your chest—I’m sure medical technicians had a word for it.
“Eat suck, suckface,” I said in my most
The crew’s mouths hung open dumbly, their eyes
wide and fixated on the green glow from my pistol.
The only thing Colmarians found more
frightening than effective government was Ontakians: the race that had designed
my very special plasma pistol.
An almost mythical species at this point,
Ontakians had only occupied a single planet. Long story short, we came to them
and said, “Hi, welcome to the Colmarian Confederation.” They said, “No,
thanks.” We said, “No, seriously,” and invaded them. Our 50,000 species versus
their one. And they beat us like a drum. We finally amassed our navy around
their planet and bombarded it until it broke apart.
We never could figure out their weaponry. Any
time we tried to replicate it, it blew up or just didn’t work. This pistol was
supposedly my great-grandfather’s. It’s beyond illegal and I got offered
300,000 credits for it once.
I’ve never actually fired it and I’d have to be
completely crazy to try. But nothing brought a potential fight to a screeching
halt like flashing a scary alien artifact. If I had thought they were really
going to fight, I would have reached for my shotgun instead.
There was a lull as their brains clicked over
how they should proceed.
Then, as my attention was directed towards the
armed men in front, a multi-ton crate was dropped on me from above.
I hit the floor face down and found my legs up
to about my waist were under a cargo container. I managed to hold onto my
pistol despite the force, which hadn’t hurt incredibly much but was certainly
surprising. Now I was annoyed. Not because they had tried to smush me, but
because I looked like a doofus pinned to the ground after I had just given my
The sailors were still in awe. If they hadn’t
been impressed by my Ontakian pistol, they were by the fact my head hadn’t
popped off and my guts squirted out when this crate landed on me.
“Guys, give me a hand,” I said, realizing there
was no way I was going to get myself out alone.
Zadeck’s men came over cautiously and began
pulling. I held my pistol as they tugged on my arms and pried at the container.
After an inordinate amount of time they finally
freed me, and I stood up with as much dignity as I could muster. This was
difficult considering I no longer had pants on, which had been mostly scraped
off during my extraction. I was left in my underwear and ragged strips of my
pants that hung from my belt and pooled sadly around my ankles.
I looked at the crane arm that had dropped the
load. Followed the line. Over to the control booth. A sailor sat at the
controls. He was a youngish man, maybe early fifties, and he wore the
expression of someone who realized he’d just made a terrible, life-ending
“Hey, come here,” I said to him.
He didn’t come. I suppose a lot of people lie
about having mutations in Colmarian space. It’s a way to avoid getting thumped
if you convince people you can exhale supercooled nitrogen or whatever. Of
course, that’s usually a lot of crap, so these guys probably figured I was
Well, I wasn’t lying.
Despite this setback, I tried to clear my head
and get back to business.
“Look,” I said. “I know Zadeck. I can’t imagine
he’s trying to cut you out. Have you guys delivered to him before?”
It took everyone a moment to come back to
“Yeah, third time. But he’s always paid at
shipment,” the Captain said, seemingly more ready to negotiate now that he
understood I was for real.
“See? This is probably a misunderstanding.
Where are you guys staying on station and for how long?”
“We’re at the Chelsea Halfway House,” the
“That place sucks. Go to the Marine Marina and
tell the front desk you’re a guest of Hank. But don’t bust up any of the
“Just ‘Hank’?” he asked.
“Everyone knows him,” Rooltrego volunteered. I
could tell both sides were feeling a little more comfortable.
“I’m going to go over and talk to Zadeck.
There’s nothing you can do here. You made your shipment. I promise I’ll get you