I only spent one night with Carrinne. Well actually it was one full day. From 9 o’clock one morning till 9 o’clock the next morning. Her long dark hair disguised her stunning figure. Maybe she wore her hair that way to keep the men away. When she was busy working you probably wouldn’t give her a second glance. It was only when you stopped and really looked that you noticed her full breasts and firm buttocks. The problem was, if she noticed you looking, she’d twist your arm up your back in a way that guaranteed it would dislocate. Then you’d be pushed through the bar doors so fast your feet would never keep up and you’d break your face on the hot concrete outside. Luckily for me, she found me funny. That meant I wasn’t a threat.

We had just finished unloading the livestock  and the seed bags were being craned off one at a time when the accident happened. There was a creaking noise that grew into a loud thunderous roar. Then PING. A huge, car size bag of seed came falling towards the deck. It missed the main living quarters but found the main lift blade. If you haven’t seen a cargo Skyplane before, the main lift blade provides upwards propulsion, or, lift. The bag didn’t snap the blade but it managed to split the wood from spring nut to tip. The wood used to make the blades are from a tree that only grows in three forests worldwide. It’s common in those forests but hard to get to. Long story short? Spares are hard to get and expensive to buy. Unless you know people. Luckily, Renus has the largest black market north of the Firestone region. Some of the best carpenters and “specialist dealers” frequent that shit hole. Captain Williot tasked me with getting the necessary supplies and craftsmen to get the job done. Price wasn’t a problem, he’d just run some ammo and weapons. There was money to be made outside the law.

Even though I spent a bit of time on Renus, I never really got to know the place properly. I needed to find someone who knew the people, the places and, more importantly, the secrets. The best place to find a guide in any town is the bar. I rarely needed an excuse to visit Saddlesore but it was only nine in the morning.

As soon as I knocked on the door I knew I’d made a mistake. I heard something slide, click and crack. Before I knew what had happened, the door had opened, I’d been dragged inside, spun around and my face was being pushed hard against the door. I felt the cold metal of a blade against my throat. It was a pirates blade. They’re  a curved steel blade that’s a sharp as sin on the inside but have a serrated outer edge that would carve though rock if it needed to. I could feel her breathe on my neck and feel her heart beating against my back. If I hadn’t been so scared this would have been a turn on. Even though my mouth was dry I still had an urge to swallow, as I did, the blade opened a tiny slit on my skin and the blood trickled down onto my shirt. As sharp as sin. At that instant she let me go, turned and headed into the empty bar without saying a word. I took a deep breath and followed.

After she’d finished laughing she asked why I was knocking on her door. It was hard to concentrate as she was wearing a black vest, knickers and nothing else. Her hair was tied back and you could see her full devastating beauty. After explaining what I needed she agreed to help. With one phone call she managed to cover the bar so she could spend the day helping me get The Valiant back in the air and us back home. I could never work out what Carrinne thought of Lucille. She knew she existed but chose to ignore that side of my life. I never led a double life. I just kept my work away from my home.

We walked back to the stricken Valiant and I showed her the damage. Barnes had removed the blade and tried to straighten out the bent spring nut. I’m sure he only did this much because his gambling debts were starting to build up! The sooner we were on the move the sooner he could leave behind his worries. That was Barnes’ strength, he didn’t care. About himself or anyone else. You were either a source of money or a person that he owed money to.

We needed to find a carpenter and  a length of timber long enough to make a replacement blade. At nearly fifty foot it was going to be expensive and hard to find. There was only two carpenters in Renus, one was Chris “The Bird” Walker and the other Carlton Sefton. The Bird wouldn’t have been my carpenter of choice on account of him being drunk, violent and lacking in personal hygiene but as Carlton was out of stock and unwilling to use dodgy suppliers we had to find The Bird. Finding his shop wasn’t a problem but finding him was always going to be a challenge. We set off for the market to see if we could find him there.

The market isn’t the sort of place you go for a stroll. You go there with a clear view of what you need. You buy what you want then you leave. We knew where we had to go and who we needed to speak to, the problem was, Renus’ market was never set up the same way two days on the trot. It meant that the supplier we wanted had set up right at the back. Walking through the endless stalls we saw just about anything you could ever want or need and equal amounts of stuff you’d never want anything to do with. We were offered pistols, rifles, machine guns, army-grade explosives and blades of every description, we’d only stopped to grab a coffee. It was in the coffee shop that Carrinne showed what she was capable of. A kid had made a grab for the bag she had slung across her shoulder, without blinking, she’d grabbed the child, pulled out her blade and held it tight against his throat, just as she’d done to me. As soon as the kid squealed a “minder” came in off the street and went to pull out his gun. She kicked away the child, and threw her knife at the beast. I’m not sure how but it found his eye and popped it like a grape under a boot. For a man of his size and age, he screamed like a girl. Carrinne walked over, retrieved her knife from it’s temporary home, wiped her blade clean on his shirt and left. I paid the bill and followed.

Renus doesn’t have a police force as such. Each business pays private firms to deal with problems. They then deliver any trouble makers to the port for collection by the proper authorities. It doesn’t work but Renus is outside The Aerians jurisdiction.  The beast that’s now writhing about and screaming will be sent to the medical bay for patching up and no one will have seen a thing.

From that point on nobody seemed interested in selling us anything. We had to get to Planks, pick up the timber and find Bird, fast. The beast will have friends and they’ll be nastier than him. Not much goes unpunished here. As we left one  commotion  at the coffee shop we noticed another one over at Planks. There was a lot of shouting and swearing, people were jostling for position around two men squaring up to each other. Barnes and The Bird. Of all the gambling drunkards it had to be these two. I didn’t have time to settle the argument or wait at a medical bay for any repairs. I grabbed Barnes by his huge forearm and Carrinne grabbed The Bird. Thinking back, we probably should have   grabbed the opposite people. Barnes might be a drunk but he can still swing a punch like a sledgehammer. Time seemed to slow as his massive, brick sized fist came rushing at my chin. I managed to pull my head away slightly but only enough for him to land the punch on my nose. Crack. My nose collapsed, blood pumped and I let go. As soon as the punch connected he seemed to snap out of his rage. He realised who it was and made a grab to catch me. We didn’t have time for this. I straightened my nose and stopped the blood.They both owed us and they knew it.

Barnes tried to explain how he’d asked The Bird for his help and how they’d decided to play cards over the price. Bird had lost but accused Barnes of cheating. Then my nose had become a brake for Barnes’ fist. I didn’t know who to believe and I didn’t care. I needed the wood for the blade and I needed a blade making and fitting. Ideally I’d need them both sober but I couldn’t go back to the coffee shop. We’d have to make it back to Birds shop and wait for the timber to be delivered. It cost two thousand pounds for the timber and delivery. That’s twice the price of legitimate suppliers but it would be three hours not weeks for delivery.

All we had to do was make our way out of the market and back to Birds workshop. Shame the beast and his family had other ideas…..