THE LETTER, page one . . .

“Give me the little one, back there in the corner, mate. C’mon now, haven’t got all day now, have I?”

Lonnie shivered in the open-air market, glanced up at the heavy clouds. Gray sky, gray buildings, gray dirt. He was sick of this miserable off-world colony and couldn’t wait to get back home. Couldn’t wait to get this last letter off to his royal highness, that bloodsucking parasite of the universe who just happened to be his brother-in-law.

He took another sip of brandy, felt warmth shooting down to his gut, felt a brief return of his ever-failing courage. What was taking that steward so long?

“Bleedin’ ship’s leavin’ in less than two hours,” he yelled through the bars, “and that’ll barely give me time to get the message put on all correct and proper.”

She was little, probably no more than five years old, but she’d be cheap and there was something to be said for saving money when you had a job like this. He’d have to buy her a tunic to cover the words, so no one could read them before his royal pain-in-the-behind; but before that he’d have to watch while the scribe wrote the message on her skin, metal needle scratching blue lines in baby soft flesh, had to make sure that the idiot didn’t misspell anything.

Couldn’t have another mistake. Not like last time.

He leaned forward. Poked his head through the bars, his breath turning to frost.

“Crimeny, what’s takin’ ya so long in there? I just need to get a letter in the next post. What is so difficult in all of that?”

No comments: