The Army Of Light (Kestrel Saga)

Free The Army Of Light (Kestrel Saga) by Stephen Fender

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Authors: Stephen Fender
platform that was
barely wider than the skimmer itself.
        
   Once he’d stepped out, he instinctively offered Melissa a hand,
which she regarded dubiously. Glancing first at her skirt, then at the pier,
she weighed her options before reluctantly accepting his assistance. As her
fingers slipped over his palm, she was surprised by the softness of his hand.
The captain held her firmly as he guided her out of the skimmer and onto the
pier. Once she was squarely on the deck, the two locked eyes before
separating themselves. “Thank you, Mister Kestrel. That’s the most gentlemanly
thing you’ve done since I met you.”
        
   Her words seemed to catch him off guard. “Well, I couldn’t leave
you here by yourself. Who knows what pirate would come haul you off?”
        
   “Really, Mister Kestrel. Pirates,” she
chuckled, but then noticed Shawn wasn’t sharing in the absurdity she found in
his statement. “Pirates?” she repeated desolately.
        
   He nodded solemnly. “Just stick close to me, okay? And please, try
not to get into any trouble.” He turned and began walking down the long wharf
with Melissa jumping in step close behind him.
        
   Trent looked back to the skimmer and offered the little craft a
farewell wave. “See you soon, I hope,” then he rushed to take up the rear of
the troop.
        
 
    *          
*           *
        
 
        
Jacques’ was raucous tonight—more so than most nights—and the fact that it was
happy hour certainly wasn’t helping. The large bar, which seemed to dominate
this whole side of the nearly mile wide island, was awash with bright lights
and loud music. The establishment consisted of three buildings, all circular in
shape, with the center building twice the diameter of the outer two. The
smaller buildings, mirrors of one another, were nothing more than conical thatched
roofs about sixty feet wide, held up by a dozen wooden poles around their
circumference. The central building had a square structure built as a second
floor, which had its own slightly oversized thatched roof. On the center of the
steeple was a large, glowing red sign that read ‘Jack’s Place’. There was a
single window in the upper portion lit from within, while the bottom floor was
dominated by an enormous bar and filled with patrons of all types.
        
For gamblers and wayward travelers, Jack’s Place was a beacon in this quadrant
of Beta Sector. At any given time, you could find a dozen different games from
just as many worlds being played in the main casino hall just inside from the
bar, or at the high rollers tables downstairs. There was even a large pool out
back that could be easily set up for water polo, aqua billiards, or the ever
popular—albeit highly dangerous and very illegal—Du’guwam of Tirana VII.
        
Shawn cautiously approached the translucent, saloon style doors separating the
interior of the bar from the deck outside, not knowing who or what might get
thrown through them at any moment. He gingerly pushed them open as he stepped
in, with Melissa and Trent close behind, and strode directly for the bar on the
opposite side of the room on a mission to find Jack De Lorme and get some
drinks, but not necessarily in that order.
        
Before he’d made it half way to his destination he was met by one of the local
merchants, an alien named Timo.
        
“Shawn Kestrel,” the squat being slurred. “My old buddy,
Shawn.”
        
“Hey, Timo,” Shawn tried to wave off the man as he continued walking toward the
bar. Timo was a dumpy, pint-sized Polysaurian merchant captain. His short, dark
fur was sticking up from his scalp, a sure sign that the long tailed being was
inebriated. Timo was shuffling his three flip-flop clad feet across the planked
floor of the bar as he chased after Shawn.
        
“Been a long time, Shawn,” Timo continued as he came up beside him.
        
“I don’t

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