Heart of Stone
swing to the right,
skimming the cruiser along the mountains on the eastern edge of the
valley. They followed the peaks until they reached a high
    Jark slowed, and they headed down
toward a cluster of buildings at the foot of a huge natural arch in
the mountain peak. A log lodge headed a rough clearing, sided with
low, oval-roofed hangars and warehouses. The buildings' profiles
allowed the wind to sweep right over the top of them, without
constantly stressing joints and outer coverings. As usual, a storm
cell was caught on the pass, snow swirling in long
    The red flicker of a motion sensor
beam, set to alert inhabitants of new arrivals, was just visible
circling through the white snow. Stone's cruiser would have tripped
it, but that was all right. He had a warehouse here, so his visits
were expected.
    "Beautiful, downtown Bone Arch," Jark
    The Bone Arch Lodge was built sturdily
enough to withstand the winter winds, but it wouldn't win any
beauty prizes. No destination resort, this, but an outpost. A
catamount pelt flapped from the roof peak like a flag, and an
untanned skrog hide formed a crude awning over the
    Named after the natural arch carved by
wind into the mountain peak, Bone Arch was an outpost, operating
outside the law most of the time, frequented by those who preferred
it that way. It was the kind of place that rewarded any display of
uncertainty or fear with a complete lack of mercy. In the coming
days, the denizens would have to decide whether to stay within the
confines of law and order, or move on. Be interesting to see who
chose which path.
    The wind buffeted the cruiser, rocking
it as they dropped slowly into the open area before a large hangar
with the Masterson logo on the roof. A small hovie zipped by toward
the lodge, carrying a trio of bundled-up workers. Another headed
the other way, the open back piled high with weather-proof
    Stone eyed a hangar further down the
row. A squat, military-style cruiser hunkered before it. "Someone's
running enemy surplus from the Solar Wars."
    Jark grunted. "Ogre'n from the look of
it. Damn, that's ugly."
    Stone nodded. The jarring pattern of
the purplish-green paint on the bulbous craft was somehow wrong to
human eyes. Probably picked up at cyber-auction by some youngster
as he'd once been, starting out with anything that would
    Only his problem if they tried to get
in his way. Gone was any trace of warmth from his demeanor or
Jark's. When they landed, two cold-eyed and dangerous men stepped
off into the howling wind and snow.
    Another man came out of the huge hangar
to meet them. The Masterson logo was emblazoned on his vest and the
warm hat pulled down low on his head. Long silver hair straggled
beneath it, but his face was tough and youthful.
    "Boss, Jark," he greeted them over the
moan of the wind. His voice held the lilting accent of Stone's
youth. MacNeil had been one of the dock rats Stone gathered into
his gang.
    "MacNeil." Stone nodded toward the
hangar. "Everything snug?"
    MacNeil nodded meaningfully.

    He opened the small side-entry door
with a beep from his comlink, which had the code imbedded. The
three men walked inside.
    The huge hangar was stacked with
various cargo containers. Stacks of fresh-hewn lumber perfumed the
space with the scent of the forest.
    Stone cast a swift look around at his
goods. "Where are Danno and Yael?"
    "They're here. Danno's watching the
back entrance, and Yael's having a meal in the galley." MacNeil
jerked his head toward the far corner of the hangar.
    "All right." Stone nodded. "Let's load
it up."
    "More than happy to pass it on to you.
Haven't slept well since it arrived, and not at all last
    "Any trouble?"
    "Nah, just one of our old friends
showed up. Mobius."
    "Mobius?" Stone's eyes narrowed. Ah,
the Ogre'n ship must be his. Tar Mobius and Stone had always gotten
along. In the old days they'd run several deals together and
watched each other's backs, but the

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