Apex of the Songbird – Prologue

So–while we can talk a lot about our influences and about how we feel about pop culture and other shenanigans, at the end of the day we are writers. And we are in the process of cleaning up our first novel for you. I (Angelique, that is) have a story cooking for Halloween time next month. But for now, here is the other thing we’re going to be providing for free on our website. Apex of the Songbird is a little sci-fi tale that we’ve cooked up to give you a taste of our writing style. We’ll be posting snippets of it frequently (full schedule date to be determined soon!) But for now, here is the prologue. We hope you like it!

Angelique & John

~*~

Apex of Songbird Cover

The clear blue sky was dotted with spires of pristine chrome, and the streets below buzzed with the bustling traffic of people going about their business. It was a lovely day.

For the moment, anyway.

One building in particular merited some attention. Not for any particular architectural merit; it was simply a parking garage. Most parking garages were not particularly interesting; as a rule they are industrial but efficient, and well-maintained. This one, however, stood out by the dint of the large, smoking hole in its side.

While parking garages generally had a number of holes in them to provide access, they were typically well structured, fit the architectural design, and were large enough for vehicles of transport to access. This one was not one of those sorts. It was out of place, asymmetrical, and smelled strongly of sulphur and industrial cleansers.

Two figures regarded the hole from behind a support beam, one tall, and one… considerably taller.

“Told you it would work,” said the slightly-less-tall of the two figures, who was a lean, dark-skinned man clad in greasy coveralls.

The considerably taller one shook her head. “We are gonna get so busted. C’mon, we don’t don’t have a lotta time before someone’s after us,” she said. She was a hair shy of seven feet tall, muscular, and built like the proverbial brick shithouse. The less-tall one dragged out a length of heavy-duty fire hose, the end of which was still firmly attached to the wall. “You’re sure this thing will hold both of our weight?”

“It’s an AA-rated industrial-grade fire hose,” he said, giving it another tug. “Made with carbon nanotubes or some shit like that. We could dangle a forklift off of it.”

His partner looked like she wanted to comment, but the sound of a door opening somewhere and several pairs of boots moving toward them cut it off. She sighed, held the package under her arm tightly, and jumped, using the hose to rappel down the side of the building. The less-tall figure shimmied down after her.

“Simple retrieval job, you said,” as he furiously shimmied. “It’ll be a milk run, you said. Do the cows breathe fire and crap plasma grenades where you come from?”

“Cow-tipping takes on a much more dangerous connotation,” she retorted, before hopping down.  As soon as her boots hit the ground, she heard the whine of laser pistols starting up. “Quickly!”

The two of them dashed off, the less-tall one forcing an earpiece in as he moved. “Zane,” he said, “please tell me you’ve got the ship warmed up and ready to get us out of here.”

“I told you, Ash,” came the reply. “I knew something was gonna go wonky with this job. I could feel it in my spleen.”

There was a brief pause.

“Don’t you mean your gut?” she asked

“Jayna, why would I listen to my gut? It just wants food all the time.”

Ash frowned. “But Zane, that doesn’t make any–”

“You know better,”  Jayna interrupted, and looked behind her, pulling Ash into the closest alley as laser blasts darted past them.

She looked around the alley and quickly moved a dumpster in that direction, wedging it into place. It would buy them just enough time to get a little breathing room.

“How far’s the port?” she asked.

“Maybe another block,” Ash replied. “No cover. We’re gonna have to just run like hell for it.”

While it had been a straight shot from the port they’d docked to where they had performed the job, they did not want to lead the goons straight to their ship. They diverted a couple times–almost getting caught in a dead end before Ash had found an open door.

That’s when their comms crackled back to life. “Guys, we may have a problem.”

Ash groaned. “I don’t like to hear that”

“There’s a lot of things I don’t like to hear,” Zane replied. “There’s some people in very nice suits going down the line and asking the staff some very pointed questions. I don’t think that fifty we slipped the maintenance dude will get us much more good will.”

Ash cursed under his breath.

“So what you’re saying is we should quit fucking around and get to the ship.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” Zane added. “That’s not nice.”

“Point well made all the same,” said Jayna. “Nothing for it but to make a mad dash. Get in front of me, I’m a bigger target anyway.”

The two of them made a break for it, the few pedestrians unfortunate enough to be milling about giving them a wide berth, until the port’s front gate came into view. There were about a dozen or so vessels parked at the moment, and theirs was near the back. It had seemed like a sensible tactical call at the time.

“Of course,” she muttered, withdrawing her own pistol and dipping back to lay down suppressing fire as the two of them darted and weaved between the bulky vessels, hoping to lose the goons. The two of them darted away from the front as quickly as they could, as slugs and energy bolts alike were discharged in their general direction.

Their own ship came into view before long, the distinct eggshell blue of her hull standing out among the blood reds, muted browns and gunmetal greys of the other haulers. They could hear the engine humming, and the bay doors were wide open, waiting for them.

“Home free!” said Ash, as he put on a burst of speed, darting ahead of Jayna. “Never been happier to see the old–”

His exuberance was cut off as a slug caught him in the leg, sending him tumbling to the ground. Without missing a beat, Jayna scooped him up and tossed him over her shoulder as she ran inside. She punched the ‘Close Doors’ button as soon as she ran past.

“Zane, we need to be star-bound last week!” she shouted.

“Working on it!” came the reply over the ship’s speaker system. The whole vessel began to vibrate and lift off, albeit with way more shaking than usual.

“They may or may not have hard-locked the docking clamps,” said Zane’s voice. “Hoo boy”

Jayna swore, hauling Ash with her as she made a beeline for the cockpit, where their pilot – a slight-framed man in a leather jacket and an antique aviator’s cap – was gripping the controls so hard that his knuckles were turning white.

“Hang onto something,” he said. “This is gonna scuff the paint a little!”

Zane tapped a few buttons and the ship groaned away from the docking station, and accelerated through the hangar.

For once, luck was on their side; a ship was flying into the hangar at the same time. As long as they didn’t hit it, the hangar doors would still be open wide enough for them to get through in a hurry. Zane took a deep breath, put down the goggles on his cap, and hit a sequence of buttons.

The Songbird put on a burst of speed, blasting past the other ship with mere meters separating the two, and soon they were screaming across the sky, making their way out into the atmosphere, and minutes later, into the vastness of space.

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