Film noir meets science fiction

I’ve had the idea for the Lazarus Men bumping around in my head for about 15 years now. It started out something far different but gradually morphed into what I have cooking now. I’ve always enjoyed the film noir brand and been a fan of scifi since my father took me to see the original Star Wars back in the old drive in theater in Olean, NY back in ’77. Anyhoot- Here’s the first chapter of the Lazarus Men. And please- share it, buy it, or let me know what you think.

ONE

2273 A.D.

Old New York City Spaceport

The interstellar liner drifted down through the perpetual blanket of pollution and clouds concealing the open skies from the people grinding their lives out in what had once been the most populated city in the world. The roar of landing jets firings drowned out any sound the busy city could muster in response. Ground crews streamed from the maintenance sheds as the sleek, grey skinned vessel inched closer to the ground. Steam and exhaust billowed out from the belly, eating across the partially empty landing strip and north across Flushing Bay.

Touching down with the grace of an eagle, the passenger liner groaned as the landing gear absorbed the weight. Un-loaders lumbered out of the hangar bays to pick up baggage while the gangway slowly extended from the terminal to clamp with the docking doors. Metal scrapped against metal with a hideous scream. Crowds of civilian onlookers gawked at the newly designed liner built by McMaster’s Enterprises. Whereas earlier designs were bulky, squared brutes lacking grace, the newest models were sleek, elongated machines inspiring dreamers and passion alike. Still relatively new, people were eager to get a glimpse of the newly inspired line from the imagination of Roland McMasters.

Earth had changed much over the course of the last hundred years. The discovery of the interstellar drive ushered in a new age of expansionism. Already overpopulated, the human race fled to the stars and, while there were massive disasters along the way, soon colonized and occupied a score of worlds stretching across the heavens. Habitable planets were established as new colonies. For a time humanity prospered. Considering Old Earth was dying slowly from the combined effects of overpopulation and a dwindling supply of natural resources it was all anyone could do to flee to a new world.

The strange peace brought about by discovery last for five decades but even the dreamers knew it wouldn’t last. Brush wars sprang up as governments tried to establish dominance. The colonists resisted living under their former rulers. Old Earth politics never gained a foothold on the majority of new worlds. Desperate for power, the governments banded to form the first Earth Alliance. They created subversive groups designed to halt the development and independence of the Out Worlds.

No one traveled back to Old Earth unless it became absolutely necessary. The majority of indigenous population were unable to leave, to move on to a better world and an easier life. They ground through each day with grim determination, knowing there was no promise of a golden future. Life was life. All there was and, more often than not, all there was going to be.

Lost amidst the throngs of people waiting for transport were two men who normally wouldn’t have been with each other. The taller loomed over the shorter by almost a foot. He was lean, but muscled under his dull grey suit. Keen eyes partially hidden beneath thick, black eyebrows endlessly scanned the crowds, like a tiger on the hunt. His hair was neat and well groomed, lending him the appearance of general civility. His face was hard, edged in places that suggested a hard life masked by a thick moustache curling over his upper lip. The briefcase in his right hand pulled him slightly off center. His left hand was always free. A small bulge on the side of his jacket hinted at the concealed weapon he carried. People glanced his way and immediately moved to get away. This was a dangerous man.

The shorter man to his right was frail by comparison. His demeanor suggested he’d be more comfortable working in a library or a bank, not cavorting with danger. Short and stocky, the hat he wore concealed his growing bald spot and shadowed his business-like face. Round wire framed glasses made him look as if he were constantly trying to peer into secrets. His dark blue suit added little flavor to the odd couple. While he possessed the intuitive intelligence necessary for his line of work he lacked his friend’s sense of security and uneasiness. The briefcase in his hands was much lighter than his counterpart’s and he wasn’t armed. That’s what the taller man was along for.

Together they scanned the masses moving about them. Their target remained elusive, however, prompting the taller man to grind his teeth in frustration. A disappointed scowl darkened his face. He wasn’t a man used to waiting.

“This is useless,” the shorter man complained in a painfully thin voice. “He might not even be in the spaceport.”

His counterpart only grunted in reply and continued his search. Finding one man in the midst of hundreds of vague, faceless civilians took time and, more often than not, proved to be highly frustrating. But he was a professional. Finding the impossible target was his specialty. It was only a matter of time before he found what he’d been hired to find. He kept his disdain for the shorter man private. Always complaining about matters beyond his control, the man never should have left Cestus III. He briefly considered removing the man but knew his employer would be most displeased.

The crowds slowly thinned as the novelty of the new liner dulled. A glimmer of hope sparked within the taller man. Nudging the shorter man, he began to follow the flow of the crowds. If their prey was in the spaceport it was only a matter of time before they found him. The unlikely pair rounded a corner leading down the narrow corridor to the entrance of Terminal A. Hints of desperation clouded the shorter man’s face. Returning to Cestus in failure wasn’t an option. Lost in thought, he failed to see the hands stretch out and jerk him into a dimly lit alcove. His glasses slid down his nose and he managed a startled squawk.

The taller man moved incredibly, almost impossibly, fast. He dashed in after, killer instincts immediately taking control. Bashing his counterpart aside, his forearm crushed against the assailant’s throat, driving him back roughly into the wall. His free hand now held the snub nose blaster pressed against the man’s ribs.

“Heeey, be easy man,” the assailant cooed as his brief life flashed before his eyes. “Gholson, call off your pet. We’ve got business to discuss.”

Jonas Gholson pushed his glasses back up his nose and flattened his ruffled jacket. “That was most unwise. Why should I have Mr. Edgemeyer stand down?”

“I have information you need,” the now frightened man replied quickly.

Edgemeyer growled deep in his throat and pressed harder.

Gholson smiled tightly and said, “First we must know where the Eye is. Our employer is most anxious to reap his rewards. As I’m sure you are.”

Forearm almost crushing the air from his throat, the once confident man stuttered, “Yeah, well I don’t have it yet.”

The gun in his ribs dug deeper but Gholson stopped him. “It was my understanding you were contracted to have the key in your possession by this time. Perhaps you didn’t understand the technicalities of your contract concerning failure to produce?”

Wild fear filled his eyes. His mind raced over the different possibilities awaiting him, none of them good. He began to think he’d made a mistake taking this job in the first place. “No, wait man. I can explain. Just give me a little more time and I can get your key and you can have your damned Eye.”

Gholson shook his head sadly and removed his glasses to clean them with a small white cloth. “I am quite afraid it has gone well beyond your ineptitude, Mr. Zilke. You see, in our business there is little room for error. You have failed quite miserably. Our employer doesn’t look kindly on mistakes. The time has come for us to severe our relationship. Edgemeyer escort Zilke to a quiet place outside where we can conclude this matter. I will get in contact with the Fat Man.” He turned back to Zilke. “It is most unfortunate that our dealings didn’t work out. Most unfortunate indeed. Farewell, Mr. Zilke.”

Gholson turned his back on the captive Zilke and let his partner forcibly lead him out the main doors and into the steadily emptying parking docks. What he had in tactical planning he lacked in the dirty work. He didn’t have the stomach for bloodshed. Besides, he was merely the median. Silently wondering just what to tell the Fat Man, Gholson wandered back down the corridor to the concierge desk. They didn’t have the key and didn’t dare go back to Cestus without it. Not unless he wanted to suffer the same fate as Zilke.

Zilke briefly watched the diminutive man amble away before Edgemeyer dragged him roughly outside. He panicked and tried to break free but the wire thin man was stronger than he’d anticipated. His feet seemed lighter as he was dragged away. The cold blast of night air slapped his face, bringing tears to his eyes. His unkempt hair danced across his shoulders. Zilke briefly considered crying out but his experience in the city was enough to know that no one would bother looking. He only had one chance of living to the dawn, and that was slim.

“Mr. Edgemeyer, please,” he begged. Death ticked closer like the great clock erected in Times Square after the 2140 terror attack. A tiny trickle of blood drained from his lip. “Can’t we talk about this? You don’t have to do this.”

Edgemeyer smiled his wicked smile and growled, “No more talk. Gholson didn’t want to hear it and neither do I.”

He dragged Zilke into the shadows behind the main terminal taxi stand and shoved him against the cold metal dumpster. Edgemeyer leveled his blaster. The following scream pierced the night as death rushed in.

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