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So many different planets, he thought as he stepped into the cold air of the landing pad, and so few different worlds.  He had never visited Cynax before, or even seen images of it as far as he could recall, but he felt sure he would be able to navigate through the spaceport blindfolded.  Fifty paces from the landing pad to the customs reception, another thirty to the departure lounge and the passenger mission manifest, and forty beyond that was the entrance to the bar.  Even when the specific layout of the buildings differed, their character - and those of the occupants - did not.  This was the problem with space colonisation - only the wealthy corporations could afford to build a serviceable spaceport and thereby a community on a new planet, and those corporations came from just a handful of different Terran cultures.  Sure there were spaceports inspired by East Asian culture, some borrowing features from various points in Europe, a few graceful offerings from the Middle East, and the generic faceless monstrosities called "Western" - but where were the distinctive styles of Peruvian architecture, the riot of colour found in Kenya or Bangladesh, or the bustle of a Moroccan marketplace?

Only a relative handful of peoples had heard the call of outer space, it seemed.  The others were quite content to remain on Earth, living out their lives as they ever had.  He wondered how much they even knew about the wider galaxy, and how alive they could feel if they would just try to make a clean start of it on a patch of extraterrestrial soil that was entirely theirs and theirs alone.  Virtually anyone could get funding these days, if only they were willing to leave everything but the bare essentials behind.

Sometimes he wondered why he took such displeasure at the monotony he saw through most of his travels.  Perhaps it was purely boredom; but maybe it was not only boredom with his surroundings but with the ease they lent to his profession.  He had long ago learned the usual strategies of a mark going to ground - it was depressing just how many hunts had ended in a spaceport bar.  So perhaps it was his longing for a true and original challenge to his skills that he craved, rather than variety for variety's sake.

The settlement on Cynax was unusually large for a moon, and he unloaded his Wasp for a journey to one of the outlying districts.  There wasn't a chance of his entering a spaceport bar unless he was scouting for a mark; the atmosphere of the place would depress him too much for words.  The only place he was likely to find any kind of culture was out in the lesser-travelled districts, where the people were locals trying to make a living for themselves on their new world.  There he would find bars that had been built by people, not corporations; and, for that matter, ale from the same source.

The Green Rise did not disappoint, and he was settling into his second pint of rich, dark, local ale when he was joined at his table by a small man in his mid-forties.  He sat opposite him, smoothing down the sleeves of his black suit before meeting his gaze.

'I assure you, Mr Faren, the pistol is quite unnecessary.  Though I quite understand if you do not wish to lower it just yet.  I know you are a cautious man.'

'If you know me that well, then you'll know to get straight to the point before I get so cautious that I kill this stranger I just met who could put a name to my face.  I like to go unrecognised.'

'Yes, of course you do.  A man who kills for a living is not always the most welcome of guests.  I merely came to talk to you in a friendly fashion and offer you something in the way of advice, if you are inclined to take it.'

'Why should I take advice from you when I don't even know your name?'

'Oh come now, you know very well that any one of my names is of no importance.  What is important is that I know you are bored, and I know how to relieve that particular misery.  Think of me as a humanitarian, out simply to help a fellow person in need of a gentle nudge in the right direction.'

'I've never needed directions before, stranger.  What makes you think I'd be in need of any now?'

'Because you are stuck in a rut.  You take contract after contract and fulfil them with almost casual ease.  Even the trickiest of marks hardly gives you a chase worthy of your talents any more.  Your reputation is such that the only way it can go, if you continue as you are, is down.  People will inevitably see any contracts as beneath you, and if you take them, you'll start looking washed-up and worn down.  The only way to stop this is to stop.  I recommend retirement, maybe on Orion.'

'And do what, exactly?  Retire a legend and run a bar, swapping stories with my regulars about my years as the Black Wolf, and wait for death?'

'No, that's not exactly what I had in mind.'

'What then?'

In U80, the bounty hunter Black Wolf retired from the trade, and settled in the mountain forests of Orion. He founded a school for mercenaries and bounty hunters, which would become synonymous with professionalism and efficiency in the private military business. The Wolves of Orion was born.

Another in the Unity Chronicles canon, this recounts the events leading to the founding of the Wolves of Orion, a school and union for bounty hunters and other guns-for-hire.

Find out more about the world, characters and stories of the Unity Chronicles at the Ex Nihilo blog [link] .
psychicandroid Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2009
Evening! Don't mind me. I was popping around dA and came upon your story. Hope you don't mind some comments, and I hope that I don't come off as too blunt.

This story has a very good beginning to it. You introduce the character's boredom with his surroundings quite well with the opening. I like the style you use in your exposition. I would have liked to see more of an introduction to the character here though. Maybe at least flat out stating his profession instead of dancing around it.

However, things get confusing when he has moved from the port to the local bar. I wasn't really all that aware of the transition when it happened. You seem to have dropped narrative all together in favor of dialogue. It's good dialogue but a little hard to follow as I'm not so sure who is speaking.

Perhaps if you mix in some narrative with the speaking to set the scene a little better it will help. What does the man accosting the Black Wolf look like? Are they armed? What does the bar look like? What is the black wolf's manner? Is it relaxed, tense? I can see this conversation continuing a while between these two men, and perhaps not starting with an immediate drawing of weapons.

In any case... Keep it up, and I hope I helped a bit.
Darkwinterthorn Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2009
Thanks very much! It really is valuable to receive actual constructive criticism, and I agree with much of what you're saying. The whole narrative dialogue thing is something I do need to work on, I'm aware. I don't think I'd want to change the approach to his profession, that's just a style I like to use - suggestion rather than outright statement of fact. I also see Faren as exactly the kind of guy who would have a pistol surreptitiously ready to fire as soon as a stranger sat at his table. I perhaps need to be more explicit about the subtlety of the act and how unusual it is that the other man noticed it.

Thanks again for the comments, I hope you'll return sometime to keep up with my progress!
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