[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]
ForTexasand Zed by Zach Hughes
Chapter One
"Well, sirs, you swing down the Orion Arm with the fires of a sun in your belly, point out in the plane of
the disc toward Carina and turn right to Puppis. Beacon blink on the RR Lyrae stars near Orion past the
black hole in Taurus. When you see the Beta Canis Majoris on the left you blink on the giant Cepheid on
an angle of thirty-five to the galactic ecliptic to Auriga and after that it's a matter of blinking by the seat of
your pants."
"And, as I follow your rather poetic instructions," said Jum Anguls, First Leader, Ursa Major Sector,
"you end up in nowhere."
"In the big lonesome," Murichon Burns said. "The boonies. The outback."
"Are we wasting the gentleman's time?" asked the lady, with an imperious stare aimed in Murichon's
direction. She wore stylish starcloth, spangled, transparent, her tipped mammaries soft peaks pushing
against the frail material.
Anguls chuckled, crossing his tightly clad, fleshy thighs. "When dealing with provincials—" He winked at
Murichon. "Gwyn has so little patience, you see. They move swiftly on the old Earth."
"To talk in specifics when dealing with honest traders is expected," Gwyn said, forcing her full lips into a
semblance of a smile. Her eyes, in her dark face, were glowing jewels, slanted upward. Her skin had the
richness of satin-deep space, but lighter, tending to creamy brown, the complexion of the mother planet.
In contrast to her, to the white softness of the skin of Jum Anguls, Murichon was reddened, roughed,
weathered. His rough spacecloth, dull blue, against the richness of the others' clothing, seemed rude. Yet
he was at ease while Anguls chewed a fingernail and looked at him askance and the female blinked at him
through force-grown lashes of half an inch length.
"The Republic is not asking for inclusion on the Empire's star maps," Murichon said. "I am here to sell
meat. If you're buying, fine. If not—"
Murichon looked out the huge expanse of window and saw the city below, alive, blinking, moving. Trails
of fire where arcs lit the lanes, flashes of color as ad-signs lured and promised, the movement of traffic at
ten levels, all below, crawling up in whites and reds in the foothills and then abating in density as the
galaxy itself thinned toward home. And as he looked b could imagine, hear in his mind, the din, the roar,
the sigh and moan of millions crowded into small spaces and his heart flew the countless parsecs and
yearned for the Bojacks of Texas, the trackless plains with the grazing herds, the wide sky, the soft
caress of the winds of home.
"We are, of course, buying," Anguls said, "but I think the Lady Gwyn has a point. We do not intend to
take delivery on meacr steaks dehydrated to the point of cured leather or softened to carrion."
"You ate," Murichon said. The table testified to that. He'd grilled the steaks himself, after picking them at
random from the selection he'd brought in on the
Texas Queen
. "Quick-frozen. In transport for
thirty-two standard days—"
"Via Orion and Taurus and the third Cepheid on the left," Lady Gwyn said.
 "I know a shortcut," Murichon grinned. He turned, bellowed. The loud call startled the Lady Gwyn,
causing her to spill a drop of goodRio Grandewine on the tiny skirt of her costume. She frowned,
reached for a napkin. She paused in mid-motion, the spilled wine forgotten, as a tall, young man
appeared in the doorway, tray in hand. He, too, was dressed in space blue. However, it was not his
attire which froze the Lady Gwyn into admiring immobility for a second, and then sent her long lashes
fluttering.
"My son," Murichon said. "He's called Lex."
"Lex," the Lady Gwyn breathed.
Lex himself had not recovered as quickly as Gwyn. His face, already showing the character lines, the
weathering, was flushed, his eyes locked on the area of brown skin showing above the low neckline of
Gwyn's costume.
"Won't you join us?" Jum Anguls said.
Lex looked down from his six foot seven inch height and raised his eyebrows in question toward
Murichon, waiting. When Murichon nodded he moved, saying, "Sure," to place the tray and its steaming
contents at table center and then to swing one long blue-clad leg over a chair and ease his weight down
with a soft thump.
"Your manners, boy," Murichon said.
" 'Scuse me, ma'am," Lex said, not sure what he'd done wrong.
"Now this," Murichon said, "is meacr steak which was frozen sixty days before lift-off. That ages it to
over ninety days."
"My dear fellow," Anguls said, rubbing his distended belly, "I don't know about the appetite of you, what
do you call yourselves?Texasmen?"
"Texicans," Lex said, speaking as he speared a steak on a fork and flopped it onto his plate.
"But the ample size of our previous repast," Anguls said.
"Just a taste," Murichon said.
"Ah, well." Anguls sighed, cut a dainty portion with delicate, long-nailed hands. He lifted the bite to his
lips, after sniffing it, chewed thoughtfully. "The preservation process seems to be quite effective."
Allowing for transshipment to other systems, using your warehouses as a distribution point, you'd have
six months to receive, sell and distribute before there would be any noticeable deterioration in quality,"
Murichon said.
"Sometimes out on the plains we keep it without cooling for a month," Lex said, talking around a
cheekful of meat. "Gets a little ripe—"
"Please," Gwyn said, frowning.
"Course, you can dry it in the sun," Lex said. "Makes it chewy. Keep it all winter that way."
 "As to terms," Anguls said. "As you may or may not know, a minimum of sixty percent of total shipments
would have to be carried in Empire hulls. This is a basic requirement, you know, over which I have no
control. Price? On that I am more flexible."
"Negative," Lex said, putting his fork down with a clatter.
"I'll handle this, boy," Murichon said.
"No Empire ships onTexas," Lex said, his voice cold.
"Will you shut up?" Murichon roared.
"Sorry, Dad, but—"
"But me no buts, just shut up, enjoy the view and eat." He had not missed the fact that his son's eyes
seemed glued to the red-painted nipples of the Lady Gwyn's mammaries. "No Empire hulls," he said,
looking deep into Jum Anguls' watery eyes.
That's what I just said, Dad," Lex said.
"Impossible," Gwyn said, letting her eyes leave Lex's bulging arm biceps for a moment. "Our Space
Guilds would not hear of it."
"Way I hear it," Murichon said, "your Space Guilds are hungry, too. But that's it. You've got the price.
You've got the terms. Delivery on Leader Anguls' site inTexashulls. Payment in acceptable metals. No
paper. No credits."
"Mr. Burns, what you propose is not only impossible, it's absolutely inane," Anguls said, his face serious.
"Are you implying that the coinage of the Empire is not stable?"
"I ain't implying anything," Murichon said. "But we damned sure can't spend Empire paper onTexas." He
rose. "Well, it's been a long day."
The two Empire people, accustomed to long, leisurely meals followed by stimulants, looked up, shocked
by such discourtesy. Gwyn, glancing at the First Leader, saw danger in his face. Quickly she put her hand
on his arm. "We are not dealing with civilized men," she whispered, as they rose together. Anguls
coughed back his anger and nodded.
"I will deliver your terms to our Economic Board," Anguls said. "I do not offer, however, any hope of
their being accepted."
Murichon shrugged. "Cassiopeian metals aren't as good as yours, to be frank, but they aren't slaves to
their Guilds." He yawned massively, not bothering to cover it. "Lex, you wanta show the good folks out?"
"Yeah, in a minute," Lex said, stuffing his mouth, wiping it on the back of his hand, rising while chewing
and swallowing. "You turning in, Dad?"
"It's been a long day, as I said."
"Mind if I go down the hill?" Lex asked, hitching at his low-hanging jeans.
 "Don't want you out raising hell among the civilized folks," Murichon growled. "Like turning a Bojack farl
loose in a flock of meacrs."
Anguls bristled anew. "He'd be quite safe in our city, sir."
"Ain't him I'm worried about," Murichon said.
"Perhaps," the Lady Gwyn said, "your father would feel more at ease if you had a qualified guide."
"You offering?" Murichon asked, his brows lifting to show his steel-blue eyes.
"I'm, uh, offering," she said, smiling toward Lex, who was standing with his hands thrust into his back
pockets.
Murichon roared. "Well!" Anguls sputtered.
"Hell, you got diplomatic immunity, I guess," Murichon said. "Just don't drink anything you wouldn't feed
to a beagle and remember that civilized folks can be breakable." He turned, walked three paces, paused.
"And put on some decent clothes. You want civilized folks to think you're working a meacr dip?"
Left alone, the two Empire citizens felt awkward. They were unaccustomed to being kept waiting.
"Arrogant barbarians," Jum Anguls growled.
"I find them charming," Gwyn said.
"You'd find anything over two inches charming," Anguls said.
"Quality, darling," she said, blinking her long lashes. "Not quantity."
"At least you're thinking," Anguls said. "If anyone can get information out of that big oaf you can."
"Thank you."
"I want the coordinates," Anguls said. "Exact and complete. If they have as many of those animals as
they say—"
"Remember our research team's report, my dear First Leader. By historical fact, all Texicans are
pathological liars when it comes to facts about their country, their possessions, their natural resources."
"Divide it by half and it's worth sending a fleet," Anguls said.
Lex came out buttoning multiple pearl-like studs on a dark wine jacket-shirt which hung past his waist,
loose. His jeans were of shiny silken material, tight at the thighs, flared at the ankles. The Lady Gwyn,
measuring the heroic scale of his body, put her soft hand on his arm, guided him out the doorway onto a
marble balcony with a magnificent overlook. Lex wasn't interested in scenery. His eyes were traveling the
graceful curve of her neck, down to the soft, dark valley between two red-tipped peaks.
Guards sprang to stiff attention, presented arms. An atmospace convertible clanged entry ramp down,
lights glowed from within. Anguls, with a look at the Lady Gwyn, trod regally upward the slight slope and
disappeared within. Guards followed. Escort fighters orbited the larger vessel as it lifted.
 "First," Gwyn said, still hanging onto Lex's arm, "I must go to my villa."
"We gonna do the town, we oughta get started," Lex said.
"Dressed like this?"
"I like it."
"That's sweet." She stood on tiptoe and planted a warm kiss on his cheek. "But you'll like my town
costume, too."
"You don't mind driving, I hope," Lex said as they entered the vehicle provided by the Empire for VIP
guests of the diplomatic villa atop the mountain. "I'm not used to so many people."
Lady Gwyn's villa was also in diplomatic country, a five-minute flight from the guesthouse which housed
theTexasdelegation headed by Murichon Burns. Once there, she surreptitiously punched a signal button
which warned her domestics to stay in their quarters until further notice, escorted Lex into a luxurious
room overlooking the city, filled his big hand with a deceptively mild-tasting concoction.
"Do you really like my costume?" she asked, posing before him, much of Lady Gwyn on display.
"I love it," he said. "Wish I could get one to take home to my girl."
"Is she as heroically formed as you?" Gwyn said.
"If you mean is she bigger than you she is." Hell, all Texas women were bigger. That was a part of her
fascination. She stood no taller, he estimated, than five and a half feet. Her waist was startlingly small.
"If she isn't much larger she could wear this," Gwyn said, pushing the costume down off her shoulders,
doing it slowly, tantalizingly. Lex's eyes got larger as the red-tipped mounds were revealed; then ever
larger as she let the filmy garment drift downward, freeing it from her flaring hips with a seductive wiggle.
She was clean-shaven. From hairline to toe she was of a uniform creamy brown.
She bent her knees, retrieved the garment, put it into his hand. It held her warmth. "Would you give her
this as a gift from me?"
"Sure," Lex said, swallowing. Actually he didn't have a girl, wasn't old enough to claim one of the cozen
or so nubile women in his county. He'd been thinking of buying one of the revealing garments just to
prove to the boys that Empire women wore such things.
The costume had the light, fragile feel of a Texas girl's undergarment. Once, in Dallas City, he'd held
such a garment In his hands with great and breathless anticipation. Once and only once he'd seen a
woman in the gloriously nude state in which the Lady Gwyn stood so casually before him. He felt his
chest constricting. All of the mucous membranes of his body were constricting, all erectile tissue
engorging itself with his hot blood.
The Lady was not oblivious to his interest. With a pulse-pounding grace she moved toward him.
"Darling, do you really want to go into the city?"
Lex swallowed.
  [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]