On Neb-6, only the strong survive. When a band of inhuman assassins comes after Colt and his bounty- hunting femme-fatales, Jenna and Brem, they set in motion events that will shape Colt's destiny for years to come, if he lives long enough, anyway. Forced to leave the warm desert sands of his home, the Crow's Nest, Colt must brave the brutal, arctic conditions of Geleira, Neb-6's southern polar continent. Only there can he learn who the assassins are and why they want Colt dead. As the mystery unravels, Colt discovers something older, colder, and far more deadly than arctic-born, feline assassins. Evil lurks beneath the rocks and ice of Geleira, and it wants all of humanity destroyed.
"A fun, inspiring read reminiscent of Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert E. Howard. John Carter and Dejah Thoris on steroids!"– Amazon Review
"Quincy has done it again! Another stellar novel! From the moment you read the first page you are transported and mesmerized by the characters. I appreciated the twists and suspense."– Amazon Review
Bloody Back Seat
A hot, white sun beat down on Colt's head as desert wind blew through a thick shock of black hair, tossing his long braid back and forth like the Devil's tail. A spot of shadow caught Colt's eye as he guided his precious Fireball 57 hover car across an open plain. Dreading the question he knew was coming—again—he contemplated the dark speck of a corvox drifting on hot air currents high above. He wondered what prey might be caught in the steely gaze of its four, blood-red eyes … hunter seeking prey … and when it might tuck crimson wings and dive towards the hot sands beneath.
Please don't ask me again.
The thought slipped into Colt's reverie, but he pushed it aside, preferring to contemplate the nature of predators and prey on Neb‑6 … and in the Badlands … and in Colt's life … and the two women who rode with him, for that matter.
Such, also, was the way of their passenger, who had been a predator in his own right but was now their prey.
Life on Neb‑6 was one continuous cycle of hunters and prey, one seeking the other—and in all cases, the rule was stay strong or die.
"C'mon, Colt," Jenna soothed in her sexiest, give-me-what-I-want voice. She ran a finger seductively along Colt's forearm. "Le'me kill him!" In the brightening sunrise, she turned in the front seat of the Fireball 57, winked once at Brem sitting right behind her, and stared at the prisoner behind Colt with murder in her eyes.
There it is, Colt thought, shaking his head.
They cruised across the sand, Colt at the wheel, a plume of dust rising behind them and the Crow's Nest waiting for them on the other side of the deep, twisting canyons of the Badlands. Wind blasted over the open cockpit, tossing Jenna's wavy blonde curls and Brem's black ponytail around like crazed serpents. The wind made it hard to hear, but not hard enough for Colt to pretend he hadn't heard her request. Again. For the third time.
His eyes slid sideways, his head barely turning, and he gave her The Look—the one used when someone was stepping on his very last nerve. Jenna spotted it and pressed her lips into a thin line, going quiet, but she couldn't keep just the hint of a smile from turning up the corners of her mouth. Jenna could play the coquettish vixen as easily as she could a hard-hitting killer, and it had cost many a mark his life. She also knew when she was pushing her luck, but that rarely stopped or even slowed her down, for that matter.
Colt sighed. At least he got to eyeball her cleavage every time she asked. It was a welcome distraction from the dry, barren desert that surrounded them. Jenna's shapely figure stretched the seams of her favorite, red bodysuit, although the word bodysuit was being a bit generous. The fabric was a standard combat fiber, but there were plenty of bare spots at shoulder, belly, arm, and thigh, exposing her delicate, tan flesh. Thigh-high, black boots completed what she laughingly referred to as her business suit—her business, of course, the same as Colt's: Bounty Hunter.
Pulling one of her Kodiak pistols, Jenna eyed their bloody, soot-covered prisoner through her goggles and checked her weapon's load. With a sickly-sweet smile that had more venom than a full-grown, two-tailed mandinga, she said, "I'll even clean up the mess."
Colt sighed again, wishing Jenna would let up. He shifted the cigar sticking out the corner of his mouth. Their prisoner was a particularly nasty piece of work named Bixxer. The slimeball was in what remained of his "going out" clothes—a black shirt, white cargo pants, red suspenders. The icing on this particular flavor cake: a red, plastic jockstrap on the outside of his pants, and the damn thing had a white bullseye painted on it. He'd originally worn black combat boots, but Colt had cut them off Bixxer's feet with his blade Tusk—even nicked him a few times in the process. Colt didn't want the guy running far if he leapt out of the vehicle. As an additional precaution, Bixxer's hands were cuffed behind him.
Bixxer leaned forward in the backseat, blood dripping from a nasty scalp wound Jenna had given him during his capture. She might—just might—have tried to take his head off with Dozer, her bash axe, despite Colt's warnings that they needed the scumbag alive. Of course, she'd sworn up and down that it was an accident, but Colt suspected otherwise. He knew her temper better than anyone—still living, that is.
Droplets of Bixxer's blood plopped and patted as they hit the metal floor, forming a pool around his bare feet. He almost gleefully returned Jenna's venom with a vicious glare, despite his situation. He hawked up another bloody loogie and spat it onto the floor. Colt scowled and shook his head, cursing under his breath. At least Bixxer hadn't spat on the back of his head again. Bixxer had done that once … just once.
In return, Colt had taken the butt of Tusk and knocked out four of Bixxer's teeth. When he'd asked, "Do we need to establish any more boundaries?" Bixxer stayed quiet and took to using the floor. It wasn't the best arrangement, Colt had to admit, but he wasn't going to complain … he had punched Bixxer in the gut a few times more than was entirely necessary during the capture. The little guy was probably bleeding internally, not that Colt felt bad about it. Besides, what was a little blood on the floor at this point?
The Fireball had already needed a number of repairs after the Blast Furnace race. But after Bixxer's capture—and Jenna's enthusiasm—the hover car needed a complete overhaul, some lifter repairs, and a shit-ton of bodywork. Hosing out the blood-soaked interior was nothing by comparison.
Colt also had a good idea of the circus of pain Magnum—Colt's long-time mentor and friend—had planned for this particular bounty once they handed him over. In his head, Colt warmed his hands at that particularly fiery thought every time Bixxer spat.
"Please?" Jenna practically whined, cocking her Kodiak. She nestled up against Colt, placing her head on his shoulder and batting her eyes. She was really playing it up, and it did get a smile out of him—one he tried desperately to hide.
Jenna had been up Colt's ass all night about wanting to waste their prisoner, and the sooner Bixxer was in Magnum's hands, the better. Colt was tired, bruised, scorched, and in a generally foul mood. He could however understand Jenna's desire to kill the piece of filth sitting in the backseat. Colt wanted to take Bixxer out into the Frying Pan eighty kilometers south, gut him, and let the local wildlife feast on the guy's entrails while his screams excited the more carnivorous fauna.
"The answer is the same as it was five minutes ago," he replied, shouting over the wind, "we need the money!" He shook his head and looked in the rearview mirror again, hoping Magnum wasn't too far behind. It bothered him that they were as strapped for cash as they were. Normally, he didn't give a damn about the money coming in, so long as the bounties they accepted were solid and paid upon delivery. Under normal circumstances, and even though Colt would never admit it, he would have tracked down Bixxer and handed him over to Magnum for free. He would have even let Jenna put a bullet in each of Bixxer's eyes for what the bastard had done.
But things had gotten tight, lately.
As they entered a straightaway in the canyons, he turned to her. "You willing to pay me thirty thousand argentums for the privilege?" he asked, raising an eyebrow. "Because that's what it's gonna cost us if you pop the son-of-a-bitch. I hate to say it, but we've been spending lots on equipment, upgrades to the Crow's nest, guns, ammo, booze. Too many argentums going out and too few coming in, you know?" He gave her a resolved look. "I gotta keep this outfit in the green, and thirty thousand argentums is thirty thousand argentums."
"No," she replied sheepishly. "You know I don't have that kind of money. None of us do. Not right now, anyway."
"Exactly. So, stop asking," he said tiredly. He shook his head. Colt rolled his eyes and stared out at the bleached bones of a giant, snake-like ubelisk that broke the slow rise of a nearby ridge. Finally, looking at Jenna, he said, "I mean, how many times do I have to say it? Magnum wants this scumbag in one piece and still breathing." He raised an eyebrow of his soot-covered face and stared at her. "Fifty thousand alive but only twenty thousand dead." He gave her a sideways glance. "Remember? Magnum wants him to pay …" Colt flicked his eyes to the rearview mirror and fixed Bixxer with a steely glare, "… and pay slowly for what he did. And I need to buy parts for the Fireball. This thing is a wreck!" He ran his hand affectionately across the dashboard. "She took a beating during and a pounding after the race. You tossing that grenade didn't help matters, either!"
Colt was more pissed off about the additional damage she'd caused than he was at almost getting blown up. The Fireball was one of his most prized possessions, and Jenna knew it. She looked suitably mollified and tried not to stare at Colt's face. The soot coating both men was a direct result of her propensity for solving her problems with explosives. She had a long history of blowing things up and asking questions later.
Jenna turned and crossed her arms in defeat, a grumpy frown marring her beautiful features.
Grateful for a respite, Colt focused back on the road. It was all supposed to have been an easy job … and easier money. Immediately after the Blast Furnace race, Magnum had come to Colt with a bounty. He needed Colt and the ladies to track down Bixxer for the murder of eight women at a brothel, one of whom was a distant relative of Magnum's.
Colt took the job, of course. He almost never turned down a job for that kind of money. So, instead of celebrating their victory at the races, Colt, Jenna, and Brem asked around. It didn't take long before they got a break. Bixxer, apparently, had a taste for the races and women. They found him pretty much by accident, tracking him to a nearby brothel. There was a chase … and a running gun battle through a warm desert night … and even more damage to the Fireball. When Colt finally ran Bixxer's hover car off the road, Jenna tossed a grenade just as Colt leapt on top of Bixxer's car.
The blast had singed Colt's favorite, black leather tactical vest, scorched his desert camo pants, and covered his rugged face and muscular arms in a thick layer of soot. Even his long, dark ponytail had taken a bit of a beating. If he hadn't been wearing his goggles, he might have been blinded, perhaps permanently. Colt's face still stung at the memory of the damn thing going off.
He glanced at Brem, but she simply stared back with that passionless expression she usually wore as she took in his blackened face. Brem, goggles propped up on her forehead, was in a long, full-body tactical suit of tough fabric that highlighted every curve and crevasse. Her pale, olive skin, born of a distant Portuguese heritage, glowed next to the bodysuit, and he did see a faint glint in almond-shaped eyes descended from bushido warriors of old. Obviously, she found the whole thing as funny as Jenna did. She was just more composed about it.
Suddenly, Jenna got a wicked smile on her face. "Colt?"
"What is it?" he replied warily.
"What if I just shot him in the crotch?" she asked hopefully. She lowered the barrel a few degrees and lined up on the ridiculous red jockstrap of Bixxer's that Colt had to admit literally begged for a bullet.
Colt guided them through a long straightaway, so he turned his head slowly. Jenna raised her eyebrows and gave him her most innocent smile. Then he craned his neck to look at Bixxer. He had to admit, the terrified look on Bixxer's face was satisfying—satisfying enough for Colt to really think about letting her take the shot. When he hesitated, the hope in Jenna's eyes grew.
He had to smile and shake his head. She truly was a bloodthirsty woman … and a competent killer. She had a line of corpses behind her a mile long, made up of people who had pissed off the wrong woman. Colt loved her, and not simply because she was a badass bounty hunter … or because she was a full-on hottie. Jenna was special. So was Brem, for that matter. Hell, he loved them both, and for a lot of the same reasons.
The three of them had something special. He'd move heaven and earth to keep them safe … not that those two particular women needed much help. They were kicking ass and taking names long before they met him. The three had just discovered a chemistry none of them wanted to deny.
Colt pondered his dilemma. He wanted to hear the prisoner squeal, but the pool of blood he knew was collecting under Bixxer's feet gave him pause. The guy had already lost quite a bit, and a crotch-shot would surely cause him to bleed out … not to mention putting yet another BIG hole in the Fireball. A Kodiak round would go through Bixxer's crotch, through the seat, and into the bodywork, frame, or a grav-gyro, requiring ever more repairs. It was the thought of handing a bloody corpse over to Magnum that really stuck in Colt's head, though. There was no easy way to explain a direct crotch shot—especially in the back seat. And they desperately needed the money. The Fireball was in bad shape, and the motor coughed a few times to emphasize the point. TK, the team's mechanic, was going to throw a fit when Colt pulled into the garage.
He shook his head and turned his eyes back to the road. "I said no, dammit!" he barked irritably.
The comm set on the dash sparked up. "Magnum to Crow's Nest … Magnum to Crow's Nest … Colt, you there, buddy?" The man sounded anxious—not anxious as in worried, but anxious like a predator desperate to sink its claws into prey.
Colt nodded for Jenna to take the comm.
She turned, holstered the Kodiak, and picked up the handset. "This is Jenna, Magnum," she shouted over the wind. "And we're still in the car. We're almost to the Crow's Nest, now."
"We're not too far behind you, then. Do you still have Bixxer?" Magnum raised his voice too. The question was a fair one. There had been a few situations where Colt had said they'd captured a bounty and ended up losing it before Magnum got what he wanted and the team got paid. Not often, of course, but enough times to warrant Magnum's concern. That was another reason Colt didn't want to grant Jenna her wish. The bounty business was a hard one, and things didn't always work out like they planned. Magnum clearly wanted Bixxer bad.
"Affirmative," Jenna said evenly. Colt rolled his eyes at how innocent she sounded. "The package is in hand.… We're all looking at him now."
"Excellent!" Magnum replied with a palpable hunger. "And is that scumbag still drawing breath?"
Colt smiled. Same old Magnum, he thought.
"He surely is," Jenna replied coolly. "And not too much the worse for wear," she added, prompting a chuckle from Colt.
"Even better!" Magnum replied. "Let him know that I have an entire week set aside to teach him a lesson in pain and suffering for what he did to Sharrie."
Colt smiled again, but Jenna looked dejected. She did have a hard-on for ending Bixxer. Colt knew she took any attack on a woman as a personal affront, no matter who the victim was. He'd seen her butcher a man once for just hitting a woman. Truth be told, Jenna had only beaten Colt to the punch … literally.
"He can hear you," Jenna said.
"You just made my day!" Magnum cheered. "We'll see you shortly."
"Roger that," Jenna replied. "We're about to hit the canyons." While the Fireball was in the canyons, communication would be spotty at best, and Magnum knew it. She switched off the comm and turned around to eye Bixxer again. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted several vehicles coming around a stone pillar out in the desert about a kilometer away. They angled hard and seemed to accelerate.
"Hey!" Jenna said, pointing. "There they are!" She waved just as the Fireball entered the canyons and deep shadows therein.
"Good," Colt said, glancing back quickly. "Now maybe you'll stop asking to kill Bixxer."
"Not likely," Jenna said, slapping Colt's thigh affectionately, but she didn't ask again. She knew her window of opportunity had passed.
Now that they were in the canyons, Colt eased up on the throttle, gliding around the curves as they navigated the narrow road leading up to the Crow's Nest. The sun peeked out over the edge of the canyon walls above from time to time, turning it into a rather pleasant drive, despite the coughing motor and Colt's aching body. Brem watched the walls go by, and even Jenna seemed to relax.
The sound of multiple vehicles echoing in the canyon behind drew his eyes to the rearview mirror again. He spotted a pair of four-wheeled runabouts, three armored hover cars, and a couple of large, bulky landsleds as the convoy came around a bend. "Hey, look!" he said, thinking it odd that Magnum had brought so many men. "Magnum caught up with—" His voice drifted away as he watched a guy in the front runabout raise a rifle and point it at the Fireball. "—us.…"
"Colt?" Jenna asked, suddenly worried. She turned, and her eyes went wide.
"Hang on!" Colt shouted. He instinctively pushed Jenna down with one hand, swerved hard to the left, and hammered the gas. The engine sputtered once and roared to life as a bullet ZZWIPPED past Colt's ear, drilled the rearview mirror, and starred the windshield. "God dammit!" he shouted. "Everybody down! We've got company! … A lot of it!"