The crack of Mai’s pistol rang loud in Aaron’s ears. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the shot rip though the air between the struts of the railing.
Aaron stood frozen, not sure of what he’d seen happen just then. Mai had shot Jay, and yet…
One hand on the top of his straw hat, holding it firmly on his head, Jay crouched on the railing, just above where he’d originally been sitting. His other hand held onto the railing as the wind pulled at his shirt and hat.
Aaron had barely seen him move when Mai had pulled the trigger. It was a mere instant before the weapon had fired, but he’d grabbed the railing above his head, kicked off the deck with his feet and swung up onto it before the shot had even reached him. It had all happened within the blink of an eye.
It wasn’t his speed that surprised Aaron, though, it was the fact that he hadn’t expecting someone other than Mai and himself to move like that.
Mai hadn’t been expecting it either. Her eyes went wide and she corrected her aim and pulled the trigger again. The crack of the weapon made Aaron blink, but he’d caught the sudden tension in the man’s muscles and the shot ripped through the air where Jay had been.
Jay’s foot hit the deck with light thump as he lunged forward, having dodged under the shot and toward Mai herself.
She’d seen his move as well and countered, firing off another shot before he could get closer.
Jay dodged out of the way in a blur of motion and the shot struck the wood railing behind him and exploded in a flash of light and heat. Shards of wood rained from the small explosion and it scattered the grocery bags sitting nearby.
“That I was not expecting,” said Jay. He was standing off to the side, looking back at the hole in the railing and the deck of the ship, one hand still holding his hat firm on his head.
The weight of what was happening fell on Aaron in that instant and he clenched his teeth, his muscles tensing.
“Katha!” Mai called, squeezing the trigger again.
Jay’s head whipped around and he dropped down at the last instant, dodging under the shot. Katha was already lunging for him though. He toppled backward with the large cat, as it landed on him. It was a ruse, though, and as the animal’s weight came down, he rolled, pressing his shoulders to the decking and kicking up with enough force to flip the cat off of him and send it flying across the deck where it hit the railing.
He flipped himself upright as Aaron lunged.
Moving with his own incredible speed, Aaron closed the distance between him and Mai, grabbing the steaming barrel of her pistol with his bare hand. The heat scalded his palm, but he didn’t care. She caught his movement out of the corner of her eye, as his leg came up and around at her. Releasing the grip of her weapon she blocked his kick with her hands, sliding back a meter with the sheer force from it.
She stood, legs apart, hands at the ready, eyes narrowed as she glared at him.
Aaron, teeth clenched stared back at her, matching her gaze. “My. Ship,” he growled between his teeth.
“Aaron Black-Heart! What the hell are you doing?!” she snapped at him.
He replied, his voice dead serious, “Stopping you.”
“Do you know who he is?! That man is Jayko Troven! He is to be captured or killed on sight!”
“I don’t care. He’s a passenger on my ship—you are not.”
“Call off your cat and stand down.”
“Or I’ll make you.” He could feel the presence in the back of his mind tingling. It was there and ready to assert itself if he lost concentration. He knew it would, if he gave it the chance.
Slowly Mai, lowered her hands and relaxed her stance. “Fine.”
Aaron turned toward Jay standing behind him. The man was completely calm, as if he’d never been fighting or moving at speeds most humans weren’t even capable of seeing.
“And you. Sit. Down.”
Jay raised his hands in a defensive gesture and backed toward the railing at the edge of the deck and lowered himself into a cross-legged position.
Aaron slowly released his grip on the weapon’s barrel. The palm of his hand hurt, scalded by the hot metal. He took Mai’s pistol in his other hand holding it by the grip. “Now talk. Are Jayko Troven?”
“Yes,” said Jay in all seriousness. “Or I was.”
A dead man… like me…
“The same Jayko Troven who took part in the TechCorp War more than a generation ago as well as others afterward? The man wanted by many for actions that have changed the fate of this galaxy? The legend, considered to be immortal?”
Jay took his straw hat off and picked a stray wood shard from the weave. “I wouldn’t go that far, but yes, I took part in the TechCorp War. As for being immortal, I’ve got a few greying hairs, but I’m fairly certain I’m not immortal. That’d be just too boring.”
Aaron studied Jay for a moment. The man was being truthful. It was impossible. But then, in his old line of work, he’d seen many things that he used to consider impossible. There was one question that pushed through the other questions crowding his thoughts at that moment.
“Why are you here, on this planet?”
Jay looked up at him thoughtfully, his short, bright-red hair blowing lazily about in the wind. “Same reason you are. I wanted to get away.”