The inconveniences started, as they so often do, with a woman. Not in a
sappy, romantic adventure sort of way; but in that specific manner that
always seems to follow the introduction of two people who, for better or
worse, were going to be stuck with each other for a good long while.
That the person in question was a woman, it could be posited, was
entirely irrelevant. But it was a woman nonetheless, and no one could
deny the inconveniences started with her.
She stood exactly five foot seven, with short, dark hair worn in a
fashionable pixie cut with a single magenta stripe in the front,
obviously done by a professional. She was just on the lean side of
curvy, but with taut thighs and a hint of definition in the muscles of
her shoulders and arms. The shape and tone reminded Roland of a
dancer’s body. It was the body of someone who took care of her health
and fitness without getting obsessed with it. He decided it was a good
Roland approved of the look, in the style of banal acknowledgement that
the males of the species were inclined to bestow upon the females,
entirely unencumbered by the females’ complete and utter disinterest
in such. Roland had grown accustomed to the disinterest of women, so his
approval went unvocalized and subsequently unacknowledged. This was
probably for the best since Roland was not the kind of man women wanted
any kind of acknowledgement from. Most people were happier if Roland did
not acknowledge them at all. So was Roland. It was a system that worked
Other than her general good looks, there were other reasons to keep an
eye on the girl… no… woman as she entered the room. Roland adjusted
his estimation of her age to mid-thirties as her face caught the dim
light near the bar. Pretty face, too, he acknowledged. Not that it
No, she commanded the eye for reasons other than attractiveness. First
among the interesting phenomena was her presence here at all. This was a
spacer’s bar; located one long block from Farragut Shipping’s main
platform. Arguably cleaner than most Dockside watering holes to be sure,
but the furniture and décor were showing their age. As were many of the
patrons, for that matter. The lights burned dim and yellow, and both
music and clientele leaned towards the ‘loud’ and ‘old’ ends of
the spectrum for either. The bar, a long hardwood affair at the back of
the room, had more gouges than grain left in it. Coincidentally, this is
how an astute observer might have described the bartender as well.
The uniqueness of the surroundings and the patrons meant no one came
here except longshoremen, spacers, pimps, thieves, and whores. She did
not belong to any of those groups, Roland was sure. Her clothes appeared
nice and fashionable, but also practical. She wore tight blue pants with
black leather boots that rose to just below the knee, with a wide belt
trimmed to match the leather of her footwear. A black shirt made of some
style of shimmery material that looked comfortable and durable covered
her upper body. It had no sleeves and had been tailored snug against her
body. Not sleazy-snug… more like… fitted. It was a garment for
practical purposes, and it looked well made. She carried a small bag
over one shoulder. Black, and about eight square inches in size, it
sported a simple silver button at the flap. Everything about her
screamed “Upper-class socialite.” Which made her a very strange
addition to the current cohort of Dockside lowlifes and ambitious street
scum who liked this bar. “The Smoking Wreck” wasn’t just a wry
turn of phrase; it was truth in advertising.
Second, she moved funny. She was twitchy as if hopped up on chemical
speed or perhaps neurologically augmented. This might make her presence
more à propos, but her eyes were clear and there was no sign of ataxia
or shuffling. When she spoke to the bartender, her voice was a sure,
unshaken alto that neither stammered nor slurred. To Roland’s
practiced eye, she didn’t look like she was on anything. But every
move she made had the aspect of an old film reel run at a speed just a
little faster than it should have been. The woman walked too fast. She
talked too fast. Her hands darted like striking cobras with even the
most basic movements. The effect appeared subtle, but consistent. Roland
doubted anyone but he had even noticed it.
The last thing keeping Roland’s attention on the girl was what she
said to the bartender. It started innocuous enough, and Roland could
hear it quite well despite the noisy bar.
“I’m trying to find someone. I was told he would be here.”
The animated mass of tanned leather and scars that served as bartender
was an old war veteran named Marty Mudd. He had been slinging
watered-down gin in this dive for twenty years, and he knew better than
to give a straight answer, “Lots of people come here, doll. Don’t
really know every one of ’em. Lot of ’em come here hoping to not be
found, if you know what I mean.” He looked left and right in an
exaggerated caricature of clandestine chicanery, “Not sure it’d be
good business if I started acting contrary to their wishes.” He winked
an overly conspiratorial wink at her. His bushy eyebrows and shock of
unruly white hair made it a very comical gesture, indeed.
Roland smiled in quiet approval. Marty was good people. Marty had
stepped off the dock still in his uniform, walked into this bar and took
a job sweeping the floor. Sixteen years later he bought the place.
Smart, friendly, and tough as tungsten, he proved to be a man Roland
liked very much. This made Marty special in a world full of people
Roland didn’t like at all. The feeling was mutual. Marty liked Roland
as much as Marty could like anyone. Roland wasn’t big on ‘friends’
in the classical sense; but he and Marty had history.
The two old soldiers enjoyed a professional arrangement as well: Roland
took care of Marty when Marty needed his particular kind of help, and
Marty did not charge Roland for every single drink he consumed. Marty
also helped ensure that Roland’s privacy remained sacrosanct and
unmolested by too much unvetted scrutiny. Truthfully, a lot of the
people in Dockside helped with Roland’s desire for privacy. Docksiders
liked having Roland around because Roland kept problems away, and in
exchange the folks respected his privacy. Which of course, is another
reason the woman at the bar needed watching. Unfortunately for all of
them, the next words she uttered were a big ’ol heap of problem.
“I’m supposed to say the word ‘breach’ to you. Does that mean
anything?” A hint of desperation tinged the edge of her question.
Marty flinched in surprise, and he could not help but blink and cast a
glance back over the high-top tables and across the dimly lit booths. It
carried all the way to a dark corner of the room deep in the back. She
caught the look and whipped her head to the left, and Roland knew she
could not help but see him seated in the corner booth.
He stared vehemently down at the table and his empty beer glass. His
mind swam in a frenetic crossfire of desperate thoughts, all of them
pushing the same agenda.
Marty held up his hands in mock surrender and gave Roland a look of
abject apology. Roland heaved a mighty sigh and waved the woman over.
The packed bar was loud with drunken conversations and bad rock-and-roll
coming from the ancient music machine in the corner. A few of the locals
stopped to stare at the attractive woman in the nice clothes supremely
out-of-place in their happy little slice of hell. But as she passed
through the dive bar and got to Roland’s table, they made it a
conspicuous point to look at something else. Another reason Roland liked
this bar: People knew to mind their damn business here. The woman sat
down in her nervous, twitchy way. She snapped her head left and right to
check her surroundings, and Roland started in before she could get a
“Who told you to use that word here?” Though phrased as a question,
Roland took for granted most people understood that he did not simply
‘ask questions.’ What he had meant was, “Tell me who told you to
use that word here. Now.” Clever people rapidly figured out that his
veneer of politeness was merely a courtesy. He was a brusque guy, and he
liked it that way.
She responded, “My father. He said to come find you and to call you
‘Breach’ if you didn’t trust me.”
“Yeah well, I don’t trust you, and using that word doesn’t
necessarily mean you are trustworthy. Who is your father?”
“My name is Lucia Ribiero. My father is Donald Ribiero.”
Roland could only think of one thing to say, “Well. Shit.” This
information changed everything.
She went on, “My father said he knew you from the Army, and if I ever
got into trouble to find you here and say that word.”
“And you’re in trouble?”
“Yes.” There was grim finality in that lonely syllable.
“The kind of trouble your father thinks I can help you with?”
“I hope so,” she shrugged weakly.
“Did your father say I’d help you?”
“He said if you didn’t help me, it was because you really were a
soulless bastard and the only part of you worth a shit leaked out of you
onto some off-world battlefield decades ago. He said you owed him, and
even though you were going to act like a complete asshole you actually
were a very nice man and just didn’t want anyone to know.” She
Roland cocked an eyebrow, “He said all that, huh?”
“I’m paraphrasing. There were more swear words and some yelling I
couldn’t make out,” she shrugged. Roland had to admit that sounded a
lot like the Don Ribiero he remembered.
“He talked about you a lot when I was growing up. Mostly when he drank
too much. He said you were solid.” She spoke more quietly now. She
sounded sad and scared at the same time.
Roland sighed, “You don’t know the half of it, lady. You need to
know every bad thing he ever said about me is true, and the good things
are likely exaggerated.”
“He only ever said good things about you.”
“Then he lied. But yes, I knew Don Ribiero, and yes, I owe him.”
Roland rubbed his eyes wearily, “And the best part of me absolutely
has leaked out onto some off-world battlefield, for the record. But
I’ll listen to your story, anyway. No guarantees on what I can do for
Lucia never got the chance to tell her story though. The doors to the
bar chose that moment to open with a melodramatic bang; and four men
strode in. These did not look like spacers or longshoremen either.
This group was a study in clichés: Four big goons each wearing tailored
gray suits having all they could do to contain musculature one could
only describe as ‘excessive.’ They sported identical crew cuts with
suspicious bulges under their arms, and they scanned the room’s
occupants with curt, professional efficiency. Their practiced and
tactical positioning upon entering pegged them as high-quality hired
muscle of some sort or another the moment Roland saw them.
The whole aesthetic appeared deliberate, and it made their intentions
transparent to anyone with a three-digit IQ. Five newcomers from the
right side of town in this dive on a Friday night was not a coincidence.
Roland did not believe in coincidences under the best of circumstances
and he did not believe one out-of-place rich girl and a squad of armed
goons would all come to this Dockside bar at the same time for the beer
The men were pros, it was obvious. They could not be local talent,
either. Roland was familiar with all the local talent personally. But he
would have bet a month’s pay they were here for a certain
now-terrified woman sitting across from him. That much was obvious, too.
Roland weighed his options as the four newcomers moved quickly and
professionally through the bar. It did not take a tactical genius to
ascertain that he really had none.
True to their irascible nature, the patrons of The Smoking Wreck made
all tactical considerations moot when, with their customary pugnacity,
they rebuffed the inquiries of the men in gray suits.
One of the regulars, John Rikker, worked as a professional sled driver
for Farragut for forty hours a week, and liked to moonlight as an
amateur tough guy the rest of the time. He took pride in being a big
strong man from a hard part of town. He had so many rough edges,
referring to him as a ‘troublemaker’ could only cover the most
superficial aspects of his personality. John Rikker, Roland conceded,
was an asshole on a very fundamental level. More importantly, he was not
a man who suffered the rudeness of outsiders gladly or with grace.
He clearly took exception to the demeanor of the pushy, well-dressed
invaders. So, in true Dockside fashion, he invited them to engage in an
anatomically improbable and certainly uncomfortable sex act with several
different inanimate objects. It was too impressive a bit of vulgar
eloquence to have been extemporaneous. Roland assumed that John had
practiced the insult ahead of time in preparation for the joyful day he
could unleash it upon some unsuspecting joker. This was John’s big
moment, and he got his jaw busted for the trouble.
The quickness with which the lead goon blasted poor John in the head
with a right hook was beyond impressive. This set Roland’s jaw a
little. It was beyond human. Superhuman speed meant one of two things:
Either he had his neural and physical capabilities boosted through
drugs, or he was physically augmented. Both were bad, the second one
very bad. Knowing Don Ribiero was mixed up in whatever this mess was
meant it very likely leaned strongly toward the ‘very bad.’ Roland
realized he needed answers, and he only knew one way to get them. He
spared a longing look for his empty beer glass and sighed. So much for a
relaxing Friday night.
“Stay down,” he ordered curtly. Then he got moving.
Excerpted from "Ordnance (The Fixer Book 1)" by Andrew Vaillencourt. Copyright © 2017 by Andrew Vaillencourt. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.