Y

ou ever hear of this ATW missile?” Frakes asked as he crouched in front of a cabinet and grabbed a handful of single shot servings of vodka and whiskey. “I didn’t understand a single fucking word that chick was saying.”

Miller didn’t answer. He sat in one of the soft leather seats, his Jaff across his lap. He watched Frakes stuff the bottles into a pocket on the leg of his fatigues and retrieve another, unscrewing its cap as he fell back into the seat opposite his.

“I’m thinking I’ll take the lead once we board their machine,” Frakes said before tilting the bottle back and letting it drain into his throat. “Skrine will back me up. You and your tracker can clear the ship while I find the two targets.” Frakes pulled his data scribe out of his vest and flipped it on. He stared at the screen and laughed. “Man, these fuckers look like dogs. Common fucking curs.”

“Listen,” Miller said slowly. “If we disable the Speeder, which is a big if, all of us will sweep the machine. I’ll tell you how we’re going to do it when the time comes. You’ve never been on a Speeder, I have.” The bounty hunter turned his head and looked out the window. It was severe clear, not a cloud in the sky.

“Is that right?” Frakes said, hiking one of his boots up into the plush seat. “The veteran is taking over.” The younger bounty hunter stared at Miller a couple of seconds. “Your reputation has faded, Miller. You did kill a top ten mutant, but that was from the old list. No, wait.” Frakes tilted his head up. “You did take down that RUC in New York. I forgot about that. But the thing was frog-brained, right? Not much of a challenge, I’d think.”

“Your point?” Miller asked. He stood his Jaff on its end and wedged its cylindrical barrel between the seats.

“My point is,” Frakes said, his head still cocked. “That shit don’t mean nothing anymore. That tattoo on your arm, that piece of shit shock weapon, that fucking inbred you call a tracker. You had your day. Starling made me lead for this mission. It’s a young man’s game now. You need to accept that. Nothing personal.”

Miller couldn’t help it; he laughed. “I’m thirty-six” he said.

“Fuck you,” Frakes said, slowly moving his head back into a more normal position. “That doesn’t change the fact Starling put me in charge.”

“No, he didn’t,” Miller said. “Run the conversation back through your head, if you’re able. He didn’t say who was lead and I don’t give a shit what you think you heard. Here’s the deal, and I’m only going to say it once.” Miller slid to the edge of his seat and leaned toward the younger man. “I’m not going to let you fuck this up like you did back in Wacheetah Springs. You’re drunk, and I mean you’re drunk right now. We’re launching in less than an hour. If we’re lucky enough to board the Speeder, I know how it’s laid out.” And he didn’t know why, but Miller added one of Treadlow’s antiquated words, “Savvy?”

Frakes swallowed. Perspiration had formed across his forehead. His smug arrogance had been replaced by anger. “Man, Starling’s got you by the balls, doesn’t he?” he said, staring snake-eyed at the older bounty hunter. “He’s probably banging that slut of yours as we speak.”

Miller’s hand was a blur as he grabbed his combat blade. Then he was on Frakes. His knee jammed hard into the man’s chest and he pressed the younger bounty hunter’s head against the oval window of the aircraft with his left forearm. His right hand held the edge of the knife against Frakes’ throat. Oddly, Frakes’ head was in the same theatrical position it had been in a minute earlier.

Several seconds of silence passed before Miller moved his face close to Frakes’ and said, “You bring the woman up again and I’ll cut your fucking eyes out.”

THE SKIN BAGS