The Detective (The Galactic Football League Novellas)Scott Sigler
By Scott Sigler & Matt Wallace
A GFL Novella
The Detective, A Galactic Football League novella
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved
Copyright © 2012 by Scott Sigler
ISBN: 978-0-9831963-9-6 (ePub)
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Cover art design by Francis Dominick Olivieri
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Published in the United States of America by Dark Øverlord Media
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Also by Scott Sigler
The Galactic Football League series:
The Galactic Football League novellas:
The Color Series short story collections:
Blood is Red
Bones are White
Table of Contents
I: The Mines
Chapter 1: Caleb
Chapter 2: Carney
Chapter 3: Frederico
Chapter 4: Caleb Dies
Chapter 5: Mister Sam
Chapter 6: Goolie
II: Grim Tyrant Valley
Chapter 7: Nathaniel Cornish Sr
Chapter 8: The Mercenary
Chapter 9: Fred
Chapter 10: The History of a People
Chapter 11: Carney
Chapter 12: The Grave Digger
Chapter 13: The Elephant’s Graveyard
Chapter 14: Stacks, Skulls & Stones
Chapter 15: Family
Chapter 16: Carney
III: Wilson 6
Chapter 17: Quentin
Chapter 18: Rico
Chapter 19: Stedmar
Chapter 20: Rafael
Chapter 21: Carney
Chapter 22: Jeanine
Chapter 23: Garrison
Chapter 24: Garrison’s Apartment
VII: 2684 Season, Week Six
Chapter 25: The OS1 Orbiting Death
Chapter 26: Someone to Talk To
Chapter 27: Cillian
Chapter 28: Torba
Hi again, it’s me, AB Kovacs, your friendly neighborhood Director of Døøm here at Dark Øverlord Media, dropping in to give you a quick introduction for THE DETECTIVE and let you know how it fits into the overall Siglerverse.
This novella was co-written by Matt Wallace and Scott Sigler.
Unlike the man himself, Matt Wallace’s bio from matt-wallace.com is short and sweet: Matt Wallace is an award-winning author and screenwriter living and working in Los Angeles. While true, it doesn’t mention the broken-glass sensibilities or sinewy wit that permeate his work. Or his full-to-bursting life before he was first published at 24. You’ll have to read his superlative stuff to learn about that: THE NEXT FIX, SUNDAE, THE SHOTOKAN MASTERS and THE FAILED CITIES — DEFINITIVE EDITION are out there for you. Go and read ‘em, you won’t be sorry.
Scott Sigler is a New York times best-selling novelist, author of NOCTURNAL, ANCESTOR, CONTAGIOUS and INFECTED, hardcover thrillers from Crown Publishing. He’s also the co-founder of Dark Øverlord Media, which publishes his Galactic Football League series (THE ROOKIE, THE STARTER, THE ALL-PRO and THE MVP). He still records his own audiobooks and give away every recorded story — for free — to his Junkies at www.scottsigler.com.
THE DETECTIVE takes place from roughly March 2683, to March 2684. Where applicable, the chapters are named to map to the action in THE ALL-PRO (Book III in the Galactic Football League series). The story actually begins, however, on unknown dates during Book II, THE STARTER. In terms of the GFL timeline, THE DETECTIVE runs from roughly Week Seven of the 2683 regular season in THE STARTER through Week Ten of the 2684 regular season in THE ALL-PRO.
You can enjoy this story on it’s own, but as you can see it is built to fit snugly into the rest of the GFL series. However you do it, we hope you enjoy the read!
I: THE MINES OF MICOVI
Chapter 1: Caleb
Caleb Cole had come to realize there was music in the mines of Micovi, if you had the right ears with which to hear it.
Music made with a melody of emotion, often dark, often hopeless, punctuated by the percussion of sharp steel points colliding with stone, over and over again, hundreds of thousands of times a day. Micovi music was not the syncopated song of a well-rehearsed band. You would find no easy meter, no constant rhythm, no metallic chorus of pickaxes falling in perfect time with one another. The sound of each tool was as individual as the man who held it, and if a unified beat ever spontaneously arose, that beat vanished in reverb generated by the endless catacombs.
Tens of thousands of pickaxes chewed at the rock, the ancient accretion of that planet destroyed by the steady swing of men just as a colony of termites slowly erode the tallest of trees. Among those countless swings, the loudest concussions came from the young and the strong, each of their blows landing like the wrath of some vengeful god. The young ones hated the mines the most. The young ones always seemed to be waiting, waiting for someone to scream for rebellion so they could bury the chipped ends of their picks into the foreman’s skull.
The young ones, you see, had not yet been fully beaten down. They had that great curse of life on Micovi — the curse of believing that they were special, that they could change things... that someday, they could escape.
The older miners didn’t swing with as much vengeance. They relied on wisdom, on experience, carefully choosing the target of each swing for maximum effect with minimum effort. Their axes fell in the slow, slouching-toward-Bethlehem rhythm of the beaten down and the broken. Though their bodies were still strong (for the most part), they had come to accept that either their short lives would forever be spent here and had willingly given their fighting spirit to the mines or that the mines had slowly strangled their souls, a slow death that they never saw coming until the battle was already over.
Finally and nothing but a faded note in all of that, there were pickaxes dropped so weakly they barely registered, like the “clink” of glasses from an insincere toast. These were the swings of the old and decrepit, those soon to give their last breath and drop of sweat to the mines that had eaten their youth, their manhood, their lives.
Caleb heard all of these distinct notes. He recognized each sound for what it was and what it said about the man behind it. He couldn’t help that. He couldn’t turn his powers of observation off any more than he could stop breathing.
Fortunately, the other dirty, sweating men didn’t seem to hear the music within the noise, didn’t hear the orchestra of stone and steel. If they did, they certainly didn’t find any Human pathos in it. He was glad of that. If they could hear the way he heard, they might get wise to the fact that Caleb Cole didn’t swing his
pick like the standard lifer mine worker. His swing was steady and dependable, measured but performed with obvious power. It was the swing of a man doing a dead-on impression of a Micovi miner, wholly convincing to anyone watching him work, but there was nothing of the wretched place in his blood.
Caleb Cole knew that — probably — he would not die in this place.
The miners took water once an hour. Hunch-backed old women and the occasional homely young maid came through the stone rows with buckets of questionable hydration. In an age when many races traveled between the stars faster than the very light from those stars, on Micovi they still brought tepid water in leaky buckets made of wood.
As the men in Caleb’s section paused in their labor to gratefully drink, he turned to the burly miner next to him and leaned tiredly on the haft of his pickaxe.
“From humble beginnings, eh?” Caleb said to the man.
The worker’s face wrinkled. “Whaddya mean?”
Caleb gestured to the chipped stone tunnel around them. “Didn’t that star quarterback start out just like this? Breaking rocks in the mines?” Caleb paused, as if trying to remember a name, then snapped his fingers in affected triumph. “Quentin Barnes. That’s the guy.”
The miner stared at him blankly. “How would I know?”
“Huh,” Caleb said. “I thought everyone here was a Raiders fan.”
The worker shrugged as he took a water ladle from a hunch-backed woman with one good eye.
“I like the Raiders well enough,” he said, then took a sip. “But all I know of Barnes are the stories people tell, and most of those are lies. Never met ‘im myself. Wouldn’t wanna. Football’s for pretty boys and that demon trash.”
He punctuated the statement by spitting his final mouthful of water onto the rocks at their feet.
Caleb didn’t press the man further. He never pressed any of them too hard on the subject. Word would start to get around that he seemed overly interested in digging into rising superstar quarterback Quentin Barnes’ “humble beginnings.”
But he did keep asking the question, floating that name to every man swinging an axe throughout the hollowed pits in which he’d been busting rocks for the last two weeks. Most didn’t know him. Many claimed to, but he saw through their grandiose tales of drinking and womanizing, of bar fights and best-friend boasts.
Sometimes, however, he met a lifer who told the truth. And sometimes, he met a miner who knew more than just the legend.
Chapter 2: Carney
The crowd of mine workers, perhaps a hundred total, surrounded a fifteen-foot-diameter circle hastily sketched on the quarry’s rock floor. Their cheers — drunken and ecstatic and lusting for blood — slid up the hundred-foot granite walls that cragged in every direction. When those cheers reached the top, where anyone with a badge or a plasma rifle, or both, might hear, the sound was no more than the babbling of running water.
The workers passed around liters of a home-brewed concoction they called “stinger juice.” It tasted dirty and toxic and vaguely of fermented fruit. They swilled it from bags and stained coffee tins. A few sipped from sleek composite containers of synthesized booze purchased at the company store, but those were a luxury item; most of the boys looked down on the stuff.
Inside the circle, two of their fellow miners bashed each other with fists and feet wrapped in rough, braided strands of rope. Both men had stripped down to the same grimy work pants that everyone wore. Each man was already bloodied in several places. Bright purple patches were blossoming on their torsos. The goal here was not to knock your man down or even out, however. The goal was to force him outside the circle. The first man to take three tumbles over the line was the loser.
When it was about being knocked out of the circle, there were fewer questions as to who won. The fights also didn’t go on forever, and that reduced fatalities. It didn’t eliminate them, but still, reducing them was a good thing.
Caleb watched. Not with the drunken cheering of most, but rather with the analytical stare of someone who knew how to scrap, someone who analyzed the moves and reactions of each fighter. Caleb wasn’t the only one — all around the circle, up on rocks and crags in the wall, were men with that same intensity: head tilted down slightly, eyes staring hard, bodies making almost imperceptible motions left or right, leaning front or back, as if their bodies automatically reacted to each punch, each kick, each opportunity to slide a blow through a lazy defense.
Caleb’s body moved as well, tiny twitches that would be blocks and strikes were he down in the ring. He really didn’t want to take on either man, though. One was a bull-shouldered beast with skin the color of the charcoal. His muscles looked like industrial cable tied into knots and covered with skin that didn’t quite fit. He was an imposing son-of-a-roundbug, to say the least.
His opponent, however, was an absolute giant. He dwarfed the other man. Caleb might’ve believed he was a HeavyG if not for his complete lack of caveman features. His arms also extended down to his hips, as opposed to nearly dragging on the ground like a HeavyG’s. The big fighter’s eyes were some of the sharpest Caleb had come across — they held a predatory sharpness, certainly, but there was also calculation, the steadily scanning gaze of a strategist planning moves ahead of moves. Caleb had seen that look in the eyes of men who architected military battles and surgical strikes.
The bigger fighter had a shaved head mottled by nasty scars Caleb couldn’t identify, and Caleb knew a few things about the marks left by severe trauma. This hulk of a Human had a story to him. But it wasn’t that man’s story that had brought Caleb to the mines.
He could watch fights anytime. He had to get back to work.
Caleb downed several fingers of the fermented miners’ brew and watched the scarred man unleash a shockingly quick flurry of four punches, three of which landed, leaving his opponent dazed and staggering. The giant capitalized with a leaping front kick that sent the other man flying outside the circle for the second time.
It was now two-to-zero.
Caleb took another sip and passed the half-full cup in his hand to Carney, who quickly chugged the rest.
Caleb elbowed him in the side lightly. “Way to be a hog, young man.”
“You sip like a girl,” Carney replied, laughing. “I figured it was time to show you how it’s done.”
He’d met Carney his first day working the mine. Caleb had watched how the other miners worked a pickaxe and a sledgehammer, skills picked up mostly by observation and a little bit of repetition. Carney, however, had come over right away and shown Caleb how to properly hold his right hand all the way up to the hammerhead on the upswing, then slide it down to the bottom on the downswing to create maximum velocity. It was a small trick, but it made a significant difference. More importantly, Carney had done so quietly, so as not to draw attention to Caleb’s rookie mistakes.
A tiny bit of kindness in a place that was not kind. Caleb had taken to the kid right away.
Carney was tough and did the job without complaint, but there was a kindness and an openness about him that was unusual in this place. He had offered to show Caleb the ropes of Rhingold Incorporated’s mining operation. Without knowing it, Carney had provided more useful information than Caleb had gathered from a dozen other workers.
“He’s getting back in the circle,” Carney said. He was excited. People loved to watch other people fight.
The bull-shouldered man drove in. Big Bald caught him coming and twisted at the same time, using the other man’s momentum against him, taking him to the edge of the circle. Such balance and speed for a man of that size — the bald one reminded Caleb of the late, great MMA champion Chaiyal “the Heretic” North.
But Chaiyal North was gone, killed along with his Quyth opponent, Korak the Cutter, in the greatest fight Caleb had ever witnessed. Caleb had never thought much of mixed martial artists. He had once been a soldier, a real warrior. Warriors fought wars, not in rings for drunken fans. But the night of that title fight, watching a Human an
d a Quyth Warrior clash like gods, like the greatest specimens their respective species had ever produced, Caleb couldn’t deny he was seeing two true warriors go at it.
No, the big miner wasn’t Chaiyal North, but he had the same qualities. Caleb might have thought him military-trained, but his style was too brutal. It was force over efficiency.
Big Bald could have delivered another crushing blow, could have thrown elbows and knees, could have lifted his opponent, but he just pushed one more time, reaching out with his left foot to block the bull-shouldered man’s heel. Bull-shoulder tried to step back, but he could not — Big Bald just had to let him fall back, out of the ring.
There were cheers and boos throughout the quarry. It all depended on whom the miner in question had bet on.
Caleb leaned closer to Carney, shouted to be heard over the din of the crowd. “I’m calling it a night.”
Carney’s face wrinkled in complaint. “What are you talking about? There’s gonna be at least three more fights!”
Caleb shook his head. “I’m done.”
Before he turned to walk away Caleb clapped his hand on Carney’s shoulder in a parting gesture. Without meaning to, he let his hand linger there. It was only a microsecond, but they both took notice of it.
The look on Carney’s face surprised him. There was no surprise, no disapproval, nothing but a guarded kind of interest in what was happening.
It was over in the span of a breath, and Caleb didn’t hang around to see how Carney’s face might’ve changed when he took his hand away.
He left the quarry quickly, willing his stomach to unknot with every step.
Chapter 3: Frederico
A mile above the jungle canopy, the Archangel is spinning out in a corkscrew of black smoke that’s being stretched farther and farther downward like a spiral staircase to hell. Against the starless night, the smoke is invisible, as is the Archangel itself. Only the fires burning from its hulking dual jets can be seen from the ground. A moment later the left turbine explodes, and that tornado of smoke becomes a diagonal streak several hundred feet long.