Rory Lawless took a last drag on his cigarette and regretfully crushed the end into his ashtray. It had been years since the fight with Grace where she’d straight up forbidden him from smoking around her girls. When he’d appealed to his brother, Liam’d laughed and said he sided with his wife. So clean it was. He slung his rucksack over his shoulder and did his final check before swinging out of his ship.
The fact that he’d gotten the summons from Grace had him suspicious. Nothing wrong in what she’d said, but, he rolled his shoulders and resettled the rucksack, it gave him a bad feeling. Hopefully he could find Liam and have it out, before he had to face Grace. Grace loved his brother, but damned if Rory didn’t wish Liam had found someone a bit less… loud than Grace.
He locked the hatch of his Slipstream and checked her for any dents or scratches from atmospheric entry. His girl still gleamed. A smile played about his lips as he turned to look at the rest of the tiny spaceport.
Sitting proud and pretty two spots over on the dusty field was a screaming royal blue military grade Starhawk. He whistled long and low. That was not a ship that would be sitting in the arse end of nowhere.
The stretched feeling he had between his shoulder blades pulled tighter and he let his long strides take him down the dusty plascrete road to the town proper. All six buildings of it. Two residential buildings, the garage, the hanger, the general store, and the refinery were all that made up Merry’s Rock. He shook his head as he passed the settler’s grade buildings, it beat all understanding why Grace and Liam had picked this rock to start a family on. He pushed through the door of the general store.
It was just like he remembered it. Bulk bins of foodstuff, mechanical parts, and sundry goods were stacked in a vaguely organized manner into rows and sectors. The long counter to his left was still battered and cluttered with tins for gum, mints, batteries, and data sticks.
“Uncle Rory!” Jae launched herself over the counter and tackled her uncle in a hug. Rory caught her and swung her around, managing not to slam her feet into the nearest crate. Jae’d dyed her hair jet fuel blue and cut it short so it spiked around her face, damned if he knew why but it suited her.
Her jubilant shout drew her mother and sister from the aisles where they’d been shelving goods. Danny joined her sister in hugging their uncle while Grace tucked a cleaning rag into her pocket and leaned back against the counter.
“You’re late,” Jae said, sticking her tongue out at him. Rory was relieved to see it was still free of piercings.
“Late? Your birthday isn’t for another three months, I’m definitely early.”
Danny gave him a sharp look, and Jae looked confused. “But Momma said…”
“You go change the sign to closed and lock the door, would you Danny?” Grace said. Rory didn’t like the way she was watching him and less liked the idea that the door would be closing behind him.
“Where’s Liam?” He asked.
Jae turned her confused eyes on her mother.
“Gone.” Grace said and the words shot from her mouth and left a crater in the space behind them.
“Mom?” Jae asked. Danny locked the door and stood at her uncle’s shoulder, eyes intent on her mother. Liam felt his stomach drop like he’d entered free fall.
“I didn’t say anything before because I didn’t want to worry you girls, and I wanted to make sure Rory came instead of jetting off on his own. But something happened to Liam, and its up to the lot of us to drag him back out of it.”
A bunch of thieves hijacked my spaceship and left me to hitch a ride back to this forsaken rock. When I got back they’d utterly changed the place.