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As the sun began to reach its peak on the desert planet, Andromeda made her way to the east end of the trading camp. She glared at the ground as she walked. There were many more important things she could be doing than a stupid duel. But, if it got her out of the tight spot she found herself in, she would give it a shot.
On the plain several make shift stations had been set up for shard seekers to test their skills. She passed a rifle range where several men were showing off. Three men stood side by side holding rifles nearly as long as the men were tall. Their targets could not be seen in the distance but each concentrated as they aimed through the small scopes attached to each rifle.
A brief whir broke the silence followed by the deafening ring of de-atomized matter. The sound coincided with a brilliant flash at the muzzle of two of the rifles and two brilliant streams of energy that blazed into the distance.
“What the,” the third man shouted sounding somewhat inebriated.
“Helps if you turn the shard field on,” one of the others called to him chuckling as he loaded a steel bearing down the barrel of his rail-gun. He and his companion laughed while the misfiring drunk grumbled and checked his equipment.
“I’ll go check the targets, maybe he actually hit it with the bullet itself! HOLD FIRE!” the third man cackled and shouted as he charged his tach-fields and skimmed off down range.
“Morey, didn’t your A.I. tell you your field was off?” the remaining man asked the drunk.
Morey grumbled something about ‘turning the damn A.I. off’ and continued to check his gun and shard harness for some imaginary defect.
The other key property of the fields generated from the radiation of shards was the way in which they altered matter and energy. In a peculiar trick of physics energy moving into certain field towards the shard would be absorbed and converted to matter. Conversely, matter pushed through differently tuned field, away from the shard, could be converted into pure energy. These were the fundamental principals by which all weaponry, both defensive and offensive, were based.
“How’s the weather Daniel,” Andromeda spoke into the air as she continued on.
“The space currents are strong today, and blustery, you can probably generate a de-atomizing field of fifteen percent before you start to get pulled by the tachyon currents,” came the reply of her A.I. that only she could hear.
“It must be very blustery; I’ve notice you’ve been having trouble maintaining a steady gravity sim’. This is going to make flying and fighting at the same time tricky,” she commented back.
“Agreed,” replied Daniel, “I will try to keep you steady by tuning your fields focused by your suit itself, but you will have to use the tach-rod fields with skill to keep upwind and get your shots off without being pulled off course.”
“That’ll be tough if the currents keep shifting,” Andromeda adjusted a setting on her goggles, and observed as the sub-atomic currents were visually represented to her vision.
“I’m glad you decided to show-up Ande’,” Donnavan’s voice disrupted her assessment. She turned to see the seedy rep from Charles Gateway making his way towards her followed closely by Aaron.
“So where’s your guy? You don’t expect that kid to take me, do you?” Andromeda motioned toward her intended apprentice.
“No, no my dear,” Donnavan replied. He turned to a crowd of rough looking shard seekers gathered on the edge of the nearby dueling field.
“Five hundred credits to whoever can best the young woman here!” he shouted. Several heads turned and men began to come forward.
“I’ll take her down for three hundred and a keg!” shouted a rider from the back of the group.
The crowd parted to reveal a dark haired man, average in build, in a worn and battered shard harness. He was well known to Andromeda, who cursed under her breath.
“Ah, very well Mr. Hawkens, 300 credits and the finest beer I can find! We have a deal,” Donnavan smirked.
Donnavan and the others moved back as Andromeda and her challenger approached the field. Each leaned their long rail guns against a nearby rock, close to the crowd. Andromeda checked her belt to ensure she had enough ammunition. As expected, every spare inch of her belt not holding a satchel or holster held a tapered metal bolt. Hawkens meanwhile reached to the quiver on his back and quickly counted the long needle like arrows it held. He shrugged, apparently satisfied with the number and spoke to Andromeda in a low tone as they both made their way out into the field.
“I heard about Ben. You still searching the rim?” Hawkens asked looking straight ahead as they walked.
“Whenever I’m not dealing with shit from Donnavan,” she sighed before continuing, “Your still a sucker for a keg I see.”
“What’s a boy to do?” Hawkens gestured his arms to the sides as he began to back away, pacing the distance to his starting mark.
“It’s nothing personal, ‘K?” Andromeda shouted across the field as she clipped a tach-rod to her feet.
“Never is Ande’, never is,” Hawken replied while attaching a cord to two of the opposing ends of his double tach-rod. He gave the bow string a pluck and smiled at Ande’.
“Ready when you are Hun’.”