This is the sixth of my flash fiction pieces featuring Zento, a space opera mercenary. There are a few recurring elements, so for full understanding you may want to read they others. They're necessarily short. You can find all of them through my new Zento label.
Zento sat stock-still. He steadied his loaded crossbow. Took a breath. Fired.
Swore. Two brown figures darted
out of view. “Missed again,” he hissed
through his teeth. “How is it that I kill
my political targets on the first shot nine times in ten, yet can’t hit a Goran
stag for my life?”
A patch of mossy undergrowth
rustled in the corner of Zento’s eye at the peak of a nearby rise. He twisted to get a better look. The foliage stirred again. This time a dot of yellow horn poked up. He smiled.
As several minutes drifted by,
movement became more and more frequent.
Zento scanned the rest of the surrounding woodland, pausing with each
pass on the spot. He stopped a yawn at
The wind picked up, sending a
chill down his spine. He clenched his
teeth to keep them from chattering. A
dark square rose above the moss hilltop.
He went for the trigger, but removed the finger when it sunk back down
as fast as it came. “Take your time,” he
crackled. He sneered down at it, slipped
one hand from his crossbow to block out the buzzing. The tip of his weapon dipped down from its
aimed position in time for another appearance.
This time he fired. The bolt struck
what he had feared at the very last moment: the moss before the stag’s cloven
hooves. It looked up from the projectile
in Zento’s direction. He did a quick
count of the points on its wide antlers.
Three dozen. A beauty.
Zento drew a hand back into
his quiver and pulled out another bolt.
It slid clean into its slot on the yirthal crossbow, the string
engaging. He took a breath. Let it out.
Took in a second breath. Let it
A voice shattered the
silence. “Zento, we need you to come in
for a black market investigation on Incubar.
Are you there?” Zento punched his
The stag tore down the slope,
its curled white tail flopping. “So much
for being off-duty,” he muttered. “I’ll
be there in a few, Carmel-Eyes.”