The last space dinosaur hunter put out his last cigarette. He knew what was coming for him.
Unnoticed by the sailors, the butcher’s wife, and the bum at the door, a woman in a black dress approached the bar. “You’re here alone, stranger,” she said. She smiled with her tired eyes.
She was too young to be past her prime. But so was he. He extended to her face his tattooed left hand.
“This is the insignia of Malcolm of Io, slayer of Kronosaurus Saturnus and my cruelest mentor. This is the mark of the Hunter’s Guild, from before the war. These glyphs are how they brand prisoners on Europa. The last one is a forgery. This scar is from the poison fang of an asteroid raptor.”
The woman opened her mouth. He stroked her cheek with a ringed finger. He asked, “Could you spare a cigarette?”
The music simmered. Outside, wind sang and hail mingled with tarry sea.
He was a space dinosaur hunter: at his sides hung an ion cutlass and spear pistol. He wore utility bracers and polished black boots with microhydraulic spring heels.
During the war both sides dropped atom bombs on dinosaurs to clear the warpaths. He had bargained for a letter of marque from the Parliament of Europa. He had spied for the Governor of Titan, who was now his enemy.
He was a smuggler of silks and narcotics. He was a debtor, an indentured man, a thief, a prisoner, and a fugitive.
He had been too easy or too hard with the Governor’s nieces and, some say, wife. His Honor had seized the the hunter’s ship and ordered the police to arrest him. It was time to put a stop to the scoundrel, the Governor had told the newspapers before changing the subject to taxes.
No one had seen a dinosaur since the war.
When the officers found him he was drinking whiskey laced with something that made the jukebox weep. The woman was still there. She was explaining something to him when she heard them and turned around.
Only one officer was armed. Another took notes on a paper pad. The third wore a tricolor sash that showed that he was in charge.
“Yes, I am,” said the hunter.
“We are here to arrest you,” said the man in charge.
He took another sip of whiskey. Now everyone was watching. The tricolored man held up hand cuffs.
“Be careful,” said the man writing notes. “That man once hunted dinosaurs.”
The man with the handcuffs looked back to the other and frowned. But the third one raised his laser gun and told the fugitive to hold his hands up.
The sailors and the butcher’s wife and the bum watched the tattooed man finish his drink and stand clumsily, knocking over his stool. He lifted his hands slowly. The officer with the handcuffs stepped towards him with confidence.
The roof cracked open; hail smashed the floor. Tar and brine flooded in from mountainous flesh. Splinters fell from teeth as big as crowbars. Craggy scales dripped toxic sheen; radioactivity thinned the air. An enraged yellow eye glared down then peered skyward as Tyranosaurous Luciferus shattered the night with its volcanic roar.
The last space dinosaur hunter leaped onto the bar, brandished his cutlass, and, stumbling, began to dance.