Runner’s Hub – space station catering to smugglers

A former ship’s captain in the Federation fleet, Marge Boleo runs the Hub like a military command. Starting out as a set of linked tankers providing fuel and an exchange point for those who didn’t like Federation oversight, the Hub has grown to a huge cylindrical wheel. Multiple levels provide docking, warehouses, repair facilities, banking, trading, quarters, and pleasure. Boleo is the ninth person in a line that goes back centuries to be responsible for the management of the Hub. All profits are shared by vested employees, but it isn’t a democracy.

The following excerpt from Shane: Marshal of Tallav includes Adrianna’s first visit to Runner’s Hub.

“Life on Furzine hadn’t prepared Adrianna for Runner’s Hub. It was unlike any station or planet she’d ever visited. A cacophony of noises pummeled her ears from every direction. Her head spun. Her brain could not absorb the visual overload. Floods of people pushed and shoved. A rich man, stomach bulging out from his elaborate caftan, sauntered through the throng, surrounded by his bodyguards. A beggar, eyes rheumy and nose running, reached filthy hands out. Runners with packages slung in nets across their backs ran, dodging and weaving. From small rolling carts, merchants hawked wares: aromatic spiced meats in paper cones, animal fetishes hung from leather cords, and brilliant, colored scarves.

A thirty-foot walk along the dock was a clash of contradictions. One thing was universal—weapons. Nobody went unarmed here. Even the woman with a baby strapped to her chest had a huge firearm holstered at her side. Adrianna was glad Shane was in front, guiding her. Most people got out of his way at once. A few tried a faceoff with false bravado. His hard stare sent them slinking back.

If the sights, sounds, and pungent odors that swirled around Adrianna made it difficult to focus on any single thing, the rush of emotions made it doubly so. It was similar to one of the Benefactor’s parties she’d attend as a teenager, but ten times heavier without the veneer of civility. Adrianna instinctively pulled her empathic senses in to protect herself while she did her best to make her shaking legs keep up with Shane. In the lift, Shane triggered the proper level and then hugged her to him, her back to his chest.

“Sorry for the rush. It’s safest to clear the docks quickly.”

“I can see why. I’m fine. But I had to restrict my empathic senses pretty hard.” She allowed a tendril of her awareness to contact him. He was anxious. He didn’t show it. At least he hadn’t before she’d felt the apprehension seeping from him. There was a slight stiffness to his posture that wasn’t usually there.

“Do what you have to do, Dria. You’re the best judge of what you can and cannot handle.”

“Thank you, Sir. It’s going to be fine.”

“Yes. It will. We’re headed to level ten. It’s restricted, so there won’t be as many people.” Shane squeezed her ribs just before the lift doors opened.

“Come, Pet.” Shane led her along a quiet corridor past vidscreens displaying surreal landscapes on her left and a series of rooms on her right. A glance into an open door showed a small, dark chamber with comfortable seating. “Private meeting rooms for negotiating or getting acquainted before entering the main club.”

Laughter sounded farther around the curve of the corridor, but before the laughing group came into view, Shane turned right at a T intersection. A huge dark-skinned man swathed in black leather, bald head shining and muscles bulging, stood in front of a double-hung ornate entry. He held out an ident pad, which Shane placed his palm on. Once Shane’s identity had been logged, it was Adrianna’s turn. The giant keyed the doors open without saying a word, his face impassive. Even his emotions were flat.

The quiet of the corridor became the churning noise and thumping beat of what passed for dance music on level ten. A mash of people writhed, grinding to the music while professional dancers did the same on a higher platform running along the inner curve of the room. Colored beams of light whipped across the dance floor, agitating an already frenetic mass of undulating limbs and torsos. The only steady but dim light came in splashes around the outer arc of the room where sleek bars serving expensive drinks alternated with seating areas with tall tables and stools. The dancing thrashed its way past where the club swerved out of sight. A short distance to the left, another set of ornate doors exited the area. Shane led her there.” Excerpt from Shane: Marshal of Tallav.

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