“Alright” said Lance rotating his shoulder to make sure it worked properly. He had taken off his armor which was now lying on the table across from him as the maintenance robot went about the repair procedures programmed into it by Mar-Cii.
Very few people had seen Lance Sunquencher without his helmet on. Those who did preferred the faceless visage of the helmet to his actual face. It was not an ugly face just intimidating. He had short black hair and a bright blue eye. The only feature that marred his image was the eye patch over his left eye, which he had lost in a fight with a Dracodian Glacian . Many of his employers had wondered if he wore it for appearance but only a few had voiced the sentiment aloud. They were always answered with the same action. He would lift up his eye patch and reveal to them for an instant a vacant socket. Most of them would simply shake it off by saying that they found it hard enough to look into his one eye, and that two would probably paralyze them.
Who those employers were ranged from local crime lords to the big timers to occasionally planetary governments. He was the best bounty hunter in known space.
He looked over at his armor. Lance reached out and pressed a button on the control panel in the wall. “Hey Mar-Cii how is the repairs to the shielding going?”
A smaller image of Mar-Cii sprang to life in front of him. The only difference between it and the one he had left in the cockpit was that this one red hair had darkened, a sign of fury. She crossed her arms and stared at him. It might have been frightening except for the fact that Lance could look straight through her to the control panel behind her.
“I…” Mar-Cii said her hair getting darker by the second “…am perfectly capable to fix whatever damage you do to your equipment. And I don’t need you badgering me. If you would just exercise a little bit more caution then maybe you wouldn’t have to worry so much about it.”
Her hair was almost black at this point and she was glaring at Lance like she would want nothing better than to program the maintenance robot to fuse his lips shut. Then a ripple went through the AI’s frame.
“Who’s calling?” Lance asked
“The old snake himself.” Answered Mar-Cii, her hair lightening to a dark burgundy. Do you want to return to the cockpit to hear it?”
“No.” said Lance “Just patch it into here.”
Mar-Cii’s hair flashed back to black. Unlike the cockpit the control panel could not sustain two holograms. Another one of Mar-Cii’s quirks was she was very vain about her avatar.
“Fine.” She said, her voice making clear it was not, and disappeared. In her place was appeared to be a black snake in what could only be described as a red velvet tube.
It was an Anoconduan. They were snake like aliens whose former home world had been miles after miles of wetlands. It however was destroyed in the waning days of their brutal wars with the humans. They held a large empire of planets that was even larger than that of the Humans. However their real empire was crime, which as this one had once told Lance “know not the boundaries set by foolish sentients.
Its green eyes widened in surprise. “You honor me you facccccce Ssssunquencher. I trusssst then that your lasssst enterprissse went well?”
“Don’t they always?” Said Lance cooly.
“ Good good good. It pleassses me to hear it my friend. For it would not do my heart well to hear ssssomething had happened to my mossst trusssted employee.”
“ I sincerely hope Hissy…” Lance said in a low voice “ that you are not making the same mistake as your father did three years ago.”
The Anoconduan shifted his coils restlessly. It might have been fear from the memory of what had happened to his father or the use of Lance’s nickname for him, for he said after an interval. “ When will you learn to adressss me by my proper name Hissithissiith?”
“I’ll get on to that.” Lance said dryly “Look I know you didn’t call just to make sure everything was fine with me. Now what’s the job?”
Hissithissith let out a hiss and then said. “You are alwayssss sssso direct Ssssunquencher. It issss both aggravating and reassssuring at the sssame time.”
“You are however correct” he continued “ asss of yessssterday an employee of mine hasssss left his posssition asss my accountant. He hassss ssssince been under the protection of the Human Intersssstellar Empire. It isss believed they plan on usssing his knowledge assss evidenccccce aganssst my… asssssociation.”
“Your gang you mean.” Said Lance
“sssss ssss such words cannot properly describe my orginasssation. I myssssself will of coursssse be untouched assss a national of the Anoconduan Empire I have immunity. However sssuch a thing will sssset me back a great deal ssso I wassss hoping you could help an old friend for a reasonable price of course.”
“Where is he being kept?”
“On the Planet Rome VII in the new safe house, the one said to be impenetrable.” Hissithissith adjusted his coils again “ It might interesssst you do know that Captain Kamya has been asssssigned to guard him.”
“I see.” Lance said with a shadow of a smile flashing across his face. “I trust you have the layout of this safe house?”
“If I can assssssume you are accepting…”
“Of course you can.” Said Lance with growing impatience.
“Then I leave it with you.” Hissithissith vanished and a building appeared.
The defenses were intimidating. They had a new state of the art energy shield that could withstand a nuclear blast. There were always twenty armed guards on duty. To get through you had to go through retinal scans, hand print voice identification, and dna testing. There was no way to blast or trick your way in.
Lance scrolled down to the safe room. It was 200 feet below the surface in a chamber similarly defended from a nuclear blast. In case of an emergency the witness and his family were sent down there right a way. Lance examined the designs again. The energy field that protected the safe room was powered by the main generator.
Lance thought. 200 feet. “Mar-Cii.” He said suddenly
“Yes.” Said Mar-Cii’s disembodied voice. Her tone indicated she was still put out with him.
“Can you bring up the plans of Rome VII’s major city with the data of the safe house installed to its blank spot?”
“Of course I can. What do you think I am? Some 21st century search engine?”
In moments the plans popped up. It was as Lance had expected. The sewers fell 250 feet below the surface. That was standard procedure for Imperial cities with over a billion inhabitants. Also it was impossible to communicate over any frequency down there.
Lance said “Can you show me where the sewer drains out?”
“That I’m afraid would be pushing the limit of this unit’s holograph crystal” said Mar-Cii slyly. “It would be much easier on the equipment if you used the cockpit’s holodisplay unit instead.”
Lance knew that this holodisplay was more than capable of handling a hologram of the size he was asking. The reason Mar-Cii suggested the one in the cockpit was because it could also sustain her avatar. Lance didn’t want to waste time and knew that if he protested Mar-Cii would go and another tangent about not taking care of his equipment.
“Fine.” He said rising from his chair.
He walked down the passageway to the cockpit. The doors opened for him on approach. “Looking good as always.” Lance said as he stepped through the doors. Mar-Cii’s hair went from dark red to strawberry blonde in an instant. “So what did you find?”
Mar-Cii, still flattered by the compliment responded more brightly than her usual self “After going through an intensive filtering process it goes to black stone lake. I take it you have another scheme so simple that no one has even considered it.”
“Yeah” said Lance staring at the diagram “I sure as hell do.”
Rolo-Dee looked around at the strange human faces around him. He, the-mate-of-his-life and their offspring had been put under the protection of these strange creatures on the condition he testify against Lord Hissithissith. He shuddered as he remembered the glowing green eyes of the Anoconduan.
Rolo-Dee was a tanamduan. He had small black beady eyes and a long snout much like the anteaters that were said to once in habit the human’s homeworld of Earth. He had soft brown fur with a bald patch on his belly. He had always been good with numerals. That was what made him valuable to Lord Hissithissith. But he could no longer work for a criminal when the-mate-of-his-life was with child.
One of the humans was approaching him now. It was a female he assumed. She looked like she was descended from the humans on the continent of Asia. She gave him the greeting “How are you doing?”
Rolo-Dee responded in his own trumpet like language. The translator device attached to his clothing the emanated. “I am fine Captain Kamya. If I understand the meaning of your greeting.”
She let out what he assumed to be a display of amusement. At that moment Rolo-Dee spoted an insect flying above the human’s armored shoulder. He inhaled quickly and suck it into his snout. It tasted rather good.
One of the dark skinned humans had let out that exclamation. He had a look of disgust on his face. Captain Kamya said sharply “Go back to your post Lieutenant.”
“Aye Aye Captain” said the human, snapping a small solute.
Rolo-Dee looked around at the Imperial soldiers. He knew well the security measures they took. Yes, he was safe here.
Private Jacob Jones was on guard duty. It was the most boring job in the world. No one in their right minds would try to break into the facility again. The last three that tried had very painful and public executions. Wasn’t it bad enough the other guys called him JJ. Why did he always have to get the worst job?
Suddenly one of the alerts was going off Private Jones began examining the view screens. There was a man outside with some boxes. This wasn’t right. They had just received a food shipment yesterday. “State your business.” He said over the intercom.
“I’m your guy’s shipment of food.” Said the man.
Jones tried to get a read out of the man’s biosigns and what was in the boxes. To his surprise he found out that all systems except for audio and video were being jammed. This wasn’t good. “Captain?” he said over the comm chanel.
“Yes what seems to be the problem?” Captain Kamya’s voice said from the audio emitter.
“A man just came by that said he was here to deliver food.”
“We had a delivery of food yesterday” the captains voice said
“Yes ma’am I know that.”Jones explained “But when I try to get a reading on him and the cargo all my sensors are jammed.”
“Then order the auto turrets to shoot him.”
“But ma’am the auto turrets targeting systems use thermals which are being jammed.”
“Damn!” the captain’s voice said. “Alright Private here’s what you do. Tell him to wait there. I’ll send a squad up. When they get there let him through. Then we can apprehend him and find out whatever is in the boxes.”
“Yes ma’am.” Jones said. Then he switched to the man outside. “Could you wait a moment while we get the appropriate personnel to take your cargo? You understand. Procedure.”
“Of course” said the man cheerfully.
Jones looked to the vids coming from the first check point. Ten Imperial guardsmen were standing there. One gave him a thumbs up. “Alright then, if you would please come in and submit to a search everything will be fine.”
The man had little choice. He had ten plasma rifles aimed right at his chest. To soldiers grabbed him and pulled him inside. Four more grabbed the boxes and brought them inside. As soon as they were in Jones closed the door. The shields quickly went back up.
The men began going through the boxes. They pulled out various things and checked them all with hand scanners. One of their alarms began to go off.
“What have we here?” said soldier bending down to pick up the cabbage he had been scanning. He there was a sharp crack of electricity and the man withdrew his hand.
“Hey would you look at this energy shields. What do you think Jones?” the soldier said.
Jones was about to answer but suddenly the systems were suddenly no longer being jammed. The cabage was a modified holovid player, but the modifications were defensive not lethal. It had a state of the art energy shield around it. Other than that the rest of the cargo was clean. Then his eyes went to the man. His eyes widened in shock.
“WAIT! THEY WEREN’T TRYING TO KEEP US FROM KNOWING WHAT THE CARGO IS! IT IS THE MAN! THE MAN IS A…!”
Private Jones never got a chance to finish that statement, for at that moment the small nuclear bomb inside the pseudo man went off.