Founder’s Landing, Day One, Noon

Back On The Streets, Cold Wind

I had places to be, but good God did I need a nap. Ah, well; no rest for the wicked, and the good don’t need any. I hung a sign on the door and left a quick note for the receptionist telling her I’d be away for a bit. Maybe she’d miss me. I also dropped off a check for my rent in advance, because you never can tell.

My next stop was the local precinct. It doesn’t do to skip out on a guy like Carmody. Besides, I wanted to see the effect my uniform would have on him. From a perverse sense of cruelty, I stopped at the desk sergeant to ask after the condition of Cadet Greene’s uniform; he grinned evilly and said he’d look it over personally when the Cadet came in. The key to proper success in life is all about paying attention to the little details.

Lieutenant Carmody had gotten a little more sleep than I had, and he’d also changed his shirt — thank God. The man reeked at the best of times. He sneered automatically as I walked in, then did a double-take upon seeing my uniform. I could see the twisted little wheels start to turn in his narrow little mind, and so I stopped him. “Doing some Intelligence work, Lieutenant. Best not to ask.”

Considering the punishment for impersonating an officer, and my brazen gall for doing so inside his precinct house, even Carmody’s suspicious little brain wasn’t capable of thinking I might be lying to him. He nodded, impressed despite himself, and I went on.

“I just thought I’d check in and see what more you could tell me about last night, and if you’d need me for anything.”

He snorted. “Naw; your Intelligence buddies already came in and scooped everything up. We’re under official orders that last night never happened.” His eyes narrowed. “How come you didn’t know?”

“Different group,” I said airily. “Besides, I came here first. Saves on paperwork.” An explanation he could understand. I waved and left before he thought to ask any tough questions. I’d already learned plenty — and more than I expected.

The State Intelligence Service doesn’t joke around, and I had no doubt they were watching. The less they saw of me, the fewer questions they’d have for me later — and they would find me later. Intel is very persistent. I was not looking forward to that.

But today, I had a job to do. Time to put this uniform to use. I made a couple of stops around town to get some essential supplies — dodging two more demonstrations on the way; what was up with that? — sent off a couple of messages, then headed to the Silver Zone.

Imperial colors are black and silver. There’s a Black Zone around the bureaucrats and administrators, that sensitive district where State Security rules — Black more for the mood of the place than anything else. But where Fleet and Militia congregate is the Silver Zone, called that at least in part because of all the money they spend. And where there’s money, there’s crime.

Which is why I couldn’t just go in by the front door; they check genetic profiles there as a matter of course. Fortunately, their tight security is the very reason there are other entrances — just as well trodden, if less known to the general public. Thanks to our recent contretemps, I couldn’t take one used by Queen Molly’s people, but that was fine; I needed to meet a smuggler, and this was the fastest way.

The tunnel I picked comes out in a back room at the Cypress Club. They use it to bring in alcohol that the taxman knows nothing about, among other things. Fully half the business that goes down here is off the books, and that’s just judging by what I knew for sure. I’d helped set the place up way back in the beginning, and I figured the owner still owed me. Not that it mattered; there was nobody watching at this hour. The night people were all asleep still, and the cleaners were hard at work in the lounge. I walked out without anyone meeting my eyes and went in search of someone that valued money over patriotism.

You’d be surprised how easy that is, even in the Silver Zone.

Will Our Hero find what he’s looking for? Tune in next time and find out!

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