Founder’s Landing, Day One, 2310

Deserted Mansion, Wrong End Of A Blaster

“They call that desertion. Barring Imperial instructions to the contrary, I’m here ’till I die.”

At that she smiled, and it was lovely indeed. “I’d be only too pleased to help you with that, Martin… dearest Martin,” she said… and pulled the trigger.

Marine assault blasters are massive and deadly, the very definition of overkill. They’re a big part of the reason Imperial troopers are so widely feared; they’ll put a hole clean through you, not to mention any cover you happen to be behind, nearby walls, rocks, concrete, plassteel, solid Duranium — you name it. One thing they won’t do, however, is fire if they’re not in their owner’s hands. Safety feature, plain common sense if you think about it, but not something that’s widely known. As I brained Queen Molly with an appetizer plate, I reflected briefly on my good fortune in finding an honest quartermaster… well, relatively honest; a truly honest man would have turned me in rather than rent out Imperial equipment, much less taking the time to reset the pattern recognition. In any case, he’d just earned his fee — and my repeat business.

I dashed back into the pantry and grabbed the case from where I’d cached it last night. I’d been robbed twice since then (by the same people) so I’d done well to take the precaution. The Marine uniform and identification I left with Molly; they’d be icing on the cake, and a pleasant surprise when she awoke… safely in police custody. Everything else, I tossed into my satchel; I’d examine Molly’s little sack — my payment — when I got a moment, but I knew what it must contain. Bitch. Then, I popped open a kitchen window — setting off the silent alarm in the process — and slid out onto the back lawn.

By my lights that was fair. I’d told the boys twenty minutes, and if they were right on time they’d be on their way out. Queen Molly had opted to double-cross me, though. If they left her, she’d deserve what she got; if they tried for a rescue… well, that was their problem. They had beaten me up, after all. I tried not to let it bother me as I watched my ride touch down — Sonny Estevez’s little hopper, the Ostrich.

The plan was for Eddie to toss an incendiary out the hatch as I got in, and that part went well. He hit the side of the mansion and flames spread up toward the roof. The thermal bloom would neatly cover our takeoff for any orbital satellites that happened to be watching — not that I expected any; we’d timed things perfectly. I felt a little bad about the property damage, but — hell, they were rich anyway, and probably insured.

What I didn’t expect was the sight-sound-feel of a massive detonation just as we were closing the hatch. I felt the blast wave wash over my skin — not a sensation you ever forget. “What the hell did you throw?!” I demanded. Eddie shrugged and ran forward as alarms started blaring all around the ship. I felt another shock through my soles and dove for the nearest acceleration couch.

Eddie’s voice came over the intercom; I could hear Sonny swearing in the background. “All hell is breaking loose down there, Taylor. That last blast came from the main fusion reactor over on the south side of town. This got anything to do with your little job?” I was too busy strapping myself down to answer, but… truth is, I don’t believe in coincidence. I thought back over all the strange things that had happened the past couple days.

Molly’s betrayal — well, I really couldn’t say. It seemed out of character, but she’s always been a strange one. I’d thought she was actually starting to crush on me a little; this hostility came straight out of nowhere. But then… well, you’d have to know Molly. I’d seen her smile so sweet just as she calmly put a knife into a man’s throat, and I’ve seen her in such a temper–! But this, this, well. It hurt, and that’s the truth of it, and it was still too close to think about.

But everything else — that Confederate, and then Intel getting involved. The riots, and the raids, and all the explosions… and my own job: moving money secretly offworld, without government knowledge. It all added up, and in a way I didn’t like.

Sabotage.


Things are starting to come together… or are they? Tune in next time to find out!


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