“Well, now; as I live and breathe. Dear Martin it is, and no mistake! And how are you this fine evening?”
Queen Molly in person. That was all I needed. No, seriously; it was: If she had been late, or if my note to her hadn’t arrived, it would have screwed up my plan. Not badly, but enough.
I put on a winning smile and made my best leg. “Milady Queen! Delightful to see you, as always — truly delightful! I do hope you’ve brought some friends with nice strong backs?” I could just see them moving behind her in the murky night. “Excellent. Do come this way.”
I bet she had a pretty smile, but if so she was saving it for someone special and I didn’t qualify. I tried anyway. “The way I see it, you can hide in the tunnel and hope the cops don’t stumble over it, or you can stay in the District until tomorrow and sneak back into the Zone after all this settles down. I know some people–“
“I just bet you do,” she snapped. “I’ll find my own way, thanks!” And then she started walking — the wrong way, back toward the club. I almost let her go, but good sense prevailed.
“No, it’s simple, kid,” he said. “We pick up the package, then hop over to the District to pick up the passenger. After that, it’s to orbit and back on a joy ride and we’re done.”
“OahOOOoohhhh! I geddit now! Fine! When we leavin’?” I could have killed him, but I had a job on so instead I finished my coffee. It tasted like dark roasted heaven, which for some reason really pissed me off.
“It’s funny; all the big names just vanished all of a sudden.” Eddie’s eyes narrowed again. “Maybe they know something we don’t.”
I had to admit, it seemed likely. There definitely had to be something going on to explain this; then, for another thing, riots just don’t happen all that often in the Empire. Security frowns on them — hard. But what could be behind it all? I shook my head. “Above my pay grade,” I said. “I’ve got a job to do.”
Once upon a time, the Eleven Races were severely unbalanced. Then, hyperspace and Chunnels were invented; races gained special abilities, fighter production could happen on ships, the Super Spy mission was introduced, and so on — and we were all still unbalanced, but not by as much.
(The following is a rebuttal to “Seeing Purple and Red“, by Talespin. The opinion is that of the author, and does not necessarily reflect that of the Planets Magazine as a whole.)
Hands Off My Minefields, Dammit!
My esteemed colleague has raised several points in his article, and it’s true that there are factors that need addressing. The prevalence of short-form Planets games alongside the rise of the new PPQ system (which I’ve referred to as the New Nu Queue, to spare confusion) certainly creates new questions of balance and game flow. Steady advances under solid logistics and impeccable defenses are no longer tenable in non-Classic, non-Standard scenarios.
Gino grabbed me by the arm, gently for him. I stopped; it was either that or leave my arm behind, and I’ve always been attached to that arm. He looked me over carefully.
“You ain’t bringing in trouble, are you?”
I had to laugh. I was walking around the Silver Zone in a stolen uniform and had an illegal assault blaster in the bag at my side. “All the trouble I know of is out here, and it can wait until I get back,” I said. I certainly hoped it was true, and I guess that was enough for Gino, who grunted again and let me pass. His eyes were already back on the traffic.
I walked out, adjusting my uniform cap, and went in search of someone that valued money over patriotism. You’d be surprised how easy that is, even in the Silver Zone — especially if you listen to the propaganda.
We’re always “marching to victory” and “winning the war”, which might even be true. But after a while you start to wonder just how long the war is going to take to win, or for that matter if we’re even fighting the same one, all these years later.
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 know.
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. Life’s all about the little details.
She frowned, then nodded. “That’s plausible. It’s the sort of thing you’d do. And of course I believe every word you ever tell me.” There was a flicker of a smile, and then back to the scowl. “But that won’t help you.”
As they dragged me away, I realized once again: Sometimes, being too clever just gets you in more trouble.