Thursday, August 22, 2013

Chapter 15 Planet Side

Severn continued trying to burn a hole through my head with a fixed gaze. His cloudy right eye somehow amplified the effect. His buddy Cal stood in the corner and shook his head every time I answered a question. They were taking turns swapping good cop bad cop roles at a nauseating speed.

I shifted in my seat to get a better look at my new companion and old associate, Simon. We had been isolated in the Amarr customs office for what I could only guess was 1,000 years.

Simon’s indifferent look was vaguely reassuring. He spent hours in customs every week making sure a variety of goods were moved to and from the planet without security intervention. Today, his specialty was getting me to the capital. I was thankful that he was willing to help.

Thanks to Karver I had a cover story for my low sec status. He fed enough information into the network to make it look like I had been working for Geklov. In fact, the records indicated that I had billions of ISK worth of Caldari military weapons that I was selling to him. Geklov and his men had attacked me in a deal gone bad and I was fortunate enough to kill them and get away. There was enough truth mixed in to make it believable. At least I hoped so.

A buzzer sounded, and with a grunt Severn hauled himself off the seat and exited the room, Cal in tow. I wanted to make a smart-ass comment to break loose the tension wedged in my ribs, but cut the words short when I remembered the room was probably being monitored. I settled for a long slow breath that was only a fraction as satisfying. Simon stood and reached for the ceiling to stretch.

“Is this ever going to be over?”

“We haven’t been at it long,” he said with a cocky grin.

I rolled my eyes and dropped my head into my hands. The bureaucracy was mind-blowing. The customs officers spent more time going over my paperwork than drilling me on my security status. I glanced up to watch Simon stroll around the room like it was his personal quarters.

“How are we doing so far,” I asked, head weighing heavy in my hands. A little sleep would be a requirement soon or I wouldn’t be able to focus.

“We are not in jail, or dead. You sure you want to get to the planet this bad? It’s probably not too late to give them your inventory and leave.”

I didn’t have any inventory, beyond the zeros and ones Karver had inserted into Jita primary inventory system. I didn’t let Simon in on that secret though. Holding back information was almost a professional courtesy. Plausible deniability might save his life.

The door opened and my two best friends almost stumbled over each other to get inside. Cal was the first to make it to his chair. He slapped my file, now about an inch thicker, down on the table and motioned for Simon to return to his seat. Severn hovered behind Cal near the door.

“I understand you have some inventory you would like to use to secure your visa?”

“I have a little over 5 billion ISK worth of Caldari military weapons. I also have skills your government might find useful.” I added the last part, desperately hoping that was what he wanted to hear.

“Return to your rooms. We will let you know soon.”

Within an hour, after a promise to deliver the military equipment to Cal’s personal hanger, I had a temporary travel visa. I would be allowed to travel the capital city until my inventory arrived in two days. That was all the time I had to find Antov, or persuade his cousin to tell me where he was. When the supplies didn’t arrive security would be looking for me.

I thanked Simon, reviewed maps of the city, and then packed. After a short nap I found myself sandwiched between an Amarr priest and what appeared to be some kind of hobo on the planetary transport ship. I wedged myself in a corner, making sure that the small AT56 blaster with a sensor scram chip concealed in my waistband wouldn’t accidentally be exposed. It was a final gift from Simon. I was on my own from here on out.

After several “accidental” gropes from the priest, the transport thumped down on the planet. I worked my way out of tube and choked in the thick atmosphere. There was a smoky copper taste in the air that worked its way into my lungs. The humidity fell over me like a wet blanket. Amarr was a charming place already.

I wasted no time exiting the transport facility and heading north. My communicator kept me pointing toward my first destination, the local Amarr defense agency. I varied my route along the packed streets, doubling back occasionally in case I was being followed.

I walked up to the defense building 5 minutes before the start of the first tour. I made a donation to the Amarr historical society and found a spot in the small crowed gathering to see, what my research told me, was the oldest collection of Amarr military memorabilia on the planet. A couple hundred years of relics were inside the museum in the middle of the massive building. Having been on the receiving end of those weapons a multitude of times I understood their fascination. Lasers are sexy.

The tour guide, a short Amarr woman, brought us all into the atrium. As soon as her speech began I turned to my communicator and pulled up the floor plan. Leger Moltov’s office was located one floor below. There were two stairwells that connected to the area. One that led down a large hallway and one that was off to the side. My plan was to take the first stairwell the tour passed and slip down to his office. Karver hadn’t been able to find a recent picture of Leger so I needed to get a good look at him. Then I could follow him when he left for the day.

I waited until the tour group passed the first stairwell and slipped inside. Upon reaching the bottom I quickly headed down the corridor toward the office. About 30 feet from the door, next to a listing of building security managers and who to contact in the event of a fire, was a group of employee pictures. Near the bottom was a bald man with face tattoos that desperately needed touch-ups. He looked to be about fifty. His label was “Leger Moltov Deputy Undersecretary of Procurements”. I took a quick snapshot of the picture with my communicator and headed toward the second set of stairs.

I made it about half way there when the door to the office opened, the familiar voice of Antov slithered into the hallway. He stepped out turning to say his goodbyes to someone inside. I froze in place, willing myself not to be seen. Calm and anger battled inside me as I resisted the urge to pull my blaster out and start firing. I was too far away for my blaster but he was plenty close for the carbine he liked to use.

He turned down the corridor away from me. Tension seeped from my legs as I turned toward the stairs. I could beat him outside if I hurried. I sprinted up the stairs and down the short corridor to the doors leading outside. Once I exited the building I ducked behind a pillar near the walkway and waited.

A short time later he came from the door like an apparition. Dead calm overtook me and in that moment all the anger and purpose merged into a razor sharp predatory force. I waited until he picked a direction and fell in behind him. I didn’t need to see him, I could feel him in the distance. When he turned to look, I was always somewhere else. He moved slow and clumsy in my sharpened vision.

The chase did not last long and something inside of me was sad about that. He entered a building about three blocks from where we started. It appeared to be some kind of government housing. I followed, allowing enough time for him to move beyond my line of sight. Quietly entering, I reached out with my senses to find him in the maze of hallways. I could hear footsteps toward the left hallway and I slid along the wall carefully peeking around the corner. I didn’t move until he entered a room halfway down the hall.

My heart pounded in my chest with each step toward the door. One way or another it all ended here. I hit the buzzer and stood to the side of the door readying my blaster. I imagined I could hear his heart beating on the other side.

The door slid open and the second it was clear of the wall I stepped back and kicked with all my weight into Antov. I was through the door, slamming the control panel with my left hand, as he was still in a tumble backwards. He looked up, knowing eyes drilling into mine. He dove away from me as I leveled the gun. With a roll he ended up near a table, quickly reaching for something on the other side. My gun fired before he had a chance to turn back toward me. Red steam filled the air as he fell to the floor.

I rounded the table and put my foot on the gun lying near him. Antov lay there, moaning. The shot had clipped the side of his face leaving it a mushy mess, but he was still alive. I reached down and picked up his gun, pointed it at his chest, and pulled the trigger. When his movement stopped I let the gun fall to my side. A dark peace fell over me. My mission was done. There was nothing left. The anger that had fueled me slipped away. All that remained was calm nothing.

I put Antov’s gun on the table and pulled the scram off of my blaster. I set it on Antov hoping it would be enough to stop the security scanners from seeing a communicator attached to someone without a pulse. If I was lucky, it would be long enough for me to…long enough for me to do what? There was nothing left for me to do. Everyone was finished. There was nothing left…

It was then that I noticed a sound behind me. In my desire to kill Antov I forgot to worry about who else might be in the room.  I swung around ready to fire, but stopped dead in my tracks. My stomach dropped to the floor and the room began to spin.


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