Read Hurt World One and the Zombie Rats Online

Authors: Stuart Parker

Tags: #thriller, #future adventure, #grime crime, #adveneture mystery

Hurt World One and the Zombie Rats (30 page)

BOOK: Hurt World One and the Zombie Rats
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There was a long pause before Caixa
responded. ‘It is courageous of you to point that out considering I
instigated many of those investments. By all means include them in
your review. I must say, however, that I am not as optimistic as
you that peace will prevail. Conflict is part of human nature and
is always just around the corner whether you are expecting it or
not. Savage Alliance has taken up the business model of expecting
it and I am proud that we are the market leader in weapons and
putting the wounded back together again and if we hold our never
long enough, customers will come, as President of the company, I
guarantee it.’

He took in a deep, calming breath. ‘Finally,
I would like to say that although unsuccessful, Operation Advance
reflected many of the core values of Savage Alliance: bold,
ambitious, intelligent and extremely well planned. It was only in
the execution that the operation was found wanting and we may never
know exactly why. But we will pick ourselves up and try again, and
if we remain true to our core values, success will inevitably be
had. That is what the Savage Alliance brand stands for. Let me
reiterate my gratitude to Jalanti for her time as the Minister for
Risk and Acquisition. Without going into specifics, I can say she
came very close to living up to those core values and in so doing
bringing us into the Big Ten Trade Index. Agonisingly close.’

Caixa departed from the boardroom with his
trademark forthright stride. It was a full minute before anyone
else started to move. As chairs slid back on the immaculate white
marble tiled floor the Minister for Communication leaned to the ear
of the Minister for Infrastructure and whispered, ‘Do you think he
killed her?’

The Minister for Infrastructure was pale even
before the question was asked. ‘The title of the position is
exactly what it entails,’ she whispered. ‘So buyer beware.’ She got
up and joined the orderly exodus from the room.

 

*

 

It was incredible to think that for all those
people walking along the gangway, it was destined to be their last
day on Earth, their last day anywhere for a few trillion miles. All
the passengers were tall, young and very fit looking. The sleek
white uniforms looked good. The sleeves carried the gold insignias
of the European Space Union and the Thousand Year Skin brand name
on the other. To Renaissance’s mind the uniforms were little more
than glorified space pyjamas. After all, they would be spending the
next thirty years in hibernation, undergoing daily bathing in
protein soups to prevent them from liquefying, which had been the
fate of many in the first incarnations of the deep space
hibernation regimes. And according to the research Renaissance had
been reading up on, it was still yet to be perfected. The brains
were the most vulnerable areas, the proteins not always being
absorbed deeply enough to prevent madness or cerebral slop.
Renaissance wondered if these risks were in the thoughts of the
passengers calmly marching in single file towards the Space Weaver
180f launch pad. But mostly she was wondering if one of those
passengers was Mas.

Renaisance was sitting in a luxurious leather
reclining chair alongside her right hand man, Spiros Pardos, in the
office suite of the European Space Commissioner, Geth Barzius. The
suite was situated within the central tower of the Belgium base and
afforded an exceptional view of the launch site and the awe
inspiring Space Weaver upon it. Renaissance stood up and leaned
forward on the window, her attention fixed on the flow of
passengers on the gangway less than twenty metres below. It
occurred to her that despite all the damage Mas had inflicted upon
the world, there was still no verified images of her apart from
grainy images taken from long distances - nothing to make her
attempted identification any easier now.

‘Damn it,’ Renaissance said, thumping the
glass with a fist. ‘We’re the prisoners in this damned suite while
the criminal is allowed to walk free. What kind of world is
this?’

‘It’s a hurt world,’ muttered Pardos. ‘Why
else would people fly thirty years across nothingness for a planet
that has never been anything more than a blimp on a telescope? Or,
more to the point, why would the European Space Agency fund such a
project? It’s long since been a dream of humankind to colonise
other planets. But now it seems we’re getting desperate.’

‘Well, the Hurt World Agency’s priority is to
save this one,’ said Renaissance determinedly. ‘That is why I would
hate for Mas to leave it without telling us her secrets. For
example, who did just try to start the Second Arctic War?’

The last of the passengers were passing by
now, which meant if Mas were one, Renaissance would have seen her,
would have been less than twenty metres away from her. Blast had
not stirred from her spot curled up on the floor at their feet. If
only she could have smelt through thickened glass. Not that much
could have been done even if Mas was identified. As luxurious as
the office suite was, its security systems really were impregnable.
The doors were triple-bolted and the windows were made of the same
Silicone Z glass that shielded the White House from nuclear
attack.

Renaissance pressed her cheek against the
glass to follow the train of passengers moving along the gangway
and across the retractable loading bridge to the enormous
spacecraft. The base rockets were smoking as its fuel core was
brought to the very brink of atomic splittage. A manned spacecraft
had never gone as far as would this, and if its navigation systems
miscalculated even a fraction, it would be forever lost.

The door to the office suite opened abruptly
and Geth Barzius strode in, wearing the same white uniform as the
Space Weaver passengers.

‘Thank you for your patience, Renaissance,’
she said, ‘and congratulations on your promotion.’

‘I haven’t been promoted,’ replied
Renaissance.

‘That is not what I have been advised. I was
intending to place you under arrest under Section 4.31 of the Space
Exploration Act, but my friends in the US Government have warned me
that you are moving up in the world. Apparently it has become
necessary to treat you as hospitably as possible. If that’s not a
promotion, what is?’ Barzius stopped in the centre of the office
and looked over her three guests with a cool, calculating
thoroughness. ‘Apparently you have recently thwarted an attempt to
instigate a major international conflict.’

‘And you have been thwarting us from
identifying the chief suspect in the plot,’ said Renaissance.
‘Doesn’t it bother you that someone as dangerous as Mas is likely
among your would be colonists?’

Barzius shrugged. ‘We are sending our
hardiest plants and animals on the mission. The same standard needs
to apply to the people as well. A poacher who has spent her whole
life in the wild, hunting and living off her wits - could there be
a candidate more ideally suited for what we have in mind? Besides,
from what the Americans are telling me, there is not enough
evidence to connect her with any crime of significance. Suspicion
is not enough, certainly it is not enough to mar such a momentous
occasion as this. But I will allow your signature dog to sniff the
gangway for her scent. At least then the Americans will know
whether or not they can end the dragnet they have placed around
Alabama Island. And if your subject has managed to slip through the
net to us, it is merely further indication of the kind of ingenuity
we would most certainly love to have on the voyage to come.’

‘And it does not faze you that she just may
be a killer as well?’

‘Again, I would require more evidence than
your dog wagging its tail. Speaking of which, we should hurry. We
only have minutes before launch.’

Renaissance stood her ground. ‘So you will
allow us to identify Mas so long as we agree to give her up?’

‘That’s right. Give her up to limitless
possibilities of space.’ Barzius smirked. ‘Perhaps you’ll even
consider it a favour, for I am doing what your technicians have
been unable to do and what your lawyers won’t be able to do:
expunge your poacher from the world forever. And possibly even put
her to good use in the process.’

Pardos walked up beside Renaissance,
murmuring, ‘I don’t think we’ve got any choice. If we can tie up
this loose end, the mission will go down in the annals as a
complete and overwhelming success. The destruction of the Meltman’s
Heroin 3 empire, the prevention of a high tech missile hijacking
and the neutralisation of its main suspect. And in so doing,
satisfying the primary charter of Hurt World One: protecting the
world’s animals from her greatest enemies, humans.’

‘Even if those creatures happen to be
genetically modified snakes and zombie rats?’ Renaissance muttered.
‘Very well, then.’ She clicked her fingers at Blast. ‘Come on,
girl.’

The black Jack Russell terrier sprung
excitedly to her feet.

‘I’m glad you’ve agreed,’ said Barzius,
heading to the door. ‘To be honest, I’m quite curious to know
myself.’ She led the way to the glass elevator and they rode it
down to the narrow steel gangway. Blast squeezed between their legs
to be the first out the elevator. She was near hysterical upon the
gangway, barking wildly with her nose to the floor and her tail
shooting straight up into the air. Renaissance and Pardos turned
sharply to the Space Weaver just in time to see its doors close for
the last time on Earth.

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