Read Merkiaari Wars: 02 - What Price Honour Online

Authors: Mark E. Cooper

Tags: #Space Opera, #Science Fiction, #war, #Military, #space marines, #alien invasion, #cyborg, #merkiaari wars

Merkiaari Wars: 02 - What Price Honour (9 page)

BOOK: Merkiaari Wars: 02 - What Price Honour
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“What is it, Fleming?” Millard said, groping for the mask.

Kate let him remove it. His eyes widened in shock, and he slid a hand under the pillow. “Naughty,” she said tapping him on the temple with the silencer. “Bring it out slowly, there’s a good boy.”

Millard withdrew a small snub-nosed pulser, and Kate took it from him. It was a nice little weapon—short ranged and with a low firing rate, but easy to conceal. It would kill a person just as dead as her slug thrower.

“I’ll keep this if you don’t mind, Mister Millard.”

Millard’s lips trembled. “You know who I am. Who are you?”

“Your executioner I’m afraid.”

“I guessed that,” the podgy man said bravely. “Sanderson send you?”

“That’s what I want to talk to you about, Mister Millard. Why was I sent to kill you?”

Millard’s eyes narrowed in sudden calculation. “You don’t know?”

“Would I be asking if I did?”

“I am… I
was
building an army to fight President Sanderson…”

“I know that,” Kate interrupted. “What I want to know is who cares enough about a piss pot planet like Tigris to have me sent here?”

“Why should I tell you? You’re going to kill me anyway.”

“True,” she said with a smile. “But I don’t like being used—especially not for something like this. I’ll make you a deal. After I kill you, I’ll kill the man who sent me here. How’s that?”

“How can I refuse?” Millard said with lips trembling. “Sanderson—”

She shook her head. “No, no, no. I won’t be fooled into finishing your little war for you.”

“Sanderson has a deal with a corporation on Bethany I tell you. He—”

“Bethany?” What chance this? He couldn’t know she was from Bethany. “You’re sure?”

“Everyone knows. Sanderson is skimming from the harvest. He’s been doing it for years. The harvesters are desperate!”

“Hush.” She prodded him with the gun. “So he’s skimming, so what?”

“So he’s working with the Whitby Corporation. He supplies them with what they want, and Whitby supplies him with guns and men to keep the harvesters in line. You saw the APCs outside? We stole them from the spaceport before he could take possession. They’re brand new, diverted straight here from an Alliance weapons factory. God knows what they sent instead. Some General is probably spitting mad about that.”

Whitby… her handler’s paymaster was a Whitby? Damn them! They were behind everything that was wrong with Bethany. They had destroyed her father’s life, leaving her alone and unprepared to care for her brother, and now here she was helping them! Sanderson had called on Whitby’s help to put Millard’s rebellion down, and there was nothing she could do about it… or was there? Her eyes narrowed as a plan began to form.

Millard was still babbling. “…all his ships. Whitby keeps Sanderson in power. It must be Whitby who sent you. Was it Whitby?”

Pfft!

“I don’t know, Mister Millard,” she said to the corpse. “But I think I’ll finish this little war for you after all.”

Kate stood and quietly left the building.

 * * *

 
Chapter 5
 

Planet Tigris, Border Zone

Back at the shuttle, Kate changed out of her sneaksuit and back into civilian clothes trying not to think about Whitby, but it was no good. Whitby was one of the ten ruling families of Bethany. Nothing of importance happened there without the Ten’s say so, which seemed to add credence to Millard’s accusation. The Alliance might be ruled by the will of the Council, but Bethany was ruled by the will of the Ten.

The Alliance constitution held sway throughout the Human sector of the galaxy, but it still left a great deal to be decided by each planet’s home government. The Alliance Council had ever been reluctant to interfere too boldly in a member world’s domestic affairs. As long as the constitution wasn’t bent out of shape too badly, the Ten had almost ultimate power within the Bethany system. Kate would bet her life savings that abuses of the constitution were never reported. They answered to no one but themselves back home, but out here at the arse end of nowhere their interests were vulnerable. Perhaps she could give them a bloody nose without getting caught. Her thoughts turned to Paul and her determination hardened.

Her brother was younger than she was by seven years. Tall and dark haired as she was, they even had the same eyes. Blue like ice and cold as a glacier her mother said of them in admiration. Her father’s eyes were grey and her mother’s blue. The combination of the two was striking. About eight years ago, her father fell foul of the Baxters (one of the Ten) and lost the business that his father, and his father before him, had built up. Paul had promised he would get their money back. Together with some friends, he had set out to do it, but something went wrong and he never returned. A week later, the bodies of his friends were found dumped near one of the city’s auto-recyclers. They would have become fertilizer if not for an unscheduled shutdown for some minor repair or other. The official explanation was that Paul had teamed up with a group of con-artists, and tried to rip off someone from the Baxter family. Paul was never found. It was assumed his body had already found its way into the recycler before the shutdown. Kate had never believed the story. Yes Paul had been seventeen and full of bravado, and yes he had said he would get their money back, but he was good, and kind, and honest, and…

He isn’t a criminal and he isn’t dead dammit!

Kate took a deep breath and continued dressing. The bright orange top left her midriff bare, and the tight criss-cross straps restricted her breathing. It was uncomfortable as hell. The lime green trousers she pulled on, hung too loose on her hips. They felt in danger of pooling at her feet at any moment. The slashed open styling on her arms and legs, especially on the thighs, made her want to cringe, but it was the height of fashion in the core. Fashionable or not, her father would faint if he could see her now. She wished she dared wear something plain, but she needed the disguise the clashing colours offered her.

She checked her appearance in the mirror one more time and shook her head. Zelda’s marketing department had a lot to answer for.

Once dressed, Kate broke her rifle down to its component parts, and stowed them out of sight in her kit bag before moving forward to programme the computer. She gave commands for an auto take off and flight toward the spaceport. While the computer did that, she spent her time in the head polishing her disguise. Hair was first. Applying a handful of Goop Original, she greased her hair flat then applied a comb to make it spiky all over. Turning this way and that she admired the results in the mirror. She looked truly awful.

“Perfect,” she said and applied the setting agent that came as an aerosol with the Goop.

Heavy lipstick and eye shadow came next. Reading the instructions on the side of the applicator, she found the appropriate code and chose a red that was almost fluorescent for the lipstick, and dark purple that was almost black for her eyes. She dialled in the numbers and went to work. By the time she was finished, she looked fifteen years younger and just like a dippy teenaged tourist.

“That should do it.” Kate smirked at the image in the mirror. “Hello Cherry, long time no see.”

Cherry was a cover she had used before. Although of course some details like her last name had changed many times, she always looked like a rich man’s rebellious daughter. The clothes and makeup made Kate seem years younger, and nothing like Kate Richmond—spy and assassin. Cherry was a real person to her. Kate could slip in and out of her Cherry persona easily whenever the need arose. She had others, many others in fact, but Cherry suited a surprising number of situations. People liked her, wanted to help her, or bed her, or simply dance with her. Some had even wanted to take her home to meet the parents! Kate snorted at the remembrance and shook her head. The illusion of naïve youth and money was very attractive to some.

Kate sat in the pilot’s chair to watch as the jungle grudgingly gave way first to tamed forests, and finally to cultivated farmland. The shuttle made a small course correction, and a road flashed by beneath her. Roads meant civilisation. She was nearly there. She keyed the microphone and began to play her part.

“Can anyone hear me?
Please
say you can hear me… mayday, mayday. How do I land this thing?”

“This is Tigris port control. Identify yourself.”

“Oh thank
God.
My name’s Cherry and I’m on a shuttle. There’s no
pilot!

“State your designation,” snapped the flight controller.

“Touchy, touchy,” Kate murmured to herself before keying the microphone live again. “Cherry, I just told you.”

“Not your name, your shuttle. What is your registry?”

“I don’t
knoooow!

“Calm down and start at the beginning. What happened to your pilot?”

Kate launched into her prepared story. “…said he knew this great place we could go, but when we landed, we were in the middle of the jungle! He grabbed me, but I stamped on his foot and got away. He chased me into the trees, so I hid until I could sneak back to the shuttle. I locked the hatch and pushed the button that said auto, but now I can’t
laaaand.

“Ahh, hmmm… everything will be fine now, ma’am. Shuttles are very safe, but I need you to do something for me. Can you do that?”

“I’ll try,” Kate said in a small voice.

“Good, that’s good. Now what I need you to do is…”

Kate almost shouted in triumph as the controller’s attitude changed. He was treating her like a not very bright child now. That could only help her when she landed. She reached for the transponder control and waited.

“…you to look above your head. Can you see all the knobs and switches?”

“I see them.”

“That’s good. Now, near the centre of the panel there’s a row of knobs. Don’t touch them, but at the end of the row is a switch that says transponder. Have you got it?”

“Yeah. It says disable at the top, autonomous in the middle, and enable at the bottom.” Kate rolled her eyes and waited for the command she knew was coming.

“Very good. It should be pointing to the word autonomous, but I want you to flick that switch all the way down to enable.”

“Now?”

“Yes, do it now for me.”

Hallelujah!

“I did it. There’s a blinking light on the panel—”

“Don’t worry about that. It just means I’m flying the shuttle now. You stay strapped in, and I’ll have you on the ground in no time.”

“Thank you,” Kate said in a meek voice and threw the microphone down. “The things I have to do for this job.”

Kate kept a wary eye on her instruments, ready to intercede should that be necessary, but the controller seemed competent enough. Her disguise was important, but not more important than her life. She kept a close eye. The shuttle came in slower than she would have flown it, but that didn’t concern her, what did was her reception committee. There was bound to be one. As the shuttle landed, she took a sniff from the aerosol that she’d used on her hair. It was astringent and made her eyes water. Through the cockpit window, she could see that powerful floodlights lit the taxiway and shuttle parking bays, making the night flee and welcoming her to civilisation. While she cried alone in the cockpit, the shuttle automatically taxied toward a small group of people waiting for her outside the brightly lit terminal building.

“There you go. You can move around now,” the flight controller said.

“I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t been there. Will I see you outside?”

“Ah… about that. I’m on duty so I can’t come down there, but I’ve sent a friend of mine. His name’s Robert; you’ll like him.”

“Oh, okay,” she said.

Kate was peering out the cockpit window looking for anyone in uniform. She didn’t care whether the flight controller came to meet her or not. All she cared about was the lack of security personnel in her reception committee. It looked as if they had bought her story.

“Before you go, I need your name. I had to log your mayday call, and my supervisor will want to ask you a few questions.”

Kate frowned, suspicious of his motives, but then she shrugged. “It’s Cherry Jackson. What kind of questions? Does he need to ask them tonight?”

“Nothing to worry about, just routine. I know you must be tired. I’m sure he won’t mind waiting until tomorrow. Look, I’ve got to go. Good luck, and let Robert take care of you. He’s a nice guy.”

“Thanks.”

Kate’s eyes were red and puffy by the time she opened the hatch and barrelled into the arms of one of the waiting men.

“Thank you, thank you,
thank you.
” She forced more tears to come and cried on his shoulder while trying to watch his friends’ reactions.

“Hey Robert, you’ve caught a wild one this time,” one man called and the others laughed.

BOOK: Merkiaari Wars: 02 - What Price Honour
11.26Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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