Read The Orion Deception Online
Authors: Tom Bielawski
Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Adventure, #Heck Thomas
"I'm sorry," she said as she picked up the gun dropped by the man that Heck had shot first. She held the lightweight pistol with just two fingers, cringing as though it were a dead bug. "It was
idea, not mine."
The man just groaned in pain, one hand over his bloody shoulder. Then he started mumbling in a foreign language, she thought it was some variety of Slavic as she removed a pair of handcuffs from a pouch on his belt in the small of this back. Then she handcuffed the man's uninjured arm to the base of a seat.
"Both of his hands, Lainne," he instructed. "Hurry up!"
"He's hurt, I can only do one hand."
"I'm so glad you're worried about his well-being."
"I'm trying, Heck Thomas!" she shouted back, offended. "I found his wallet, and he's mumbling in Russian or something."
"Now the woman."
Just as Lainne was about to step over the man in the narrow aisle, his hand shot up and he grabbed her ankle. Then the man thrust a tanto style knife up toward her thigh with his uninjured arm, aiming for her femoral artery and a potentially killing blow.
Before the blade struck home another shot rang out in the shuttle cabin and the man went limp. Lainne jumped back with a shriek as she saw gray matter dripping from a gaping hole in the man's head.
"What happened?" she asked, frightened.
"He was so happy you were nice he tried to kill you in gratitude," said Heck. "Now, the woman!"
Lainne stumbled over to the unconscious woman. She took the woman's gun and her purse, and found a pair of handcuffs hidden within. Heck instructed Lainne to handcuff the woman to the nearest seat, both hands. Then he told her to do the same to the man who was seated beneath the ex-lawman's gun. Lainne had to use a few of straps from the floatation devices strapped to the seat-bottoms to finish securing the hostile looking man's legs.
With each of the man's hands secured to the armrests, and his feet secured to the bottom of the seat, Heck gave Lainne a gun and made her guard him.
"Shoot him if he tries to escape," he growled. Lainne nodded dutifully, but doubted she could pull the trigger if it came to that. She was frightened of this man, there was nothing in his eyes but death and hatred. The man returned Heck's cold glare with an icy stare of his own as Heck searched his pockets. He found a small pistol and a pair of throwing knives hidden in secret pockets, but nothing else.
Then he flipped through the wallets that Lainne had recovered, nodding to himself as he perused the identification cards within. "Commonwealth Transportation Security Agency," he growled. "Figures." He tossed the wallets onto the seat next to his prisoner and left Lainne to her duty.
Heck approached the pilot with caution and was suspicious of the man from the start. A small tattoo of a crescent moon and dagger logo was visible on his dark skin above the collar of his t-shirt. He placed the barrel of his gun against the man's skull.
"Soldier of the Crescent Moon?" he asked with a snarl.
"What is it to you?" sneered the man in return.
"Only the lives of some good US Marines I served with in my youth."
"Your country's war on the sovereign State of Nuristan caused those losses, not me."
"You don't know how tempted I am to squeeze this trigger," whispered Heck.
"So the great Heck Thomas
give in to his anger," said the pilot. "Go ahead. I'm sure God will forgive you."
Heck couldn't understand why, but the man's words hit home. He was right. While Heck was certainly not a Muslim, as he thought this man must be, he had been a Christian and now felt ashamed that a Muslim terrorist was putting him in his place. What was happening to him? Drinking, self-pity, uncontrollable anger? That was not like the typically in-control lawman. He took a deep breath and pulled the weapon back from the man's head. Aside from helping to lessen his growing anger, holding a gun to a person's head was certainly not an effective way to control someone, especially if that person had any tactical training.
"Do as I say and we will get along fine," cautioned the ex-lawman. The pilot nodded. He was a young man, far younger than Heck's own forty-five years, and couldn't have been involved in the Nuristan insurrection of twenty years before.
"Activate the nav computer," instructed Heck. When the man hesitated he said, "Since you seem to know who I am, you must also know that I am one of the best pilots in the System. I can kill you and fly this craft manually, without nav systems or guidance controls. So please, do as I ask."
The pilot did as he was told and in a moment the navigation system holocontrols projected into the air in front of Heck. He punched in the coordinates for their new destination just as he felt a tap on his shoulder.
"A little busy here, Lainne."
"That man keeps staring at me. He won't talk at all."
"Why are you talking to him?" he asked.
"I'm just trying to find out about my brother," she said defensively.
Heck turned to glare at here fiercely. "You dragged me into this, Lainne. Now I'm in it and we’re going to do this my way. That guy is a killer. He is not an agent of the Commonwealth, at least not any agency I know of. The two clowns behind us were Commonwealth Transportation Security rookies, probably here to supervise the killer in the back of the aircraft. But him, he will probably swallow his own tongue before he tells you anything. At least as long as we let him keep his tongue."
Lainne was shocked at the turn in Heck's demeanor. "Ok, Heck." She returned to her prisoner who just glared at her, danger and death in his cold eyes.
"Why are we going there?" asked the pilot, nodding to the coordinates on the navigation computer. Heck returned his attention to the man at the controls of the aircraft. "That part of Lake George is a swamp and incredibly dangerous, especially in the dark."
"Don't worry about it, Soldier."
"It will not be long before the Air Force dispatches fighters to find and destroy us," warned the man.
"Then I guess we should get on the ground before then."
"Whatever you say," said the pilot as he forced the engines to maximum speed. "We should be there in twenty minutes."
"Power off the comm system, we’re going to fly dark."
"That is not wise, Mr. Thomas. There are too many aircraft flying in this area, we could crash."
"Then you'd better be very good at flying dark."
The Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of Spacefaring Nations, Horatio Arnold, languished in an anti-grav recliner behind a polished desk of cherry wood. He stared out the great bay window to the intriguing world of Palace Drift, sprawled before him in a metropolis of corruption, vice, and betrayal. In the square far below his personal high-rise tower troops marched in tight formation, preparing for the changing of the guard. Ever since that meddlesome ex-Marshal, Heck Thomas, had infiltrated the Prime Minister's Palace, security had tightened up throughout the drift; even the sewer tubes were now guarded by armed guards.
The Honorable Mr. Arnold smiled as he swiveled his chair about, the window now at his back. The PM was not a sentimental man, and the decor of his personal office reflected his dour personality. Horatio Arnold proudly displayed traditional paintings of war instead of photos of family he did not care for. He had been especially fond of the First American Civil War and the events that led up to it. History had a way of repeating itself and Horatio Arnold was not necessarily of the opinion that such repetition was a bad thing.
Arnold knew that the current state of the Commonwealth mirrored the unrest that led to the Second American Civil War, which was largely a financial cold war between certain American states and its parent US Government. If things were to continue as they had, the various factions within the Commonwealth would align into two distinct spheres. The first sphere consisted mainly of the drift states existing beyond Earth - Moon orbit near the Asteroid Belt and two autonomous Martian colonies; already there had been rumblings of common discontent among them. The second sphere was the core support group of the Commonwealth. It was made up of the Terran governments who were largely dependent upon the taxes collected by the Commonwealth to support and care for their own peoples; the Earth-Moon orbital drift states, Commonwealth Lunar Dependency, and the Commonwealth Martian Dependency.
The rift between the two groups had become so great that Arnold was certain war was inevitable. The drift states in particular had become trade powerhouses and had formed their own caucuses within the Commonwealth Parliament, those who remained in the Commonwealth that is. Mining companies had started most of those drifts in the mid-21
Century, and colonization followed quickly with the advent of artificial gravity technology. It wasn't long before the drifts that controlled various mining operations expanded and grew and traded with each other, creating thriving and successful communities. The sense of self-determination and self-reliance was strong and necessary in the far away drifts and brought a resurgence of the well-known American Revolutionary War motto, "
Don't tread on me!"
Arnold smiled at his own reflection in a mirror on the back of his door and smoothed his slick black hair back into place. He removed a small aerosol can from his desk and spritzed a small amount onto a troublesome patch of gray hair. In seconds the gray hair was black once more and the recirculated air sucked the lingering spray out of the room. He tucked his secret spray back into a drawer and tapped the computer interface in the surface of his desk.
This office, the Office of Prime Minister, signified the pinnacle of his career; it was his crowning achievement. But the achievement had begun to feel hollow. Arnold was nearing the end of his second five year term. He had never been forced to endure a vote of No Confidence, but the rumblings in Parliament threatened one soon. And that could mean a premature end to his dream of mastery of the Solar System. That could not be allowed to happen.
The System was highly divided over a number of issues and the people of the various member states reflected that division. As far as Arnold was concerned, the Commonwealth had a cancerous growth in the form of those in opposition to himself, only Arnold wasn't entirely unhappy with that scenario. He blew out a sigh of contentment, the drift states were playing right into his hands. The power of the Commonwealth government was going to tip drastically very soon and Arnold intended to be driving the side that tipped the scales.
Arnold sat down on his anti-grav recliner and tapped a smooth vid screen on the armrest. A holographic menu appeared before him and he made his selection with the flick of one finger. A news anchor flared to life above his desk and began recounting stories he had recorded earlier. He sat back in his recliner to watch and listen, having already known much of what he was about see, a broad smile on his face.
"...Recent polls show that the governments of non-Terran Commonwealth states favor ending Commonwealth jurisdiction over their populations and removing trade laws which they consider burdensome and barriers to growth..."
Arnold's grin grew bigger, his pearly white teeth nearly glowing in the flickering light of the hologram.
"...The Drift States Caucus in Parliament, in their typically aloof way, rejected any measure that would prop up the failing governments of Earth. According to reports, member states such as Churchill Drift, which still claims symbolic allegiance to the British Crown, have officially joined the Free Frontier Alliance. The FFA is a watchdog group that formed nearly five years ago in the wake of Prime Minister
Horatio Arnold's historic reelection for the purpose of monitoring what they felt were Mr. Arnold's 'dictatorial tendencies.'
The current member states who participate in FFA activity
are Liberty Islands Drift, Palmetto Drift, and Freedom Drift..."
Arnold hooted and slammed a hand down on the surface his desk in glee. The FFA were wrong, however. Arnold had no intentions or aspirations of becoming a dictator, though he suspected that FFA probably knew they weren't far from the truth; he wanted to become Emperor! Emperor Arnold I, of the Imperial Commonwealth Alliance. He would use the term "alliance" loosely, in much the same way the Communists of the 20
Century often described themselves as "people's republics." It was just a way to soften the hard image of an empire to its subjects. And subjects they would become, for there would be no choice.
"...The divide between the governments of the Earth and those of the drift states has widened considerably in recent months. Earth governments are blaming the drifts for the bad Terran
economy and insist that the drifts do not pay enough money in taxes to the Commonwealth in light of their better financial standing. Canadian Prime Minister Jacques
St. Teresa, along with the leaders of Mexico and Brazil, is calling for the drifts to 'pay their fair share' to the Commonwealth and support their Earth-bound partners in society. The Earth governments are largely dependent upon money from the Commonwealth to provide the most basic services to their citizens.