The Parasol popped into orbit around Lute, following her regular yet unpublicized schedule. Cargo was sent down to Port Ryan, including clothing and other imports from across both League planets as well as the Republic’s. Exports were sent back up to the ship’s now empty holds, including agricultural products and tons of cryo-preserved poshbird, the chicken of the stars.
A handful of passengers ported down to the Administration Building, including new embassy staff and those returning from trips home. They passed through Customs without incident, their luggage and even the diplomatic pouches subjected to discreet scans by LuteNet. Customs officials knew several of these people by sight, they traveled between the two planets so often.
Of more interest to the officials were the handful of passengers who came down from the ship. Visitors to Lute were unusual. Typically, the only ones who made it this far either had a good reason to come all this way, or were interested in joining a pirate company. So, each visitor was politely but thoroughly screened.
A particularly large man approached the customs desk after exiting the embarkation/disembarkation zone, carrying a single suitcase on a strap over his shoulder. The agent looked down at her holoscreen at the data on him.
“Ah. Two last names, I see.”
She smiled up at him to gauge his reaction. She found a large face on a large head atop a very large man. He had thick black hair that was cut evenly, in a pageboy style. It did nothing to enhance his looks.
He looked at her without expression in his dark eyes, and for a moment she wondered if she would need to call for help.
Then he smiled slightly, and appeared marginally less threatening.
He said, “I get that a lot.”
“Enjoy your stay on Lute,” she said.
He nodded back and continued into the building.
Well, if he’s here to join a company, he should make a good pirate, she thought to herself.
Outside the building, Metger blinked in the sunlight and looked up. A young boy ran to him fearlessly.
“Cab, sir? Where do you need to go? Looking for a hotel? Restaurant?”
“Take me to the Petra Roe Embassy.”
“Sure thing! Right this way, sir!”
The boy led him down the steps of the building to the street where autocabs sat parked, waiting to give rides. The boy led him to one and made sure he stayed inside. Then the canopy snapped shut and the vehicle lifted into the sky.
Moments later, it landed on the roof the embassy building. Metger exited the vehicle and approached a receptionist droid underneath a canopied entrance.
He said, “Miller Metger here to see Ambassador Huntington.”
The android nodded as information danced across her holoscreen.
“Step into the elevator capsule, Mr. Metger. It will take you where you want to go.”
He nodded, and entered the waiting pod. When the doors opened again, he found himself walking into an ornate room with walnut paneling and plush carpets. The Ambassador himself stood from his desk and came around to meet him, in clear deference to his status.
Metger did not register anything on his face, but the Ambassador’s efforts pleased him. Proper respect was important.
“Marshal Miller Metger,” the Ambassador said. “I am very pleased to meet you.”
He shook hands with the bigger man warmly. Metger waited for him to say something about his name, or the three identical letters in his name and title, but the Ambassador merely pulled a curled tip of his mustache out and let it spring back, grinning at him all the while.
“I don’t believe I’ve made it out to Lute since the war began,” Metger said, casting his eyes about the spacious office.
“Have a seat, Marshal, have a seat. Yes, travel has been restricted, especially with the League. Not too many debtors can find their way here. Or runaways or prisoners.”
Metger sank into a sinfully luxurious sofa and stared back at the effusive Ambassador without expression.
He said, “We’re not always tracking down debtors. In my case, at the moment, I’m looking for the daughter of a certain Tetrarch.”
The Ambassador nodded gleefully. He said, “I am well aware of Ms. Thrall. She has evaded every attempt to reunite her with her father. I am sure that now you are here, this situation will be rectified immediately.”
Metger stared at the well-dressed Ambassador blankly. He considered what the man did not say. Every attempt to kill her had failed, too. The Marshal’s Service had resources no other organization in either major government had. And Metger knew that SSI’s office in Clarion had put out a contract on Jillian Thrall. He also knew the Ambassador here had failed in fulfilling that contract. And, the head of SSI Clarion had paid for the contract with his own life. The Tetrarch was not happy.
Out loud Metger said, “I am tasked with returning Ms. Thrall to her father. Unharmed. I hope I may have the resources of your Embassy in fulfilling my task.”
“Absolutely, Marshal. Absolutely.”
“I understand she is with the Ultima Mule Company. Do they have any enemies? Any rival pirate companies looking to take them down a notch or two?”
Huntington shook his head. He said, “It doesn’t work that way. The companies cooperate more than anything. If they compete it’s to see how many League ships they can take in comparison to the others.”
“I see. That is unfortunate. I will likely need some form of assistance if I am to take on an entire company.”
“I use janissaries. You can hire anybody you need here. Assassins, snipers, you name it.”
“Very good. I’ll also need a blaster. Some egg grenades would be nice, if you have them. And a combat knife.”
“Take the elevator down to our armory. Check out whatever you like. I will make sure the droid there knows you are fully authorized.”
Metger stood, towering over the Ambassador.
He said, “I’ll be in touch when I need additional resources. I’ll have no difficulties taking a Petra Roe ship on the way out? I’ll need to catch a ride up to orbit since the local AI will likely consider this a forced abduction.”
“Absolutely. I’ll have a transport standing by, ready to give you a ride.”
“Very good. I’ll be on my way, then.”
As he walked out of the room, the Ambassador stood up nervously.
He said, “I hope the Marshal’s Service will remember the goodwill and cooperation the people of Petra Roe are always willing to offer.”
Metger gave him a flat stare again for a moment, as if trying to read the underlying message in the Ambassador’s words.
Finally he nodded and headed for the elevator.
When he left, Huntington rubbed his hands together in glee.
“Now those pirates are finally going to meet their match! The Marshal is here!”