Halcyon’s Heirs 3

The elevator door opened in the top floor cafeteria of Mule Tower and Dillon Dvorak stepped out, half asleep.

He stumbled toward the serving line, passing a table with Granny Wilcox, chewing her food slowly, Jillian Thrall and Skylar Hawkens.

Jillian and Skylar were engaged in animated conversation. Skylar turned and smiled brightly at Dillon as he passed their table.

“Morning, Dillon!”

“Hgzrph.”

He continued on to the line, squinting to find his way.

“Looks like Sharkspeare ain’t a morning person,” Granny observed.

A few moments later, Dillon returned, taking up a spot at their table. He placed the tray down, filled with biscuits, gravy and sausage, then sat down himself. He picked up a cup of coffee and took a long sip, ignoring the women smiling at him.

“Teenagers these days,” Granny said. “Nobody likes to get up before noon.”

Dillon grunted noncommittally, and continued sipping on his coffee. A few minutes later, he started on his food.

“After you wake up, Dillon,” Jillian said, “you can join us and try to hit Granny in the gym.”

“That’s right,” Granny said. “It’s a sparring session. You can fight all of us.”

Dillon’s eyebrows shot up and he seemed to wake up a little. He wolfed down the food as Granny cackled.

-+-

“Hulgph!”

“Well, that’s a different sound than you made at breakfast, Sonny,” Granny said.

Dillon opened his eyes to see the old woman peering down at him, her face upside down in his field of vision.

He said, “How did you do that?”

“You came at me like a big lummox. I just shifted your weight and used it against you.”

The two younger women smiled down at him, too.

“Don’t feel bad,” Skylar said. “She’s been flipping us for months.”

Dillon groaned and pulled himself to his feet.

Granny said, “I like having a man to beat up on. I can show you gals some new tricks.”

Dillon cupped his chin and pushed until his neck popped. He said, “Just don’t knee me in the groin or anything.”

Granny cackled in delight. She said, “That’s for the Krav Maga lessons!”

A distant Thoom!sounded throughout the building.

“Did you hear that?” Jillian said.

The lights flashed red and a klaxon sounded. A male voice came from speakers in the ceiling.

“Intruder alert. Mule Tower is under attack. Intruder alert, Floor 44.”

-+-

Captain Christopher Raleigh sat in his office with his First Officer, Elijah Maxwell. They rested in leather-backed chairs at a large wooden desk made from trees native to Lute.

Raleigh said, “Alright, we just sold off Coral Reef. That helps our accounts considerably.”

Maxwell said, “How about ransoms on the passenger?”

“We’ve gotten them all in except for young Sergio. His family refused to pay up.”

“Did you try negotiating?”

“Lootie tells me they’re unwilling to send even a thousand credits to get him home. They don’t want him.”

Maxwell snorted. “That’s pretty cold for family.”

Raleigh nodded and said, “Temporarily I have him down in our guest quarters, since the ship is now sold. Not sure what to do with him, so we’ll just keep him there for a while.

“On a brighter note, Lootie tells me shares have been deposited from our last outing, compliments of the Republic bean counters and PLAIR. We netted an easy six million credits.”

Maxwell’s face broke into a wide grin. He said, “There was nothing easy about it, Captain. We almost got blown out of the sky sneaking into the Juventas system. I don’t think we’ll be able to try that again anytime soon.”

Raleigh shrugged. He said, “We managed alright. If we have to do it again, we’ll figure it out again.”

“So, 60,000 a share,” Maxwell said.

Raleigh nodded. “I gave Biff Jones and Julia 50,000 each before they left. That’s their respective shares in retrieving the pocket computer.”

Maxwell grinned again. He said, “Paid off a cop, did you?”

“Ha. I don’t think he thought of it that way at the time. But, seeing as how they did all the work, they probably should have gotten more.”

Maxwell shrugged and said, “They’re always welcome to make their way back to Lute if they’re looking for dishonest employment.”

“Privateering is honest, Max. It’s just the other side doesn’t see it that way.”

Thoom!

Both men looked at each other and said, “What was that?”

“Intruder alert. Mule Tower is under attack. Intruder alert, Floor 44.”

-+-

Marshal Metger looked down at the crowd of janissaries he had hired with assistance from the Petra Roe Embassy. They were dressed in black blaster armor and wore visors to prevent the local AI from identifying them. Twelve of them swarmed toward the front door of the building. He watched everything from the safety of a skycab’s back seat.

Privately he felt grateful human cabbies still existed on this world. They made his plans much easier, since they could be hijacked. Android cabbies or autocabs were much more difficult to commandeer. But with humans, a simple request to help a Marshal out often sufficed. If not, an appropriate threat usually did the trick.

This particular cabbie had proven to be reluctant to help, and suffered accordingly. The blood over his ear was drying, finally, from where Metger had clocked him. It left a messy stain on the front seat.

The crowd of hired hands in the street below ran into resistance immediately. Metger sensed the doors were not opening for them, and watched as they planted bombs. They backed away, then bright light flashed followed by the thunder of explosions.

But the doors held. He could see when the smoke cleared the janissaries were no closer to entering the building than before. They fired into the entrance with their weapons, but the doors held.

He nodded. This was expected. The ground team was just meant to be a distraction, after all.

“Back away from the side of the building a few meters,” he said to the cabbie. The man nodded and they floated away.

“Your AI is completely unhelpful, by the way. Somebody needs to program some respect for law enforcement into her.”

The cabbie nodded agreeably. Metger suspected the man did not want to get punched again, and would agree to anything he said at the moment.

“So, I don’t know what floor my target is on since the AI won’t tell me. But, I figure if I take a few hostages, kill a few people, then maybe she’ll show up.”

Metger reached into a duffel bag beside him on the back seat and pulled out a portable rocket launcher.

“Open the canopy.”

The cabbie complied, and the red-tinted force field surrounding the top of the cab switched off. The temperature dropped as wind blew around them, ruffling the Marshal’s pageboy haircut.

Metger said, “The thing about towers is, they’re heavily fortified at the street level and on the roof. But nobody thinks about an assault from the side.”

He aimed the rocket launcher carefully toward one of the windows at eye level and squeezed the trigger. The missile shot out, exploding in the side of the building. Dust and debris rained down to the street below. A gaping hole yawned open from the wall.

He said, “Now, maneuver us next to my new doorway, and I’ll jump out here. Thanks for the ride.”

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