Haloed Bane

Debut

Those are offensively large."


Necker followed Tech-1’s gaze and chuckled. "Her eyes, right? Ha, guess not. I don’t know, I can’t say I’m offended."

"Hmm. Look how she’s eyeballing the place."

Necker rolled her eyes and was about to make a snide remark on the look of the locale (who wouldn’t be dazzled upon entering this rathole for the very first time?) but something about the way Tech-1 was staring at the newcomer made her think better of it. Like she was off balance, which was rare.

Damn it. They’ve finally caught up with her and she knows it. There’s probably forty veterans from the Targan put-down outside that door just begging to be let in. Or a brand-new Spinner hovering over the place. Oh, but then I’d get blown up too. Nah, those Army punks are crude, but not that crude. This could be your chance, Necker. At worst get detained, blabber, get out, regroup under your own franchise. Done.

Sinduin interviewed

Tech-1 sized up the situation as best as she could, while the bearer of that treasure chest picked a table, called for a smoke, and resumed her examination of the joint. Tech-1 figured she’d been in trouble often enough, she’d deal with this too. Might as well just k-

Whispered Necker: "Maybe she’s a tourist, long hair and all. Some folk get off on visiting the end of the world."

"A tourist’s eyes dart this way and that, like, all tense and full of nerves. And she would not sit at that spot, with her back to the fucking door."

"Yeah, huh. She sure doesn’t look nervous. New recruit? Courier?"

"We’re not expecting shit."

Poochie sneaked up on them as was her wont and shook her head twice, then shrugged for effect. Aha, no backup at all. It seemed the visitor had come all alone. In other words: here comes trouble. Tech-1 watched Poochie glide toward her usual nook and hoped the girl wasn’t stupid enough to assume everything was fine just because this individual was all alone. On the contrary.

Necker stared at Tech-1 as if saying "You’re the boss, bitch. What now?" A couple of weeks from now, they both knew, the set of visitors potentially walking through that door would have been much narrower, much more predictable. Flayer field still surrounded Shiver Planet, though, which meant all 21 dimensions had cohered into one and it was both a good time to hunt and a downright awful time to be hunted. In direct response to Necker’s not so imaginary challenge, Tech1 muttered "Fuck it" and walked straight up to the long haired one, her comrade two steps behind.

"What’s your business, miladybug?"

"Just looking. Do you own the place?"

Necker answered: "It’s not owned by anyone. We’re not much into hierarchy here. I’d have thought they keyed that factoid into the traffic mods?"

"This whole area is my business, actually." The newcomer ended her sentence with a half-suppressed squeal, no doubt from feeling the tip of an Asuk dagger close to her spine. Tech-1 nodded at Poochie and thanked her inwardly for proving her wrong. Sneaky little fuck, you’re worth three times your weight in salt, four even.

The native trio smiled at their target, who seemed, after a few seconds, to regain her composure.

"As I was saying, this sector is my business."

"Enarchy, then. It figures."

"Which Ministry?"

"Education."

"Lovely," grunted Tech-1, more puzzled than ever and trying desperately to hide it.

Necker was loving it. "What then? You’re here to educate us?"

"Not exactly. I work for C.U.S.N.S., uhm, Committee for Unstable Societies in the Near Systems. Started last month, in fact. I was ordered to get a taste of the people we’re supposed to study."

"I’ll give you more than a taste, goddess, but educate me first: what the hell did your mom feed you that garnered you those gorgeous cannons?"

"Cool it, Neck."

"Buy me a drink and we’ll discuss it."

Poochie jumped in: "They-they let you come all alone? Are they stupid or something?"

They’re not, Poochie, Tech-1 thought. They’re blind, crazy and millions of miles out on the wrong side of history, but they’re not stupid. Don’t you let your grip on that blade slacken. She quietly drew her own longun just in case.

"I’m not that different from you."

"You’re not from these parts, still."

"I’m from Albrajen."

"Albrajan?"

Necker had heard of it: "Lagash… Moon?"

"Yes. Picture this place," said the newcomer, looking up, then down, "but..well..lunar-scaled. With plenty of pit-drakes."

"Ah," Poochie squealed, making it obvious her dagger was the farthest thing away from her mind, "Glowgem System."

"A fucking Glowgerm. I see now. They reckon it takes one to know one. Glowgerms and Shiver scum. Two-"

Necker cut Tech-1 off: "The difference is, one society is unstable because it resists and keeps getting squashed for it, and the other one is unstable because they’ll drill a hole in the back of momma’s head if they think it might have some precious ore they can sell to Incudea, at rock-bottom prices of course, so the Silver bitches can keep oppressing us all in the most cost-effective manner possible. No offense, you know."

"None taken. I can’t say I disagree."

Poochie literally lifted her dagger in the air like an idiot, saying: "You do? I mean, you don't?"

"You're right. They are bitches. You wouldn’t believe what they get up to. Come to think of it, I guess you of all people would."

The newcomer sighed and her chest shivered in response. Her hair was full of static, resting where it was. I have to agree with Necker, she does have fabulous tits. Too bad.

"They tell me to go and learn about you gals, and then they add that I need to make my mark from the start."

The newcomer leisurely stretches her left arm back to reach for Poochie’s dagger, her eyes still on Tech-1 and Necker.

"That is…"

She touches the tip, as if trying to summon the blade’s worm to kill her right then and there.

"…all they say. They don’t actually tell me how to go about it."

"Poochie," Tech-1 warns.

"But I think I know." She brings her arm back front and opens her palm. "To study a group of sapients you must be able to control them…"

"Poochie," Tech-1 repeats, but the girl won’t listen. Not my problem if you get shot, then.

"To control, you must be able to crush." Palm closes into a fist.

Tech-1 raises her gun and points it directly at the visitor from Glowgem. Necker catches sight of the weapon and stands back. What will be will be…


And it was death. Death for the whole lot. Sinduin decided to finish her smoke before leaving. After all, it wasn’t her fault the universe was what it was, and she wasn’t sure the Ministry would reimburse her for narcotics.

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