by Travis Perry -
The job the old man gave him to do was ridiculously simple. Pick up some a container of special material, no questions asked. Show the forged papers on the way out of the mail hub and as needed on the way back, delivering the package straight to the angel’s chamber.
It was so simple and trivial Ernsto could barely believe he’d been assigned to the task. Hobson might as well have sent one of the cyborgs for something like this. But a lot of the work he’d done for Wizard Hobson in his weeks on Avenir belonged to that category. Trivial, but well-paid. As if he wants me around, even though he’s got nothin’ for me to do…which made absolutely no sense.
The job went off without a hitch, as expected, except after he rode the stainless steel cargo lift up to the executive level. The governor’s staterooms lay off to the left and other ministers had quarters to the right (Hobson served as Minster of Ethics, of all things). Ernsto showed his papers to the enforcer at the elevator and carried the box made out of processed bugshell toward Hobson’s. Before he’d gotten more than ten paces from the checkpoint, he heard the elevator open again and a young voice behind him.
“You there, do I know you?”
He turned around with deliberate slowness. Behind him stood a fresh-faced enforcer with a crisp new uniform, with the silver emblem on the right side indicating Governor’s Service. His name tag said “Salsar.”
“Don’t think so,” answered Ernsto slowly. Moving slow was always a good way to face a lawman for the first time. It tended to put ‘em at ease…
“Your face looks familiar,” said the enforcer.
“I get a lot of that. I resemble Stensin, governor before last.”
The enforcer squinted at him, visibly wondering if that were the reason. “Your papers, please.”
He showed the forms and studied the face of the young enforcer examining them. This one showed no signs of bullying—a true believer in the occupation of law enforcement. Would almost be a shame to kill him.
“Everything seems correct. Please pardon my interruption, Mr. Jons.”
“No trouble at all, officer,” he answered.
Within moments he’d passed by Nasir and Rolf at the door, who still resented the way the old man treated him better than them. Once past the entry the sense of terror and distress stabbed at him, like knives in his eyes. The angel’s distress pierced him. He barely realized that his pace picked up—he nearly ran into the angel’s chamber.
Hobson, assisted by a pair of cyborgs, used multiple manipulator arms within the pressurized tank to press the angel down to the tank floor, while ratcheting down straps of some kind tight into her flesh.
“Ernsto, dear boy!” The wizard’s smile spread his mouth wide, but his eyes were dead and lifeless. “Bring the package here, my lad.”
Ernsto found himself stepping forward.