By Edward M. Erdelac
Considine stared at himself in the mirror. Puffy, sutured flesh peered out from beneath the stark bandage over his left eye, where a shard of Brendermeyer’s femur had torn a gash. His blue eyes looked sunken in their bruised sockets, and the second degree burns on his neck and chin were an angry red.
Not as angry as he felt, though. In this case, what was inside him was much worse than how he looked.
He was on a hefty dose of pain suppressants, but not so heavy as the clinicians had prescribed. He needed a clear head.
He had nearly shared Brendermeyer’s unfortunate end. Luckily Jelly hadn’t skimped on the cabin safety measures when he’d last refit the craft.
“You alright in there, Stanlon?”
Gorsh. To have to deal with him now. He gritted his teeth. Gorsh would expect questions, and he had them, but he was loathe to waste time listening to Gorsh’s non-answers.
But he had to keep up appearances.
He opened the door to Gorsh’s private restroom and stepped out into his posh office, with its Peace Council sigil on the wall and its massive viewport gazing out at the planet below.
Plush rug, chrome desk, tasteful art. Yes, Gorsh, you’ve done well for yourself.
“Have a seat,” Gorsh said, motioning to a comfortable chair in front of his desk. “I’ll get you a drink.”
“Not with the pain suppressants, no thanks,” Considine said, limping over to the chair and easing slowly and agonizingly down into it. The fabric was like a scouring pad on his tender leg, even through his trousers.
“You sure you’re alright?”
“Don’t sound so disappointed, Gorsh.”
“Don’t be stupid. You nearly checked out. We were partners once. I’m concerned.”
He poured himself a drink of greenish fluid and downed it in a gulp.
“What’s so funny?” said Gorsh.
“You. Still at the libations after all these years. Yet you’ve got a seat on the Council, and my sobriety, where did that get me?”
Gorsh smiled slightly.
“Never too late to start thinking about your career,” he said, offering the bottle once more.
“I’d rather smoke,” he said, pulling his singed pack of kelpweed cigarettes out of his pocket.
“Oh God, don’t tell me you’ve taken up smoking that seaweed garbage.”
“It’s an acquired taste,” Considine admitted, knocking one loose and pushing it into his lips. “Light?”
“I don’t want my office smelling like a fish market,” Gorsh said, settling in his chair.
“All heart, like always,” Considine said, replacing the cigarette and sighing.
“You’ll want to know, we have a lead on the bomber,” Gorsh said.
“I don’t want to hear about your leads. I want to know why he isn’t in custody, when he did the deed in front of you and two of your crack full-time Enforcers.”
“The bay was on fire, Stanlon,” Gorsh said, opening his hands. “My first concern was to get you clear of the wreckage.”
“Convenient,” Considine muttered. “Alright, what’s your lead?”
“We had an incident that caused some anti-Enforcer backlash a little while ago. There’s a sort of fringe dissident group operating on Avenir now. The Pigkillers….”
Considine’s mind wandered. Pigkillers. Terrorists. Just as he’d suspected, Gorsh’s lead was a damned smokescreen. He already knew the identity of the bomber, just as Considine did.
It was Orin Bantry, Morgenstar Munition’s star employee and Aloysius Morgenstar’s personal go to it guy by way of detonite. Considine had smelled the stuff when they’d confiscated it from Croix in Zirconia, and he’d smelled it again when it blew Brendermeyer to pieces.
Somebody should have told Orin to stop wearing that stupid company cap.