The trio stepped off the elevator and looked at the motley array of ships. It was a collection of all shapes and sizes.
Shouhei’s heart leapt in joy at the sight of so many spacefaring beauties. How he greatly desired to step aboard one and fly among the blackness. He made sure that his emotion did not show on his face.
“Look for a ship that looks like a long, gray needle.” Major Stotter added, “Deadly force is authorized if you deem it necessary.”
Everyone unholstered his pistol. Shouhei fought to suppress a smile at the sight of sweat beading on Hicks’s brow. He never thought that he would see the day when Hicks would be silent.
The ship in question was found within a few minutes. Stotter motioned Hicks and Shouhei to take up positions around the ship while he covered the main hatch.
“Artimus Rawlings,” Stotter called out. “Come out and surrender peacefully. You are under arrest for delinquent docking fee payments and suspicion of ore smuggling. If you just come with us quietly, I assure you that this matter will be cleared up very easily.”
A bullet narrowly missed Stotter’s head. Stotter dived behind a stack of nearby ore containers before Rawlings fired another shot.
Shouhei followed his superior’s example. He took up a position behind the control panel of a loading crane.
More shots were fired.
Hicks was not so fast. He was lying on the deck, his head surrounded by a steadily growing crimson puddle.
Stotter feigned rage. “Rawlings! I’m going to deep space you for that!”
“Shut up Stotter,” Rawlings screamed back. “You have as much feeling for your men as a whale has for its dung.”
Stotter and Rawlings exchanged verbal barbs—and occasionally shots.
Shouhei caught sight of the suspect. He was sheltered behind a landing strut of another ship. The strut’s cover provided excellent protection against Stotter’s pistol.
Shouhei fired some rounds that startled Rawlings more than anything else.
He returned fire.
Shouhei ducked as the rounds sounded on the control panel in front of him.
Shouhei got back up to return fire, but he could not see Rawlings.
The hot barrel touching his temple alerted him to Rawling’s new location.
“I’m going to send you into early retirement, Enforcer.”
“Rawlings,” Stotter shouting as he pointed the pistol at Rawlings. “Stand down!”
Rawlings turned his head. “Or wha…”
Shouhei took quick action and shot Rawlings in the left knee. Then he hit Rawlings in the jaw with his pistol. Rawlings fell to the deck. He was out cold.
Stotter rushed over. “Are you okay, boy?”
“Yessir,” Shouhei responded.
“Why didn’t you kill him?” Stotter demanded.
“I don’t know, Sir.” Shouhei responded as he looked down at Hick’s dead body. “It just didn’t seem right. I know that he had killed one of our own, but I couldn’t do it, Sir. I’m sorry.”
Stotter pointed his pistol at the back of Shouhei’s head. “Me too.”