By Edward M. Erdelac
Considine eased the Zirconian shuttle through the magnetic field and cut the engines, automatically kicking in the stabilizers, which allowed the small ship to float easily in and down to the deck.
It was one of only three shuttles the Zirconian branch of the Peacekeepers employed. There was hardly any call for interplanetary transfers beyond shipping the occasional convict to
Sheba. Most prisoners were put to
work in Zirconia, so even that was a dubious requirement. They’d once had four,
but the fourth had developed some kind of debilitating mechanical failure and
had been cannibalized by its three comrades.
This particular shuttle handled sluggishly, and had a faulty rear left stabilization emitter, which caused it to dip in that quarter at random intervals, making the drink containers in the cabin mostly useless.
Considine spied a pair of suited Enforcers in their pristine tactical combat armor flanking a third man in a tailormade long coat, whose balding pate he recognized as belonging to his old partner Gorsh.
As he settled the ship down and unbuckled his safety belts, Brendermeyer was already heading for the hatch.
“Avenir here I come,” he grinned. “Big time.”
“You’re not going to find a warm welcome, I’m afraid.” Considine said. “Remember, they’re expecting Croix. You’re going to be something of a disappointment, I’m afraid.”
“I’m a comedian, Inspector,” Brendermeyer said, winking back at him as the hatch shot open. “I’m used to disappointing people.”
Considine had never yet caught Brendermeyer’s act. He couldn’t say he even remembered the moonlighting Enforcer ever telling a joke. At least, not one that he had remembered as funny.
It turned out, he never would.
Brendermeyer barely waited for the gangway to descend before he swung down onto the deck.
He was still taking in his brand new surroundings, so he didn’t notice the gaunt man in the red jumpsuit and pulled down cap pushing the air-dolly with the mag-clamps for the shuttle struts. Why should he? It was standard procedure to secure the ship to the deck for safety.
Except that the worker was vaguely familiar. Considine’s homunculus began to kick his teeth like mad.
Brendermeyer didn’t see the worker break into a run, shoving the air-dolly straight at the shuttle. Briefly out of control and speeding from the momentum, the floating cart whizzed towards Brendermeyer.
Considine shouted a warning, and the funnyman Enforcer did manage to side step the runaway air-dolly. It struck the gangway and promptly detonated, as no air-dolly bearing mere mag-clamps should have.
The force of the explosion ripped Brendermeyer to pieces and flung fire and metal and blazing bone up into the shuttle.
Considine was thrown against the canopy and slammed back down onto the console. He heard the emergency klaxons sound and the hissing of the flame retarders. At least they worked. He experienced the shocking sensation of being bathed for a brief moment in intense heat and then he was doused with a mound of cool but foul smelling chemical foam.
Avenir, he thought for one brief, bitter moment, before he lost consciousness.