Terkos walked down the main promenade of the high crystal station. He strolled slowly, nodding to those he knew, and exchanging pleasantries with passersbys. He wore what had become standard "uniform" for the station security in the 9 months of his tenure as head of that department. Black turtleneck shirt, black pants and a dark charcoal jacket. Two dark maroon stripes on the left lapel, and a buff black comm-badge were the only non-civilian items visible. He subtly shifted the weight of his shoulder holster. The phaser, an older Phaser IIb model that had become standard issue for security, rested warm against his body. The dark suit subtly narrowed his lines, making him look less bulky. Other than the up-swept brows, pointed ears, and yellowish complexion, he looked like any other businessman in a suit.
The last nine months had been busy. The Station's security forces were a total wreck after the "dumpster" incident. A crash course of retraining, and re-equipping, had halted, and reversed the slide in both moral and effectiveness. The turnover had been high. Many of the existing officers had become complacent, and resisted getting off their butts, working, and working out. A profile of the newer security officers indicated that 60% were cops that didn't work out somewhere else. Most had problems with procedures that prevented justice from being done, or that hampered effective law enforcement, or had chafed at laws that prosecuted relatively harmless behavior at the expense of ignoring more harmful behavior. In the hot-house of an Ane controlled station, they thrived. The current group had settled down, and become an effective tool in controlling what few problems the High Crystal station had.
The job had not changed, it was still mainly breaking up fights between long haul shippers with too much time and money on their hands, and keeping track of the lost and found. Incidents of a true criminal nature were rare, but not as rare as he would have liked.
He spotted the main problem entering the Skyview Cafe, and decided a word or two was in order. He entered, ordered coffee mocha, no sugar and sought the table his current problem was seated at. He slid into the seat and addressed his problem.
"Nardo, you're becoming a thorn in my side. There are plenty of other stations to do your business on."
Nardo, sat nonchalant, fiddling with a glass of lunch. "I don't takes bizness advice from flatfoots."
Terkos ignored the comment. "Why are you here? In the name of your ancestors I fail to see what you are thinking. Running drugs onto High Crystal? No Ane would even touch that stuff. Why do you bother?"
Nardo laughed and shook his head breezily. "We'll find sometin. Da Ane will go for sometin and then we'll be in bizness."
Terkos stared levelly at the Iotian. "Nardo, I do not understand you. You have tried drugs. There is no market. You have tried computer technology. The Ane co-opted your business. You are now paid dividends on that. You have tried contraband fruit in a place that grows more fruit than any three systems. Are you genetically designed to smuggle and commit crime?"
Nardo sipped his drink thoughtfully. "Not genetically flatfoot, culturally."
"What does this `flatfoot' mean?"
Nardo leaned forward and looked Terkos in the eye. "Yous da station security here, yous da heat, right? But yous different. Yous don't wear uniforms, stands on procedures or even gets roiled about us violatin' yous territory. Yous have your own code and yous live by it, da Ane pay yous to dos it here. Yous is a gumshoe. A flatfoot. A Knight Errant of da dark streets."
"I do not understand this or why it matters."
Nardo took a sip of his drink and continued. "On Iotia, we hears about Al Capone and his boys in skool, and we heres about da fierce gangsters of Earth and we emulates dem. Wes adopts dat culture as ours. But someting's missin' dere. Wes found it later on. It was a woythy opponent."
Terkos sat stunned. "You cannot be serious."
Nardo grinned ruefully. "Yep. I's here to challenge yous. To be challenged by yous. I will finds a crime to commits, and then dos it to spites yous. Calls it a sorts of a duel."
Terkos leaned forward and grew grim. "You are playing a childish game. But your games are crimes of violence that risk life and property. The consequences are serious and real. This is not a game."
Nardo's grinned, his voice took on a dangerous edge. "A game wid life n' death stakes is da only one woyth playin'. I hears about yous run in wid Rabba da Brow. I has to come and sees it for meself. You ain't disappointin' me."
"You do not understand the Ane, or the laws here. If there is something that benefits them then it will not be a crime. If there is something that harms them, then they will not do it. If there existed the capacity to become addicted to drugs, then the Ane kicked it out of their gene pool a hundred thousand generations ago."
Nardo nodded. "Yeah, dem Ane is a weird bunch. I don't understands dem all da ways yet. Maybes I never will. But dis ain't abouts dem, see? It's about you, an' about me."
"The most frightening thing is that I understand you. I don't agree, but I understand it."
"I knew yous would. Yous is hard boiled Terkos. Without me around to give yous a hard time, yous go and finds someone. Yous never be satisfied do'n a beat cop to a buncha deer, anyways."
Terkos laid his hands flat on the table this was beginging to annoy him. "I do not accept this. This is not appropriate behavior for adult beings. If you are set on having this bizarre rivalry, then go find another `flatfoot'. Push this, and I will have you removed from the station."
"Yous could do dat." Nardo leaned back in a breezy manner, ignoring the obvious threat of Terkos' posture. "But tink of hows boring it'll get around heres without me."
Terkos flatly. "You over rate your entertainment value."
Nardo got up, and spun his fedora jauntily onto his head. Terkos rose with him.
Nardo continued. "We'll see flatfoot. We'll see. By the way, yous can find a hunnert pounds o' cocaine in cargo bay 213. Dispose of it however yous do."
Terkos stared at the Iotian. "Cocaine?"
Nardo shrugged. "An Earth drug. It's, like highlys addictive. No Ane wills buy any. Any humanoid whos buys it from me gets fired or transfered away within a coupla days. Worse, theres no spa'cific law against it, soes da Ane keeps comin' 'round an askin' how much I got fer it soes they can gets their cut."
Terkos stared. "Their, cut?"
Nardo tossed a slip of latinum on the table and started to walk away. "Of da money. Dey call it da import tariff, but it amounts to da same ting. Dey gets a cut of everyting movin' on and off da station. I'm gettin' outa da cocaine bizness. It's not wort' da datawork."
Nardo jauntily sauntered from the bar, adjusting the line on his pin-striped suit.
Terkos sat back down, and stared at the cold coffee. He signaled the waitress for a refill. He had a bad feeling that things where about to become interesting.
Two weeks passed without much happening. Terkos would have hoped that Nardo had given up and left, but he still spotted him around the station. Worse additional Iotians, Notable from their loud and seemingly uncomfortable dress, were coming on the station. However, aside from the usual brawls and lost items the criminal activity was nominal.
Terkos had just finished cleaning up the details on a first class free for all at a tavern called Neptune's Daughter. He was unsure who this Neptune person was, but the manger ran a loose ship, and a messy one. He could depend on Neptune's Daughter hosting at least one fight a week. He had just cleared his PADD when he noticed that the empty frontage across from Neptune's Daughter had a new lessee. He wondered how long this one would last. The fights at Neptune's Daughter seldom stayed in the bar proper. Which was the reason the frontage across from it was empty to begin with.
Well, it was his duty to check out any new business to see what their specific needs were. The sign on the newly installed window was a puzzler.
United Workers of the World
He had no idea what that meant. He entered the store and got a sick feeling it was nothing good. Nardo sat on a desk talking to a curvaceous human woman that seemed to have something in her mouth that she constantly chewed on, but never swallowed.
"Scuse me toots, the heat walked in."
"Greetings to you also Nardo."
"So Flatfoot, wants can wes do ya?"
"I noticed that you have set up shop. It is my duty to understand the needs of the local shopkeepers. I think you will come to regret the location."
"You might have noticed the altercation a short time ago?"
"Yea, it was mildly amussin'."
"It is also all to common."
"My worry, not yours."
"As long as you are aware."
"Ya, da Ane in charge of da shops tolt me alls about it. I likes a little action."
"Your choice. I do however have one question?"
"Wes is here to serve."
Terkos had serious doubts about that. "What is the nature of your business? `United Workers of the World' is not at all obvious."
"Wes is a public service organization. Wes is in da bizness of aidin and abetin the cause of the downtrodden common laborin stiff."
"I was unaware we had any."
"Oh yea, the worker always gets da shaft from da big boss. Da Book says so."
"The Book says so..."
"I 'see'. I imagine we will be have future 'discussions' Nardo. Try to avoid them."
"Hey, I's just providin a badly needed service heres."
Within a few days of his talk with Nardo flyers, printed on paper no less, started appearing around the station. Terkos acquired one and read it at leisure.
United Workers of the World
Don't be the victim of the Robber Barons that take your labor and your health at slavery prices, and give nothing to your community.
Mass your strength with the United Workers of the World.
Together with us your seeming small clout becomes a hammer against
oppression and exploitation.
--You can make a difference--
A rally will be held at public hall no 13 at 20.00 station time. Learn how The United Workers of the World can help you.
It was, in a way, highly amusing. He decided that the security forces needed to attend a "workers rally." He called Samballa in and arranged the schedule to allow at least five of his department to attend incognito. He himself would be there as well, but mainly from curiosity.
The night of the rally PH13 was set up with a stage at one end and chairs arranged on the floor in rows. The stage was hung with a great deal of red, white, and blue bunting. It had a podium at the front center and a line of chairs behind that. To one side of the stage a group of Iotians tuned what he took for musical instruments. They would have also made a good poster for tasteless suits. A listless crowd of passerbys and the curious made for a crowd of about 2 dozen.
The band began to play. It was not what Terkos would chose as music. A buzzing, razzing kind of fast music with a heavy back beat. The musicians jerked spasmatical to the beat and waved their instruments around. He wasn't sure if it was part of the entertainment, or a mass seizure caused by the noise.
The "music" brought in a few more people swelling the "crowd" to slightly under 50. At this point a number of people stepped out on the platform and took seats. Nardo he recognized, the others were familiar only from station reports. Two of them were not wearing the loud suits, but were dressed in some manner of shapeless hat, and simple dark blue shirt and pants. Two members of the Iotian gang passed sheets of paper out to the audience. A glance told him it was a song sheet.
Nardo stood and made a rousing speech, at least Terkos thought the effect was meant to be rousing. He spoke vaguely on the "evils of unbridled capitalism". The "greed of the robber barons", and the "trusts". His cohorts also stood and made speeches on a similar vein. The two drabber types gave tearful evidence as to how the "Union" improved their working conditions and their lives. It ended with a call for a rousing rendition of the Union theme song.
The reaction of the audience was somewhere between amusement and boredom. The song got a listless chorus from those willing to play along. The rally sort of dissolved after that.
Nardo and gang were not about to let a slow start get then down. The next morning he was pressing the flesh, and passing out booklets, titled "A Worker's Manifesto", that explained the union position. Terkos acquired one that had been abandoned, and read it.
It stated in remarkably clear language the proposes of the union and its views and politics. If anything the simple statement was more confusing than clarifying. While he could see that the evils spoken of would indeed require remedy, he failed to see any of those evils in the economy around him. This problem was not going to be solved with standard police work. Nardo had doubtless given him the clues he needed. It was a matter of research, and not in the police files.
A pleasant day on Glade. A warm wind ruffled Terkos' hair as he walked the main boulevard of the city with Dania. She was excited to go to the Memory One complex. A day with Daddy was always worth her time. The smile was an easy thing to wear.
Memory One. When he had first heard of it, it sounded like a fantasy. A place where the histories, the literature and art of hundreds of races and cultures was stored, and accessible to anyone. No censors, no "need to know" passes. You just walked in and asked. At first he dismissed it as a fantasy. No government would ever allow its people that kind of freedom of information. It couldn't survive. Some careful research into the complex and the government was like cool water to a parched and dying man. There really was such a place, and anyone could use it for anything they wanted to learn. The Federation was day as to night compared to the Romulan Star Empire. The more he learned of the differences, the more he swore to protect them.
Stepping into the main building was a shock from the heat of the outside to the cool of the shade. El-Nanth's blue star was distant, but felt. He took off his sunglasses. Dania wanted to head straight to the children's room. The interactive games and the company of other children. He followed her eager steps, and saw her settled in.
"Now, I have some research to do. Remain here til I return."
Terkos picked a nearby carrel, and closed the door. Sitting down activated the computer link. The holographic image of a Nordic beauty sprang into existence. Tall, golden blonde with pale blue eyes a slender nose and high forehead. The flowing gossamer robes were a touch he still did not understand.
"Good morning Constable Terkos, how can I be of assistance?"
"Good morning Elizabeth. I wish to research a number of items."
"Where do you wish to begin?"
"What is the reference to `The Book' on the planet of Iotia?"
"`The Book', proper title `Chicago Mobs of the Twenties' published New York, Earth 1992 OEC. This book was left by the crew of the USS Horizon in 2168 OEC, on their visit to this pre-industrial world. Re-contact by the USS Enterprise stardate 4467.4 indicated that the Iotians had built an entire culture based on the templet of `Chicago Mobs of the Twenties'.
"Please reference this book for my remote access."
A data solid popped out of the slot next to him.
"You indicated you have other questions?"
"Yes, is their a correlation between the Chicago mobs and the `Labor Unions'?"
"There are a number of works on this connection. However, mob Influence and corruption in the labor movements of the Twentieth century was after the 1920s. Labor unions did not gain substantial power until the 1960s."
Terkos scratched his chin. "Could Nardo be trying to create a labor movement to corrupt it?"
"Nardo. No last name or appellation given. Iotian national, male, sandy brown hair, 1.8 meters tall, of slender build. Currently in residence on High Crystal Station."
"Oh yes, that Nardo."
"There is more than one?"
"`Nardo' is a common name on Iotia."
"Then why no appellation?"
"I suspect he does have one."
An image came up to the right of Elizabeth. "Is this your man?"
"Crazy Nardo, Nardo the Geek, Nardo the Flash. He has been deported from three Federation worlds in the last five years. He has no outstanding warrants. His MO is attempting to find crimes to commit in open societies."
"So I have noticed. The first appellation I understand, what are the other two?"
"A `Geek', is ancient Earth slang for a show performer who's act consists of gross physical acts such as biting the heads off small animals. Informally it is anyone that seeks to stand out from the crowd in a socially unacceptable fashion. This is the Iotian usage. `Flash', is Iotian slang for drawing attention to one's self with dress or ostentation. Carrying a brightly plated handgun is `Flash'. It is also a term for action intended to draw attention to one's self."
"So Nardo is consider somewhat beyond the pale by his own people."
"That would be the impression."
Terkos considered the options for a while. "If you would be kind enough to select three volumes on the mob and labor unions you would consider most useful. Also the reports of the Enterprise and subsequent contacts with the Iotians."
"Most certainly." A number of data solids were extruded.
"I take it this is not the limit of the available materiels?"
"It most certainly is not."
"I think a good start however. One more thing. Do you have the incident reports on Nardo's deportations?"
"There is a privacy lock on the information. However, as a Peace Constable investigating a person with a known criminal background, I can access it for you."
"Please do so."
"What is your stated reasonable cause?"
"Said person, identified as "Nardo, AKA Nardo the Geek, AKA Crazy Nardo, AKA Nardo the Flash, has openly stated to me an intention to commit a crime within my jurisdiction."
"That's a pretty solid reasonable cause."
"I would say so yes. However, not enough to remove him with."
"No, not enough to remove him." An additional data solid popped out. "It is more than enough to access criminal records however."
"Thank you Elizabeth."
"You are welcome Terkos. Can I get you to come to dinner some time?"
"I would be delighted. You place or mine?"
"You came here the last time. I will come to you."
"Do you intend to pump me for more information about Romulan life?"
"I do. The Romulan story is important too."
"Very well, I'll organize my thoughts."
"Next Tuesday, 7:00?"
"That is suitable."
"We have a date them. Thank You for accessing the Memory One Databank."
Terkos left the carrel for someone else to use and joined Dania in her games.
After his daughter was in bed he accessed the data he had gathered. He could hear Dania breathlessly talking about her day to Leathalan. The Ane had moved in full time when Terkos took the security job. "Perk of the office" he was told. The Ane understood his protective instincts about his daughter, and felt he would function better with that out of his mind. They were right. He turned on the viewer, and tacked this intriguing problem.
The moon shown down brightly on the plains beneath his apartment by the time he shut down the viewer. This was not going to be a one session study. The interactions were complex, and difficult. He did however have a better understanding of the reason behind the labor union movement, and the fact that because of that movement unions had become unnecessary. Some still existed, but mainly as fraternal social clubs, or artist's exchange guilds. Unless Nardo resorted to force, he would not be able to drum up membership in a union. If he resorted to force, Terkos had a clear course of action.
The two weeks saw frenzied action to promote the labor union cause. After the first couple of days people took the Iotians as harmless kooks, and avoided them. Further rallies, handing out booklets and flyers. He even tried an "open air concert". Surprisingly to Terkos, the band was beginning to attract fans. The labor union didn't.
It ended in another brawl at Neptune's Daughter. This one was bad enough that it required a wholesale use of phasers on stun. Terkos was busy directing the security and medical personnel in cleaning up the mess when he noticed that the window on the United Workers of the World was broken. Everyone else was busy, so he investigated himself.
Nardo was sitting with his head in his hands at the desk on the front office. A beaut of a shiner developing on his right eye.
"Evening Nardo. What happened?"
"Hiya Flatfoot. What dos it looks like happin. I gots my windows broke, and a black eye to boot."
"Pity about the window, the artistry of the lettering was pleasing. As to the eye, one of the medical personnel will take care of it." Terkos took out his PADD. "Who hit you."
"Da guy dat came thoughs the window. I don't stops for `is name."
"Where is he now."
"He wents back out da window."
"You have insurance?"
"I guy woulds be stopid to not."
"Very well, my report will be available for insurance proposes."
"It don't matter none. I needs a new window anyways."
"Something wrong with the old one?"
"Yea, dis labor racket is drivin' me ta drink."
"I could have told you it would not work."
"I says it once, I says it again, I don'ts take bizness advice from flatfoots."
"There is nothing to it. The abuses that sparked the Labor Movement on Earth in the early part of their 20th century do not exist here, in part because of that labor movement. To use the Earth expression of the same era; `You are closing the barn door after the horse is gone'."
"Where dis you get smart all a sudden?"
"It is part of my job to remain informed Nardo. I did some reading on the matter."
One of the medics came in.
"Nardo requires assistance with his eye."
The medic went over to treat the Iotian. Terkos turned to leave. Nardo called after him.
"Hey flatfoot. Dis ain't over yet. I is gonna find somtin."
Terkos was afraid he would say that.
The sign said. "The Honest Iotian: Pawnshop and Loan Center". The fancy typeface was under an image of three spheres. Terkos shook his head, and wondered what Nardo was up to this time.
He entered the store. His entry tripped a sensor that rang a small bell. It tinkled pleasantly. Nardo came out from the back. He was dressed in a striped shirt, the sleeves pulled up and held by bands on his upper arms. He wore a curious band around his head that held a brim over his eyes.
"mornin' Copper, what cans we do ya?"
"What now Nardo?"
"Yous would be speakin of our new endeavor?"
"We aims to serve da public in terms of small loans in exchange for collateral."
"It woks like dis. Yous needs credit. Yous brings me an item of personal possession, I values it, and offers yous a loan of dat values. Yous accept, I gives you da money and keeps da item untils you pays me back. I changes a small rates of interest for the time I keeps da thing. If you pays da interest, I holds da item til yous redeems it. If you don'ts pay, when da interest equals da value of da loan, you owes me nuttin, and I keeps the item to sells here. Yous don't accept, we don'ts do bizness."
"Nardo, you surprise me, that sounds like an honest business.
"Like the sign says."
"I question how much you will make at it."
"I has da only shop in town."
"I would think that if the need was present, such an establishment would already exist."
"Dis explains why yous is a copper, and I is a biznessman."
"I suppose it might. By the way, what did you replace the window with?"
"transparent aleylumiem. I ain't replacin it twice."
"Good idea. Good day to you then."
Terkos made a note to keep an eye on the place.
Nardo seem to have called this one right. Through reports and personal observation he noted a stream of customers into Nardo's "pawnshop". The shelves in the store filled with oddities from around the Federation. The break came two weeks into the operation.
Glen Parker was one of his better constables. The man worn hair thick to his shoulders and sported a handlebar mustache and a small beard. He was deadly fast with his phaser. Glen walked into Terkos' office and flopped into the chair across from him.
"I have a line on Nardo's business."
"He is running a bank out of the back office."
"What kind of bank?"
"Are there any laws prohibiting this."
"No, anyone can make a loan to anyone."
"What is unusual then."
"Very high rates of Interest for very short periods of time."
"Then he will not do much business."
"He is specializing in high risk loans."
"That I know has a very limited market. None the less, I'll look into it."
It looked like another trip to Memory One."
Terkos found himself in the familiar carrel of the Memory One complex.
"Good afternoon Constable Terkos, how can I be of assistance?" The lovely features of Elizabeth snapped into focus.
"Good afternoon. Again, I have a number of questions."
"Nardo is keeping you hopping I see."
His expression was steely. "He has yet another endeavor, with I believe a criminal motive."
"What is your request?"
"What connection can you give me between the practice of loaning money, and the mobs?"
"The practice can exist anywhere from a harmless and up front loan of a business nature to the practice of laon sharking, to a front for laundering money."
"What is loan 'sharking'? I am unfamiliar with that term."
"Loan sharking is the practice of loaning money in a high risk environment at high rates of interest with the threat of violence backing the collection effort. The rates are usually much higher than permitted by law."
"What is the maximum rate of interest permitted by El Nanth law?"
"There is no maximum rate. The only aspect of loan sharking that would be illegal is the practice of violence."
"So one can offer money at whatever terms, and the customer is free to take or reject the terms."
"Is there a local back that will take loans as risky as a loan shark might consider."
Elizabeth smiled, a not entirely pleasant smile. "There will be by morning."
Things remained much in this fashion for about a month. Near the end of the month Terkos saw Nardo in the Skyview Cafe with a bottle in front of him. He walked over and took a look at the bottle. "Glenleflech Single Malt Scotch".
"Expensive, from Earth no less."
"I is movin up in the world."
"Then your pawnshop is doing well?"
"I don know how yous doed it flatfoot, but yous doed it."
"What is it I have done Nardo?"
Terkos sat down and signaled the waitress for a glass. He poured a shot of the "scotch".
"Yous makin an honest bizness man of me, and makin me rich in the process."
"I am glad to here you are doing well, and doing well honestly. However, I fail to see how I might be doing it 'to' you." The scotch had a not unpleasant sharp taste, but smoky.
"I might as well tell yous the whole ting. It ain't wokin anyways."
Terkos leaned back in the booth and sipped the scotch. "Why don't you." Nardo was very drunk.
"I's try and set up a loan sharkin racket, like the boys in The Book, but soon as I dos, the local banks get real easy wid the money, and I can'ts get anyones to borrows from me."
"I understand the pawnshop is doing well however."
"Yea, too well. I can'ts even close it."
"Normally I would pity you. But it is hard to feel sorry for someone drinking imported scotch." Terkos kicked back the rest of the drink and it burned into his stomach. "Good day Nardo, and thanks for the drink."
The next time Terkos passed the "Honest Iotian", someone else was at the counter. For two blissful months Terkos didn't hear a thing from Nardo.
"Diamond Lily's" proclaimed the sign. Terkos stood back and took a long look. What kind of business would Diamond Lily be running. The site was one of the larger blocks on the main promenade. Terkos walked in. The decor was lavish, but hardly business-like. Velvet wall coverings, a grand staircase to a second floor, and a cut crystal chandelier decorated what he took to be a foyer. To the right was a counter with a book, and to the left an archway that led into what looked to be a lounge or parlor. Several women were within lounging in various costumes.
A well build human woman that appeared to be of middle years approached him the from lounge area.
"Hyia big boy, we ain't strictly open for business yet, but how can I help you?"
"I was interested in the type of establishment you are running."
"This is a gentleman's leisure club, with open membership."
"Gentleman's leisure? But everyone I see is of the female gender."
"Of course big boy, they are my staff. How better for a gentleman to relax than in the company of attractive women."
"Quite so. Good luck with your endeavor."
It took a little effort, but Terkos found out their primary stock in trade was female sexual services. He checked the books, nothing against the law there. No requirements to even practice the profession. He thought it an odd one however. Well, as long as the place didn't produce brawls, he was happy.
The place remained quite, and demure. Business was not brisk, but they seemed to be getting by.
It took two and a half weeks to come to a head. Terkos was covering the early morning shift when a call came in with a disturbance at Diamond Lily's. He accompanied the patrol that checked it out.
The disturbance was minor. Indeed, it seemed to be mainly a disagreement between Lily, Nardo (why was he not surprised) and the staff.
One girl, a redhead, led the rest, Terkos and the security team walked in on the argument.
"Stick it where the sun don't shine Nardo. You lied to us, big time. Your contract is dirt, and I spit on it."
Nardo replied. "The heat will hears about dis Toots. Yous pretty little ass is in for it big time."
"And rotate it Nardo, it ain't illegal to sell it. Ain't illegal to show it, Hell, it ain't illegal to walk jay naked down the promenade. We don't need you, your goons or your protection from any Heat. Most of all we don't need to pay you to work."
Terkos interrupted. "Perhaps Miss, you should form a labor union, and strike for better wages and working conditions."
Nardo shot Terkos a black look of pure hate.
The redhead replied. "I got a better idea flatfoot. Come on girls we are outta here."
The redhead and the entire staff grabbed the bags they had packed and did just that. Nardo, Lily, Terkos and his patrol were left standing in the foyer. Lily looked Nardo over like something the cat dragged in, and hustled out the door after the girls, calling for them.
A week later Diamond Lily's was back in operation, a banner exclaimed, "Under New Management". Neither Nardo or his goons were in any evidence around the establishment. Lily had things firmly in hand.
Nardo kicked his way down the Promenade. So far everything he tried had been a total bust. He looked in the shops and considered armed robbery, but around this place that could get you killed, never the mind it totally lacked any degree of finesse. A face caught his eye as he passed the "Replimat". Lousy food, which is why it was likely free. No Iotian would be caught dead in the place. But one was, and Nardo thought he might know him. He risked reputation and entered the joint.
"Ibos, Ibos da Hawk?"
The sorry looking figure looked up from his food (if dat is what you could call it.)
"Ya, dats me. Waddaya want?"
"It's me, yous old skool chom, Nardo!"
Animation returned to the dead looking eyes. "Nardo! Long time no see."
"Did ya miss me?"
"Wid every shot so far."
The two men shook hands slapped backs and sat down.
"Man, you must be doin pretty low to bes in dis joint."
"Yous ain't got da half if it."
"So, what's da beat?"
"I got nabbed in da deal wid Rabba da Brow."
"You just get outada slammer?"
"Do I wish! It ain't so simple here."
"Wadda ya mean?"
"I gets dropped in da middle o' nowheres, and I stays out tils I walks back." Now I's back, and de gives me one ticket offa dis place."
"Wheres you headed?"
"Home, wheres it's safe."
"You godda be kiddin. Such an opportunity should not be wasted. Man, you gots a ticket to ride, and yous goin home? If I was yous I'd be heading to da mostest place I could find."
"Dat is like home Nardo. Whats you doing heres anyways."
"Coppin the Heat, given this Terkos guy the bizness."
"Man, beat feet, get outta heres whiles to still can. Dis place ain't cool."
"Naaa, dey is simple, I just about got the deal scooped."
"Man Nardo, yous crazier than I remember. Deys playing Fizbin wid ya."
"Chill out Ibos, I told ya, I got the rules scooped."
"Da only rules in dis pad IS Fizbin. Yous gonna get Kirked by the Heat, and yous never know it happened."
"Hey, I gots it down. It's a done deal and nailed."
"Nardo, yous never gonna scope dis place. Like I said, da only rules is Fizbin."
"Nobodies plays Fizbin all the time. Dis Vulcans is logical, I'll firguses it out."
"Dey already gots you screwed man. Dat Terkos dude ain't no Vulcan. He is Romulan. He ain't playing the same tune man!"
Nardo brushed Ibos off. "Yous been out in the sun too long." He started out of the Replimat.
Ibos called after him. "Yous better beat whiles you can, or yous gonna be in da sun too long."
Nardo laughed him off. Ibos was a nice guy, but none to bright.
"Fight of the Century" it said. "Rocky Boballa VS Frank 'The Law' Murphy", the poster continued. "10,000 FC Purse, winna take all. Simulcast from Iota live by subspace."
Terkos looked it over. I smelled of Nardo, the lingo was Iotian, but he couldn't figure the angle on it. What did Nardo have to gain from a "fight of the century"? It involved concepts and customs he was unfamiliar with. It looked like another trip to Memory One.
Elizabeth smiled. "A 'fight of the century'?"
"That is what the poster said. I really don't know what or who is fighting, or why."
"Based on the wording of the poster, and correlating it with history and practice of the 1920s mobs, I would conclude that this is speaking of a prize fight. A fight between two humanoids believed to be about equally matched. A prize is offered to the fighters. The winner taking either the entire prize, or the larger portion thereof. The promoters make money by selling tickets to attend the fight. The mob connection was usually in illegal gambling, betting on the outcome of the fight."
"Ah, I start to see the connection. Are these fights ever fixed in outcome?"
"Does the sun rise?"
"Point taken. So that is possibility Nardo's angle on the matter. The fight could be fixed."
"You can also consider that with the fight taking place on Iota, controlling the information on the fighters would be easy."
"Yes, much easier than trying to control the outcome from here."
"Gambling is not illegal, nor is lying. However, if honest information on the fighters could be found, and disseminated, that could foil Nardo without even conflicting with him."
"You desire that outcome?"
"Yes, I prefer minimum contact."
"Then I will see that the correct records and information on the two fighters is acquired, and made widely available."
"You are as always, gracious and helpful."
"A brochure entitled 'The History of Prize Fighting' appeared several days after Terkos had his talk with Elizabeth. He saw several people reading it on the promenade. Among the number was Nardo, a slightly deranged look in his eye.
Terkos turned in his direction. "You wanted something Nardo?"
"Yea, wadda you know about dis?"
Terkos looked the proffered item over. "Very, little, Fighting among my people is done for honor or conquest only. We do not fight for prizes, or pleasure."
"I mean, wheres did it comes from?"
Terkos flipped the small booklet over and read the back. "Memory One Publishing. You could have seen that yourself Nardo."
"For a guy dat supposedly has smarts, yous can be dumb at times. Whos is responsible fors it bein here?"
"You would have to enquire at Memory One Publishing. I do not keep track of such things."
Terkos turned his back on Nardo and walked away. He could see him throwing a silent fit in the oculrar implant in the corner of his eye. Eyes in the back of your head could be useful.
The "Fight of the Century" went as scheduled. Terkos' sources reported that Nardo did not make a killing, but did turn a honest a profit as a bookie could expect. A nice decent, honest, profit.
The High Crystal chapter of the loud suits anonymous was called to order. That is, Nardo and the boys sat around the table and passed a bottle. The three men made for an interesting study in contrast. The tallest, one Nardo by name was pin neat in his buff gray pinstripe suit and black shit. The second was a heavy set man, Navy was his preferred color. The third was shorter and not so dapper, he affected a casual but calculated sloppiness to his dress and sported a monocle he didn't need. Nardo led the meeting.
" Gack, Habo, wheres did yous get dese coffin nails? Dey tastes like pencil shavings."
The heavy set man said. "De like, was what I could find."
"Dis is it?"
"Yea, tobacco ain't like, local grown, and no one imports. I paid too much to some greasy Orion for de privilege of what I got."
"You gots took."
"He was like, the only game in town. So wadda we do now?"
"Same ting wes always done, Habo, commits crimes."
The third man spoke for the first time. "I do say gents, that has been most difficult. It seem you cannot make a dishonest living in these parts."
"Yous has dat one nailed Perfessor. So fars everyting we tries, it like just don't works, fer wadever da reason."
"I suggest we take a different approach if our current one is not working."
"Yous gots any bright ideas?"
"Indeed, if you initial attempts and methodology fails to win you the desired results, perhaps it is best to rethink your entire program rather than continue to try variations on a theme that is not productive."
Nardo and Habo stared at Perfessor for a minute. Nardo spoke.
"Agains, in peoples talk."
"Instead of random crimes from The Book, let us research what is a crime, and proceed form there."
"That Habo is whys we pays dis man. Whys didn't yous says that to starts with?"
"Anyways. Lets us gos over da big ones and sees if we misses any of dem."
Habo said. "Drugs, like didn't work."
"And booze flows like water here. Bootlegging is out."
"Da labor rackets didn't works eider."
"Prostitution is legal. On the face of it, this system is starting to sound civilized. All the good vices are perfectly acceptable."
"Yes, including gambling."
"Good fors entertainment, bad fors bizness."
"An, like loan sharkin didn't work either."
"Made me, like mad too. I like loan sharkin."
"Yous likes loan sharkin?"
"Yea, like, all de numbers, and de money, and de beating people up."
The Perfessor waved a dismissive hand. "Each to his own Nardo. We still have the problem.
"Like, what about protection?"
Nardo and the Perfessor looked at Habo like he had just grown a brain, outside his head."
Perfessor said. "It's crude."
"Has no class."
"But." Pronounced Nardo. "It is Illegals as all hell."
"And that has been lacking in our past endeavors."
"We wills do its."
"the question remains, what is the subtlest approach we can arrange. Goon tactics will not succeed here."
"I scams yous there. We hast to work easy. First we need some boys dat Terkos and his heat don't knows."
Assurity Insurance Company. It was in the normal advertisements of the business directory. Terkos has not seen Nardo, and company for a good month, and was really hoping they had given up and moved on. This did not ring quite true. The problem was he couldn't place is finger on it.
Insurance was an uncommon business on the station, business insurance doubly so. Ane law made liability a personal problem, not something you could sue over. Established businesses either had self insurance or they, like the Promenade Merchants had a mutual association for loss and health. From the prospectus this didn't seem the same thing. Little to do but check it out.
"Diana, are you busy."
"I always have time for you Terkos. What do you need?"
"Who is the registered owner of the Assurity Insurance Company?"
"Pervical Williams Ramsbottom."
"That does not sound Iotian."
"He is from the Tudor Colony."
"That is one I never heard of."
"Doesn't this describe a lot of worlds?"
"Yes, but I am working on it.
Speaking of other worlds, remind my concierge to book my next vacation to Vulcan. I should like to see it."
"Consider it done Terkos. Anything else?"
"No, but I wish to keep a close eye on developments."
Within in two weeks the Assurity Insurance Company and paid a personal visit to each and every business on the promenade. This in itself was not unusual, except that they stopped there. No calls on the other businesses that did business on the station proper. Some truly major players in the interstellar marketplace had offices even manufacturing facilities on the station, also some minor ones. However no disturbances were reported in conjunction with the offers of insurance. Promenade businesses were not slow to report disturbances. He also noted that only one business bought insurance, The Honest Iotian pawnshop. Terkos had a sneaking suspicion, but again, no proof. Suspicion was not reason to do anything here.
This continued for several weeks, more or less unchanged. Then Parker dropped boneless into the chair across from him once again.
"You have news?"
"Of a sort."
"What is the news, of a sort?"
"You are aware that petty crime is up?"
Terkos grimaced. "I am all too aware, and the complaints have been pouring in."
"Petty crime has never been a problem. We usually catch the perp fairly fast. Often they never get out of the store."
"That has been the past. The case has changed."
"Small theft, small vandalism, but done with a professional flair and no evidence."
"It would seem a waste of time for a professional of skill enough to evade us to work such little annoyances. Yet, the logic is unexcapible. One, or more such are doing exactly that."
"More than that. The latest was a good example. A projectile launched from a spot not covered by pickups into an open storefront. Some items damaged. The projectile was dry ice. Any evidence on the surface had subblimated before it landed."
"Frozen carbon dioxide."
"Ah, yes. The perfect rock, it vanishes after it hits not even leaving a puddle. Even if DNA has been left on the surface, and remembering the temperature of the substance you could not handle it bare handed, recovering it would be next to impossible."
"I did get some fiber this time."
"Standard kevlar glove you can get from any replicator on the station."
The intercom interrupted them.
"Boss, Carman to see you."
"Just Carman, she is the redhead form Diamond Lily's."
"Show her in."
Carman came in, tastefully dressed, which was a switch from how Terkos usually saw her in answering disturbance calls.
"Can I be of assistance Miss?"
"I don't know Copper, but maybe I can help you."
"Have a seat. Coffee?"
"Not on duty."
"Coffee's fine. You guys sure is friendler than the Heat back home."
Glen Parker had gotten up to get the young woman her coffee. He haded it to her and sat back down, and answered her observation.
"We are here to serve the public Miss, not abuse it."
"I get the same line back on Iotia, but it's a line."
"That is Iotia Miss, this is High Crystal."
"Alright, so you're different. I have some information you guys might be interested in."
Terkos said. "We are listening."
"What's my cut of the action?"
Parker said. "Your, cut, Miss?"
"Yea, do I look stupid? Someone is gonna profit, I want my piece of the action."
Parker started to rise, Terkos motioned him to sit.
Terkos said. "I don't know what the action will be, in any case the action will depend on what the merchant's association is willing to pay in terms of a reward. It is customary to offer a reward for the capture and conviction of criminals on Human worlds. I will point this out to them, but as of yet, no promises."
Parker looked confused.
Carman continued. "So you don't know the action, and these guys don't know the score?"
"The situation is, unfamiliar to them. They will need a reminder."
Carmen looked deeply suspicious for a moment. "OK, you're a straight shooter, I can trust you. The word is that 'certain persons' who were not named, have brought a certain Bernie the Face to the station to do some work."
Terkos leaned back in his chair. "What do you know about this Bernie?"
"It's said, said mind you, that Bernie the Face was a shooter that got tired of the business. I've heard, heard mind you, that it was anything from an attack of morals to a close call, a little too close. So the rumor is that this Bernie guy stopped hittin' that which could hit back, and has concentrated on, what's the word, collateral damage. He breaks it as long as no one gets hurt, bows out if real violence is in the works."
"Bernie the Face... Why 'The Face'?"
"No body has ever seen it."
"Of course. So finding this Bernie is a problem. What about the certain persons that hired him?"
"I don't need to name no names Copper. A certain Geek none of us love."
"I understand Miss Carman. If any action results, you will most certainly be rewarded."
"Sa'right. Come up and see me sometime."
She sauntered out of the room. Parker turn to Terkos.
"Piece of the action?"
"Iotian term, they are a very, capitalist minded community."
"They, pay people to inform on criminals?"
"I suggest you read up on Iotian culture Glen, you will find it informative. Meanwhile, we have to find this Bernie the Face person. I would suggest looking into the records of who has arrived in the last couple of months and has not left."
Parker stood to leave. "I'll get on it. The list is likely to be extensive, and incomplete."
"Let me know what you find."
Terkos rubbed the side of his face. It was hard to understand how simple acts of vandalism could be so hard to track down. Well, the best thing he could do was get out of the way and let his people work.
Three days and two more acts of vandalism. Still now clues as to the identity of Bernie the Face, or even if the entire tip was a red herring to throw them off. In any case Terkos was relaxing at home. He tried to put the problems that had lately plagued him to rest, for at least a while. He, Dania, and Leathalan, where engaged in a "board game" of low complexity. One drew cards from a pile, and moved according to instructions. It was mainly random chance who won the game, but Dania liked to play it, and he enjoyed her company. Leathalan added to the random factor, extending the game, and her company made the game more enjoyable for all.
In the middle of a move the call light came on. Terkos frowned, it had to be important since he blocked any but the most vital calls during family time. He excused himself and took the call on the hush hood.
Samballa appeared on the screen. An intense dark woman, she took everything seriously.
"Chief, we have a murder."
"Minutes, no more than an hour."
"Sector 7, deck 5."
"Off the promenade, near the high rent district."
"Very well, I will be up shortly."
Terkos concentrated. **Leathalan, there has been a killing, I must see to it.**
She looked suddenly sadder. **I understand. I will see to things.**
"The call is important work. We will have to finish our game later."
The girl pouted. "Is it that important?"
"Yes, darling, very important, or I would not go."
"Well, we can finish later. Can we leave the game out?"
"Yes, we can do that. Remember who's turn it is."
"Leathalan! That's easy."
"Good, I will be back as soon as I can."
The mid afternoon hour assured the crime scene would have a good crowd. At least half his security detail was doing crowd control. However, the scene itself was in good order.
The victim was a woman, young, and scantly dressed. Nothing about this was uncommon. She was pretty by human standards, had a visible wound between her breasts, and lay in a pool of her own blood.
Terkos took stock of the scene. He hit his communicator.
"Terkos to station control."
"Please cordon off sector 7 deck 5 aisle 5. Send bios down to clear the area. And if it hasn't been done, cancel all exits."
"The station was closed 20 minutes ago Constable."
"Support is on the way."
"Samballa, what do you have?"
"Human female, age 30 plus, shot with a projectile weapon in the mid chest. Slug went through the body. No ID, she has nothing near her. We had the report within 10, 20 minutes if the death, that much is known. Medical is waiting to take the body."
"Ta'kar is working on it."
Terkos turned to see the Vulcan woman methodically going over the wall behind the body.
"Very well, when she finishes, medical can have her."
As Terkos spoke the requested reinforcement arrived and moved the crowd back. He walked along the edge of the crime scene until Ta'kar noticed him.
"Preliminary readings indicate a high energy projectile weapon fired at 3.4 centimeters above the victim's entry wound, from no more than 2 meters away and no closer than 1.8 meters. The bullet is lodged in the wall, and will have to be removed with care. There have been too many people in the area for an accurate infrared scan. However, they are traces of the propellent on the body. Further study will be enlightening."
"Have you finished with the body?"
"I have finished." With the statement she closed her tricorder.
"Thank you. Samballa, medical can have her. Get maintenance down to clean up the area, and see to getting that slug.
Terkos followed the medial team back to the medical section.
Terkos stood emotionless as the Doctor worked on the girl. She was striped naked on the table. Scans and samples taken of the residue on her clothing, and any on her skin. Once the scanners where done, the doctor began the physical autopsy. It was messy work, but Terkos stayed throughout. The red blood some how made the entire process, less real. It was almost like they were working on a medial surgery model of some kind, and the replicator got the blood the wrong color.
The process took two hours. By the time the doctor was washing up, the forensic team had the residue reports. He took the data solids back to his office. The station was under lockdown, a situation that would not be tolerated for long. The work had to be done, now. Terkos sighed, and opened a channel in is office. Leathalan answered.
**Terkos, it doesn't look good?**
"No, we have a murderer loose on the station, and the station under lockdown. The work must be done, and quickly."
**You will not be home soon.**
"No, please put Dania on the line."
"Hi Daddy, are you still working?"
"Yes darling. And I am likely to be working thorough the night. The work cannot wait this time."
The little girl looked disappointed. "When can we finish our game?"
"As soon as I can get this job wrapped up."
"Why is it so important?"
Terkos took a deep breath. "Because there is a bad person loose that likes to hurt people. It is my job to find them and stop them."
"Is that dangerous?"
"A little bit, yes, but Daddy's job is protecting people from bad people."
Dania paused a moment. "Be careful Daddy."
"I will darling, I will."
Terkos cut the channel. He brushed a tear from his eye. It hurt to bruise an innocent heart, but knowledge was the one thing you cannot protect them from. All the more reason to do his job right. So that knowledge was all she ever had of the evil side of life.
Terkos put the thought behind him and started in on the reports. He told his receptionist to hold any calls, especially those complaining about the lockdown.
Hours had passed, and morning was about to dawn over the city below. Terkos at last put the reports down. The gist was, some one had shot the girl with a gun. And they had used Iotian cordite.
Terkos decided that a word with Nardo was in order. He also decided that dragging the Iotian into the office would be counterproductive. In which case he had better find him. Well, it was a small station.
Smaller than he knew. No sooner have he left the security offices than he nearly ran into Nardo. Nardo spoke first.
"Uh, fancy meetin yous here."
Terkos rocked on his heels. "I could say the same thing."
"I was comin to sees ya."
"I was also, coming to see you."
Nardo cleared his throat. "So, we is seein each others."
"So we are."
"Might I suggests we retires to a place of mutual agreement and dos our seein there."
"Acceptable. Is the Skyview Cafe to your taste?"
Nardo turned on his heel and walked away, Terkos followed. Not a word was exchanged between them as the rode the turbolift to the Skyview. Both got seated, and their preference in drinks before them before the matter of business came back up.
Nardo played with the brim of his fedora as the two drank, in a private booth.
"Ah, like I saids, I was comin to sees ya."
"It must be important for you to come to me Nardo."
"Da recent murder."
"You have information?"
"You want a piece of the action."
Terkos' eyebrows headed for his hairline. "No?"
"Likes I said, no."
Terkos sat back, and toyed with his cup. "All right. Why do you start from the beginning."
"Always the good cop eh?"
"It is my profession, I would be ashamed to be a poor one."
"It's abouts the murder."
"You know the killer?"
"I am afriads I might."
"You are not certain?"
"Eighty precents certain, maybes more."
"I thought you didn't 'rat' on fellow Iotians."
Nardo became very agitated, he all but stood in the booth, his voice rising. "Yous got me all wrong copper, yous gots us all wrong. Bizness, dat is bizness, yous deal yous cards and takes yous chances. Dis, dis wasn't bizness. She was someones cute little girl. Shes didn't do nobody no dirt or gets in anyones way. Murder, pures murder. And I don't likes murder and murderers"
"So killing someone from a rival gang is business, but killing someone not involved is murder."
Nardo was calming down. "Yea, dats right."
Terkos steepled his hands
thoughtfully. "Nardo, I can understand that, and in my own manner, approve. Will you tell me what you know?"
"Dat is why I cames to sees yous."
Nardo took a deep breath, looked around nervously. "Some times back I broughs in dis guy with, skills I needs. He does his jobs, he gets his dough, everybodys is happy."
"Who is this person, and why do you suspect him?"
Nardo looked around carefully. "Maybe yous office was a better ideas."
"We are here now. Just keep your voice down."
"Berine da Face."
"Why do you suspect him?"
"He was a hitter, and hes not shown `is face since da murder."
"Why might I ask, did you need the services of such a person?"
"He retired from the hittin game. Says he didn't like the pressure, didn't wants no more dangers. He hads, other skills dat was useful, dats why I hires him."
"So you think he did the job?"
"Every reason to believes it."
"So, what does he look like?"
"Dats the problem, I, don't, knows."
"You hired a man you have never seen?
"Oh, nos, I seens him alright. Wid the face he shows to me. But dat don't means he has da same face now. I can guarantees he don't has da same face."
"This explains the nervous looks."
"Yous got that right, da mudderfoker could be anyones."
"You are serious about this."
"Look flatfoot, dis con comes onto da stations to dos my work. He takes a pot shot at a cutes little girl, and dat is agin the Book. Dat number is wrong, just wrong. Howevers, he is heres cause of me. Da makes me responsibles. Ya, I wants the murderer caughts, and convicted."
"He could bring you down in the process."
"Yea, dat coulds happen."
"This doesn't worry you?"
"So, what will you do?"
"Asks for a goods pairs of walkin shoes."
"Very well Nardo, this conversation didn't happen, unless vital to convict him."
"Got ya, thanks flatfoot."
"Thank you Nardo, we have a suspect, even if we still lack a motive, and a location for that suspect."
"I might has a motive."
"I am listening."
"Thrill, stupid thrill."
"Thrill, in killing?"
"Yea, I has known a few shooters, de is crazy, de likes killin, fors killin. Maybes he reverses to type in spites of alls his talk of reforms."
"I will keep that in mind. One more thing. What name did he arrive under?"
"Milton, Milton Casper."
In spite of Nardo's help the problem remained that no one knew what the killer looked like. They had a name, a possible motive, but no face. And the station lockdown could not be maintained forever. The question was, how to find this person in the limited time he had. No one not personally known could be trusted.
Terkos sat in the office discussion strategy with a few of his personnel.
Parker said. "We can't just sweep the station looking for him."
Samballa said. "No, the Ane wouldn't stand for it. However we can ask to search the private spaces, we can search the public spaces. We might find something, someone."
Terkos rocked side to side in his chair. "People, we will not find this man by brute force search. He is far to clever for that. We have to out think him.
Samballa said. "But the Ane are not going to allow us the luxury of the time to think. They will only lockdown for 5 more hours, and the residents are already grumbling.
"Very well, begin a search for the murderer from the scene and deck by deck, seal each as you proceed. We might flush something. Meanwhile I'll try and get a break here. Glen, you will remain with me."
"What do we do?"
"We do what ever else we can."
Samballa rose and left to begin the search. Parker sat, looked at Terkos, Terkos looked back.
"So, now what?"
"What are we waiting for?"
"What kind of evidence?"
"The murder weapon."
"You expect it to be dropped in your lap?"
"In a manner of speaking, yes. I ordered the disposal chutes searched. Murderers, even professional hit men don't like to hang on to a murder weapon. They try to dispose of it. All the disposal chutes have sensors that will extract any object that might be a weapon."
"Well, if you toss a knife you used to cut meat, clean it first."
"That is pretty through."
The intercom buzzed. "Chief, we have a gun."
"Good, no one touch it, bring it to the murder scene and tell Tagban to meet us there."
"He has the orfactory equivalent of a low light scope. It looks silly, but it gives him the equivalent of the nose of a gartha."
"An animal we used in the Romulan Empire to hunt criminals. A very keen sense of smell. In any case, lets go."
Nardo entered his apartments. It was dark as usual, he flipped on the lights, and started to take off his jacket, but something was different. He stopped, re-buttoned his coat and slowly turned to the kitchenette.
"Well, yous has some scenes after all."
"Yous don't lives in this bizness wid out dem long Bernie."
"Some time, yous don't lives long with them."
"Wadda ya want Bernie?"
"Yous coped me to the heat."
Nardo shrugged his shoulders. "Now why woulds I dos that?"
"Yous tell me, I saws you with the heat, walking hand in hand, like lovers."
"Da man wants to talk, yous don't turns him down Bernie."
"Why don't I believes yous. Whys don't I believes yous at all."
"Now Bernie, don't dos anything yous might regret."
"That is one thing yous need never fear Nardo."
The gun in his hand barked twice. Nardo hit the rug, blood spreading though the fabric of his suit. Bernie dropped the pistol down the kitchen disposal, stooped over Nardo, and took the man's gun. He winced slightly at the bright chrome finish.
"I never regret what I do."
Both men arrived on the scene about the time that Tagban did. A strange device covered the top of his muzzle, strapped down though the bars, of this mouth. He began to case the area at once. A few minutes later, a maintenance worker arrived with the gun in a plastic pouch.
Terkos took it and thanked the man.
"Tagban, see if you can make anything of this."
The Ane ran his nose over the firearm. **Yes, a clear scent that is in the human norm.**
"After you then."
The big Ane started to sweep the air a few inches off the ground. He trotted down the hall, the two men running to keep up. He made several turns through the halls, until he came to an access ladder.
Terkos huffed to a stop. "Up or down?"
**I don't know.**
He placed his hooves on the ladder and sniffed.
**Up. Hold on.**
Parker came around the corner in time to grab on as well. The Ane teleported up a level, sniffed, 'ported another level sniffed again, and headed off after the scent. A few more turns and they where in the luxury apartments above the promenade. Tagban was relentless.
A door opened ahead. A small mousey man stepped out. He spotted the three in the hall, whipped out a chromed handgun and fired a shot. Tagban went down at once. Both Terkos and Parker drew and fired as one, the little man dropped, rolled fired wildly down the hall and scrambled around a corner.
Terkos got to his knees. "Parker, check the apartment." He hit his communicator. "Medical deck 3 section 2, Ane down. Tagban, can you hear me?"
**I'll live, it lodged in the muscle.**
**You will be OK? Medical is coming.**
Terkos lit out after the small man. The passage ended in another one of the maintenance ladders. Up led only to the control sections of the station, locked off, and down lead to everything else. He could be anywhere down there, waiting. Terkos thought a moment. He tapped his communicator again.
"Terkos to control."
"Control here, what do you need Constable?"
"Cut the gravity in shaft 137."
Terkos felt suddenly weightless.
"Warn the patrol, suspect has shot an officer, and escaped down maintenance shaft 137."
"Copy, and we will relay."
Terkos had meanwhile shoved off and grabbed the ladder, spun around and was heading down the shaft head first. He hoped is prey was not familiar with zero-g, so if he was still in the shaft it would disorient him. A thought passed his mind, he called control again.
"Terkos here, get me a pair of IR glasses at level 5."
"Copy, they are waiting."
Terkos snagged the glasses and put them on. He smiled, a clear path lead further down the shaft. Clear as the trail to a gartha. Terkos swarmed down the ladder head first with one hand, the other on his phaser. The trial got warmer and warmer. It turned off at deck 57, the main docking bays. He inverted again and pushed himself into the gravity field.
"Terkos here, suspect debarked ladder at deck 57, close off decks 63 through decks 53. Confine search to that area. The suspect is armed and dangerous."
"Terkos, we have confirmed transporter activity."
"Docking bay 254, The Heaven Sent, a free trader."
"On my way. Did you get the terminus?"
"Affirmative. Public booth 62 in Crystal City."
"Alert local authority, like you haven't already. I'll check the Heaven Sent."
Terkos ran in the direction of the indicated docking bay. Chaos greeted him at the ship's boarding door. The crew, Andorians, were all flushed a deep blue.
"Thard has been shot."
"Have you called medical?"
"Yes, the team is on the way."
They materialized as the man spoke.
"What happened?" Terkos had holstered the phaser and his PADD was out.
"This short scrawy human forced his way in the hatch and demanded we transport him to the surface. I hesitated of course. His shot Thard in the leg. We are unarmed, a mistake I will not make again. I wasn't going to see my family killed, I gave him what he wanted and called Security.
"You did the right thing. He will be caught. The trail is getting hotter by the minute."
"Was that the murderer everyone is looking for?"
"Good chance of it, I would say near certain."
"Pity the Ane don't let people watch the executions."
"They have their ways Sir, I am just the hired help."
"What do you do now?"
"Clean up the mess he made and help the police groundside. We have all the material evidance we need, you will not be held any longer."
Terkos turned from the Captain and called Central again.
"The suspect has forced passage to dirtside. Lift the lockdown. And get me the Chief downstairs."
It was going to be a long day.
Terkos listened to the communicator traffic of the Crystal City police. The dragnet had gone for the entire day now, and the trail was getting cold. Ane had been coming off the plains and into the city for the entire day, the streets were thick with them. The mental atmosphere of the area was thick with anger. Four people had been shot, including one of their own. For Glade it was a crime wave of epic scale.
It was still two hours til dawn, and no word of where Bernie the Face AKA Milton Casper had vanished. He simply had. Sleep had been a wistful desire since he had learned of the murder over 40 hours ago. Discipline could substitute for sleep for a while, but not forever. Much longer and his efficientcy would be impaired.
A slight noise by the door caught is attention. He turned from his desk in the great room. A small human stood in the door, with a brightly plated gun in his hand.
Terkos calmly steepled his hands in his lap.
"Bernie the Face, I assume."
"Yous got a good memory for names, maybes too good."
"Names and faces are my profession Bernie, or do you prefer Milton?"
"Bernie will dos fine. Call the girl out."
"That will not be possible."
"I don't likes difficult people, do it."
"It is not possible, because she is not here. I am an old warrior Bernie, I take my dependents out of even remote danger. Perhaps if you tell me what you want?"
"Yous ain't got any clue, no clues at all as to whats I wants."
"So, fill me in."
"Respect copper, simple respect. That is the one things I nevers get from those thugs. The one things I wants an I deserves."
"Why did you kill her Bernie?"
"What should you wants to know fors?"
"You killed someone that meant nothing to you or to your job. Nardo said that."
"Nardo? Nardo was a stupid bum, ands I delts with that bum. See meant everythings. Everthings I want, everything I ain't never had."
"So you shot her for being pretty Berine, or should that be Bernice."
The little man came up short, his gun have shook. "How dids you knows that, how copper, speak fast whiles yous can still talk."
"You used a transporter, transporters record buffers and buffers hold DNA. The rest was easy. How you hide, how you toss off pursuit, I know it all now. You are a woman, playing an ancient game, playing the part of a man."
"It won't dos yous a bit of good. Yous gonna be dead in a minute, but yea. I want respect copper, and that's one thing a woman can't get on Iota. So yea, I plays the guy, and they still don't respects me."
Terkos caught the slight movement behind the little Iotian. He made no sign.
"Pretenders are seldom respected. People can sense a pretence, even a good one."
"Well, yous ain't gonna be alive to tell anyone the truth."
Bernie raised the gun, and the phaser beam caught her right in the back. She dropped like a sack.
Nardo stood in the door, the earth tone caftan hanging loose on his lanky frame. Terkos raised an eyebrow.
"Nardo, I expected anyone but you, and in that suit. In any case, thank you."
"Well, clothes makes the man, and anyone in this tasteless trash counldn't be Nardo the Flash, whoms yous just shot dead. You didn't read yous own MO 'Bernie'."
"Parker said you were dead."
"Almost dead. I lines my suits wid ballistic silk. Stops bullets real fancy, and da fakes blood is a nice touch, don'ts yous tink?"
"So you were dead on the rug one minute, and out the door the next."
"Yep, He check da oder rooms, I slips out, ditches the bloody suit, checks in my safe house and slips out in dis. I don'ts looks like Nardo, sos I can'ts be Nardo."
"Nardo, I own you an apology, you are a lot smarter than I took you for."
Nardo bowed slightly. "So, what happens to the trash?"
Terkos darkened. "Take a good look, you will never see her again. How did you know she would come here?"
"Deduction. Bernie was a direct types whens threatened. I figured 'he' woulds trys for yous, and I knows wheres yous live. I waited on da streets, 'he' didn't disappoints."
"We need to talk, but later."
"Whys not nows?"
The security team Terkos had summoned silently entered the room.
Terkos said. "There is the suspect. Confine her until justice can deal with her."
They quickly left with "Bernie".
Nardo yelled after them. "Hey, I wants my gun back!"
"Relax, I'll see it gets back to you."
Nardo calmed down. "Alright, yous is good for it."
"So, what did you have to say."
Nardo came in and sat down, somewhat uncomfortably. "Well, I really caused all dis. I didn't wants dis kind of trouble. Confusion, disorder, dat is whats I was after. I wanted to bes an artist in crime."
"And it didn't work that way."
"No, it never has. Always sometin goes wrong. Dis time, it wents real wrong."
"I am not going to recommend any action against you Nardo, but on one condition."
"I has to leave."
"You have to stay."
"I said, you have to stay. I am imposing my own 'sentence' Two years in Glade confinement, no crimes."
"Yous wants me to stay? I don'ts get it."
"I want you to learn about a culture other than your own, to get outside the box you have imposed on your thinking. Learn the advantages to this way of life instead of looking for the loopholes to abuse it."
"Why is yous doing this?"
"Nardo, I was once in a very bad way, and someone gave me a chance to get out of my box, to start over, to see, with other eyes. I can't make you, but I can give you the chance. I owe that to my own benefactor."
"And ifs I don't wants to?"
"You can take your chance with the station authority. However, I would buy those shoes."
Nardo grinned in a wry way and stuck out his hand. "OK flatfoot, yous got a deal."
An ugly little woman stood naked on an open stretch of plain. Six Ane circled around her. She watched them warily. She hugged herself close.
From behind one lashed out, the kick caught her in the kidney, and sent her reeling, more kicks, flashing hooves and legs beat her about like a miscreant ball. Then, they where gone.
She lay in the dust, bruised, bleeding, something, hurt, deep in her body. Movement was painful, breath came, in ragged gasps, and punctuated, with the taste of blood in her mouth. She felt weak, dizzy, she couldn't get up. The effort was draining, and she lay still in the dusty grass. The blades of grass before her glistened with the blood she coughed up. Darkness was closing.
The little foxes gathered around, and waited.
Nardo watched the transport undock. and turn gracefully from the station. It had been a fight, but he had gotten the rest of the gang to go home. It was best, he had a lot to do, and baby-sitting the rest of them would only be temptation to fall back into old ways.
The one piece suit felt weird, and the jacket felt too light, but at least his heater was heavy in it's rightful place. Leathalan, that Ane that lived with Terkos had recommended the change in clothing. A clean break with his past. Well, time to take the shuttle down. Planet side was where he belonged. Two years. Heck a Iotian boy that can't do two years on his head hadn't been born. Still, home was a long way off.
Terkos finished his move and Dania drew her turn again.
"Ha, I got the red card, I win!"
"Well Leathalan, we just can't beat the old Master can we?"
**Perhaps not, but I notice you win the ones you need to.**
"With help from my friends, yes, I can win the big ones."
The Duel -- Garry Stahl, Jay P Hailey, November 1998
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The Above is a work of fiction. All characters are fictional, any resemblance to persons living or dead is coincidental.
;Copyright Garry Stahl: November 1998. All rights reserved, re-print only with permission.