This Gun For HireBy Executrix
Page 1 of 7
THIS GUN FOR HIRE (A Greene Party Manifesto)(PART 1 of 5) --Executrix|
1. THE FALLEN IDOL
"I blame the boarding schools and that," Vila said. "Take a bunch of boys, and put them so when they first twig they can have fun with their willies besides writing their names in the snow, there's nobody round but a bunch of other boys."
"It's not a very nice thing to say about somebody," Gan said, pressing his lips together all the time not needed for actual utterance. "You shouldn't go around saying it if you don't have a good reason."
"All right then. What is Avon wearing today?"
"I can't think of a more tedious riddle," Jenna said.
"I might notice if he were dressed up like Winter Solstice Father, but not otherwise," Cally said.
"A pair of black trousers," Gan said. "A black gilet. A white shirt."
"That's right!" Vila said triumphantly. Black leather trousers. The ones that are tighter than the ones with the bottoms flared to fit over boots.
Eyebrows were raised to denote "Your point?" at three varying heights.
"You've practically never seen his shirt sleeves before, have you? And the top button is undone. For Avon, that's practically the same as prancing about the room naked."
"I'd have noticed that too," Cally said.
"You take quite an interest, Vila," Jenna said, not unkindly.
"I had to learn to watch people professionally," Vila said. "And the habit just lasted. Now, was there anything about that shirt that was out of the way?"
"Avon kept pushing the sleeves up," Cally said.
"There you are then. Learned that from the rozzers, asking questions. People always see more than they think they saw."
"Vila, the fact that someone happens to take the wrong shirt out of the laundry pile..." Gan began.
"Who was on watch when it was time for elevenses?"
"Blake," Cally said.
"Pity he had to miss out, wasn't it? He always gets up earliest, and often he doesn't have time to get breakfast."
"No," Cally said. "Avon brought him a cup of tea and a slice of that cake he baked. That's when I saw him pushing up the sleeves."
"Dammit," said Jenna.
"I'll not believe it," Gan said. "It's not natural."
"Dunno, takes all kinds to make a world," Vila said.
"You spent a lot of time in boys' remand camps, didn't you?" Jenna asked.
"Yes, I did, and all that sort of thing was just a gnat's eyelash better than getting duffed up for not doing it. That, and the big blokes liked to trade you around with their friends. Like cigarette cards."
"They must have thought we were complete idiots, thinking that they could keep anything concealed," Cally said.
"Worse than a small town, really," Vila said.
Gan, sitting on the edge of one of the flight deck consoles, kicked aimlessly at the chair. "I don't know how I feel about taking orders from a bloke like that."
"Now I wish I'd kept my fat mouth shut. Why should it make a difference?"
"Well, you want a leader to be someone you look up to, you admire. How can you respect him now?"
There were some issues--buckets of them, in fact--that Vila felt unequal to disagreeing with Gan about. It was easier to avoid political arguments. Limiters might malfunction.
"I still can't help feeling bitter," Jenna said. "Well, Cally, at least perhaps it's for the best between me and you."
//Perhaps,// Cally sent. //We wanted the same thing, and that made us rivals. And now that we're not going to get it, we needn't be rivals any more. That's good at least. I should like to have a human woman as a friend.//
"We wanted something," Jenna said. "And that little tart got it."
//Don't be unfair. He's taller than you.//
2. OUR MAN IN HANAVA
Spoken of, the Devil arrived. Blake was puzzled by the venom with which Jenna delivered the facially innocuous, "Hullo, Blake, you're looking fit and rested."
"Zen just translated a communique from a fellow named Algernon Chetwynd-Powell," Blake said. "Free trader. Do you know him?"
"Don't ask me, it seems I don't know anybody lately."
"Names don't mean much when you're dealing with free traders," Vila said.
"Well, he says he's got a job for us. Good money and not too dangerous."
"It must be at least jolly dangerous or he'd do it himself," Gan said.
"I'm sure we'll be fine," Blake said. "And it's a chance to give the Federation a real two-fingered salute without really harming anyone too much. I think it'll be fun."
"And that'll probably be the excuse this Chetwynd-Powell gives when he doesn't pay us," Avon said. He had been tuning up one of the motors for the air purification filters, and appeared with the cuffs of the white shirt rolled twice, to just below his elbows. All eyes were drawn by this flagrant display.
There was a smudge of dirt across one cheekbone. Vila moved forward to hand him a napkin to clean it off. He saw the expression on Blake's face, and figured that if he asserted public smudge-wiping rights, Gan would sick up all over somebody's shoes. And, with his luck, it would probably be his.
Vila would have bid something, would have bid fairly high, for those rights. But the auction was closed. I wonder why he wears his wristchron on the right wrist, Vila thought--he isn't left-handed. Ambidextrous, more like.
"From that name, we'll need someone rather posh to talk to him," Blake said. "Jenna, why don't we teleport down and bring him up here to negotiate? It'll go better on home territory."
Avon looked surprised, but that was as far as it went. When the statute of limitations had passed for a casual yet well-envenomed barb (five seconds), it was necessary to admit that Vila had been right. Blast! Cally thought.
I have not yet begun to fight, Jenna thought.
"Could you do me a favor and change into something a bit more posh?" Blake asked. "It would be nice to impress him."
A courteous request. Good God, could the battle be lost before it was fairly joined?
"If you really want to impress him, something like a moth-eaten cashmere jersey, a fifteen-year-old tweed skirt, and a headscarf would be more the ticket," Avon said. "That's what those county types like."
"You could dress up like Servalan," Vila said.
"I'd enjoy seeing your impersonation, Jenna, but I don't think you ought to wear such high heels," Blake said, "And nothing that trails on the floor. I don't think we'll have to run for it, but you never know."
Jenna returned a few minutes later (she didn't believe that it should take an hour to get into a dress and freshen up her makeup), in a hologram-patterned chiffon dress. The mid-calf skirt was full enough to permit ease of movement. It covered the tops of her low-heeled kidskin boots (lockpick in left heel, handcuff key in right).
The self-belt cinched her waist attractively, and if necessary could cinch a hostage's hands until the professional equipment could be deployed. A compartment inside the belt held a few tiny gold ingots as a contingency fund. There were two pouches sewn into the hem. One for a spare teleport bracelet, and one for a semi-functioning throwdown teleport bracelet, with coordinates hardwired to "Nowhere, Actually."
Not a good idea to mix up the real bracelets and the fakes. The first batch of fakes had been made up with a green communicator light instead of a red one, but it turned out that Gan was color-blind, so the next batch had a row of bronze-colored crystals glued around the edge of the communicator light.
The capital city of Epsifarl is Hanava. Or, to be more precise, the only place that sentients live on Epsifarl is Hanava, a diluted-puce city half as old as last Thursday. It's a ghastly place, where the only money is new money and a leading industry is the manufacture and sale of over-life-sized nude statuary with real ermine pubic hair.
At least the female statues don't have any bits that go up and down on hydraulics. The gold-plated statue of the bull outside the Stock Exchange building has been known to inspire immediate admission to enclosed religious orders.
But the Epsifarlese don't have much time for the Federation, which grants them at least a bye into the second round in the Rebel Alliance Tourney.
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