Organised Chaos

I told them Harrowven's system was organised chaos, but actually it's a whole lot of chaos without a great deal of organisation. The warehouse could have been looted and it would take a full inventory to figure it out: heaps of scrap metal litter the floor, haphazard stacks of wooden pallets filled with rations against every wall, and that's without mentioning the rest of the junk.

Somewhere in here there's something valuable enough that two agents double-crossing the gov bothered to kidnap me. If I knew who their seller was, I could sell it myself, get the cash and get out of here. But they're too smart to mention that.

This room, huge as it is, probably isn't the place. If that rock was meant to be on the Aldersey, it'll still be with the rest of the stuff we packed up. And if it wasn't, I probably don't have a hope of finding it. Harrowven won't have known how much it was worth. He'll have dumped it somewhere with the other things he doesn't know how to sell, waiting for someone to come looking for them.

I'm so screwed. If I don't find this thing, I don't doubt the Owl will relish destroying me.

I head straight to the hangar where the Aldersey shipment's still waiting. It's a pretty small tradeship, the one we were loading up. Nicolas was right when he said Aldersey's barely a moon -- there's a decent black market operating from its dark side, but not one that's large enough to warrant one of Harrowven's bigger vessels.

"Jane Kenmor," I say into the scanner, and it takes a moment to analyse my voice and face.

"Operative #47, you are not authorised for this mission."

"I know that. But there's loading needs doing, and I'm still allowed to do that, aren't I?" Stupid thing to do, really, argue with a computer. Still, maybe it'll work.

"This shipment was meant to leave for Aldersey two days ago. More information requested."

"We're not going to Aldersey," I tell the computer. "There's a problem with the contents of the tradeship. I'm here to sort it out. Harrowven left me behind to do this."

I imagine the computer thinking, its processor trying to figure out if I'm lying. Eventually, the light next to the door goes green. "Operative #47, Jane Kenmor, cleared for boarding. Please stand back for the access door to open."

Well, that's something. It's the small victories that are going to keep me alive.

Once I'm on the tradeship, I'm glad that I'm mostly relegated to packing duty. It means that the bulk of this stuff was organised by me, and I ought to be able to find what I'm looking for, even if I didn't put it there personally. I weave my way through the packing boxes, but halfway across the cargo bay an alternative occurs to me.

I know how to fly these things. Okay, so the computer might not be happy about it, but I know the override code for gov patrols. I should be able to convince it to let me take it off, and once I'm off-planet, Nicolas and the Owl can chase me to their heart's content but they won't catch up with me. Harrowven didn't just keep me on because he felt sorry for me. He kept me because I'm good at this.

If I had both my legs I could be the best smuggler in the galaxy.

But the Owl and Nick, they've got all their limbs, and they've got more resources than me. Tradeships aren't fast. They might be able to requisition a gov ship to run me down.

Why am I even thinking about this, though? I don't want their rock. I'll get it for them and I'll work for them as long as it takes to get my new leg, and then I'll piss off back to a planet where gov patrols rarely stop and start out on my own again. It's not that hard, I've found, to leave behind everything you know. Particularly if they leave you behind first.

If I knew what the rock could do, it would be easier to find it. If Harrowven thought it was a weapon, under my system it'd be on the right hand side of the bay. If he thought it was for building or manufacture, the left. And if he thought it was some piece of miscellaneous collectors' junk, the front corner of the bay would be the place to look.

I'll start there.

I dig my way through several boxes of esoteric crap, with little success. It does give me hope that Harrowven wouldn't have thought the thing useless, because if he did, he wouldn't have kept half of this stuff. There are a bunch of rocks in there, too. I look at them carefully, but I'm pretty sure they're not the one I'm looking for.

I mean, it's a rock. It's kind of hard to be sure about those things. I've never seen the thing; I barely know what I'm looking for. But these are mostly shiny, probably meant to be decorative, so they don't match the picture I was shown.

The last box is different to the others. Too late after starting to pull out the nails, I notice the airholes, and before I know it I'm on the floor with something large and hairy on top of me, licking my face. I can't tell if it's being friendly or trying to eat me. Maybe both. Nobody said that carnivores couldn't be appreciative of the taste of your face.

I shove the creature off. It's skinny underneath its shaggy coat, and once it's no longer on my face, I realise it's a dog of some sort. At least part wolf. They're bred on Trevlia -- they're more common here than anywhere else in the galaxy. Why would Harrowven need to smuggle one? It's not like they're not legally exported every other day.

Plus, I should've known about this. Living cargo definitely has to be checked in, and that's my job.

The thing's half starved after being left here however long I've been gone. "Let's make a deal," I tell the beast. "Don't eat me, and I'll get you out of here, okay?"

It wags its tail at me. I think the thing's getting attached, but it's not like I can keep it. The Owl would throw a fit -- it's kind of an entertaining mental image. "No need to be soppy. We've got a rock to find. You coming?"

The beast nuzzles at me with its nose. It doesn't look like it'll be leaving me alone any time soon, so I guess I've got a companion for this search. I'm almost glad. Tradeships are creepy enough when they're fully manned, and it doesn't feel right being alone here.

Well, alone apart from the unregistered beast I just liberated, that is.

The End

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