Gunfire in a hallway.
“Didn't anyone ever tell you these bullets just bounce off the damn walls?!”
A bullet flies past the head of Move Wyndham. It's a rubber variety, synthetically designed to make a bigger hole from less effort.
“OK, OK! I give up! I'll give back everything I took.” Move extends his hand. Unclasping his fist, it reveals a small, glowing sphere no bigger than a coin, and a slightly larger cylinder. He steps backwards through a set of doors. As he backs up to a railing, the patrons of the Psyche Casino stare at him and his pursuers. He clears his throat as one of the men, clad in thick jumpsuits emblazoned with a logo bearing the words 'CARITAS SECURITY', motions for him to hand over the items.
“Gee, well, sorry, but this is where it gets tricky.” Move scrunches his nose somewhat, looking unhappy. “What right do you have to do this? Do you know who I am?”
The second man taps the inside of his palm with two fingers. A light quickly shoots out, covering Move for a moment, before retreating.
“You are now on file. Ricard Avenall, you are under arrest.”
“Oh, right. Well, that makes this easier. See, these aren't what you think they are. Sorry.” Move wiggles his eyebrows in defiance – an odd motion, but perfectly adequate. “Bye!” He claps his hands together. Bright light engulfs the room. Stumbling guards attempt to recover their senses. Move is gone, the stunned patrons on the slot machines rubbing their eyes.
“Sir, he's gone. Yeah, I'm sending the information. He can't run.”
“Oh my Lysis! You didn't!” A man with short blonde hair laughing. He could only have been in his mid-twenties.
“I swear, it's how I got out of there in one piece.” Move Wyndham claps his hands and motions to a server. A new round of drinks is brought to the table – five men and one woman, all laughing. The blonde man thanks the server. It does not respond, it is not programmed to.
“I take it that's why we're celebrating?” A man with dark hair asks, patting Move on the shoulder. “It's a hell of a trick.”
“Still can't believe it worked. Fake identity scan. Someone had to make them, I guess.” Move reached for his mug, but a hand snatched it away. Ricci Tamara-Wyndham, dark brown hair in curls, reaching down to her shoulders. Thin black dress covering an athletic body, no more or less uniquely built than any of the other girls in a tiny little bar at the far end of Virgil 6.
“I think you've had enough, dear.” Ricci's hand, still grasping the mug, is raised to her mouth as she drinks. It's a long drink, consuming most of what remains. “I'll let you have this bit.” She sets down a small amount of remaining liquid. Everyone laughs. Move blinks, not surprised, but playing a part. Ricci had her eyes on something. He checked the mirror over the bar to see if she'd spotted a target. Only his reflection jumped out at him – handsome, certainly, and not without charm. He ruffled his deep black hair and smiled. He had an unusually wide smile, he thought. It was about as wide as his neck was long – and he thought he had a long neck. His jacket retro-military epaulette bindings on the shoulders of a sleek, modern item made it look somewhat unusual. It hung about six inches above his knees. His wife had made a joke about this fact when he first bought it – one that had made him somewhat more self-conscious than it should have. He shook his jacket out slightly, ruffling his dress shirt, as he noticed what his wife was aiming for. She nodded in the mirror and stood up. He traced his wife's movements as she wandered over to a woman. She was in her thirties and looked a little lost.
“You need a hand, dear?” Ricci asked nicely. She waved her on.
“I'm fine, thank you.” Laney Michaels smiled politely and returned to her task – attempting to find a seat.
“Are you sure? I'm certain I could...” Ricci caught a glimpse of Laney's waist. There was a bulge, roughly the size of a gun. Laney caught her eyeline and shot her a look that said everything Ricci needed to hear. “Of course. Enjoy yourself.”
Ricci's walk of shame was unusual. Her targets – people she could hustle in some game or another – were generally newbies to the satellite trade who hadn't worked out that most people on board a satellite were probably trying to make some sort of profit.
Laney Michaels had lived on satellites all her life, so she was used to the form. Some overattentive stranger, eager to make a quick credit. She didn't need to carry a gun with her – she found she almost never needed to do so anywhere. The shape of it through a longcoat – her longcoat, a deep brown, hemmed with gold thread – was more than enough.
Move Wyndham smiled as his wife took her seat again. He would rub it in later. Right now, he had more important problems. His eyes followed two men in thick jumpsuits, walking through the bar. He followed them, but they were doing some much more important – they were looking for him. He saw a projection, tiny as it was, leap from a glove. He saw a patron pointing.
“Evening, officers.” He said as they approached.
“Do you consent to an identity screening?”
“Of course.” Move turned to face them. Their glove-light shone in his eyes as he put up with a screening he couldn't actually refuse.
“All clear. This man is not the one we're looking for.” The guard turned to Move. “Have a nice day, Mr. Lynch.”
“Will do.” He gave them a small salute as they moved on. As soon as they were out of earshot, the others at the table stood up uncomfortably.
“I think we should go.”
“Sorry, Move. We'll do this another time.”
Only Ricci and the Blonde man continued sitting with Move. The blonde man offered a toast.
“Riker of House Alaxis salutes your courage, Mr. Move.”
“Okay, I need a drink if I'm going to have to put up with that crap.” He motioned to the robot waiter once more.
House Alaxis was the noble house of Virgil 6 and the planet it orbited – Alaxis Prime. Orbited by twin moons, Alaxis Sequi and Alaxis Theo, it was part of a loose confederation of planets established at the end of the First Wave of Exploration. Houses were vaguely representative of power structures – the democratic ideal could not be accurately applied to every new world, despite the Earth Expansion Office's best intentions. Some houses rule despotically. Others simply own large areas of land. Alaxis is a borderline house, using their influence to effectively control the government, despite ostensibly choosing not to.
Runtin Alaxis, head of House Alaxis, has many sons and many daughters, but only one steward: Yul Cythwin, with whom he tasks much of the day to day running of House Alaxis. It is Yul Cythwin that drove Riker Alaxis, aged 19, the youngest son of House Alaxis, off the planet. It is Yul Cythwin who would place Riker Alaxis in a position he never expected to be in. It is Riker Alaxis who would accidentally make Move Wyndham the most important person in the universe.