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High Steaks By Christina Engela Characters: 11303

Updated: 2018-06-30 12:01


Prologue

Honestly, Gary didn't know what to say to Jenny Grauffis! What was he supposed to say? That she shouldn't cry because she would get to see her sister again? That Danielle might survive this terror, and one day come home? He knew that would be a lie. Nobody survives things like that intact and gets to go home again. This was the part that Scrooby had told him was going to be so hard!

High Steaks

Imagine if you will:

Somewhere in the black void called deep space, a bright yellow star shone seemingly with the determination to make the universe a brighter place. Nine ordinary-looking planets circled it on more than one plain, so that occasionally, this little star system would resemble some kind of atom – perhaps representing a new element – one that should eventually earn a place in the next update of the periodic table under 'Wr', for weirdness… or perhaps even 'Su' for surprise. And why not? The small backwater Terran colony called Deanna, certainly deserved it – it was the center of weirdness in the galaxy… and as the many tourists who visited it each year found out for themselves, it was full of surprises.

The star it orbited was called Ramalama – and its two little moons, Ding and Dong. Yes, the first humans who landed on Deanna to colonize the planet – and to civilize it (with dubiously inconclusive results in the case of the latter) as it turned out, had a very strange outlook on life. But then, who could blame people who lived on a world where one of the moons – a small perfect sphere of solid titanium about fifty feet in diameter – would fall down occasionally?

Of course that didn't happen too often – most of the time, whenever a visiting loderunner failed to notice it and accidentally bumped it out of orbit – but most importantly, when it was actually funny. Timing, as the saying goes, is everything, and the knowledge that the Tourism Office actually had a space tug specially reserved just to put the small moon back into its orbit again, was commonplace on Deanna. After all, Ding was a matter of local pride!

Dong, the larger moon, was by comparison just plain ordinary – boring, even. It just stayed where it was and hadn't fallen down once in the half-century since the colony was founded – and considering its larger size (and high iron content) that was probably just as well.

Atro City, on the coast of the Landlocked Ocean, was the capital city of Deanna and home to a million plus inhabitants. The city, being the center of local government, was also occasionally referred to by critics of the Planetary Governor as 'the crapital'.

Lupini Square was roughly at the center of Atro City, which was appropriate since it was also very much at the center of public life in the city. It was also really far more of a large circle than an actual square – and very crowded at the moment, for reasons we'll go into later. It is here where our story picks up: inside the hallowed walls of the Governor's Palace, which stood on the outside of the road which circled Lupini Square and faced onto it. Things were very tense inside. Things were tense outside too, but again, for reasons we'll go into a little later.

The aptly named Situation Room, a crowded chamber on the ground level of the building, was at this moment occupied by the Governor himself, his Aide, members of the Governor's staff, the Mayors of Deanna's two largest cities, and the chief of Atro City's police force – Sheriff Peggy-Ann Muller. A body occupied the space on the floor near the holographic map-table, its former occupant having earned for himself the unflattering name of Piss Pot – at least in the memory of Sheriff Muller, who generally went by the name of Peg. At least to her friends – and she was reasonably certain there was nobody here that was any closer than the classification of colleague.

For starters, Peg would never have considered threatening a room full of friends with her regulation side-arm before uttering the fateful words "Anyone else want to be on the wrong side of history?" and Piss Pot had been a colleague – at least until he pulled out his side-arm and tried to take the whole room hostage.

The Governor's Palace just being sealed off, with Security scampering about the building to ensure all the doors were securely locked from the inside. The reason for all this unusual drama, in brief, was because that very morning – only minutes before – a visiting member of the imperial family had been assassinated during a welcoming parade, right outside, on Lupini Square!

The unfortunate Prince Justin, who up to that point, had been 13th in line to the imperial throne, had met his end only about 80 meters away from where they were standing – in the back of a convertible, at the bottom of the stairs outside the Palace.

The cause of death? Poor security. That is, somehow the assassin had managed to wangle a job where he would freelance as the Prince's driver in the motorcade – and once they arrived on the Square, he turned around and blasted the bejesus out of him with a sonic-pulse pistol set on fully-automatic at a range of less than two feet! Peg was still wondering how the hell he managed to get away – vanishing into thin air seconds before the Prince's team of body guards could even get their guns pointed in his direction!

Their woes didn't end there. In the minutes before the assassination, SOD (Sheriff's Office Deputies) cars that had been stationed around the city and along the parade route for the duration of the parade, had mysteriously begun to vanish in quick succession. Communications appeared to be on the fritz as well, an

d her attempts to contact any law enforcement units in the city were futile. As though that weren't bad enough, in the confusing moments just after the shooting, a column of mysterious soldiers just appeared seemingly out of nowhere – and began marching across the Square!

After that, as if things could not get any more surreal, some guy calling himself a General, who brought along his own podium, made a speech proclaiming a revolution – and blamed the assassination of Prince Justin on 'terrorists'. To top it all off, the 'General' declared martial law! Nobody seemed to be laughing, because apparently there were around three thousand well-armed troops outside, who agreed with him! They must have been shock-troops – because everyone was, well – shocked!

Peg tried again to raise the SOD head office, dispatch, a patrol vehicle – anyone, to no avail. All the building phones were offline too. She dropped her phone on the map table in disgust. She had no idea if something bad had happened to her deputies, or if something was just preventing her from contacting them!

She'd been trying to formulate a plan of some kind, but so far she'd only managed to get as far as 'lock the doors'. As far as she knew, the doors of the Palace, front and back, were the only way in or out of the building. In the absence of any secret tunnels in the basement she didn't know about, she fervently hoped the next phase of her plan wasn't going to be something along the lines of '…and hope they don't try to come in'.

The others in the room began chattering nervously among themselves, debating courses of action. Nerves were frayed, everyone left in the building – pretty much all that were in the situation room – was tense. Someone had covered the body of the former imperial security liaison with a bed-sheet. White, Peg considered, was probably not the best choice of color for that job, since the sheet had now partly turned blotchy red and pink where Peg had shot him.

"Governor!" McCracken, the portly, elderly Mayor of San Fedora bellowed. "What are our chances of rescue?"

"Governor!" McCracken, the portly, elderly Mayor of San Fedora bellowed. "What are our chances of rescue?"

Governor Landry straightened up in the chair he was sitting in, seemingly having an internal debate with himself.

"Well… er -"

"Expecting a rescue is beyond hope under the circumstances!" Sam Barthoff, Mayor of Atro City, interrupted grimly, throwing up his hands in hopelessness. "Hopeless!"

Politicians, thought Peg, massaging her temples with tense fingers. She'd never been in the military, had no idea about military strategy, and in her position, never had access to information about the military, such as whether the Empire had any secret bases anywhere closer to Deanna than, say, Turnkey Station – which was, well – a good way away!

Peg considered herself a realist. Sure, this was a shitty situation to be in, but they weren't going to get out of it by getting hysterical! Anyway, she thought, she didn't have to be a military genius to know that it would be a good long time before the Terran Fleet could react or mount any kind of military intervention – and probably – if the folks outside knew what they were doing, they wouldn't even know something was wrong for at least a few days! Longer, if those people knew what they were doing, and had some kind of ace up their sleeves!

"Sheriff Muller!" Landry lashed out at Peg, regaining her full attention. "Your SOD's are clearly not a match for whatever is going on out there – not a sodding match, er – if you don't mind my saying so! We have to call out the Reserves!"

"Now just a crabby-grass kickin' minute, Governor – sir!" She began, raising an irate finger. "I -"

"Umm… Sir?" The Governor's aide interrupted. He was a tall thin man wearing an expression that might have been #255 Diplomatic Deadpan, "Sorry, Sheriff – Governor, Deanna hasn't got any military Reserves!"

An awkward silence fell.

"No… military reserves on Deanna?" Landry repeated. The aide shook his head.

"None!" Peg added, feeling her patience wearing a little thin.

"But…" Landry spluttered. "I remember seeing some mention of a reservist association in some files a little while back!"

"Yes, Governor." His aide agreed – those are mostly pensioners and retired veterans – they do Sunday picnics, pensioner discounts, specials at the prosthetic devices counter at C.J.'s – maybe a little dynamite fishing on weekends, that sort of thing – they aren't formally part of any actual military reserve unit!"

McCracken sighed loudly. "We're fucked!" He moaned, and sank hard into a wheelie-chair, placing his head in his hands. "Fucked, I tell you!"

"Well – call them up anyway!" Landry continued. "If they can still blow the ack out cocka-snoek, they should be able to do something about this!"

"Governor." Peg interrupted. "I agree with you that the veterans in the Skeggs Valley Dynamite Fishing Club probably have way more combat training and experience than anyone on Deanna – but for now, we've got no way to contact anyone! Perhaps, if we can find a way out of the Palace, and even the city, then we can call Shady Palms and see if the Matron will let them out to deal with the fuckers that shot Prince Justin! In the meantime, we still need a way out of here, as fast as possible!"

"Right." Landry nodded in agreement. "First thing's first then, capital!"

"Okay." Peg sighed, wishing she had remote access to the headache pills in her desk drawer back at the station. This was turning out to be a very long damn day.

"Well?" Asked Landry expectantly.

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