Chapter 11

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Having no security personnel is better than having bad security personnel.

Unsecured targets tend to be more cautious. Checking scanners, watching strangers, ensuring that the alarms are active and so on. Secured targets often relax and let their detail handle everything - which is all kinds of stupid. Especially when your security detail has been provided by local government.

Fion Merricksen was about to learn this lesson. Though she would not be in a position to benefit from it.

I glared at the fumbling young man who was sweating under his government-issued cap, his government-issued blaster propped up against his government-issued barricade as he tried to use his government-issued scanner.

"Well? What seems to be the problem? Are you having trouble confirming my credentials?"

"No... er, sir... it's just-"

"Perhaps you are unable to read? Shall I do it for you?"

He flushed and looked me over, avoiding my eyes but taking in my suit and boots. They were worth more than his entire salary for the year. I had spent that afternoon finding an outfit that screamed wealth and authority. It was a beautiful complement to my silver-sprayed hair. My revolver sat under the jacket.

He swallowed. "Sir, it's just -"

"There is no 'just' about it. Do you know who I am?" As if anyone would know who a mid-level aide to a minister was, but it was best to keep him peddling backwards.

"Minister Merkson said not to disturb-"

"It is Merricksen, you miserable fool. Minister Fion Merricksen. And I am Patrick Saint-Steven and I am here to see her. Perhaps you would like to explain the problem to my superiors?"

"Ah, no. Sir." As was often the case with people in his position, he found himself in the impossible situation of trying to satisfy two directly opposing orders. A situation people in my position were quick to take advantage of.

"Look, son. If Fion doesn't want to see an old friend, let her tell me herself. No need for you to be all tangled in the middle."

Ah. A solution. I could see it dawning on his face. "Sir, yes. Let me just call her and announce-"

I placed a friendly hand over his. I did not want this visit broadcast over any government comms where someone with more brains might be listening in. "If she is resting, do you really want to be the one to wake her, son?"

His next words would determine whether he lived or died. I shifted my balance, ready to strike and crush his throat. It would be a messy improvisation, but I was adaptable.

He shook his head. "No, I do not. Thank you, sir." He handed back my identification.

I slapped him on the shoulder. "Wise choice, young man. Wise choice."

He nodded and lifted the barricade. I strode past him and down the corridor towards the entrance of the suite where Minister Fion Merricksen had been put on ice by the government of Melchi Prime. Artwork and paint-screens decorated the walls. Carpet decorated the floor. The government may have been in no hurry to talk to Fion, but they made sure that her waiting was comfortable.

I triggered the coms panel beside the door. "Minister Merrickson?"

The answer was immediate. Not surprising if she had been waiting weeks for contact. "Yes, who is that?" Mild irritation could not mask the warm tones of her voice.

"Good evening, Minister. My name is Patrick Saint-Steven. I am from the Office of Senior Minister Callowe. May we speak a moment?"

A pause. No doubt she was running through a mental list of ministers, trying to place Callowe. "Ahh, yes. Education." Impressive. I was glad that I had prepared my backstory. "Are you here to help in some way?"

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