War World X Takeover(4)
Author:John F. Carr

    The miners downstream might just do to serve his purpose.

    He wrote a note and summoned his most trusted girl, Inez, and instructed her most carefully.

    Maxwell Cole pointed his finger at Van Damm as if it was a pistol. “Bottom line, you had a job to do, and you didn’t do it.”

    Van Damm shrugged instead of breaking off the jabbing digit at the root. “I had faulty tools. The gang the previous operatives put together was a laugh. Jomo vas a bloodthirsty tyrant, more interested in pumping his own ego than doing the job. He and his gang of thugs thought they could bully people in submission. Vhen some of the locals put up some resistance, they folded like a house of cards.”

    “Janesfort, ha! It sounds like the women had some backup, yes?”

    “Yes, an ex-fleet gunny named Brodski, gave the ladies some support.”

    “Why didn’t you dissuade him?” Cole asked patronizingly.

    “I was busy in Castell, trying to keep control of things while Jomo was beating the bush,” Van Damm lied smoothly.

    Cole shook his head. “The agency’s never going to buy this: a bunch of hicks and women beating off a small army. My ninety days here are just about up; I’m going to have to leave and sell this crock to my boss. Something tells me he’s not going to be amused. I know I’m not, and you’re the Johnny-on-the-spot.”

    “I’ll take the heat.”

    “Sure you will. You’re going to stay here until my replacement comes.”

    Van Damm lowered his head as if he couldn’t bear the weight. The Velcro patch on his butt kept him firmly anchored to his seat, otherwise he would have floated away. “Not that,” he muttered, sounding as if he meant it.

    “Yes, that,” Cole said. “And you’ll stay here until the next agent from BuIntel arrives. We’ve setup a small post on Wayforth Station to keep an eye on the Tanith Sector. The Harbinger will be stopping there first before going on to Newton, so it won’t take more than a few T-months to get someone out here. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to go shimmer stone hunting; I want you to try and light a fire under these hicks.”

    Cole handed off a satchel which weighed enough to drag his arm down to the table. “This contains 2.5 kilos of assorted gold coins, and some cash. I want you to set up a network to undermine Harmony rule, plain and simple. That shouldn’t be difficult for a man of your experience.”

    Van Damm nodded. “Jomo’s payoff for the stunners.”

    “Yeah, and more. The Agency wants results; they’re getting a lot of pressure from higher up.”

    Van Damm wondered why the Grand Senate was so interested in Haven. Maybe Senator Bronson wanted to reconsolidate his gains on the shimmer stone trade, now that the Company’s monopoly had been busted.

    “Now, what can you do for us?” Cole demanded.

    “It’s a difficult situation now that Jomo’s been killed.” Van Damm shrugged. “The townies and Jomo’s competitors used his defeat to clean up Castell City. There aren’t a lot of thugs left in Castell, and most of those that are still alive work for DeCastro.”

    “DeCastro’s unreliable. He takes money from both Kennicott and Reynolds. The man’s been bought so many times he doesn’t know his left from his right. Maybe you can stir up some trouble with the miners.”

    Van Damm knew that was beating a dead horse. Most of the miners had shimmer stone fever, and couldn’t care less about Castell City or who ran it. The rest were indentured serfs working for one of the Companies. Hell’s-A-Comin’ was like Dawson City during the Alaskan Gold Rush: no place for the timid or the faint of heart. As long as the Harmonies left them alone, they weren’t interested in anything but stones, women, getting drunk and gambling. He also knew that he had to give Cole something he could take back to his masters on Luna.

    He slapped the leather satchel. “With this, I can buy some serious trouble,” he promised. But for whom?

    “Good, I want you to use that cash to buy the Harmonies lots of trouble: Enough that when my replacement arrives, you can hand him Haven on a gold plate.”

    “And, if I can’t?”

    Cole gave him the fish eye. “Then you can stay on this ice-ball for the rest of your life, however long that may be.”

    The shuttle carrying Van Damm was going to return in the dim phase, and Brodski was getting ready for it. Leo Makhno had delivered six 40-gallon drums of beer, twenty gallons of alcohol and almost a ton of foodstuffs for the bar, along with a selection of weapons and ammo (Simba salvaged war surplus) for him to sell. Flora, who had grill duty, was cleaning up the kitchen and the ex-Fleet sergeant was bringing a pile of sweepings up to the front door with careful broom strokes, when he heard a sound Brodski had heard all too often in his long career—a child being hurt.

    The situation outside was about what he expected. Three men were struggling to hold onto a young boy. The boy was clearly overmatched, but refused to give up fighting for his freedom.

    Brodski moved in. A quick thrust with the broom handle to the lower spine of the one with his back to Brodski took the odds down to two. Reversing the broom in a half-spin faced the second with the surprise of assured blindness. He let go.

    The child twisted loose of his last tormentor and ran for the door of the bar.

    “Pick up your friend and leave,” snarled Brodski, “And don’t come back for any reason.”

    “Aww, it’s only a Harmony kid. We was just havin’ some fun.”

    Brodski had moved a bit closer while the man was talking. The bristles of the broom ripped open the man’s cheek, and the handle end whipped around to break his nose as his head turned. A snap kick to the belly stopped the third man in his tracks.

    It pays to advertise, especially when it comes to the kind of custom you want, thought Brodski. “It isn’t fun unless everybody involved enjoys what’s happening,” he said. “You having fun now? No? Then move out and don’t come back.” He’d remember those faces.

    As Brodski entered the bar he sent the sweepings flying out the door with a quick flick of the broom, leaving some blood streaks on the floor, then looked at the child standing well back and holding a heavy clay ashtray ready to throw. Flora backed him with the coach gun from behind the bar.

    “It’s all finished now, so put up the hardware.” Brodski turned to the child. “What’s your name, lad?”

    “Do you know Captain Makhno?”

    “I do.”

    “I have a message for him, from Charles Castell.”

    “Why you, lad, and not a beadle?”

    “Because Castell doesn’t know he sent it.” That was stated simply as a fact, with all of the assurance of an eleven-year-old knowing he was doing the right thing.

    “What’s your message, lad? I’ll make sure it gets to him.”

    “It’s only for him, not some sinning bar owner.” Disdain was dripping from his mouth when he said it.

    “Look kid, you’re making me think that I should have left you to your fun-loving friends out there.”

    There was a look of thoughtfulness on the kid’s face. “How did you do that? I mean, with the broom. I never thought of a broom….”

    “It’s just using what you have at hand to do the job.” Brodski thought a moment, “’Being at one with the moment is all; this is the path to Harmony with the universe,’” he quoted a Zen master he had studied under once.

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