From: The Exide Equation


     "I will now release you and you will make a general announcement to the entire media complex that there is an emergency evacuation.  All personnel to exit their buildings immediately and not return until authorized.  All security agents to escort employees to the commons at the South Quarter.  No exceptions.  This is a matter of extreme urgency and lives may be lost if orders are not followed precisely."  He smiled at her, but was not kidding.  It was a sinister smile.  One she probably would have understood had she the time to think on it.

     Lachata gasped for breath as he released her and she did not even entertain the ghost of a thought that she could win an argument with this crazed Sapien.  Her announcement went off smoothly and there appeared to be no suspicious agents wandering about, hoping to become heroes.  Trace sat down across from her then with the ample desk between them, as if he were about to join her for a morning blob of java.  He loosely crossed his legs and smiled in an almost amiable way.  The Super didn't like this at all.

     "Now, Lachata.  Tell me who ordered the Targh," he calmly said.  Her response would determine her fate.

     All she could manage was a strange sound from deep in her neck as she repositioned herself in her chair.  "Hmg, I~"

     The clock spat the hour onto one of her walls with mechanical regularity and Trace smiled again, saying they have plenty of time and for her not to hurry.  Then he added, "You would do well to choose your answer very carefully."

     She managed to recover her voice.  "I~I acted in consort with another.  The Targh was the best option for getting rid of you."  She sighed, releasing her breath as though it had become stale with tension and now the tension was relaxed.

     "As you can see, the option failed.  Who was the other?  Again, take your time.  Anything but the truth will show in your outline."

     Lachata was not used to being handled this way and knew she could trick the human into believing anything she said, as long as what she said seemed believable or unbelievable enough.  What did he mean, outline?  She had no idea what Targh he was taking about either but would play along and get this nuisance of an agent out of her office once and for all.  "It . . . it was Chief Perrin of the Corps."  Again, she exhaled and dropped her head as though in utter exhaustion.  As though some malignancy had just been removed from her.  She was a good actress.

     "Nice try.  I'll be gracious and make this swift," Trace said, leveling his bonelance at the Super's face.  After only a second's pause, he added, "I wouldn't want you to think our visits together are becoming a relationship," quickly melting her skull from the inside out.  It wasn't a pretty sight but then, Lachata never had been.

     Trace looked at the spat of wall time fading, knowing his moments in the complex were measured and fading, too.  Eventually, things would get messy.  He went through the Super's jetfiles once more, submitting a destructive code spore into the system which would dissolve all records of Trace Exide or even the Corps, all mention and record of the recent killings, all record or mention of the weather conglomerates; the basic operating systems of the complex were now fatally corrupt.  He had a moment to spare and watched the mainbrain shudder with a toxic disease no computer could withstand.  Not even a quasi-organic one like this.  Only a Nauplius could conduct such a procedure.  Only a District Commissioner could legally hire a Targh.  Trace was staring at the entrance when a guard stepped in through the Super's quarkway.  It was a justifiable notion.  The boss should not be forgotten and the guard was obviously a conscientious sort.

     Too bad his thoughtfulness would not be rewarded.

     Trace stepped over his dead body as he left the room, looking both ways in the hall and taking the stairs down to the terraplats.  The plats would be guarded but he would be ready for that.  He pressed a small diode on his belt and the quill he called Murex for the gastropod bearing its name, rose to a few centimeters above the ground and moved closer to where Trace would be exiting.  Simultaneously, the quill sent out a finite decibel wave which left anyone within fifty meters of it on their knees, cupping their bleeding ears.  Trace saw five guards on the ground, their weapons forgotten as they groaned in agony.  He entered Murex and left the compound without resistance.  The speed of his acceleration was such that no one even realized a hopper had just lifted off.  Only later, when the crippled guards were found and questioned, was a warning sent out over the Ether. 

     By the time security vessels were in the air, looking for this renegade flying a custom quill of unknown manufacture and origin, Trace was landing at the private terraplat to the DC's residence.  The Commissioner would not yet be at work and Trace had a few things he wanted to ask the man.  Strangely enough, there was no difficulty gaining entry to the DC's home.  Inside, a youngster greeted Trace and offered him a chair while he went to get his father.  If the tall DC was surprised to see the young agent for the Corps, he didn't show it.  But he made mention of the breach in protocol.

     "Yes, I'm sorry about that," Trace said, rising from his chair, looking at the boy, telling him he needs to speak with his father alone.  The lad left the two men and Trace looked back at the Commissioner.  He was making this up as he went so everything was like a novel to him as it played out.  He came naturally to the process, as always; being swept up in the flow of  commanding decision and disregarding the consequences.  It was what gave Trace his edge.  No remorse.  No hesitation.

     When the two were alone in a large study where books and parafilm folders adorned the walls, the tall Commissioner looked perfectly at ease as he sat down behind a huge desk devoid of clutter.

     "Give me all of the immigration codes and authorization links to the various Targh on Earth," Trace demanded.  "This is not a debatable issue," he added when the DC seemed unwilling to immediately comply.  Trace knew he might not succeed in using Reaxn on the man, knowing too that the DC might not actually be a man at all.  There were rumors and he didn't care to counsel then right then.

     "What has brought you here, Mr Exide?  Really."

     "Not calling me Trace anymore?"

     "It seems inappropriate for the manner of this visit," the DC answered.  "I hope you haven't done something rash, Mr. Exide."

     "Nothing I'm aware of," Trace said, feigning innocence, rubbing his scruffy chin.  "I need the codes now."  He tried using Reaxn and was surprised when it worked on the man.  Or perhaps, that's what the DC wanted him to think.  Once the necessary parafilm files were handed to him, he stood and produced his bonelance.  "A Nauplius does not find another of its kind for the likes of you, Rhondo.  Your confidence has made you careless.  Now, it no longer matters.  Not to me.  Not to you." 

     Trace left there; left a confused little boy staring at the lifeless body of his father.  Before another moment had passed, Murex and its pilot were well on their way to another engagement.