Penny looked down at her bowl. “I was I could say that wasn’t typical. But yeah, that’s the consensus from just about every periphery planet I’ve been on. They make their job harder than it has to be when they act that way, and mine. A wise man once told me to take pride in my work and I can’t do that if the people I do the work for don’t respect me. So I always try to be nice where I can and I respect the work of the people I meet in this job, hoping they’ll be willing to give some of that back when the time comes.”
“Speaking of getting payback.” Sharon began, cautiously. “What’s the thing with this Ranger you’re chasing? You ended the interrogation just as it was getting good.”
Penny slumped a little in her chair. She looked up at Sharon for a moment and realised she wasn’t going to let this go away.
Penny took a deep breath. “He’s my old C.O. We fought side by side in the war, now he’s working for the Black Mask Society. I want to know why.”
The plasma cannon hummed loudly and then discharged a blast of superheated energy down at the Sheriff’s office. The blast hit the wall at the base and vaporised a speeder sized hole down into the basement.
‘Mad’ Mac McCarty stood at the top of his ship’s loading ramp and signalled to the squad of labour androids. “Disembark!”
The droids power-walked down the ramp and jumped down to the parking lot. As each one landed they fanned out and watched their respective fire zones. Levelling the assault rifles in their hands as they scanned their surroundings.
Mac jumped out last, his own rifle already in hand. “Secure the perimeter.” Mac yelled. “You four come with me.”
Down in the holding cells the prisoners looked up from under their cots and waited for the smoke to clear. The drunks cowered in their cells, pressed up against the bars as far away from the collapsed wall as possible. At the far end of the room, the night shift guard sat frozen in his chair, his coffee cup lying on the floor at his feet.
In the cell next to Wu, Brook stood up and waited at attention at her cell door.
Bristol uttered a cruel laugh. “Gonna end you boy. Soon as we get outta these cells.”
Wu looked away from Bristol and swallowed hard.
Four labour droids jumped down from street level. Each one scanning the area with their assault rifles.
One of the drunks tried to press himself even closer to the far wall. “Wuh-What? Who gave them guns?”
The guard at the far end of the room unfroze. Desperately he scrambled over his desk to get out the door. The closest of the androids noticed the movement and turned his way.
“Target sighted.” It said in its flat, emotionless tone.
The guard hit the switch and threw the door open, only for a precise burst of rifle fire to punch through his chest at the very next moment.
Mac melted out of the smoke next and double-timed it towards the door. “Move!” He barked to the droids. “Block that door, shoot anyone you see in a uniform.”
“Acknowledged.” The four droids said in unison.
“Mac.” Bristol threw himself at the bars and yelled. “What are you waiting around for? Get us out of ‘ere.”
Mac glared at Bristol. “What’s it look like I’m doing idiot? I’m only taking my time ’cause you ain’t worth getting shot for.”
The sound of gunfire and police sirens outside caused Mac to growl and storm off down the corridor. “We’re already behind the clock.”
Wu remained quiet, trying not to make eye contact with Mac, but not daring to take his eyes off him. His heart tapping out a dance beat against his ribs.
The four androids stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the doorway, their closed ranks forming an effective wall of droid while their rifles opened fire periodically.
Mac reached the night guard’s desk and began hitting the switches to unlock the cell doors.
Wu’s world slowed down as the switches did their work. With intense interest Wu heard Brook’s cell door make a loud metallic ‘clack’ sound and she moved to open it. Then the same thing happened to the cell of the drunk opposite her.
Then it happened to the lock on his cell.
Wu burst into action, barging open his cell door before the clack could be heard on the door opposite his.
Bristol threw his door open as soon as he heard it unlock. He charged outside but Wu was ready for him and stopped him short with a kick to the face.
Then Elena’s cell opened and she put herself between Wu and the exit. At the same time Wu realised Brook was coming up behind him.
Behind them one of the androids took a spear-shot to the CPU and teetered over like a felled tree.
Mac got up from the guard’s console. “Alright, let’s move people.”
Wu spun around just in time to see Mac level his rifle at him. He threw himself against the drunk’s cells just as Mac pulled the trigger.
The round passed between Wu and Elena, causing her to curse loudly and jump out of the way.
Wu saw his only chance and took it. Breaking into a sprint Wu dashed towards the hole in the wall.
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