031 – Rules

“Uh, what did I just do?” Jun asked, wiping rain slick black hair out of his face.

“Made our lives very difficult,” Ben said. He crossed his arms grumpily.

“I just became your business liaison,” said Zee.

Jun stared at her. “They want me dead. What good will having a—” The low hum of a shuttle cut through the patter of the rain. Jun tensed and Zee put a hand on his arm.

“Stay calm,” she said.

“They’re here to kill me,” Jun said, voice shaking. He tensed to run, but Ben grabbed his arm. Jun snarled and tried to pull away. The shuttle, a military model with guns and shields protruding from its spherical surface, passed over the building and hovered before rotating. A clamp exploded from its side and smashed into the gray adobo façade of the building.

“If they wanted to kill you, they would not have sent us,” Zee said.

“Are you sure they know that?” Ben asked. A portal opened on the shuttle. Figures in dark combat suits, light Hex, readied heavy guns. “My instincts are telling me to run, Zee.”

Zee bit her lip. “My instincts are telling me there’s an opportunity here. Someone wants him alive.” Ben shook his head. One hand still on Jun’s arm, he pulled out a small white roll from his rain coat. Zee stared at the Soma patches. Ben glared at her. “Wait,” she said. “Please, we can’t let things get out of hand.”

“Things are already out of hand,” Ben said. “We need to act now before they secure the building.”

“Just wait,” Zee said.

“This isn’t Helioset, Zee,” Ben said. “There are no rules here.”

The governor’s goons rappelled past the broken ceiling and landed inside the building. Jun frantically tried to wrest his arm from Ben. “If they want me alive, then they want to take me back to the Governor’s Tower,” he said. “I’m not going back into that dungeon.” The temperature around them rocketed, evaporating the rain. Zee gasped, feeling like she’d stepped into a sauna.

“Will you both please calm down,” she snapped at them. Before either of them could do anything else, she turned and raised her hands. Figures clad in sleek black Hex panels landed on the floor and knelt with their guns pointed towards Zee’s small group.

Hands raised and shaking with the effort, she began walking toward them. Stumbled a little on garbage. Ben said her name in a low, desperate voice. He and Jun struggled behind her. In front of her, gun barrels trained on her torso and head, mesmerizing in their potential to kill her. Tiny bits of metal could end everything. A smile twitched at Zee’s lip, but she steadied herself quickly. She tore her eyes away from the weapons and focused on the tinted visors of the Hex helmets.

“I am unit one seven Z, business liaison. I have just signed a sublet, backed by the FCE, with Jun Hideki and wish to negotiate with whoever is in charge,” Zee said in a clear voice to the hex clad figure in front.

The black clad figures stared at her a moment, twitching glances at each other. The Hexer in front raised his hand to calm the rest and said “Uhh, Ma’am, we’ve been tasked with, uh, apprehending the criminal Jun Hideki—”

“What was his crime, please?” Zee asked.

“Ma’am?”

“His crime. You said he was a criminal,” Zee said. Her arms ached, but she didn’t dare move while faced with nervous Hexers. They hadn’t lowered their weapons.

“Well, he killed a bunch of people…”

Zee grimaced inwardly. “Witnesses?”

“Ma’am?”

“Were there any witnesses to his crime?” Zee asked.

“Video surveillance, ma’am.”

Shit.

Wait. Zee thought quickly. “What is your command’s designation?”

“We’re the governor’s security specialists, ma’am,” the Hexer said.

“Corporate Security for Harmon Towers or Municipal Security?”

“Corporate, of course. Those municipal airheads couldn’t find their asses in the dark.”

Zee’s lip twitched to a smile, she lowered her hands an inch. “According to the Business Accords, Section fifty-three A, dash one dot four, alleged murder is the purview of municipalities. Corporate entities may never interfere with persons alleged of this crime.” She exhaled triumphantly and lowered her hands.

“Huh?” the Hexers shuffled, confused.

She turned back to Ben and Jun. “Just one second, then we can leave.”

“Hey, wait,” the Hexers tensed. “We can’t let him escape.”

“Unfortunately, as officers of a corporate entity, you can’t apprehend him,” Zee said briskly. “Unless you would like to break the Business Accords and incite Far Contract Enforcement. You do know the consequences for breaking the Accords and inciting the FCE, don’t you?” The Hexers shuffled uncertainly. “Corporate dissolution,” Zee said with a grimace. “Not a pretty sight. The financial repercussions from Far would squash the governor like a bug. And then of course there’s Titan.”

The Hexers twitched almost in unison at that name. Zee’s smile widened. “Yes, Titan would burn and salt your corpses, the Governor’s, and possibly the corpse of everyone you know. Not even the gulls could feast.” She glanced back at Ben. He stared at her, eyes round with surprise and perhaps…awe. She looked back at the Hexer. “What is the world if it has no rules?”

The leading Hexer tensed, helmet nodding slowly towards her. “What if we just kill you all now?”

“I’ve been recording and streaming this session to Far Corporate since before you arrived,” Zee said. “You could certainly kill us, but Titan particularly loves making examples out of pathetic Earthly kings like your governor. I doubt any of you would survive the backlash unless you started running for the Wilds immediately after you killed us.”

The Hexers shuffled uncertainly, some of them grumbled, a few of them backed towards their shuttle. The lead Hexer straightened and lowered his gun. “We’re contacting Municipal now—” he said.

“Tell them not to bother,” Zee said. She turned and headed towards Ben and Jun. “My client will be happy to present himself to the proper authorities after I have reviewed his business case. Standard Maintenance will contact your Municipal Liaison shortly.”

She tingled with triumph and almost couldn’t contain herself when she heard the chug of a boat engine. She glanced over the edge of the building. Rice stood at the wheel of a rundown tug, the gray Standard Maintenance Logo peeling from its sides. The Hexers milled around behind her, uncertain, trying to come up with grounds with which to arrest them. They would not be able to.

Zee walked to Ben and Jun. They stared at her.

“Y-you told Rice to—” Ben looked down at the tug sidling up to the building.

“Sorry,” she said. “I had to act quickly, and you weren’t cooperating.”

“I’m sorry I doubted you,” he said quietly. “But how are we going to get down there?” The water level was at least two stories below their floor.

Zee raised an eyebrow at him. “Fall slowly?”

 

Read the next chapter.

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