There’s one rule on Tomin Kora – Don’t cross the Boss. What happens when the rule is violated? Saiidyr finds out…

Conference Room

A brightly lit room with slit windows overlooking the city of Shadowheart. Taking up most of the room is an oval mahogany table surrounded by a dozen black leather chairs. Holographic emitters mounted on the ceiling are aimed at the center of the table. A stylized C gleams in steel on one wall. Guards stand on either side of the door.

The Tomin Nebula shimmers through the transparent dome overhead.

Falkenberg walks in to the conference room a bit warily. He limps a bit, his peg leg thumping on the floor.

Neidermeyer stands, staring out the angled window. A chill breeze hisses past the slightly open pane as he stares down at the city. His hands are clasped behind his back. Two human guards flank him, eyes locked on the doorway. As Falkenberg enters, they bring the guns up. Neidermeyer hears the sound, then looks up, seeing the reflection in the glass. “Ah, Johnny boy. Good evening.”

Falkenberg’s face tightens a bit at the word “Johnny.” But he forces a smile and nods. “Mr. Neidermeyer. I have just now returned to Tomin Kora from Nephthys, which I must say is a singularly boring place these days. Not like it once was.”

Neidermeyer arches an eyebrow. Slowly, he turns to face Falkenberg. “Can’t say I’d know anything about that. Never spent any time offworld – well, besides the usual patrols or journeys to Mars – before the revolution.” He curls a wry smile. “But enough ancient history. Let’s talk about right now. You’ve heard about these fiends in the CHPMF, I assume?”

Falkenberg nods. “I read the news regularly, Mr. Niedermeyer. I must say it seems to me they misnamed the organization. CHUMP sounds more like it.”

Neidermeyer chuckles and nods. “Well, if that buffoon offers one more statement, it will be his last, I assure you. I intend to offer 10 million credits to his *allies* to turn him in and shut him up.”

Falkenberg folds his hands behind his back. “Yes, well, if I were one of his allies, I’d turn him in now, and offer the rest of the organization to submit to the original terms of the deal.”

Neidermeyer nods, pointing a finger at Falkenberg. “Yes, but you’re smart. I’ll give you that much. You haven’t been the most discreet individual, but you aren’t stupid. Of course, if I recall correctly, *your* discretion isn’t the real problem. You have some liabilities in your crew.”

Falkenberg raises an eyebrow. “Actually, Mr. Niedermeyer, most of my problems of late can be traced to two things…a commander who very much wanted me to pick a major fight somewhere so he could come in by surprise to back me up, and a Nall named Sich of Hatch Kavir, who somehow knew far more about my connections than most people, and happened to be there when that fight was picked. My crew has its…difficulties, but they make up for them in raw fighting ability and loyalty.”

Neidermeyer waves a hand dismissively. “Tkagorth blabbered his name to the victims of a pirate attack. In fact, from what I understand, he blathers his name a lot.” He smiles grimly. “Impress upon him the need for discretion, or the following steps will occur: First, I’ll make him eat his own tongue. Second, I’ll strangle him to death with his intestines while they’re still partly in his body. We clear?”

Falkenberg nods once. “Very clear. We have already been working on the use of pronouns and aliases. He has made some progress. If he slips up…” he shrugs. “He has been loyal to me, as I said. But I accept and understand the terms of my employment. I just hope you have more than a few guards handy when you exact those punishments.”

Neidermeyer smirks. “Mr. Falkenberg, I served for a few decades in the Guardian Fleet. I’ve killed my share of aliens.”

“I am sure you have, sir,” Falkenberg responds. “But as a trained military man, I’m sure you’d never take on a dangerous opponent without the proper precautions. And Tkagorth IS dangerous. He can take quite a beating, and he’s strong as a team of oxen.”

Neidermeyer nods slowly. “Of course.”

Falkenberg takes out a small pill bottle and pops two pills in his mouth. He grunts. “Incidentally, Mr. Neidermeyer, you mentioned something about secure landing facilities that could be made available when last we met.”

Neidermeyer nods. “I’m still waiting for your people to supply plans for the construction. We will fund it, but I’d like you to work with Nicky to come up with the blueprints for the facility.”

Falkenberg nods. “All right. I have not seen…Nikolai…since I dropped him off at Nephthys. But I will discuss it with him. I remember a little bit about Freewheeling in Fagin’s day, and that might be helpful.”

Neidermeyer smiles grimly. “Wonderful.” He looks at the guards, and his brow furrows. “Where the hell is she?”

Falkenberg blinks and looks between Neidermeyer and the guards. He puts his pill bottle away and takes out an apple, which he bites into. It is crisp and fresh.

Neidermeyer scratches his chin, then looks toward Falkenberg. “You’ve met Helga, right?”

Falkenberg swallows his mouthful of apple and hmms. “Don’t think I’ve had the pleasure, no.”

Neidermeyer frowns. “Big woman. Nordic features. About the size of your Zangali, I think.”

Falkenberg shakes his head. “Definitely not, then. I’d remember someone like that.”

Neidermeyer growls, then opens his jacket and exposes the holster that carries a plasma pistol. He unsnaps the holster, then draws the gun and checks the charge. “She went with that silver-haired Timonae freak to Sanctuary. Sonuvabitch…”

Falkenberg follows the gun with his eyes, but remains calm otherwise. He takes another bite of his apple.

Neidermeyer confirms the fullness of the charge, then slides the weapon back into the holster. He glances toward one of the guards. “Get on the comm to the control center. See if anyone has called in a ransom demand for our missing Helga.”

The guard nods, takes out his commlink, and walks over to the corner, speaking in quiet tones.

Falkenberg grunts as he swallows another mouthful of apple. “This Timonae fellow. He has an entire organization of mercenaries working for him, yes? Granted, they don’t seem very intelligent, or they would have turned him in themselves. But they may have dealt with your Helga.”

Neidermeyer nods to Falkenberg. “That has occurred to me. They might also use her as leverage to weasel out of this bounty situation.” He quirks a wry smile. “Of course, if they did that, they would be sorely overestimating her value.”

Falkenberg nods once. “If you have the resources, I’d recommend checking recent medical and mortuary reports on or near Sanctuary. If they turned up an unidentified corpse, for example…”

Neidermeyer nods to Falkenberg. He looks toward the guard in the corner with the commlink. The guard is just getting off the link. “No ransom demands, sir,” the guard reports. Neidermeyer looks toward Falkenberg, then back to the guard. He grunts. “Check with the personnel on Sanctuary. Medical and morgue reports for unidentified Ungstiri females. Foul play most likely.”

Falkenberg takes another bite of his apple.

The guard gets off the link a few minutes later, then reports: “Sir, Sanctuary medical personnel have an Ungstiri female in a coma. Three pulse blasts to the chest. She’s barely alive.” Neidermeyer narrows his eyes and nods, asking, “Any other details? Proof it’s her?” The guard chuckles softly. “One of the orderlies threw out his back carrying her on a stretcher,” the guard concludes.

Neidermeyer nods curtly, his mouth drawn flat and angry. “That’s her.”

Falkenberg chuckles. “She sounds like quite a woman, just to have survived that.”

Neidermeyer smirks, nodding. “Yes, well, I assure you she will fare much better than this Timonae and his friends when I am done with them.”

“No doubt,” Falkenberg says. “If there’s one thing I can’t stomach, it’s people who don’t understand the basic terms of a contract. Very bad for business.”

Neidermeyer laughs bitterly, nodding. “Well, this was a classic case of someone deciding to go swimming in the river before checking for piranhas – despite the big sign on the banks that says: SWIM AT OWN RISK.”

Falkenberg nods. “Yep. What did this Timonae come to you for, anyway?”

Neidermeyer lifts his chin. “A loan for one million credits.”

Falkenberg takes a bite from his apple. “A million, eh? He planning on equipping a whole fleet?” He shakes his head. “Delusions of grandeur will get you every time.”

Neidermeyer shrugs. “Not sure what he planned. Didn’t care, really. Once I heard was a mercenary op with an existing fleet, I had him by the short and curlies. He seemed edgy about the whole thing – wanted to consult with his partners and such. I have the feeling when he went back to them with the news, they handed him his ass and he tried to welsh on the deal.”

“Unfortunate,” Falkenberg says. “But I am a great believer in evolutionary forces. If this Timonae is as dumb as he seems, the universe has selected him for extinction. It’ll be interesting to see what exactly the means of extinction is.”

Neidermeyer nods. He scowls toward the other guard. “Tell the folks down in the studio that I’ll be wanting to issue another statement tonight. Sanctuary’s going to help us bring these bastards in, or they’re going to pay.”

That other guard raises his eyebrows. “Just the statement, sir? No interviews?”

Falkenberg chuckles. He takes another bite of his apple.

Neidermeyer tugs at his cuffs, thinking about this for a moment. He glances toward the still boarded pane from the last interview. He then scans the other eight panes, unblemished and intact. His attention returns to the guard. “One reporter.”

Falkenberg follows Neidermeyer’s eyes to the windows. He nods to himself.

The guard with the commlink in the corner is speaking excitedly into the device. He then looks over toward Neidermeyer.

“He’s here, sir,” the guard says. “The Timonae. He’s been captured.”

Neidermeyer knits his brow, then looks to the other guard. “Hold off on the interview.” He looks toward the door. “Let’s see what our little friend has to say for himself.”

Falkenberg glances at the guard, then looks out the window. “It seems I’ll get to see the means of extinction,” he murmurs quietly.

Neidermeyer looks toward Falkenberg. “Go down to Harm’s Way. Buy me one explosive collar. Bring it back.”

Falkenberg nods once to Neidermeyer. “Yes, sir. Take me just a moment.”

Gildar arrives with Spasko and Saiidyr, who has been bludgeoned unconscious…

Gildar clomps in carrying Saiidyr across his shoulders, he’s rather red and looks a little exerted from his efforts but he smiles none the less. “Mr. Neidermeyer…and…Falkenberg, how nice to see you. I have person you’ve been looking to speak with.”

Neidermeyer is standing on the other side of the conference table, his back to a 9-pane picture window with angled panes – one of which is currently boarded over. Another is open just enough to allow the chill breeze to hiss in. He fixes his frosty gaze on the newcomers.

Falkenberg takes another bite of his apple, and turns to look at the small group as they enter. His eyes pass over Saiidyr, and he smiles when he sees Gildar. “Hess. Glad to see you’ve got that enterprising spirit.” He moves toward the door, his artificial leg thumping on the ground. “Be right back,” he says with a dark smile.

Saiidyr bleeds in a melancholy manner.

Spasko walks in, taking off his glasses. He scowls and shakes his head.

Falkenberg re-enters the room, carrying a steel collar. His artificial, peg-shaped leg thumps on the floor, and he walks with a noticeable limp.

Saiidyr is bleeding steadily from his head, around which is wrapped a towel.

Neidermeyer nods to Gildar. “I seem to recall meeting you some time ago myself, Mr. Hess. Quite a turn of events.” He grimaces, then points to a chair. “Sit him there, but try to keep him from bleeding on the upholstery.”

Falkenberg nods to Gildar. “Unexpected to see you, Hess,” he says, shifting his weight from his artificial to his good leg.

Spasko sighs and moves to adjust the towel wrapped around Saiidyr’s head.

Falkenberg twirls the open collar he holds on one finger.

Saiidyr courteously manages not to bleed on the upholstery.

Gildar snorts, “Right.” he glances at Falk and raises an eyebrow at the leg, but shrugs as he sets Saiidyr in the chair.

Neidermeyer glances toward Falkenberg. “Fit the fool with the collar.”

Saiidyr’s head lolls forward as he’s set down.

Falkenberg nods. “As you wish,” he says, and moves toward Saiidyr, holding the collar open.

Falkenberg casually takes several steps back from Saiidyr, having clasped the collar on his neck.

Falkenberg takes out a fresh apple from his pocket, and bites into it.

Neidermeyer nods, then looks at Spasko. “Wake him up.”

Spasko shrugs, “I’ll give it a try.” He takes off his hat and waves it in front of Saiidyr’s nose.

Saiidyr does not wake up. Just bleeds.

Gildar snorts, “Just take off your shoes, that’d wake the dead.”

Neidermeyer raises an eyebrow. “Start pulling fingernails.”

Falkenberg bites into the apple he’s holding and watches the scene casually. “Should have picked up a neural persuader,” he mumbles between chews. “That’d wake him up.”

Gildar shoots a glance at Neidermeyer.

Spasko nods, “You got a point, mate.” He puts his hat back on and pokes Saiidyr in the shoulder. He frowns, “I ain’t none too good at pulling fingernails. Maybe someone else better do it.”

Neidermeyer sighs. “Amateurs.” He puts his knuckles on the table and glares at Saiidyr, bellowing: “Wake up so I can read your fortune, you Timmy freak!”

Saiidyr’s hand limply slips off the chair’s arm.

Falkenberg takes another bite of his apple. “Glass of water might do it. Splash it in his face.”

Spasko shrugs, “Gildar clocked him pretty good. Maybe a stimulant.”

Gildar coughs, “Mr. Neidermeyer, you’ve no subtlety, do you have a medkit layin around I could use? A little smelling salt might help wake him.”

Neidermeyer arches his eyebrows. He turns slowly to the window, currently ajar, and pushes it open a little further. “Perhaps he could use a little night air.”

Falkenberg smiles faintly and takes a few hobbled steps away from the window. He turns to watch.

Gildar looks around the room and grumbles, “Neidermeyer, first aid kit bitte. If you don’t have one I’d suggest you find someone who does, cuz I doubt you want to pay me full price for someone YOU killed before getting any joy out of him.”

Neidermeyer turns his attention back to Gildar, the wind whistling behind him mournfully. “Mr. Hess, why don’t you prance on down to the pharmacy and grab a medkit.”

Gildar smirks, “If you’d be so kind as to direct me there I’d gladly do so, but it’s goin on your tab.”

Neidermeyer nods slowly. “Of course. There’s a dark alley down Aurora Strand…”

Falkenberg rolls his eyes. “Gildar, my boy, some day we must discuss your communication skills.”

Gildar laughs, “Right. I’m not that stupid. I’ve HEARD what happens down there..alright..I’ll go wander and be back.” he turns and walks out.

Spasko shifts from foot to foot. He shrugs, “Maybe I should go with him.”

Neidermeyer glances toward Spasko. “Or maybe I should skin you where you stand. You don’t move.”

Spasko nods, “Works for me.”

Falkenberg turns and looks at Spasko. “My boy, as you’re a friend of an …old friend of mine, I’ll offer you some advice I wouldn’t offer Hess. Keep your mouth shut and do only what you’re told to do by Mr. Neidermeyer here, and you stand a good chance of leaving this room alive. I’d really hate to see you take a trip, and I mean that quite sincerely.” As he says, “take a trip,” he looks at the open window.

The inert mass of Saiidyr’s body suddenly slides to the side, his head hanging back, mouth open. He gurgles.

Spasko nods and tugs his hat down low over his eyes. Apparently, he takes it as good advice because he stays quiet.

Neidermeyer nods to Spasko. “Now you can move. Stop the idiot from drowning, deep as he is already.”

Spasko nods and goes over to straighten Saiidyr out on the chair.

Saiidyr is half-hanging off the side of the chair, gurgling, until Spasko straightens him out.

Gildar jogs back in, looking a little winded as he digs around in the kit. He starts to make his way towards Saiidyr and he opens a small bottle, takes a whiff and nods, “This is the stuff.” he replies blinking back tears. He places the bottle under Saiidyr’s nose.

Neidermeyer nods, clasping his hands behind his back, watching.

Saiidyr coughs suddenly, sending flegm flying across the conference table. He inhales a deep, shuddering breath, and his eyes roll back in his head.

Neidermeyer frowns at the sputum now marring the table. He looks toward Falkenberg. “Clean that up, would ya, Johnny?”

Gildar glances up at Neidermeyer, “Shut the window you id-….PR Liason you.” he grumbles.

Neidermeyer glances toward Gildar, eyes narrowing. “Got a problem with the night breeze?”

Falkenberg frowns as he looks at the table. He sighs and takes out a handkerchief. He wipes the table, a sour look on his face. He then hands the hanky to one of the guards. “Get rid of that, will you? Thanks.”

Gildar stands and shrugs, “Not really, but if you wanna get any enjoyment outta your pal here you better shut that window before shock kills him.”

The guard takes the soiled kerchief, nods, then takes it over to the open window and releases the kerchief to the swirling breeze. The cloth flutters away into the violet and blue shadows.

Neidermeyer smirks. “Fine.” He nods to the guard at the window. *CLUNK*. The guard seals it shut.

Saiidyr is now blinking his eyes rather rapidly, trying to bring them into focus. He shakes his head and immediately grimaces, hand going to the back of his noggin and feeling the tender wound.

Gildar steps a few feet away from Saiidyr and watches Neidermeyer now.

Neidermeyer arches an eyebrow. “Well, it’s alive.”

Spasko tugs at his hat some more and shifts his weight from foot to foot.

Saiidyr groans upon hearing Neidermeyer’s voice. He turns his head, glassy gaze finding Gildar.

Neidermeyer nods, smiling wryly. “I suppose you won’t be putting Mr. Hess in your Consumer Guide for Legitimate Bounty Hunters?”

Falkenberg takes another bite of his apple. “How unfortunate for him,” he says casually.

Saiidyr ignores Neidermeyer completely, staring at Gildar. His mouth opens to form words, but then shuts.

Gildar raises an eyebrow at Neidermeyer, and completely ignores Saiidyr.

Neidermeyer yanks out a swivel chair and settles into it across from Saiidyr. “Come on, moron. Where’s your wit and wisdom? I was becoming so amused by your pithy missives to the media.”

Falkenberg takes another bite of his apple and watches Saiidyr.

Saiidyr turns his gaze to Neidermeyer. “What the fuck do you want, lily?”

Spasko winces and puts on his sunglasses.

Neidermeyer smiles broadly, unfazed by the insult. “My friend, what I *really* want is to hear you scream. But I’ll settle for the popping sound that precedes your impact with the street. But, first, I have a few questions.”

Saiidyr somehow manages to smirk. Maybe people faced with death suddenly find courage. “I can’t guarantee answers, lily.”

Neidermeyer shrugs. “Answer them or not – I don’t care. First: What happened to Helga?”

Saiidyr squeezes his eyes shut tightly, and whispers something.

Neidermeyer tilts his head, smirking. “Sorry? You’ll have to speak up.”

Saiidyr’s hands begin twitching slightly as he continues whispering.

Neidermeyer stands, shoving his chair back. “Fine. I already know you and your friends tried to kill her.” He looks toward Gildar. “You know where the others are?”

Falkenberg takes another bite from his apple. He looks at Gildar, and between chews he says, “Now, you see here,” he gestures toward Saiidyr with the hand that holds the half-eaten apple, “we have a man with no sense of his place in the grand Darwinian scheme of the universe. Natural selection is a-knocking on his door, and he’s not ready to answer.”

Saiidyr opens his eyes and stares at the far wall silently.

Gildar shakes his head, “Not a clue actually. But I may be persuaded to remember.” he smirks slightly.

Spasko looks up at the ceiling and sighs.

Neidermeyer nods. “That’s good, Mr. Hess, because unless you’ve forgotten how to read, the bounty was for *all* of them. But this idiot is a fine start.” He looks at Falkenberg. “Get a tangler pistol and seal our little friend into the chair.”

Falkenberg nods. “Yes, sir.” He turns and thumps off toward the door.

Gildar smirks, “So I personally have to bring them all in or will giving you this information be enough to get it?”

Neidermeyer shrugs. “Hess, contract help and share the wealth. But you bring them in, one way or another.”

Gildar coughs, “Alright. You said I could kill them though correct?”

Neidermeyer nods. “Dead or alive.” He looks at Saiidyr. “Unless our little friend wants to open his yap and say something to persuade me to spare them.”

Saiidyr snorts. “What do you want?”

Neidermeyer shrugs. “Wrong answer.”

Gildar shrugs, “Do I have to bring in proof of their being dead?”

Neidermeyer smiles at Gildar. “For six million credits, I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”

Gildar shakes his head, “I do..black holes don’t leave too much evidence.”

Falkenberg walks in carrying a tangler pistol. He points it at Saiidyr and glances at the others. “Step back, boys, this stuff tends to spread out a little.”

Neidermeyer ignores Gildar for the moment, then steps out of range.

Gildar takes a few steps back as well.

Spasko scoots back.

Falkenberg fires the pistol at Saiidyr, covering him in tangler goop.

Falkenberg hoists his can of anti-tangler spray and shakes it. “I’ve got this stuff ready when you want him moved,” he says to Neidermeyer. “Also picked up a neural persuader, if you might find use for that.”

Saiidyr twitches under the tense mass of goo, apparently running out of air.

Gildar raises an eyebrow at Neidermeyer, “You don’t happen to have a current roster for his group do you?”

Falkenberg walks over and checks Saiidyr. He sprays just a dab of anti-tangler spray around his nose and mouth, to make sure he can breathe.

Neidermeyer steps back in front of Saiidyr and smiles. “Now, I will give you one more opportunity: Give me something to indicate that your friends are worth sparing, and perhaps I will. After all, you’re the one who ripped off Boss Cabrerra. You’re the one who tried to face off with me in the media.” He nods to Gildar. “I know more than he thinks.”

Saiidyr breathes deeply. “Look, they’ve done nothing to you.” He coughs slightly, his eyes blinking under the goo. “They were just doing their jobs.”

Neidermeyer smiles broadly, his eyes gleaming. “Appealing to my sense of mercy? Nice try, but they forgot to install that at the factory. Anything else? I have a really hectic schedule.”

Spasko shakes his head and resumes staring at the ceiling.

Saiidyr coughs some more. “Not worth your time, anyways, letting them go won’t make you look bad. Your quarrel is with me, and me only.”

Neidermeyer nods slowly. “Who shot Helga?”

Gildar raises an eyebrow at Saiidyr and says, “Ya know..I’m bettin most of them had nothin to do with this. How bout I just get the leaders out of the way…then the rest of the group should disband on its own without any organization..”

Saiidyr sighs through the goo. “Nissrial did, but he was following orders.”

Neidermeyer raises a hand at Gildar. “When I want advice from you, I’ll cut your tongue out and read the bumps, Mr. Hess.” His cold eyes go back to Saiidyr. “Just following orders? Indeed. He’s dead.”

Saiidyr apparently tries to shake his head. “I ordered him to shoot.”

Neidermeyer shrugs. “He’s a creature of free will. He made a choice. He dies for it, just like you.” He looks toward Hess. “This Nissrial person – kill him. The others, I don’t care. I’ll be taking their company anyway.” His attention returns to Saiidyr. “So, you see, you saved *some* of their lives. That’s something.” He winks. “Now, as for you…”

Falkenberg takes another bite of his apple. He looks at Saiidyr and sighs. “For a moment, I thought you might be a noble fool. I was half right, it seems. You just got your buddy killed, friend. Very sad.” He takes another bite of his apple.

Saiidyr tries to turn his head to the sound of Falk’s voice. “I was going to lie, but the woman would have remembered.”

Gildar shakes his head, “No can do Neidermeyer. I’ve made my peace with the Nall, and that peace includes no harming any of them upon threat of death.”

Neidermeyer clasps his hands behind his back. “As for you, my Timonae friend, you’re going out this window behind me. But, you may have noticed that collar fitted around your neck. It is linked to a receiver in this office. We’re about 200 feet up. Halfway down, the receiver here will lose the signal from that collar, and the explosive will go off. You’ll be dead before you hit the ground.”

Falkenberg nods. “If she lives, surely. But you’d have died without betraying your friend, anyway. Ah well. Makes no difference to me, really.” He tosses the core of his apple into a waste basket.

Neidermeyer glances toward Gildar. “Then you’re a coward. I’ll pay you a million credits for bringing in this one, but you forfeit the rest. I’ll let someone with some guts handle Nissrial.”

Falkenberg glances at Gildar.

Spasko tilts his head to study his feet instead of the ceiling.

Gildar raises an eyebrow, “I’m a coward? I’d like to see you go a round with one of those little nasties…hell I’ll give Hurkvril your address and say you said his mother wears softskin boots and see who’s a coward then.”

Falkenberg sighs. “Gildar,” he says tightly. “Mr. Neidermeyer has offered you a good deal. And the chance to step out of the room alive. Both of these are good things. If you ever take any advice from me, take this: shut up, take your money, and leave a happy fool.”

Neidermeyer shrugs at Gildar. “You talk almost as much as Saiidyr, and look where that got him.”

Neidermeyer glances toward Falkenberg, then shrugs. “Give our little Timonae friend a shove out the window. I’m done with him.”

Gildar shakes his head and mutters, “Why do I even try to argue with a sociopath….” he looks up and says, “Two million, and I’m bein awfuly generous with my money here. Most real hunters would demand three.”

Falkenberg looks at Neidermeyer in mild surprise, but nods once. He gestures for the guard to open the window, and pulls at the chair which Saiidyr is webbed to. He sprays enough anti-tangler spray to allow it to be moved from the table.

Neidermeyer smiles broadly at Gildar. “Yes, but you *aren’t* a real hunter, Mr. Hess. I’ll pay you two million when you deliver the head of Nissrial.”

Spasko shakes his head, “Shut it, mate. We done and screwed ourselves over enough already. I ain’t going to stand around arguing over the price of a man’s life when it’s going to maybe cost me mine.”

Saiidyr says, “Enjoy your money, Gildar, it comes at the price of honour.”

Gildar glances around the room as if debating something, and then sighs, “Fine. I’ll take the one million and leave Nissrial to someone who’s competent. Doubt I’d get lucky twice.”

Neidermeyer nods to Gildar, smiling tightly, then looks at Saiidyr. “Don’t even try to pretend you’re the be all and end all of honor, you buffoon. You’re paying the price for your own ineptitude and bad faith. Keep talking, and I kill all your friends.”

Falkenberg looks up at Spasko while he maneuvers Saiidyr’s chair toward the window. He nods once, having mild difficulty because of his incomplete leg. “Smart man,” he says. Getting Saiidyr over to the edge of the window, he says to Saiidyr, “Nothing personal, friend. We all do what we have to do.” He reaches the edge of the open window with the chair.

Gildar watches Saiidyr with impassive eyes, “I lost my honor long ago on a worthless third rate rock. This just confirms it for me.”

Saiidyr seems to have fallen unconscious again.

“Here’s to confirmations, then,” Falkenberg says, and shoves Saiidyr, chair and all, out the window.

Spasko bites his lip and remains silent.

The chair and its occupant plunge into the shadows. There’s an explosive popping sound – a THWUMP and a flash of light – and then nothing.

Gildar watches Saiidyr go out the window and breathes a little sigh of relief, he turns towards Neidermeyer, “Now, I trust you will be discreet about this Mister Neidermeyer?”

Neidermeyer nods to Gildar. “Hell, son, last thing I want is anyone to mistake you for a competent hunter.”

Gildar takes the cash and nods, “Excellent. Been nice workin with you Sir.” he turns and starts to walk out muttering something to Spasko as he goes.

Falkenberg looks at Gildar as he leaves. “Nice seeing you, Hess. Although I think we’d both agree this meeting never happened.”

Neidermeyer nods, then looks toward Falkenberg. “Get me those plans.” He looks toward the guard. “Close the damned window.”

The guard nods, closing the window.

Spasko nods and follows Gildar out with his head swiveling as he goes.

Falkenberg nods to Neidermeyer. “I will fly back to the Boromov Tech base in the morning and discuss it with Nikolai.” He turns for the exit, thumping as he walks.

Neidermeyer smiles grimly, then goes to stare down into the shadowy night.

Gildar grumbles, “What meeting?” as he wanders out.