the smuggler’s bible

Hamlet

He pulls the bodies out of the elevator car and rides down two floors, then takes the stairs. Horatio guides him, limping, through the lower floors by skimming the police networks and providing the building surveillance system with a complicated argument regarding the nature of objective reality.

“How are things at the spaceport?”

“Quiet. There was some buzz, but it has slackened considerably. I believe you are currently listed among the dead.”

“Wonderful. We’re leaving town. Get things ready, but be subtle.”

“Our business is concluded?”

“Yeah, we’re finished here.” Hamlet says. “I can’t think of anybody else worth killing.”

Hamlet

He is crawling on his belly toward the elevator when a machine against the wall begins to whine like a beaten dog. A hatch on the side is dented and bulges awkwardly. He thinks back, can’t remember shooting it. Probably one of Rosencrantz’s high-velocity rounds.

The machine gives up and dies, spraying sparks onto the carpet. Ventilation fans kick on to whisk away the spreading haze of blue-black smoke. Horatio speaks in his ear.

“Seems like they’ve finally stopped jamming this frequency. Does that mean you’re dead?”

“Nope, just dumb luck,” Hamlet says, coughing. “It’s good to catch a break.”

Hamlet

There is a piercing light and a weight that strikes Hamlet in the shoulder, carrying him off his feet and spinning him through the air. He lands hard. Already his blood is on the floor.

Should have heard something, he thinks. Too loud, though. Sounds like someone is ringing a bell. Guildenstern appears, mouth moves like he’s speaking, but that goddamn bell.

“Better … deserve,” he says, “… killing … brother.” Then he’s gone. Some sort of interference—hard to follow his movements, to see anything except a blue light that flickers and extends an arm, pointing.

Hamlet lifts his gun and fires.

Hamlet

Two men dead in the elevator. Hamlet shoves one aside and the door closes softly. There’s a messy splatter across the button panel. He picks the top floor. A chime and motion. He reloads, takes a deep breath. He’ll be exposed at the top. Fragile as an eggshell.

The door slides open and a burst of high-powered rifle fire chews into one of the corpses.

“Is that the Dane out there?” someone shouts. The rifle chatters again, then a second voice, much closer, says, “Don’t be sore, old friend. Things change. We’re taking advantage of a world that’s grown honest.”